9 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: The Demon’s Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan

Title: The Demon’s Covenant

Author: Sarah Rees Brennan

Genre: YA/UF

Mae Crawford always thought she was in control. Now she’s learned that her little brother Jamie is a magician and Nick, the boy she’d set her heart on, has an even darker secret. Mae’s whole world has spun out of control, and it’s only going to get worse. When she realises that Jamie has been meeting secretly with the new leader of the Obsidian Circle and that Gerald wants him to join the magicians, she’s not sure how to stop Jamie doing just that. Calling in Nick and Alan as reinforcements only leads to a more desperate conflict because Gerald has a plan to bring Nick down – by using Alan to spring a deadly trap. With those around her torn between divided loyalties and Mae herself torn between her feelings for two very different boys, she sees a chance to save them all – but it means approaching the mysterious and dangerous Goblin Market alone…

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry (US)/ Simon & Schuster Children’s (UK)
Publication Date: May 18 2010/ May 27 2010
Hardcover: 448 pages/ Paperback: 448 pages

Stand alone or series: Second in a trilogy, which started with The Demon’s Lexicon

How did I get this book: I shamelessly begged S&S UK for a review copy.

Why did I read this book: The Demon’s Lexicon was on my top 10 last year and this sequel was one of my most anticipated reads of 2010.


Warning: this review contains spoilers for the FIRST BOOK because I can’t review the second without spoiling the first one. The spoiler completely ruins the experience of reading the first book and if you haven’t yet but still plan to read The Demon’s Lexicon I urge you to avert your eyes NOW. You have been warned!

It was only a few days ago that I talked about how 2010 has been a great reading year for me. The Demon’s Covenant is another addition to an already incredible line up. It feels like it was only yesterday that I discovered The Demon’s Lexicon a book that inconspicuously crept into my top 10 last year after its world and its characters became so alive to me, I was able to remember the smallest details after months of reading it. The Demon’s Covenant has been on my Most Wanted list since then and I was both anxious and terrified of reading it. Would it, could it, be as great as its predecessor? The answer is a resounding YES, a million times YES, and not only that: I find that it is even better.

I hereby declare Sarah Rees Brennan to be a freaking genius. For writing characters that become so alive that I feel like I know them, that make me care so much for their future as though they are real people, for making it possible to establish such an emotional connection with fictional people, I hereby declare that this writer has just joined the list of Ana’s Great Ones. Her name is now set in stone which means, I will read anything she ever writes because we (her writing and I) have crazy chemistry. It is possible that I am behaving like a fan-girl. It is possible that I am not in total control of my thoughts and actions because they have turned to mush after finishing this book. It is possible that I am wearing my heart in my sleeve. It is possible that you think I am exaggerating and it is very possible that I am. But this is what Good Books do to me and I wouldn’t trade this feeling, this experience, for anything in this world. I want to nurture it and above all I want to be able to spread it. So here it goes.

The Demon’s Covenant is very much a second book in a trilogy – by expanding on the first book’s storylines and setting the stage for the final act. It picks up a few weeks after the events at the end of The Demon’s Lexicon and the characters are still suffering the aftermath of what happened then. They are still struggling with the discovery that Jamie is a magician (and if you remember, most Magicians in this world are not Good) , with Mae’s feelings after she has killed someone to protect her brother and with the Twisterific revelation that Nick is in fact, a demon (and if you remember, the one thing that could be worse than being a magician, is definitely being a demon).

The story opens with Mae trying to go back to a normal life when she discovers that her brother is meeting with one of the magicians from Obsidian Circle, Gerald. Terrified that she might lose him, she contacts the brothers Nick and Alan to ask for their help once more and then all attempts at normalcy go down the drain; she is dragged back into the midst of a fight between Circles, a fight between brothers, and into the magical world of the Goblin Market – a world she would do anything to forget but which she is reluctantly fascinated by and attracted to.

The first thing of note in The Demon’s Covenant is the change in narrator . Nick is no longer the voice or the eyes from which this story is narrated making the sequel completely different from its predecessor and yet still fundamentally similar. The difference comes from of course, the narrative voice as instead of Nick’s cold, detached point of view, we get Mae’s deeply emotional one. I thought the choice of picking Mae as the narrator (as opposed to say, Nick again, or Alan) was extremely interesting and at first I wondered why. Then it hit me, even though they are miles apart in terms of humanity (or lack of) , Nick and Alan actually share something. They are both outsiders looking in. Nick, as the non-human, puzzled by emotional conundrums which he doesn’t have and Mae as the only one who does not possess magic, or fighting skills. Her narrative is poignant because of considerations such as what can she possibly offer to the group?

As Nick’s observations of others spoke loudly of how they felt, the same can be said about Mae. Her eyes observe everything and relate to the reader: the strange tension between the brothers, Jamie’s loneliness, the allure of the Goblin Market. Sometimes her observations are not as keen as she would like to believe but that might as well come from being deceived by others but also because of self-denial. She battles with her own heart for most of the book, trying to find normalcy she can’t possibly have after all that has happened and love in the arms of people which she doesn’t truly love. If you read the first book, you know that Alan has a crush on Mae and that Mae has a crush on Nick. At one point in the book, Nick tells her that she would be crazy not to pick Alan but the heart wants what the heart wants, folks. In some sense, Mae is as an unreliable narrator as Nick was but for completely different reasons. That to me, was awesome. As awesome was her strength, her resilience and her gift for action and plotting and above all, her capacity for understanding and connecting. Her understanding of Seb, a guy who could be scorned off as a bully but who is embraced by her or her friendship with another fantastic secondary female character, Sin of the Goblin Market (who is to be the narrator of the final book) . And even though, she is understanding and accommodating that does not make her feeble. I absolutely LOVED how her reactions to discoveries she made about people (I am being cryptic on purpose!) throughout the book were very firm and yet still well-balanced.

As fascinating as the narrative voice was, and how the world-building is incredibly compelling with added dynamics and politics within the Goblin Market and across the Magicians Circles nothing surpasses characterisation. What strikes me the most though in the world created by the author, is the complexity and the greyness of her characters. These are complex human beings making morally questionable decisions all the time. They all know for example, that Magicians are bad and kill humans to use their body to bring demons into the world in order to control their powers and yet, both Mae and Jamie are attracted to the use of magic.

Alan, who is my favourite character by far, is someone who would do anything, and I mean, anything for his brother Nick. He kills, maims lies, manipulates, and goes behind people’s backs to get what he wants. He unleashed a demon in the world. Yes, it is all for love and devotion but…does that make it right though? Probably not, but reading his father’s diary and how Alan has loved and cared for Nick from day one, just about broke my heart. Everything he does is for Nick but he also seems to have an unlimited amount of love to give to anybody who would accept. His actions in the end of the book (another twist, although not as mind blowing as the first one, but still, a good one) shows us that. I found myself consumed with love for Alan and the ONE thing I want the most is for someone to truly, deeply LOVE him.

Breaking my heart is something that I need to get used to though when it comes to this series. With every single scene of sibling affection between Nick and Alan or Mae and Jamie; with the ardent need that both Mae and Alan have for Nick to show some sign of humanity; with Nick’s obvious urgency for trying so hard to appease Alan even though it goes against his own nature and for his vulnerability; for Jamie’s hopeless crush; and so on and so forth, I got continuous heart twinges.

What is it that makes us human, I asked myself reading this book over and again. It is the emotions we feel? The capacity for connection? To make mistakes and err and fall and get back on our feet again? Nick might not feel the right emotions – but he is devoted, protective of the ones we considers “his”, does that not make him slightly human? Alan is human and is so clearly emotional and yet he can be as cool and detached as Nick if necessary – does that make him less human?

I don’t know the answers; I am terrified that the answers to those questions will come in the final book and it will break my heart into tiny little pieces. All I know is that I want the best for these characters . The Demon’s Covenant is definitely not a book about plot – in fact, when push comes to shove, little happens in the way of moving the story forward and all that was necessary to set the third act, is contained in the last few chapters. The majority of The Demon’s Covenant is about the characters’ and their motivations, and about love. Loving who you shouldn’t love, people being worthy of being loved even when they don’t think they are or the seemly endless capacity for sibling love that both Mae and Alan have. As such it is a feast for the readers who like me, are inclined towards character-driven stories.

I was a huge, giant MESS when the book ended and still I could have begged for more. I am consumed with love for these characters, flaws and all (or even because of that), terrified for their future because their world is bleak and the prospect of happiness is not that great, and yet, still hopeful for all of them, but above all for Alan. On Ana’s corner of the Smuggliverse there is one thing that I say to the books I love and cherish above all and which I consider to be the greatest compliment I could ever give: THIS IS WHY I READ. This book goes straight into my top 10, without a shadow of a doubt.

Notable Quotes/Parts: Angie, in her AWESOME review, quoted a scene that I too, loved so I am copying it here, because it shows that the book is not only dark and bleak but also oh, so funny in parts:

Mae grabbed Nick’s arm and he whirled on her, then caught himself and stood looking down at her with his pulse thudding against her palm and the knife still in his hand.

She lifted her chin. “Oh, put that away.”

Nick put it away. “Just making a point.”

“Yes, I took your point,” Jamie muttered. “Right up against my throat.”

Mae looked away from Nick and walked quickly toward the wall, scrambling over it and trying so hard to make the climb look easy that she skinned her elbow as she did so. She pretended it didn’t sting.

Nick did not try to help Alan over the wall this time around. He stood with his hands clenched into fists in his pockets as they all waited for Alan to get over on his own.

“I wasn’t trying to hurt you,” he told Jamie suddenly.

Mae reached out and touched Nick’s shoulder. Her hand brushed muscle, braced and tense under her palm, for a moment. Then he shied away from her and glared.

She smiled as if this reaction was perfectly normal. “Sometimes when you pull knives on people, they get this impression that you’re going to hurt them, and then they’re completely terrified. Crazy, I know!”

“Okay,” said Nick. He turned to Jamie and popped his left wrist sheath again. “Look.”

Jamie backed up. “Which part of ‘completely terrified’ did you translate as ‘show us your knives, Nick’? Don’t show me your knives, Nick. I have no interest in your knives.”

Nick rolled his eyes. “This is a quillon dagger. That’s a knife with a sword handle. I like it because it has a good grip for stabbing.”

“Why do you say these things?” Jamie inquired piteously. “Is it to make me sad?”

“I didn’t have you cornered,” Nick went on. “You could’ve run. And this dagger doesn’t have an even weight distribution; it’s absolute rubbish for throwing. If I had any intention of hurting you, I’d have used a knife I could throw.”

Jamie blinked. “I will remember those words always. I may try to forget them, but I sense that I won’t be able to.”

Verdict: The Demon’s Covenant is an amazing sequel to The Demon’s Lexicon, everything I could have hoped for, with characters that feel alive and real, catapulting this series and its author to the top of my favourites’ list. Definitely on my top 10 of 2010.

Rating: 9 Damn Near Perfection

Reading next: Ten Things I Love About You by Julia Quinn


  • Karen Mahoney
    May 14, 2010 at 4:02 am

    Awesome review, my friend. 🙂

    I love that we have SUCH SIMILAR views on many books, but on the Nick vs. Alan ‘debate’ we differ. *g* Team Nick all the way!!!

    *punches fist in the air*

    Um… yeah. Did I say, awesome review? LOL

  • Ana
    May 14, 2010 at 4:06 am

    Thanks Karen , you are too good to me. I feel like such a failure with this review. It is the longest one I ever written and still I failed to mention so many awesome things: the fighting sequences, the Love Triangle of Doom; Jamie and the kiss he gets (SWOON) , etc etc.

    AND TEAM ALAN FOR THE WIN. Although Nick can have Mae. I am shipping Alan and Sin!

  • Karen Mahoney
    May 14, 2010 at 4:30 am

    I am shipping Nick and Mae!! God, I’m so predictable. I always go for the dark & dangerous one and the pink-haired girl. 😉

  • Estara
    May 14, 2010 at 4:36 am

    I love that you can squee, but then turn around and explain why you’re squeeing and what convinced you about the book ^^. I can only squee.

    Also: if this is a 9, what is a 10?

    I’m looking forward to this and the next one, too.

  • Cindy
    May 14, 2010 at 4:40 am

    I feel like such a failure with this review.

    This is the kind of reviews thanks to which I have no choice but to order the book right away !:wink: You did a great job !

    Not so sure about which team I’m shipping. I really like both brothers in the first book as well as Nick’s POV. And Jamie’s need to be protected.

  • Aja
    May 14, 2010 at 6:33 am

    I hereby declare Sarah Rees Brennan to be a freaking genius.






    this review is SO GREAT, i love it almost as much as the first book! Sarah will be so thrilled! You are completely the ideal reader for this book, and it makes me so happy that you loved Mae so much–especially this:

    As awesome was her strength, her resilience and her gift for action and plotting and above all, her capacity for understanding and connecting.

    YES. thank you for summing up what i love about Mae so succinctly. Thank you for taking the time to write such a long and lovely review. I ordered my copy 2 days ago and i HOPE BEYOND WORDS my independent bookstore gets it before the release date, because. because I’m so sick of waiting for book 2, omg.

    Also, your TEAM ALAN-ness gives me great hope, because while I totally ship Alan/Mae, I have SERIOUS CONCERNS about him post-TDL, just as you outlined in this (lovely!!!!!!!) review, and I only hope that he proves me wrong. No, I take it back, MY OTHER HOPE IS THAT JAMIE WILL NOT BREAK MY HEART. DO NOT BREAK MY HEART, JAMIE. YOU HAD BETTER NOT.

    in short, FLAIL. this is my favorite review you have ever written. <333333

  • Fran
    May 14, 2010 at 7:23 am

    cool review!

    I’m not one for fangirling authors or fangirly reviews so I’ll probably wait for more tepid reviews to come out since they usually are slightly more balanced in terms of what worked and didn’t. Especially since my response to Lexicon was pretty tepid too. Still, SRB seems like a nice gal so it’s nice she’s got so many fangirls in her corner 🙂

  • Ana
    May 14, 2010 at 7:36 am

    @Fran – I will admit to being curious about what you define as a “fangirl”.

    I am of course, I huge fan of the author ONLY because I am a huge fan of her work. I also think I was pretty balanced and explained exactly why the book worked for me – and in 1787 words no less which includes discussion of narrative voice, of the central themes of the book, as well as the emotional response it got from me.

  • KMont
    May 14, 2010 at 7:46 am

    Fangirls usually are so excited that all they can do is squee how much they love something.

    Let me be clear – this isn’t a bad thing. I myself have squee-ed on my blog and had fangirl moments. When you’re passionate about anything, the potential for euphoric expression will probably come out at times. Plus, it’s just fun to find others that share that excitement.

    But this isn’t a fangirl review. I see a lot more in-depth analysis of the opinions on the book going on here.

  • Rachel
    May 14, 2010 at 7:59 am

    First off, I love reading Ana’s reviews and I agree with the above that this has been one of the best ones so far. Unfortunately, the first book did not do anything for me as I prefer plot over character, so I will waiting for Ana’s awesome review of the 3rd book to find out which team wins 🙂 I though have to say something about the covers as I dig the UK covers totally, but the US not so much. If the third book is from Sin’s perspective would it not be more appropriate to put her on the cover of that one???

  • Akin
    May 14, 2010 at 8:15 am

    Nah, this isn’t a fangirl review. And I will read this book, even though the first was kind of blah for me. But if this book sucks for me that’s it. I’m done.

    Great review, Ana 😉

  • Angie
    May 14, 2010 at 8:43 am

    *highfive* Awesome review, my friend. I know how you feel, too. No way to encompass it all properly. But you did a superb job as always. I completely agree. This is why I read. 🙂

  • Princess Faraday
    May 14, 2010 at 10:43 am

    I’m not sure about fangirl, Fran, but the review did come off as slightly euphoric, which I guess turns some people off. Still that’s what happens when you love a book. We all do it 😀

    I have to say I don’t usually trust reviews that are too high because as Carrie Ryan said, no book is as good as it’s highest reviews and none are as bad as their lowest. Normally I’d trust you gals anyway because I love your eloquent reviews, except Lexicon was just kind of blah for me I’m afraid and you gave that a rather high review as well.

    In the end, though it always comes down to personal preference. Lexicon and Covenant already have so many fans! I actually read an ARC of this, but I honestly couldn’t really drum up a lot of feeling for any of Brennan’s characters and I never felt sucked into her world. It was good, but just not ‘omg squee’ good for me. I wasn’t asking myself any existential questions either (ie what makes us human) lol. But it was fun. She’s got a lot of talent, so I can’t wait to see what she does after the series.

    BTW Have you guys reviewed any of Cassandra Clare’s stuff? The Mortal Instruments? I’ve heard various things about the series and just not sure whether I should pick them up (I know I’m totally square for not having read them yet 🙁 ). Sarah and Cassandra seem to be bffs too and come from the HP fandom! Go fandom people!!

  • danielle
    May 14, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    I’m a tad hesitant, because my heart belongs to Nick, so I might just wait until this shiz goes to the library…just kidding, that was me refraining from buying things less I run my college savings dry.

  • Renee
    May 14, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    Great review, Ana! I have TBS to thank for picking up The Demon’s Lexicon, which I LOVED. So glad to see that The Demon’s Covenant was also a great read. Can’t wait for my requested copy to come in to the library.

    Fangirl–pfft!. What I read here is passion. Passion about a book. Backed up with concrete examples. That is what makes The Book Smugglers one of my favorite review sites!

  • Cait H.
    May 14, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    I just picked up TDC today from my local bookstore and I am SO excited to read it. This review? Made me EVEN MORE excited!! I’m so glad to hear that it’s just as amazing as the first one =)

  • ThisViewOfMine
    May 14, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    Wow, you made we want to read this series so bad but at the same time it also made me feel that I best wait for the author to finish the series first.

  • Akin
    May 15, 2010 at 6:46 am

    @ Princess Faraday: “as Carrie Ryan said, no book is as good as it’s highest reviews and none are as bad as their lowest.”

    That sounds a lot like something an author would say to make themselves feel better about bad reviews and feel modest about excellent ones.

    Some books are really as good as their highest reviews and some are just as awful as their lowest ones. Most, however, swim in the midst of good, bad and average reviews.

  • kay
    May 15, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    What a great review! The Demon’s lexicon was on my list of top reads for 2009, too, so I can’t say how much I’m looking forward to this one! I loved the caracterisation in the first and I’m glad to know it’s as good in this one.

  • Anonymous
    August 21, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    Nick Ryves has to be the most frakin hot sexiest demon in the world.

  • becca
    August 31, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    Jamie and Seb! <3
    I cried coz I loved them so freaking much!
    Awesomest book ever and nice reviewing skillz. Desperate for the third, dying in wait – read the second one three times now!!! 😀

  • Rocks your Socks
    November 18, 2010 at 12:06 am

    I don’t understand how anyone can still like Mae.
    She is so mean to Alan. She (thinks)that she is leading him on, but continues to do so anyway, only to be found later conoodling with his brother.
    That is so unfair.
    I still love Jamie, though.
    I loved the little kiss with Seb and all of the drawings. Kind of creepy, in a TOTALLY adorable way. I hope there are more kisses to come!
    I love Alan even more after this book.
    He was always so sweet to Nick and is not afraid to do whatever is necessary for him.
    I also love the way that Nick wants Alan to be pleased. There has to be a way that Nick has emotions, because he is not just a crazed d-emo-n.
    I think that he sincerely wants Alan to be happy.
    Although, it kind of seems that he goes about this all wrong…
    Another reason that I hate Mae is that she doesn’t have any sense of self control.
    In the first book, she was all for “having a good time” with Nick after the fever fruit, and with Alan.
    Also, she is too desperate to be an individual.
    The pink hair (it does look cool though), the clothes, the attitude and the need for magic so that she can be special is kind of pathetic.
    Also, I’m deeply saddened that the next book is through Sin’s percpective.
    She will bring a lot of different things to the book which I will in all likelyhood deslike (somewhat. How much can you dislike this book?)
    It will have “normal” family values and girly friendship/rivalry!
    I love this series (despite my complants)
    I wish Alan could narrate, though knowing his schemes would probably kill the mystery.
    Go Alan!

  • The Book Smugglers » Blog Archive » Smugglivus 2010 Guest Author (& Giveaway): Sarah Rees Brennan
    December 2, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    […] Work: The middle book in the trilogy, The Demon’s Covenant (reviewed by Ana HERE). Also a story (“The Spy Who Never Grew Up “) in the Kiss Me Deadly anthology (about […]

  • Nosimphiwe
    December 4, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    well thanks for this astonishing books you wrote

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