This is one of the best books I've read in a long time.
It's witty, it's action-packed, it keeps you guessing.
Quick run-down on the plot: Nick and Alan are two brothers on the run with their mother, chased by a gang of magicians. Head magician used to be madly in love with mother and, now that she's left him, wants her dead (ah, true love).
Important note: Magicians have very little power of their own. But they can summon demons to trade innocent human souls for power.
And then Alan gets a demon mark on him. Now they need to find the magician who placed that mark on him, or watch Alan be possessed by a demon and die... which isn't as gruesome as it sounds. But it's still not a good fate.
The demon's lexicon is penned by the delightful and witty Sarah Rees Brennan, whose livejournal you should start following if you're not already. It's the first of a planned trilogy — and I love that she's actually promised to keep it a trilogy, as she says she knows how annoying it is when authors start off with a trilogy and then make it longer and longer! (I whole-heartedly agree.)
The hero is a charming bad-ass — and don't get me wrong, I'm not talking Wolverine-with-a-heart-of-gold. I'm talking really bad. He kills people and gets annoyed at the nuisance of having to bury them. He gets mad at the brother who raised him and deliberately does the thing he knows will hurt him the most. He just doesn't care about anyone else.
Almost anyone else.
I love that the two main characters in this are brothers. You almost never see siblings in books! I think family can be one of the strongest bonds a person can have; and this book follows a brother who raised our hero almost single-handed, and a mother who hates her son.
I have only one nitpick, and that was with a minor character who seemed to be thrown in for comic relief. Sarah Rees Brennan, if you read her livejournal, has a very strong sense of humour; and it seems she couldn't resist channeling her wit through this character. Don't get me wrong, he is funny; it just didn't seem likely to me that a character would deal with his fear with quite this much nervous laughter.
And yes, there is romance. But only a leetle bit — enough to make things interesting (and painful); not enough to spoil the action.
And it was released in New Zealand on 1 August 2009. So what are you waiting for? Go get it!