Study Guide

Nicholas Ryves in The Demon's Lexicon

By Sarah Rees Brennan

Nicholas Ryves

Nick In Six

Tall. Dark. Handsome. Moody. Brooding. Confused…

All six of these words (and plenty more) apply to Nick Ryves. The first three might get you to answer his personals ad, but the second three should make you think about keeping your distance.

Nick's a classic bad boy—the kind that girls and boys are drawn to because (a) he's hot, and (b) he seems dangerous. And when it comes to that dangerous part? Well, yeah—he kind of is. Mostly because he doesn't know who he is, what he wants, or where he fits in. That and the fact that he regularly carries a sword, four knives, and a switchblade.

The Strong, Silent Type

We learn early that Nick is a man of few words. He doesn't excel at interpersonal communication and he has a hard time feeling his feelings, let alone talking about them. But it's not just talking that's tough for him: it's people. Instead of wanting to spend time with friends, Nick "[finds] comfort in machines that were either working or broken, and if broken could be either fixed or destroyed" (6.65). And you know what relaxes him? Practicing with his sword and "trying to stab shadows through the heart" (3.29).

So strong and silent? Yep. Warm and cuddly? Not so much. In fact, at times Nick seems altogether callous and unemotional, but the more we read, and the more we see of Nick's actions, the more we understand that there are people and things that he cares about.

Nick's Fave Five

Okay so Nick doesn't have a fave five. Or even a fave four. But there do seem to be three people he cares about by the end of the book.

The first is (obviously) Alan, and one way we know that Nick cares about Alan is that he tolerates all of his back-patting and hair ruffling. Nick himself "had never seen the point of just touching people, but if this made Alan feel better, he supposed it wasn't so bad" (10.166-167). That's pretty much true love, right? Nick also risks his life for Alan on numerous occasions and makes most of his decisions based on what he believes will make Alan happy.

Now before you start thinking that Nick has an unhealthy need for his big brother's approval, consider this: upon agreeing to go to Merris's house on Isle of Wight, Nick is very clear that he's not going to appease his brother. In Nick's mind, "it didn't matter what Alan wanted. It only mattered that Alan lived" (9.229). He'll do whatever he has to in order to protect his bro, and though he might not be able to put it into words, we think that spells l-o-v-e.

Another character Nick cares about is Mae. At the Goblin Market, Mae gets him to laugh "a soft, surprised laugh" and Nick lets "her see him smile" (4.217). They share a genuine moment of intimacy when she comforts him during the boat ride back from Isle of Wight (10.250-251), and when Gerald escapes from the house in London, the first thing Nick does is run into the living room and rush over to Mae to make sure she's all right (9.192). Finally, when they all enter the magicians's lair, Nick makes sure that Alan and Mae are responsible for searching the attic and roof because "that would give them the best chance of getting out" (13.41).

As for Jamie, well, that relationship's a little dicier, but Nick does seem to warm to him somewhat while they're making omelets one morning. He makes a few jokes—jokes he says "without heat" (7.50)—and at the end, in the magicians' lair, Nick not only admits that he "would have preferred not to see Jamie die" (13.125), but in the last scene he actually enjoys seeing the affection between Mae and Jamie that so disturbed him earlier in the book:

[Jamie] went over to her at once, looked anxiously up at her, then reached out and wrapped a protective arm around her shoulders.

She smiled properly then, dropping a kiss on his head. That was good, Nick thought… (17.72-73)

Look at Nick getting all warm and fuzzy for the folks he holds nearest and dearest.

Nick's Lexicon

Of course, even if you buy the theory that Nick does care for these three people in some way, and that he makes a big transition as a character over the course of the book, it's easy to see why the folks around him might not always be able to feel the love. Most of the time, because of the things Nick says (and the things he doesn't say), it's hard for the people around him to see that he cares.

Hmm. We know a few people like that. In fact, we've been those people. There have definitely been times when we've said things we probably shouldn't have, or kept quiet when we should have spoken up. And hey—we're people. Nick, on the other hand, is a demon. He was squeezed into a human body sixteen years ago without human instincts or any form of genetic memory to fall back on, which means he started his faux human life at a supreme disadvantage. Once we know that, it's pretty easy to appreciate just how far Nick has come.

And once Nick knows about his own demonic identity, he also begins to see how far he's come. Not at first, but after Alan frees him and he goes soaring up through the London sky:

There was a hum of human noise everywhere; Nick wasn't used to understanding it. […] He did not remember ever thinking in words before. […] He did not remember ever thinking of himself as having a name before. (17.2, 9)

He felt tired and chilled by everything that had happened today. He wanted to go home to Alan, eat cereal on the sofa, and sleep in his own bed. (17.16)

These are all thoughts that a demon should have no concept of, but Nick does anyway. Why? Because from the moment he entered the human world, he's been amassing his own lexicon—a demon's lexicon of the human experience. It's limited, yes, but it's growing. And so is Nick.