I like to consider myself a loyal reader. If I really like an author, I’m more likely than not going to buy every book they ever wrote/write ever. There are currently about ten authors I feel this way about, and Cassandra Clare is one of them. It’s a pleasure to be able to grow with an author. I was able to do it with J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter series; I’ve been able to do it with Cassandra Clare and her Shadowhunters series. I picked up City of Bones when it was the sole Shadowhunter volume, and so have been a fan from the very beginning. Clare’s writing skills have grown and developed, something that always makes me appreciate the fact that writers are always working to improve their craft. And Clare’s ability to tell a story is admirable.
That said, I just finished Lord of Shadows, the second installment of The Dark Artifices mini-series within the Shadowhunter Chronicles. (Yes, the number of books, and the order in which they go can be confusing. For a quick reference guide, check out Fantastic Fiction here.) So far, The Dark Artifices is by far my favorite of the books. There is a depth to them that isn’t present in earlier books, and I hope to see this continue into future installments.
Here’s a quick plot rundown: Following the events of Lady Midnight, things in the Los Angeles Institute have not calmed down. Emma and Julian are at odds, each struggling with their feelings for the other; Mark is still straddling his desire for two worlds; the younger Blackthorns are searching for their place in the Shadowhunter world, and Christina is discovering she has her own brand of quiet, yet powerful strength. The faerie courts are also in turmoil. The Unseelie King is tired of the Cold Peace, and set events in motion to destroy the Shadowhunters forever; the Seelie Queen is scheming to overthrow the King. Caught between trying to save their family or protect their way of life, the heroes must find a way to come together to defend everything they hold dear against attacks from outside the Shadowhunter ranks – and from within.
This plot (and all the subplots which somehow, with the help of voodoo magic, all fit together seamlessly) is on-point. Clare does a magnificent job of making her reader feel the immediacy of the danger the characters face. There were times where I felt physical agony over the sheer apparent hopelessness of the situation, where I actually worried about what was going to happen, and how they were “going to get out of this mess”. To me, that is the mark of a great writer; I feel what the characters feel, I fear for their safety, I care what happens to them, I am along on their journey. This is a beast of a book, coming in at more than 700 pages. And I read every word. Every. Word. Because Clare is the type of author who chooses her words carefully, and if she’s including something, it’s because it’s important. It may not be important now, but three books from now, it may be the reason someone dies. Or lives.
The characters in this series absolutely own my heart. This book boasts a huge cast of characters, and none of them are made of paper. They all serve a purpose. It’s impossible to talk about each one of them, because there are so many, but I particularly ❤ Emma Carstairs, Julian Blackthorn, Tiberius Blackthorn, and Kit Herondale. Using these four characters, Clare shows two different types of relationships. Emma and Julian are the protectors. The decisions they make are made to save the ones they love. They endure emotional agony and physical pain because they continually place themselves in the line of fire. Their love for one another is fierce and potentially destructive, so they must choose to (figuratively) rip out their bloody, beating hearts, or destroy one of the most fundamental Shadowhunter relationships – the parabatai bond. Emma wants to take option A; Julian wants to take option B. I fear this may actually end in tragedy. Emma is absolutely brutal and stabby, and Julian is terrifying with his scheming. My prediction: he is going to break the world. Tiberius and Kit are the hope. Ty is a classically-trained Shadowhunter, while Kit comes into the Shadowhunter world as an outsider, someone who hasn’t been indoctrinated with the Shadowhunter dogma. He has a completely different perspective on things. Whereas the Blackthorns have always thought of Tiberius as different (and have completely accepted him as such), Kit recognizes he is autistic. He doesn’t shy away from Ty; rather, he draws closer to him, takes it upon himself to translate the world for Ty in a way he can understand. (Aside: the Sherlock Holmes/John Watson parallel Clare creates here is a brilliant one.) Kit’s love for Ty is born of his desire to shield him from how ugly the world can be to people who are different; Ty’s love for Kit is as pure as friendship can be – a recognition of who the other person is, and accepting them for exactly that, and nothing more. And I’m not sure which type of #ship this is going to turn out to be, but I’m ready to enlist as crew.
Now, a few very unprofessional, random thoughts about this book that may or may not contain spoilers, so read at your own risk:
- Ash is the son of Sebastian Morgenstern and the Seelie Queen. He has to be. There’s no other explanation for his physical appearance or for his inclusion. And it’s my prediction that he’s the “weapon” Jace and Clary are looking for.
- I don’t care if you are the author, you DO NOT TOUCH Magnus Bane. This “sickness” better disappear, and Magnus better come back as snarky, narcissistic, and glitter bomb as ever.
- More Jessamine.
- More London/Cornwall Institutes and Infernal Devices tie-ins.
- Less Zara – like, I hope she dies a horrible, murdery, painful death by a thousand cuts from Cortana.
- My heart that loves Tiberius breaks for him.
- Annabel the Terrifying will save her family.
- Julian is going full Dark Side, and I am SO in ❤ with his moral slide (scheming, lying, bargaining, selling his soul to the
devilSeelie Queen). Also, he’s possibly a high-functioning sociopath.
- Kit Herondale is absolutely life.
- I am so angry at the Clave for not standing up against the Cohort, I almost hope the Unseelie King destroys the power structure of the Nephilim, just so the “old regime” burns. (As long as all my loves survive intact and not undead, that is.)
- Um, Clary might die? (Mad props to Clare if she goes through with that one.)
- Mental illness, PTSD, autism, LGBTQ, body image, appearance, xenophobia – all issues discussed in this series, and I am so grateful there are authors like Clare who are this brave. I very much appreciate how Clare populates her plot with social issues relevant to the Shadowhunter world, but that also parallel contemporary issues happening in our world. She does this without overtly beating the reader over the head with the “moral of the story”, but deftly and creatively raises awareness of these issues.
I usually don’t get so emotionally invested in books (I can’t remember caring about characters this much since Harry Potter), but this one got me. Good on you, Cassandra Clare. Well done.
TOMORROW IS TOP 10 TUESDAY! Come on back for a discussion of my Top 10 Reading Confessions!