“There is truth in stories,” said Arthur. “There is truth in one of your paintings, boy, or in a sunset or a couplet from Homer. Fiction is truth, even if it is not a fact. If you believe only in facts and forget stories, your brain will live, but your heart will die.”
The sequel to Cassandra Clare’s The Dark Artifices was one of my most anticipated YA novels of 2017, and the second I got my hands on a copy – I’m not going to lie – a few tears were shed. Lord of Shadows was a phenomenal novel, and one that I am still left reeling from.
Would you trade your soul mate for your soul?
A Shadowhunter’s life is bound by duty. Constrained by honor. The word of a Shadowhunter is a solemn pledge, and no vow is more sacred than the vow that binds parabatai, warrior partners—sworn to fight together, die together, but never to fall in love.
Emma Carstairs has learned that the love she shares with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, isn’t just forbidden—it could destroy them both. She knows she should run from Julian. But how can she when the Blackthorns are threatened by enemies on all sides?
Their only hope is the Black Volume of the Dead, a spell book of terrible power. Everyone wants it. Only the Blackthorns can find it. Spurred on by a dark bargain with the Seelie Queen, Emma; her best friend, Cristina; and Mark and Julian Blackthorn journey into the Courts of Faerie, where glittering revels hide bloody danger and no promise can be trusted. Meanwhile, rising tension between Shadowhunters and Downworlders has produced the Cohort, an extremist group of Shadowhunters dedicated to registering Downworlders and “unsuitable” Nephilim. They’ll do anything in their power to expose Julian’s secrets and take the Los Angeles Institute for their own.
When Downworlders turn against the Clave, a new threat rises in the form of the Lord of Shadows—the Unseelie King, who sends his greatest warriors to slaughter those with Blackthorn blood and seize the Black Volume. As dangers close in, Julian devises a risky scheme that depends on the cooperation of an unpredictable enemy. But success may come with a price he and Emma cannot even imagine, one that will bring with it a reckoning of blood that could have repercussions for everyone and everything they hold dear.
Very, very minor spoilers (and guesswork)
It’s no surprise to anyone that Cassandra Clare is my favourite YA author; the woman literally writes gold. So to say I was excited for Lord of Shadows would be a massive understatement. Beginning only a few weeks after the exciting conclusion of Lady Midnight, Lord of Shadows was a richly diverse, intense slow-burn of a novel that highly impressed me. Cassie’s books just get better and better (though nothing can possibly compete with the love I have for TMI – sorry).
As usual, Cassie has this incredible gift for character-writing. I don’t think I have ever come across another author who manages to pull off so many POVs, intertwining storylines that span across multiple books and centuries, individual personalities, and strong examples of diversity. Putting aside the protagonists Jules and Emma for the moment, the background characters such as Kit, Ty, Livvy, Diana, Kieran and Mark were all fantastic and quickly captured my heart. In Lady Midnight, the POV mainly remained with Jules and Emma, but in LoS, we get to read from several perspectives which is what excites me most about Cassie’s novels.
“Everyone is afraid of something. We fear things because we value them. We fear losing people because we love them. We fear dying because we value being alive. Don’t wish you didn’t fear anything. All that would mean is that you didn’t feel anything.”
My new favourite character is Kit (although I already started to like him by the conclusion of Lady Midnight). Kit was a touchingly sweet boy who you can’t help but like: he has been thrust into a world he never wanted to be a part of, a world his father distilled in him to absolutely fear, and yet, as he comes to know the Blackthorns – particularly Ty and Livvy – he begins to see that his father was wrong, and he learns for himself what it truly means to be part of a family.
There are very few characters who I would defend with my life, and one of those is Tiberius Blackthorn (other notables include: Elizabeth Bennet, Laurent of Vere, Damianos of Akileos, Clary Fray, Alec Lightwood, and Andrew Minyard). I know I sound dramatic, but it’s true. Ty is a gift to YA literature and a someone I will always adore and protect. Cassie writes his character with such impressive delicacy and care, I wanted to cry each time this 15-year-old boy found an orphaned animal and cared for it. Ty is on the spectrum, but, because he and his family are Shadowhunters and the community doesn’t trust mundane medicine, they have no idea about his condition, which leads Julian (his older brother) to hide it from the Council. Enter Kit who sees Ty for exactly who he is and likes him all the same. Cassie recently revealed that Kit and Ty (along with Dru) will be the protagonists in her final series, The Wicked Powers. Cassie has also said that this final Shadowhunter series will focus on an LGBT pairing and, well, to say I’m a little excited would be a massive lie, I AM SUPER-DUPER EXCITED TO READ ABOUT KIT AND TY FALLING IN LOVE. I need the last series ASAP (and it kills me we have to wait YEARS – but at least we will have The Eldest Curses to tide us over).
There are a million more characters I love, but if I sit here and write them all out and explain why, this review will be over 10,000 words long, so, let me dissect the reasons I severely dislike a certain character: Cristina. My hating a Cassandra Clare character is a rare thing indeed – I mean, I’m the type of person who loved Sebastian! Yeah, I love Sebastian/Jonathan Morgernstern who murdered people and yet I despise a character who, for all intents and purposes, is probably the one most people like. In Lady Midnight, I didn’t mind Cristina – I really enjoyed her growing friendship with Emma and I enjoyed learning about her family and their relationships with the Fae. However, in LoS, she quickly became a hated character as I realised she has no discernible personality. She’s just … there. She’s very easy to forget about and I don’t understand her role in the novel anymore. I also must mention my continual confusion as to what the hell is going on between her and Mark … and now Kieran. Unlike Emma and Jules who have enough chemistry to set a Church on fire (and they did), Mark and Cristina’s ‘budding’ romance is awkward and flat. I don’t understand the attraction at all. In my opinion, Mark has far more in common with Kieran, although Mark has come to realise that his and Kieran’s relationship wasn’t completely healthy, which is entirely valid. So – why can’t Mark stay single then? Or Cristina for that matter? Their character arcs do not need to revolve around romance. In fact, the few scenes I found myself liking Cristina was when she was alone, or with Emma. The second Mark entered the room or her thoughts, I grew annoyed again. So please Cassie, don’t make them a couple. There’s nothing there between them (although I have this feeling Mark/Kieran/Cristina will make a pairing in the next novel). It’s for Cristina’s sake, and the issues surrounding Mark and Kieran, that this book isn’t getting the full 5 star rating. (Am I being petty? Probably. Do I care? No.)
“I need to be whole again. Even if it doesn’t last.”
“It can’t last,” she said, staring at him, because how could it, when they could never keep what they had? “It’ll break our hearts.”
He caught her by the wrist, brought her hand to his bare chest. Splayed her fingers over his heart. It beat against her palm, like a fist punching its way through his sternum. “Break my heart,” he said. “Break it in pieces. I give you permission.”
I knew I would enjoy Emma and Jules’ angsty relationship, but I didn’t think I would come to love their romance so wholeheartedly. The tension between them is so tangible and Cassie writes their scenes to perfection. I don’t think I’ve shipped a couple this hard since the few sentences from City of Ashes that suggested Alec and Magnus were dating. The parabatai bond between them is a constant issue and I love how Cassie is slowly exploring this. I can’t wait for more in Queen of Air and Darkness, which I know will destroy me.
The plot was quite slow, especially at the beginning of the novel, but that has never been an issue for me. I love slow novels, especially ones with such a large cast of characters that I adore. Then, after a few hundred pages, the plot goes from one extreme to the next and I almost found myself struggling to keep up, especially with the frequent POV jumps. And let’s not even mention the ending. I am pretending that the last few pages don’t exist at all.
That being said, I think the best way to explain LoS would be to call it a ‘filler novel’. It had some important scenes to be sure, but a majority of the novel is used as placeholder information for the final novel in the series, as well as for The Last Hours and The Wicked Powers. That’s a lot of work for Cassie to pull off – setting up for 7 different books – but she manages to do it with such finesse, she has me wishing I had a time machine so I could read her future novels already.
Lord of Shadows was a sequel worthy of the name. Cassandra Clare honestly never disappoints and I love to immerse myself in the rich fantasy world she has created, again and again. I’ve often said this, but it remains true to this day: reading Cassie’s books is like sitting down to coffee with a friend you haven’t seen in a long time. It may have been a while, but everything is familiar and loving.