Of all the characters in Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series, Simon probably got the least closure in City of Heavenly Fire. As a huge Simon fan, I was, frankly, pissed at what happened to him in the otherwise perfect conclusion to the series. What happened to the wonderful, complete endings I had come to expect from Cassie? What about doing justice to every character? Not to mention that between my various book and TV obsessions, memory loss was getting so old.
So when Cassie announced that she would be teaming up with Robin Wasserman and Sarah Rees Brennan to explore Simon’s story in a new series of novellas, I was understandably excited, if a bit wary. The Bane Chronicles had been a slight letdown and it looked like TFSA would be written by multiple authors, the main problem I had had with TBC. But as it turns out, I had no reason to be afraid. I found the humor natural, the characterization excellent and the world building intruiguing – more than could be said of Cassandra Clare’s last series of short stories. If you’re a fan of The Mortal Instruments, I definitely recommend it – though you might want a few tissues for the end! Nine months after this journey began, let’s take a (mostly spoiler-free) look back at Simon’s time at Shadowhunter Academy.
Tales From Shadowhunter Academy focuses mainly on Simon’s broken relationships with the original TMI characters. He and Jace get along much better than they used to, and his friendship with Clary doesn’t take long to get back on track, but the person he struggles to connect with the most is Isabelle. The couple made great strides in the last two Mortal Instruments books, but in TFSA, they found themselves in the unique position of having to fall in love all over again, despite the fact that Simon does not know Isabelle or understand why she likes him, and ends up very confused by her actions. The reader, knowing Izzy much better than Simon does, can see past the walls she puts up, but it’s heartbreaking to see that Simon no longer possesses that ability.
One of the highlights of Simon’s time at the Academy was his friendship with his roommate, George Lovelace. It’s hard to create an interesting and loveable character in such a short amount of time, but George, with his unquestioning loyalty and silly sense of humor, quickly became one of my favourite characters. I think it was important for Simon to find a friend who was part of the shadow world but who hadn’t known him before his memories were erased, and who therefore didn’t expect anything of him. I think George is proof that he, Simon Lewis, mundane nerd, can actually belong in the world of shadowhunting and badassery.
As it turns out, Simon actually does have a place among the nephilim, and it doesn’t take him long to figure it out. He has unique insight into their world, having interacted with shadowhunters as a mundane, a downworlder, and finally a hero hoping to join their ranks. Simon notices the difference in how they treat him, and doesn’t forget it. (Okay, technically he does forget some parts, but you get the idea). Early on, we see him speak out in defense of the “dregs” and even defend faeries – a dangerous thing considering what the shadowhunters think of them at this point in the timeline. He isn’t afraid to point out the many flaws in the nephilim society, even if it means standing up to his friends, and I could not be more proud of him.
“The law is hard, but it is the law,” Simon added in disgust. “So freaking what? If the law is wrong, why not change it? Do you know what the world would look like if we were still following the laws made up back in the Dark Ages?”
“You know who else used to talk like that?”Jon asked ominously.
“Let me guess: Valentine.” Simon scowled. “Because apparently in all of Shadowhunter history only one guy has bothered to ask any questions.”
The Shadowhunters are so used to people blindly following their rules that they paint anyone who questions them as a villain, just because one person turned out to have bad intentions. Their arrogance is such that they believe anyone who is not with them on every point to be entirely against them. The depth to which Cassandra Clare explores the sociology and anthropology of the shadow world in every one of her books will never fail to amaze me.
Finally, TSFA also includes plenty of sneak peeks at future Shadowhunter books, as well as missing scenes featuring beloved characters. Cassie teases us with the possibility of more Herondales (always a good thing for the world) in The Lost Herondale. We get to see Tessa, Will, Cecily and Gabriel solve crime in The Whitechapel Fiend. In Nothing but Shadows, James Herondale meets many of the main charactes of the upcoming series, The Last Hours. We get insight into the early days of the Circle in The Evil We Love, and learn more about Helen and Mark Blackthorn in Pale Kings and Princes. Continuing with the TDA theme, we catch up with Mark in Bitter of Tongue and see Jules and Emma’s parabatai ceremony in The Fiery Trial. The story turns back toward TMI in the last two installments, as we get lots of Malec in Born to Endless Night and Angels Twice Descending focuses on Simon’s ascension.
Overall, Tales From Shadowhunter Academy is for the diehard fans. If you’re someone who has read all the Shadowhunter books, and who is eagerly awaiting the next ones, TFSA is definitely for you. If you’re a casual fan, you will almost certainly enjoy it, but it’s not mandatory reading. For those of you who do not own an e-reader, the hardcover version should be available sometime after Lady Midnight.
Now, here’s an exciting thought, Shadowhunters: the next Cassandra Clare book we’ll get to read will be Lady Midnight!