“Break my heart,” he said. “Break it in pieces. I give you permission.” – Me before reading every Cassandra Clare novel
One thing I’ve always appreciated about Cassandra Clare’s books is how layered they are. The first time you read them, they’re just pure entertainment. You laugh, you cry, you sit on the edge of your seat, and you occasionally set the book down so that you can take a moment to compose yourself. But the best part is that once it’s over, you cannot stop thinking about it. Whether you’re coming up with crazy theories, scouring the book for references to Cassie’s other series, or just calmly reflecting on all the philosophical questions and subtle references to real world issues contained within the 700 pages you just read. Or maybe that last one’s just me.
Lord of Shadows was no exception to this rule. In this second installment of the Dark Artifices trilogy, Cassandra Clare wove together a beautiful masterpiece that continued the story laid out in Lady Midnight, set up the upcoming The Last Hours series, and stood out on its own at the same time. Diehard fans will not be disappointed.
This is the biggest book Cassandra Clare has written yet, but it doesn’t read like it. The plot is engaging, the characters are as dynamic as ever, and the appearances of characters from other Shadowhunter series are exciting without taking away from the story. It’s the kind of book you can’t stop reading, partly because you want answers to all your questions, and partly because you don’t want to leave the world.
In other words, Lord of Shadows is a typical Shadowhunter novel, except a bit darker, and a bit more daring. It’s similar enough to the other books to satisfy long term fans, but different enough to keep everything new and interesting. If you’re a fan of Cassandra Clare’s writing, I don’t know why you wouldn’t pick it up.
WARNING: Some mild spoilers ahead. Nothing major (IMO), but proceed with caution.
WHAT I LIKED
Real world problems. It can be difficult to bring real world issues into fiction without it becoming overbearing. Stories are, after all, supposed to be an escape from the real world. You don’t want things to get too real. However, in Lord of Shadows, I thought Cassandra Clare did an excellent job of commenting on real world issues using the Cold Peace. The Cohort is repulsive, and at times seems almost too exaggerated, until you remember that their rhetoric is almost exactly the same as that of real people. Knowing how easy it is for those kinds of people to gain power only makes everything so much scarier.
Kit and Ty. I’ve shipped these two since the beginning, but I really fell in love with their relationship in this book. I loved that Kit didn’t judge Ty because of his autism, and was always super protective of him. I also thought it was adorable that Ty was so fascinated with Kit, and so insistent that he stay at the Institute. Cassie recently revealed that the two of them would be the main characters of the Wicked Powers series, and I am beyond excited.
Emma and Mark. I didn’t know what to expect from this fake relationship, but it definitely wasn’t this. I’m glad the forced romance didn’t go on for very long, and that they developed such a strong friendship. Mark is really like a brother to Emma, and given how complicated his relationships with everyone else in the Institute are, I’m glad he finally has someone his own age to confide in. What I am curious about, though, is how often they talk about Christina, because we know that the two girls talk about Mark all the time. Mark and Christina don’t usually keep secrets from each other, so I doubt there are many secrets for Emma to keep, but it still must be kind of awkward for Emma to so close to both of them.
Dru. The second-youngest Blackthorn has been on the sidelines for a long time, and I’ll admit I didn’t give her much thought before Lord of Shadows, but this book really made me warm up to her. In Lady Midnight, we got to see a lot of Ty and Livvy’s frustration at not being allowed to fight when Emma and Julian had been doing the same at their age, and this time we got to see some of the same stuff from Dru.
The poor girl has had to grow up very quickly, and she seems quite mature for her age. I completely understand why she wants to be included in things a bit more. Also, I love that her character adds just a little bit of body positivity to the Shadowhunter world. I can’t wait to see more from her in Queen of Air and Darkness and The Wicked Powers.
Diana. I wasn’t a huge fan of hers in Lady Midnight, but Diana grew on me so much in this book. She’s such a strong, inspiring character and I hope she gets a nice happy ending.
Honesty. One of my pet peeves about YA fiction is how often characters lie to each other. I guess it’s realistic, but it’s so infuriating to see characters make everything so complicated just because they keep lying to each other. Thankfully, the faerie element seems to have made everyone a little bit less scared to tell each other the truth. Mark hates lying, and so does Emma. Kieran can’t lie. Christina is really grateful to be in such a truthful relationship with Mark, after all the drama she had to put up with with Diego and Jaime. I think it eliminates a lot of silliness and just makes everything so much more enjoyable to read.
WHAT I FOUND INTERESTING
Julian is definitely evil. This kid is so sketchy. He lies all the time. He hints at being willing to do just about anything to help the people he loves. He’s both fascinating and terrifying. I’m so used to reading about really selfless, virtuous protagonists, that it’s so interesting to read about a character who doesn’t fit that mold. I think after the ending of Lord of Shadows, there’s a good chance he really falls into the darkness and becomes a danger to anyone who doesn’t belong to that very select group of people he cares about. I kind of hope it happens. Cassandra Clare is so good at creating moral ambiguity in her characters, and though I think the goodness in Julian will win out in the end, I’m also really excited to read about a hero who kind of toes the line between good and evil.
Also, I love that Julian doesn’t really seem to realize he’s an anti-hero. In The Mortal Instruments, Jace was always convinced he was a villain, but he never really was, partly because he was so horrified at the idea of causing anyone harm. Julian, on the other hand, thinks he’s just protecting his family. He doesn’t stop to think about, say, the mundane girl who was about to die at the hands of the faeries. In his mind, the only thing that matters is his family. That’s what scares me about him.
Annabel. I fully expected Annabel to join Malcolm and become evil, so I was shocked when she acted like a normal, reasonable Shadowhunter. And yet, once I learned more about her, everything made perfect sense. She’s such an interesting character. Though I’m kind of confused about her loyalties right now, I hope we learn more about her in future books.
Faeries aren’t all bad after all! This might be the first time we’ve seen the good side of the Fair Folk. We’ve met Mark and Helen, of course, but they’re only half faerie. Mostly, they’ve been scary and creepy and manipulative. But this time, we got to know Kieran better, and we met Gwyn. I was surprised by how much I ended up liking both of them.
References to other series. Cassie is so good at this, and of course the London institute was the perfect location for all these callbacks to The Infernal Devices and The Last Hours. There were wonderful little squeal-worthy moments, and a few things I didn’t quite get but know will make sense once I read TLH. It will be so cool to go back and re-read this whole book in a few years, knowing so much more about the history of the location.
Shadowhunter weaknesses. Shadowhunters have always been so powerful in the Shadowhunter books that it was really interesting to see Valentine’s fear proven: that the Nephilim are actually really vulnerable without their runes.
Here is the section where I write down all my predictions for future books. They probably won’t come true. That’s okay. But if one of them does, I will have proof that I foresaw it.
The parabatai curse is happening. After that ending, it seems inevitable. Hopefully, they’ll be able to stop it before it gets too bad, but I’m worried. After all that buildup, it has to happen, right?
Necromancy will play a big part in Julian’s descent into evil. You heard it here first, folks: there have been too many parallels between Malcolm and Julian. There have been too many mentions of Julian being willing to do absolutely anything (SACRIFICE anyone) for his family. Our favourite slightly evil yet still lovable protagonist is going to attempt to resurrect a certain someone using necromancy. It’s happening.
We all know who that faerie kid Dru met was. Look, you don’t reveal that Sebastian Morgenstern has been sleeping with the Seelie queen, then introduce us to a creepy faerie boy who looks suspiciously like him a few years later, and expect us not to draw some conclusions. Just saying.
The Unseelie King is behind this mysterious warlock sickness. I don’t know why, and I don’t know how, but I’m going to blame him. Either that or it’s the Cohort trying to threaten or eliminate downworlders.
Cortana is the key. That sword is ridiculously powerful. Who knows what it can do?