Book Review: The Lost Book of the White by Cassandra Clare and Wesley Chu

Has any book fandom been better fed in the last few years than the Shadowhunter Chronicles fandom?

Cassandra Clare just keeps churning out new Shadowhunter books year after year, and these books are only getting better. Co-written by Cassandra Clare and Wesley Chu, The Lost Book of the White expands on the Shadowhunter universe and sets up future books, while delivering excellent missing scenes featuring some of our favourite characters.

I absolutely devoured this book within 24 hours of receiving it in the mail, and I’d say it was about what I expected from the series after reading The Red Scrolls of Magic. Like TRSOM, this book was a really fast and enjoyable read that will help tide me over until the next Shadowhunter Chronicles novel, without being on quite the same level as the more popular Shadowhunter series like The Dark Artifices and The Last Hours.

Let’s talk about the best parts of book two of the Eldest Curses series!

Chinese mythology

The Lost Book of the White takes place in Shanghai, and clearly draws a lot of inspiration from Chinese mythology, which I’ll admit I’m not particularly familiar with but really enjoyed reading about in this book. At points it almost felt a bit Riordan-esque (in a good way) as our main characters explored famous places in Chinese mythology and used lots of famous mythological objects.

It also made me miss travelling, and made me wish I could go to Shanghai in particular, but what else is new? We all now have a new addition to the list of cities with a strong connection to the Shadowhunter Chronicles books.

The Humour

It wouldn’t be a Shadowhunter book without top-notch banter that has you laughing out loud every other page! Every joke lands and is perfectly in character. What else did you expect from this cast of goofballs?

It’s especially nice to see Alec joining in the banter, as it shows how comfortable he is with himself these days, how much confidence he’s acquired.

God, I missed the TMI gang.

Malec

I love everything about Magnus and Alec after TMI. They’re so steady at this point, so sure of themselves and each other. There’s no drama, no uncertainty, just so much love for each other and for their son(s). After six books of not being sure if they’ll be able to make it work, it’s so satisfying to see them together and happy. They deserve it so much.

The Lost Book of the White is full of wonderful domestic scenes and beautiful quotes and quite possibly the most kisses of any Shadowhunter book. 

But that doesn’t mean the book is without angst! A major theme in TLBOTW is Magnus and Alec figuring out how to be parents and heroes at the same time. They have a kid now, and their first responsibility has to be to him. That means no more heroic sacrifices. No more running off to save the world at a moment’s notice. No more doing everything by themselves. I haven’t read many young/new adult books that deal with that kind of thing, so it was really interesting to see what happens when heroes become parents while the world still needs them to be heroes.

Character development

The one big issue I had with The Red Scrolls of Magic – the first book in this series – was the fact that it felt somewhat constrained by its place in the timeline. Since we knew that things between Magnus and Alec were about to go to shit in City of Fallen Angels and City of Lost Souls, only so much character development could happen; Alec couldn’t come to terms with Magnus’s immortality yet, and Magnus couldn’t open up to Alec about his past just yet. While the authors did a good job of introducing some of the issues Magnus and Alec deal with later on in the Mortal Instruments series and giving us hope Malec would get through it, there ended up being a few internal storylines that couldn’t be resolved in the book just because of the way the timeline had been established.

The Lost Book of the White avoids this pitfall by showing us a period in time that we haven’t seen very much of just yet: the space between Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy and The Dark Artifices. We get to see Magnus and Alec adjusting to parenthood, of course, but we also get to see Simon dealing with George’s death and his own new life as a Shadowhunter, and Clary and Jace becoming heads of the New York Institute. It’s a really interesting look into how the main characters from The Mortal Instruments got to the point they’re at in The Dark Artifices.

The book does, however, include a few too many flashbacks for my liking, and spend a bit too much time recapping past books. I completely understand why it might be necessary to explain what’s happened in other Shadowhunter books in order to make the Eldest Curses series accessible to new readers, so I don’t necessarily blame the authors for doing it, but since the book is less than 400 pages long, it really does feel like the recaps take up way more time than they should. Throw in all the flashbacks, and it doesn’t feel like we spend quite as much time in the present as I would have liked.

Ultimately, The Lost Book of the White is a fun addition to the Shadowhunter chronicles, if not quite as enjoyable or as angst-inducing as other Shadowhunter books. It delivers on humour and character moments but occasionally falls flat in terms of writing. It fills in a few gaps while setting up future books in an intriguing epilogue.

I’m eagerly anticipating the next book in the series, as well as the next Shadowhunter book, set to be released in 2021.

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