Warning: Spoilers for Chain of Iron!
It’s now been almost nine years since I first picked up a Shadowhunter Chronicles book, and I’m still in awe of Cassandra Clare’s ability to one-up herself with every new book release. Chain of Iron is a worthy successor to Chain of Gold, expertly continuing the stories of the characters we’ve grown to love so much.
While reading the second installment of the Last Hours series, I was struck, once again, by how well this series complements Clare’s last Shadowhunter series, The Dark Artifices. Where The Dark Artifices is dark, intense, and incredibly plot-heavy, The Last Hours takes on a slightly lighter tone, more concerned with the characters and their relationships with each other than with Shadowhunter politics. While the protagonists of TDA began the series having already experienced unimaginable tragedy, the protagonists of TLH had a sheltered upbringing, leaving them tragically unprepared for the adversity they face over the course of this series. While the Blackthorns of TDA had to raise themselves in the absence of any competent authority figures, most of these characters have good parents. It makes for a wildly different dynamic, and as much as I loved The Dark Artifices, I must admit that the tone of The Last Hours is very well suited to a time when I’m sure we could all do with a little bit of mindless escapism. I suspect that by the time this series is over, I’m going to miss the thrilling plot of The Dark Artifices – which is sure to continue in The Wicked Powers – just as I missed the humour and character-based storytelling of Clare’s earlier series by the end of The Dark Artifices – but for the time being, this is exactly what I need.
No character embodies the naiveté of this generation of Shadowhunters quite as much as Lucie Herondale, who doesn’t quite understand that life doesn’t always work out the way it does in books. Lucie took centre stage in Chain of Iron, as she tried to make her novel a reality by bringing Jesse back from the dead. She wants so badly to be a hero, and it’s as heartbreaking as it is endearing. I’m incredibly curious to see how her romantic storyline with Jesse plays out in the final book. It seems like she’s romanticizing things in her head a lot, and she’s going to need a reality check. I can only assume that that reality check will happen with the Clave finds out what she did. I’m worried for my girl, but I love her and I’m ready for the arc she’s going to get in Chain of Thorns.
The other main storyline of this book was, of course, James and Cordelia’s fake-but-not-really-that-fake marriage. I had high expectations for this storyline, and it ended up being everything I wanted and so much more. Even while their relationship was plagued with secrets, miscommunication, and that awful bracelet of Grace’s, there was a real sense of camaraderie between the two characters – something we only glimpsed in Chain of Gold. The romantic tension between them was palpable throughout the book. However, when I think about James and Cordelia’s relationship in Chain of Iron, it isn’t the makeout scenes or even the wedding that jump out to me. Instead, it’s the little moments: it’s the quiet chess games in the evenings, it’s James adding little touches of Cordelia to their house even knowing that she’ll only live there for a year, and it’s James gazing lovingly at Cordelia as they talk about themselves. They’re being built up as one of the strongest main couples we’ve seen in The Shadowhunter Chronicles. I’ve never been able to take the love triangle with Matthew seriously, and after this book, I’m more convinced than ever that it isn’t going to be much of a love triangle.
Speaking of Matthew, I’ll admit that I would have liked to see more of him in this book, but I absolutely loved what I got. His friendship with Cordelia is one of my favourite relationships in this series, and every interaction between him and James broke my heart but in the best possible way. He’s suffering, and he’s sabotaging his relationships in true Shadowhunter fashion, but he’s also taking small steps toward recovery. Will it be easy? No. Am I terrified of what’s going to happen to him in the next book? Absolutely. But I’m rooting for him.
I’m also rooting for Anna and Ariadne (or should we be calling her Kamala now? I much prefer that name after hearing her backstory), even after everything that happened between them in Chain of Iron. I’m furious with Anna, yes, but I also understand where she’s coming from. She’s always been upfront about what she wants, and what she’s offering. She never seduced Ariadne under false pretenses. Her experience with women tells her that none of them really want a relationship with her. She thinks Ariadne will be happier in a loveless marriage to man than living a bohemian lifestyle with her. She’s protecting her own heart, and I think she really does believe she’s doing something selfless in turning Ariadne down. Maybe it’s the Herondale in her. All I want is for her to figure out that she’s wrong before she truly loses her chance with Ariadne – who, frankly, deserves a lot more than what Anna is offering her.
In a book full of secrets and miscommunication, Thomas and Alastair’s scenes in the sanctuary were a breath of fresh air. Of everyone in the main cast, Alastair alone is perfectly upfront about his feelings, right up until his final conversation with Thomas. He shows remarkable character growth throughout the book, all the while retaining his pride and his snark. Thomas, for his part, won my heart in every scene told from his point of view. Even though I was frustrated with him for putting himself in harm’s way, I appreciated his courage, and the love he obviously feels for his friends. Still, even this relationship doesn’t completely escape the curse of miscommunication. Thomas unfortunately makes the mistake of calling Alastair his “secret,” and admitting that he could never tell his friends about their relationship. The decision Alastair makes at the end of the book is ultimately a very selfless one: he doesn’t want to drive a wedge in between Thomas and his friends, so he ends things before their relationship can cause problems. What he doesn’t realize, of course, is that Thomas likes him enough that this is likely to hurt his relationship with his friends anyways. We’ve already seen signs that the Merry Thieves – even Matthew – are warming up to Alastair. If Thomas just talks to them about this, I’m sure he’ll see that they don’t hate Alastair as much as he thinks they do. Thomastair is probably the ship I’m most confident about going into Chain of Thorns.
There are so many other characters I could talk about. I still don’t love Grace, but I did enjoy getting a bit of insight into her character. Christopher was a delightful presence in every scene he was in. Jesse became an even more interesting character. The older generation of Shadowhunters had some excellent moments, too – Will’s joke about Gideon still owing him 20 pounds was possibly the funniest line in the entire book. I’m still not entirely sold on Belial as a villain and I don’t care about Lilith any more now than I did in The Mortal Instruments, but with this series, the plot doesn’t matter to me nearly as much as the characters do. And I absolutely cannot wait to find out what happens to these characters in Chain of Thorns.