Written by: Cassandra Clare
# 1 / ? of The Dark Artifices series
Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars
Summary: Emma Carstairs is a warrior, a Shadowhunter, and the best in her generation. She lives for battle. Shoulder to shoulder with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, she patrols the streets of Los Angeles, where vampires party on the Sunset Strip, and faeries—the most powerful of supernatural creatures—teeter on the edge of open war with Shadowhunters. When the bodies of humans and faeries turn up murdered in the same way Emma’s parents were when she was a child, an uneasy alliance is formed. This is Emma’s chance for revenge—and Julian’s chance to get back his brother Mark, who is being held prisoner by the faerie Courts. All Emma, Mark, and Julian have to do is solve the murders within two weeks…and before the murderer targets them.
“Lex malla, lex nulla. A bad law is no law.”
Review: Bless Cassandra Clare and her ability to put out books faster than I can read them.
It’s no surprise to anybody that knows me that I love the Shadowhunter universe. Although I actually wasn’t a huge fan when I started The Mortal Instruments, Clare roped me in with The Infernal Devices and the conclusion of TMI, and she’s kept me locked in with the creation of her new series, a sort-of continuation: The Dark Artifices. Book number one came out almost a year ago now, but I just got around to reading it due to a long reading list before it. From the moment I picked it up, I couldn’t put the nearly-700 page text down. Like Clare’s other books, the length of the book seems like nothing due to the ease with which her dialogue and the plot – no matter how intricate it became – flows. Even though she introduced entirely new parts of the Shadowhunter world such as the Scholomance, the Shadow Market, and the Wild Hunt; even though she introduced new side characters that seemingly had no connection to the main story; even though she introduced about twelve different threads that I wanted her to pull at and resolve so desperately… there was never a point in the book where I had to put it down and ask myself “Where am I?”. Instead, Clare is able to intricately weave every small subplot, even bringing in forgotten subplots from previous series, to what I thought was a satisfactory ending for a first book in a series. This ability of Clare’s to entirely capture her reader in the pages is what makes all of her series so successful.
But, after reading Clare’s books for almost seven years now, it’s nice to see that she’s still capable of evolving. For the first time, Clare employs two hot and complicated tropes – bisexuality and mental health – without managing to mess it up, and it is because she does it simplistically, casually. She doesn’t try to make a huge thing out of it, or try to make it the center of the plot, which is truly how it should be handled in real life as well. She tackles the mental health issue through the voice of Julian, who is one of the most naturally caring and intelligent characters she has, and I love that it is explored in three different ways – Ty, who some readers suggest might have mild but high functioning autism; Mark, who has lapses in memory and thought due to trauma; and Arthur, who has spells of insanity and delirium due to a heavily implied mental illness – because that is the reality of both mental and physical disabilities, in that they differ so widely even within the same diagnosis. As for the plots regarding bisexuality/homosexuality/heterosexuality even… once again, Clare has mastered the need-to-know aspect of it, while also giving equal amounts of attention to heterosexual and homosexual plots, discussing without questioning the complexities of the relationships.
As for the characters: I love Emma. She is the first of Clare’s female leads that I actually thoroughly enjoy reading about, and that I feel is the least like Mary Sue. Although she has the dead parents and the historically epic weapon and the beautiful good looks and the excessively impressive combat skills… all of this is juxtaposed with her teenage hormones, sense of responsibility, dry and sarcastic humor, and understated big heart. But her big heart is nothing in comparison to the main supporting female character, Cristina, who I also wildly adore. Although she is a recent addition to the story as a foreign exchange student (basically) from Mexico, she fits right into the mix of the Los Angeles Institute just as well as all the others who have been there for years. Her clearheadedness, focus on responsibility, and ability to naturally care for anyone help smooth over any issues that arise when Julian’s patience snaps or Emma’s maturity wavers. Just as I start to think Cristina is perfect though, Clare peppers in allusions to a mysterious past and then brings that past into the present with the introduction of Cristina’s once-true-love, Perfect Diego. He introduces a new aspect of the Shadowhunter that was previously underdeveloped despite being mentioned by Tavvy earlier on in the book – the Scholomance, an elite Shadowhunter training center that, to my understanding, raised super spy Shadowhunters for lack of a better explanation. Both of these things make me look forward to even more character development in this book: Diego will make Cristina question herself most likely, and make Tavvy question his future – and I am all about that.
When it comes to the Blackthorn family, what else can I say besides I love them. I love that they actually feel like a well-rounded family, with the unconditional love and support above all else, and i love that they have such a badass family motto (see favorite quote above). Clare does such an amazing job characterizing each of them perfectly, with details like Drusilla’s obsession with horror movies and Ty’s headphones around his neck and more, putting all of the younger members of the Blackthorn clan within such easy reach of the reader. Julian, head of the Institute and their family, is one of my two favorites of Clare’s leading men (which is why him and Emma together makes me internally squeal with glee), as he complements Emma perfectly without the two of them being too different. I also like that this book delved more into his faults: compartmentalizing instead of speaking about his feelings, shouldering the weight of responsibility instead of delegating, a fraying sense of patience; by showing these, it actually accentuated his ability to hold everything together and his very apparent selflessness. As for the eldest Blackthorn, Mark, I was pleasantly surprised as I fell in love with his character. I am not sure how I read the excerpts about him in TMI before he was kidnapped by Faerie, but I had in my head this image of an beautiful, arrogant golden-haired boy with none of the confident or humorous allure that Jace had, but this was simply not the case in Lady Midnight. Although almost feral at his return to the Shadowhunter’s world at the start, he was developed beautifully – relearning what humans did and said, connecting to Ty in a way that Julian never could, providing unexpected humor in dark situations and evolving into a kindhearted soul with his family as his focus. Perhaps the most poignant part of the novel to me is when Mark, as the eldest Blackthorn, begins to take the weight of some of the responsibilities of Julian’s shoulders, showing how strong and important this family is.
All shade thrown at TMI and TID aside, The Dark Artifices started off strong. Maybe it is because Clare has just written so much, she has finally managed to hone on what will really capture her readers’ attentions, as well as new readers that may have not fully enjoyed her previous series. Obviously, I would not recommend picking up Lady Midnight for new Clare readers, as many old and wonderful characters (most notably, Jem Carstairs and Magnus Bane, my personal two favorites) reappear with expectations of a prior understanding of their stories, but for those of you having a hard time getting through TMI or TID or thinking “This wonderful series can only decline with quality through time”… you’ve got some incredible things ahead of you, as do we all. I’m very much looking forward to the rest of The Dark Artifices series, mostly due to the unknown fate of/reason for Kit, and I hope you all are, too!