Cassandra Clare’s newest series is off with a bang! It’s definitely competing with the Infernal Devices to be my favourite Shadowhunter series. Five years after the end of The Mortal Instruments the series follows the Blackthorn family living in the Los Angeles Institute. There are several children in the family; Julian, Livvy, Ty, Tavvy, Mark, Helen and Julian’s best friend Emma. Though at the end of the previous series Helen is banished to Wrangle Island while Mark, who was kidnapped by faeries, is abandoned in Faerie.
Julian and Emma, now eighteen, are parabatai while Julian also struggles with caring for his large family. His uncle Arthur, who runs the Institute, is supposed to help care for the children but is consistently lost in his own world. It’s interesting to read about a character who has to take on the parental role at such a young age. Not to mention the fact that he is also a Shadowhunter and has to deal with not only danger to himself but his siblings also getting themselves into danger. As Shadowhunters die regularly I’d imagine that many elder siblings became the ‘parent’ after the adults are killed in action. It really takes a difficult, though common, situation to the next level.
One day, after the Shadowhunters have discovered the bodies of Downworlders brutally murder, a trio of faeries arrive at the Institute. They request that the Shadowhunters solve the murders, including the murders of the faerie victims. In exchange, they’ll give the Blackthorns back their brother, Mark. One of the faeries removes his hood and reveals himself to be Mark. The Blackthorns are dumbfounded. Now with an even more important reason to solve the murders, the Blackthorns work with all their might to solve this complex case.
All the while, the children try to reconnect with their long lost brother. Poor Mark has such a hard time with some serious PTSD. While he was with his faerie captors, Mark suffered through some terrible illusions as a source of entertainment for the fey. He’s very different from the boy they knew but, his family still want to help him. It really shows how far a family will go for each other. Julian and Mark struggle with the new dynamic between themselves and their younger siblings. Mark was once the older brother in charge of caring for his siblings, but, for the past five years, that’s been Julian’s role. Now, thanks to how slow time moves in Faerie, Julian and Mark are now the same age. Mark is no longer the older brother and even if he was, he is too damaged from his years in Faerie to be able to properly care for them. Julian is nervous to let his younger siblings near Mark because of his instability. It’s a unique relationship between the two brother and intriguing to watch them try to figure out each other and how their relationship works now.
There is a sort of love triangle between Mark, Julian, Emma and Christina. In a few scenes, there’s a real connection between Mark and Emma, while most of the time it’s clear there’s a spark between Mark and Christina. The feelings between Julian and Emma are so clear and strong, but their friendship makes it difficult to tell if it’s attraction or merely being best friends for over a decade. As Christina and Mark grow closer he manages to heal ever so slightly and we learn that his time in Faerie did have a bright spot. Mark had a lover. Though he understandably doesn’t like to talk about his years in Faerie, we are able to piece together things that happened over the course of the novel. I loved the ‘love triangle’ as it’s not as angsty and frustrating as most but more like it’s just how their lives are. Complicated.
The sheer number and variety of the cast are very enjoyable. Many books with several main characters are confusing and frustrating but Cassandra manages to pull it off. Each character is well developed and unique, sure to make everyone able to relate to at least one character. From Julian the overly mature artist, Emma the hot-headed warrior to Ty the intelligent boy on the autism spectrum. I particularly like Ty. It’s intriguing to see someone who is mentally different to those around him try to survive this unforgiving and brutal world. It would be hard enough to fit in our world let alone in the Shadowhunter world with its strict rules and military lifestyle. Christina is a Shadowhunter from Mexico who has come to LA to train and has fast become Emma’s best friend. Unlike Emma, she has some good common sense and often has to remind her to think before she acts, just like Julian. As we learn more about her it’s clear she’s had a troubled past in Mexico and I could hardly wait to find out what happened! And it was definitely worth the wait. Learning about a Shadowhunter from another part of the world was very enjoyable and helped to show how vast the Shadowhunter world really is, it isn’t solely contained to America, Britain or Alicante.
Christina is a Shadowhunter from Mexico who has come to LA to train and has fast become Emma’s best friend. Unlike Emma, she has some good common sense and often has to remind her to think before she acts, just like Julian. As we learn more about her it’s clear she’s had a troubled past in Mexico and I could hardly wait to find out what happened! And it was definitely worth the wait. Learning about a Shadowhunter from another part of the world was very enjoyable and helped to show how vast the Shadowhunter world really is, it isn’t solely contained to America, Britain or Alicante.
The children’s’ tutor is Diana Wayburn, the dark-skinned woman with the koi tattoo from the previous series. Honestly, we don’t see her much as she lives out of the Institute and likes to keep to herself but when we do see her, she definitely makes up for it. She’s skilled with nearly everyone weapon, is tough but fair and totally kick ass! Like Diana, we don’t see much of Arthur, even though he runs the Institute. He struggles to run the Institute as he wants to be stuck in the attic, researching and feeding his obsession with classical mythology and literature. It’s sad, but I can relate to wanted to devote yourself to one interest. (Mine being books!)
Malcolm Fade, the local high warlock and friend to the Blackthorn children, was a fun ‘replacement’ for Magnus Bane. He is sweet and funny mixed with the quirkiness that all warlocks seem to have. It’s good to see the children have a friend like Malcolm to help them during the difficult last five years.
References to characters from the previous series were common but, I absolutely lost my mind when Magnus showed up. It was awesome to see what the Mortal Instruments characters were up to five years on.
I know most people love the Herondale boys with their good looks, snarky attitude and brooding demeanour but they’ve got nothing on Julian. He’s a nice guy who easily shows affection to everyone he cares about whilst taking not only responsible for himself but for his entire family. Unlike the Herondales who are honestly quite self-centred and more of a pain in the butt. He’s emotionally healthy and a much better option for a boyfriend than a brooding bad boy. Not only that but he’s an artist!
Five years after the Cold Peace the Shadowhunters are still reeling from tragedy. Old traditions were brought back, including the Shadowhunter Academy and the Scholomance, a school to train Centurions, the elite of the elite. It’s clever to see the Shadowhunter world developing and becoming even more complex.
The mystery that Julian and Emma are trying to solve is the murder of Downworlders, including fey. Investigating the death of faeries is quite conflicting for the Shadowhunters after everything that’s happened but they are still duty-bound to solve it. There were several twists and turns leading you down one path until it suddenly did a U-turn, pointing to someone else entirely. The villain was someone I had not suspected and their reasons were understandable, evil, yes but understandable. It made me like the villain even more. I couldn’t put it down! I give it 5/5