4.5 out of 5 Dark Stars
Some people don’t give the first book in a series a 5 because they feel like they aren’t giving it anywhere to go. Like what if the next one is better? My heart wants to give it a solid 5… the only reason I would knock it down to 4.5 would be because sometimes Clare resorts to things that many writers do that are beginning to bother me – like biting your lip till it bleeds. Has anyone ever done that purely from distress and emotion? I mean you can do when a car hits a pothole while you are nibbling the dry skin on your lips but I’ve never had that happen. Also never dug my nails into my palms till they bled. And sometimes the friendly banter got a little … I don’t know. Irritating. But Goddamn I loved this book.
You really need to do your homework to read this… I don’t know why you would want to read it if you haven’t read the two previous series set in the Shadowhunter world. There are characters and spoilers for the previous works in this book, so beware.
We actually met most of these principal characters in the last book of The Mortal Instruments. There is a whole mess of orphaned Blackthorn children, led by older brother Julien, and his parabatai, super warrior Emma Carstairs. Emma is a demon killing badass and also an orphan… but she’s just herself. She lost both parents right before what is now called The Dark War. Everyone has always assumed Sebastian Morgenstern, the instigator of the war, killed them, but Emma never has. Her parents were washed up on the beach, their skin mutilated by demonic language, where the rest of his victims were forced to drink from the Infernal Cup. At a chance meeting with a Downworlder she hears that there are more bodies being dumped with the same writing.
This is so tightly well written, so full of emotion, so much fabulous angst, and action, and just the right mix of everything. I read it in two days – and it’s 668 pages. So much is going on. I’ll start with the most painful – The Law is hard but the Law is the Law. That’s a Shadowhunter motto. And one law is that Parabatai cannot love each other in the ways of eros, or erotic/sexual/romantic love, as opposed to the love of friendship or family. Well. Wouldn’t you know. Both Emma and Julien are trying to repress their feelings and not being able to, assuming the other would be horrified if they knew. And it was delicious. So well done. I just wanted to reach through the pages. I wanted to find some way to fix it. I have no idea how this is going to be resolved. Because there is a reason, something secret and forbidden about it, and it could end up tearing them apart.
And poor Julien. He’s really just a kid, but he’s taken on the role of father to his younger siblings since he was 12. The twins are 15, one girl is 13 and the baby boy is 7. But that’s not all. There are two older half siblings with fae blood. Helen was basically exiled to study the wards out in the middle of nowhere, and Mark was taken by the Wild Hunt. Since the war, there is what is called the Cold Peace. When the fae betrayed the Shadowhunters, they were punished by no longer being protected under the Accords. The Shadowhunters and their allies may not assist or deal with fairies. The Clave has basically refused to do anything for Mark, believing that anyone remotely fae would side with the Fair Folk over the Shadowhunters. Julien is torn up over it. He feels like he’s wrecking everything all the time. He has to be a disciplinary figure rather just a brother. He knows things would be a lot easier if his older half siblings were there to help, but he can’t do anything about it.
Then the fairies come with a bargain.
Some of the bodies showing up mutilated are fae, and the faery courts come offering to return Mark (and have him help with the investigation) if the Shadowhunters at the Los Angeles Institute can solve the mystery and hand the culprit over to the courts for punishment. Monkey Wrench: the Clave is already looking into it and they don’t want the Los Angeles institute involved. Why? Who knows why the Clave does anything. They are so insular and bigoted, it’s insane. Sadly, the Mark that is returned is far different from the Mark that was taken from them. The fae are not kind, as a matter of fact, they are horribly cruel. Mark has been tortured and taunted for his Shadowhunter blood ever since he was taken. Back at the Institute, he doesn’t recognize his family and is confused about what is real and what is hallucination.
I did have trouble keeping all the Blackthorns separate until about halfway through the book, when I tried to make a point of writing down their traits. There are a lot of things you can say about Cassandra Clare, as far as her past goes, and people who have been icked out by her incest plot lines in The Mortal Instruments – but you can’t say the woman doesn’t write diversely. There is a gay romance and one of the twin Blackthorns, Tiberius, or Ty, is possibly on the Autistic scale. He is totally accepted and understood by his family. I really thought her handling of how he is presented is very sensitive and inclusive. They know he doesn’t like eye contact. He has soothing tics that he uses. He’s highly intelligent and very focused when he’s working on stuff. But Shadowhunters in general are distrustful of anyone that outside of what they consider “the norm”, and Julian knows if the Clave knew, Ty will shunted away into programs that would basically hide him away. That’s not even the only secret Julian’s hiding, and not just from the Clave. Secrets pretty much run the gamut in this one, and it’s a huge theme. They can be so destructive to relationships, and I thought that was handled really well.
This was a humdinger. I just loved all of it. Some people have said it was too long, but I didn’t think that at all.