Review: Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

What’s it about?

“Would you trade your soul mate for your soul?

A Shadowhunter’s life is bound by duty. Constrained by honor. The word of a Shadowhunter is a solemn pledge, and no vow is more sacred than the vow that binds parabatai, warrior partners—sworn to fight together, die together, but never to fall in love.

Emma Carstairs has learned that the love she shares with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, isn’t just forbidden—it could destroy them both. She knows she should run from Julian. But how can she when the Blackthorns are threatened by enemies on all sides?

Their only hope is the Black Volume of the Dead, a spell book of terrible power. Everyone wants it. Only the Blackthorns can find it. Spurred on by a dark bargain with the Seelie Queen, Emma; her best friend, Cristina; and Mark and Julian Blackthorn journey into the Courts of Faerie, where glittering revels hide bloody danger and no promise can be trusted. Meanwhile, rising tension between Shadowhunters and Downworlders has produced the Cohort, an extremist group of Shadowhunters dedicated to registering Downworlders and “unsuitable” Nephilim. They’ll do anything in their power to expose Julian’s secrets and take the Los Angeles Institute for their own.

When Downworlders turn against the Clave, a new threat rises in the form of the Lord of Shadows—the Unseelie King, who sends his greatest warriors to slaughter those with Blackthorn blood and seize the Black Volume. As dangers close in, Julian devises a risky scheme that depends on the cooperation of an unpredictable enemy. But success may come with a price he and Emma cannot even imagine, one that will bring with it a reckoning of blood that could have repercussions for everyone and everything they hold dear.”

What I liked: 

I have loved every Cassandra Clare book I have ever read. From The Mortal Instruments series to The Infernal Devices, and, finally, to The Dark Artifices, I have never been disappointed by one of her series set in the Shadowhunter universe. And I am sure this love of all things Shadowhunter will continue into her future series as well—The Last Hours, The Eldest Curses and The Wicked Powers. However, although I have loved all of these series so much when I read them, I think it is important to note that with each one, I have loved them more—culminating with Lord of Shadows being my FAVORITE book Cassandra Clare has ever written. This is a testament to Clare’s writing, world building and character development. With each book she writes the stakes become higher, the characters become more relatable, and the world expands to new horizons. Lord of Shadows is the most heartbreaking, most politically-minded and most (in many ways) relatable book Cassandra Clare has written yet.

The love between the Blackthorns is so strong, and so developed. Mostly, it is like nothing I have experience with my own family (I say mostly because I at least know what it is like to have a relationship with my twin as close as Livvy and Ty’s), but that does not keep me from understanding their relationship. Sometimes, too much strong love in a fictional family can create judgement on the part of the reader. “That’s ridiculous!” “That’s not how brothers and sisters act!” “That’s not what teenagers do for their family, their supposed to sit around and mope about the world not understanding them!” These thoughts have run through my head when reading about other fictional siblings with “strong” bonds, and I just could not believe them. That is not the case in Lord of Shadows, though.

The way the Blackthorns have ended up, their relationships with one another, are not hard to believe, and that is because of the strong backstory that Clare has built for them, and has been building for them since the Mortal Instruments series when the Blackthorn children were first introduced. We truly understand the hardship that they have been through together. We saw it. In City of Heavenly Fire. Their family unit, and the relationships within it,  is a deeply woven part of the series. And because of this, it succeeds—and makes everything that happens to them that much more important to the reader. I feel like I truly know this family and what they go through. I am completely invested in their lives and that is why this book was so good—I care for the characters like they care for each other.

What I also feel like I have to mention about this series, and Lord of Shadows in particular, is that it is by far the most political story Cassandra Clare has told so far. Now, that may seem to some like a turn-off, but there is nothing I love more in fantasy than such strong world-building that there are complicated politics that have been developing for longer than the specific story the books are telling—that have been building in the background in a way that absolutely makes sense to the reader. The progression of politics in the Shadowhunter world, and in the Clave in particular, has been happening slowly throughout all of the Shadowhunter Chronicles and now, in Lord of Shadows, that political climate is finally culminating. The Clave is finally becoming culpable for their actions and their laws. The Blackthorn motto, lex malla, lex nulla—a bad law, is no law—is becoming more and more pertinent. What is happening politically in this book is complicated, but it makes sense. I understand what is going on and the reactions and feelings of parties on all sides. It deepens the books. It makes it more than just about the Blackthorn family. This is about the Shadowhunters and Downworlders as a whole, and, in turn, this is about the world.

The successful development of the political climate in Lord of Shadows is because of two things; one reason, as I said earlier, is the world building—we have seen and understood the events that have lead the Clave to the era of hatred that we are experiencing in Lord of Shadows. The second, and more important reason, however, for the success of the political climate in Lord of Shadows is because it seems real. It, in many ways, draws from the issues we have been experiencing today, especially in America. It hits close to home, a little too close to home.

What I didn’t like:

I babbled a lot about what I liked about this book. And I could babble a lot longer, and I mean A LOT longer. It is THAT good. I could tell you how much I love Cristina, how much I love the moral ambiguity of Julian’s character, how much I love the depths of representation in these books. I could tell you a lot more. But at the same time, I have to tell you what I didn’t like. And this is the most personal, biased thing to not like. It is not a critique of the book, the characters, the writing, or even the plot—I didn’t like the ending. I didn’t like it because it made me wholly and entirely sad. Maybe more than even other readers for a very obvious reason that you will understand when you have read the book. I hated what happened. It made me angry and upset and so SO sad. That does not mean, however, that it shouldn’t have happened. I realize this moment’s significance in the larger scheme of things. And, as much as I hate to say it, it needed to happen. And I can’t wait to see how it affects the characters—how they change (and hopefully) become better versions of themselves because of this tragedy.

Should you read it?

As always with Cassandra Clare, I’m going to tell you to read this book. READ IT NOW. Because it is SO important. The story it tells is about empathy, it’s about caring for others than yourself, for those that are different than you. It is a story that needs to be told today and I think you all should read it.

Star Rating: 

Meg: 5/5 Stars (duh)

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