This gorgeous series by Cassandra Clare were books number 12-17 in the two fold challenge I have set myself of reading 100 books in a year and re- reading all my shadow hunter books. This was meant to be ahead of the release of the latest book Chain of Gold in April but stupid work kept getting in the way.
Heads up, this is an utterly biased review because I admittedly love the books! The books are set across the defeat of two ‘big baddies’, first Valentine and then his son Jonathan. The main character Clary is thrust suddenly into the world of Shadowhunter’s when Valentine’s group, The Circle, finally find Clary’s mother. She was married to him but left him shortly before the end of The Circle’s first attempt to take over the Clave (shadow hunter government), which she helped to thwart. Valentine faked his own death but Clary’s mum always suspected he was still alive and would come for them eventually because she escaped with one of the three sacred items of the Mortal Instruments, used to summon the angel that made the first shadow hunters. Before Clary’s mum is taken, Clary first comes into contact with the members of the New York Institute when she catches sight of them hunting a demon in a night club. Later Jace comes to find Clary out of curiosity about her being able to see them (plus, because she’s a pretty girl, of course), which is when she receives a phone call from her mum with the Circle member’s breaking into their house.
The first book follows the group’s attempts to discover what has happened to her mum, why parts of her memory is missing and why she suddenly regained the sight. It also follows the start of Jace and Clary’s romance. Jace is the ultimate angsty and damaged ya fantasy boy and you range between wanting to slap him, to loving him, to wanting to hug him to hold all the broken pieces back together again- much like Clary for most of the early books.
The plot across the books follows the unveiling of Valentine’s plan, to get the Mortal Instruments, using them to first control demons and attack Idris (shadowhunter homeland, a hidden country in the middle of Europe). This is where his son comes into play, Clary’s brother Jonathan, whom he dosed with demon blood during pregnancy. Only demon blood can take down the wards that protect the capital city but no demons can cross the wards, which is a foolproof system that Jonathan is able to bypass, having both shadow hunter and demon blood within him. Jonathan, posing as a family friend Sebastian, isn’t discovered until it’s too late. Valentines second objective is to summon the Angel Raziel again and command him to vanquish all who oppose his ideal of what shadow hunter’s should be. I’m not going to spoil the how’s and the what’s but suffice it to say, Clary, Jace and the other defeat him (which isn’t a spoiler because you must have seen that coming!)
Jonathan, however, survives and begins his own dastardly plan, turning shadow hunters into mindless dark soldiers using the Mortal cup laced with demon blood. The dream team end up traveling to Edom (one of the hell dimensions) to defeat him.
The thing I love about these books is that even though there is a lot of characters, they are all well rounded and written with depth. Even the big baddies are more than generic villain, Valentine is a zealot, an extremest that taps into deep-seated prejudices many shadowhunters hold (see my blog post on the Infernal Devices for the low down of the history/ politics). He genuinely doesn’t believe he is doing anything wrong, whereas Jonathan doesn’t care- due to being a little bit demony.
Alongside the main narrative, there are many smaller sub plots, of the romantic and the platonic nature. Clary’s best friend, Simon, especially holds a dear place in my heart, he is the ultimate nerd who finds himself placed in the world he fantasises about and is the sarcastic voice of truth for how most of us would react if we found ourselves in his situation. Plus, he is the ultimate example of a ‘ride or die’ bestie. I’ve spoken previously of my deep love for Magnus and Alec’s relationship, so need to get into that again…
In conclusion apologies for the lengthy post, to anyone who has made it this far-well done! This series’ is quite a commitment compared to others by Cassandra Clare because it’s about twice the length but if want a hope in hell of understanding the later books, they are a must read. However, they do read well as a stand alone series and if you like this genre of fiction they are definitely worth your time. Of most current big name Ya fantasy writers around, I just find Cassandra Clare’s books the most readable and the universe they are set in much richer.
As per tradition, here is the Goodreads page for these books