Book Review: Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

I was super excited for the release of Lord of Shadows, the long-awaited sequel to Lady Midnight and second installment in Cassandra Clare’s Dark Artifices series. I’m a huge fan of Cassandra Clare (if you haven’t picked up on that already) and I absolutely adore The Mortal Instruments. The Mortal Instruments series metaphorically kicked down the door and carved its own little spot in my bookish heart somewhere near the Harry Potter series. I was/am in love—with the characters, the magic, the hidden world within our own. All of it.

But reading Lord of Shadows, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Dark Artifices series is just…not my favorite.

NONE OF THIS, NOW!!!

Now I know this is a super unpopular opinion, so please, no booing, fruit throwing, trash tossing, etc. Everybody’s got their opinions, and while I sometimes get the feeling that this is how people are going to react when I voice my unpopular opinions, nonetheless…I have to be honest with myself about my feelings. Dark Artifices just doesn’t hold a candle to TMI, and I’m not enjoying this series nearly as much as I enjoyed The Mortal Instruments or The Infernal Devices series. Of course, I don’t expect it to be Mortal Instruments. Nothing will ever be Mortal Instruments. That’s a given. So that, in and of itself, isn’t the problem. But I will admit, I went into the Dark Artifices with very high hopes, because I loved The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices so much, I guess I just assumed I’d love everything that Cassandra Clare wrote. As it turns out, that’s not the case.

My jam, my cup of tea, whatever you may call it…

It’s strange, because it gives me almost some sort of bookish internal war with myself, because I want to love this. I want to love this the way I loved the previous two series, but it just isn’t happening. Cassandra Clare’s previous works have meant so much to me that I almost feel guilty saying that I dislike something else she has worked on.

I left Lady Midnight feeling less than thrilled, but assumed the trilogy would redeem itself in part two. Unfortunately, I am still less than thrilled. I won’t sit here and bash the book to pieces—certainly not. It’s not that it’s awful or I totally hate it, but it’s kind of like plain potato chips….I’ll eat them if there’s really nothing else to snack on, but I would really prefer some French onion dip.

Some reasons I didn’t like it:

  1. The Whole “Annabel” Plotline

When I was a freshman in college, I wrote a short story inspired by the song “One Headlight” by The Wallflowers (great song, by the way. If you haven’t heard it, go look it up). The mistake I made within said short story is that I drew my inspiration a little too literally from the song, which can not only be stifling for your creative choices if you feel you have to work within the limits of something created by another artist, but also can be discrediting to you as a writer. Now some of my classmates had never even heard of The Wallflowers, so the interpretation went right over their heads, but for those of them who did know the song, it went over more like a lead balloon.

It sucked. It really sucked. No one likes going into a workshop situation and getting negative comments—that’s just a fact. But it was a valuable learning experience for me. I will always remember my professor saying, “By all means, take inspiration from other things, from other forms of art. But be careful how much you tip your hat to the source of your inspiration.” And something in that statement clicks for me. That makes perfect sense to me.

And in case you were thinking I just like regaling you with tales from my college years, this all actually does have a point. In the case of The Dark Artifices series, I think what Clare is doing could be classified as tipping her hat to her inspiration too much. Way too much.

I love Edgar Allan Poe. Love him. I have multiple copies of the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe just because, hell, you can never have too many, right? I can absolutely understand getting inspired by something Poe wrote because he was dark and brooding and basically, if he would have also come bearing iced coffee, he’d be everything I love in life.

I get it. But I think this inspiration was too literal. I’m just not on board with the whole Annabel Lee plotline. I’m not on board with the person who is being resurrected being THE Annabel Lee from the poem “Annabel Lee”. And now in the second installment, we even have the “cottage by the sea” from the poem. And what about the implications this carries? Does this mean Poe didn’t write “Annabel Lee”? Are we to believe (and I sense that we are) that it was Malcolm, instead, who wrote the poem? And in that case, is Malcom Fade supposed to…be Poe? I just don’t like it. It’s too literal for me, and too messy for me. Maybe I’m missing something. Really, maybe I am. Sometimes I get so worked up about things that I miss things that are supposed to be relevant, but the way that I’m interpreting all this, it just isn’t to my liking. For my personal tastes, I would have rather seen the poem reworked into a less literal interpretation and see more subtle currents of Poe’s influence running through the novels. I think this is one of the main reasons I just couldn’t get on board with this particular Shadowhunters serie

2. The Big Bad/The Conflict

Part of the problem might be that after a Big Bad like Valentine, everyone else kind of pales in comparison. I mean Valentine was really, really bad, and so was Sebastian. If they had succeeded at everything they wanted to do, long story short, everyone would have been screwed. Completely screwed. In comparison to their Dark War shenanigans, it’s kind of hard to take other villains seriously. Malcolm comes off as as much of a moody teenager as the actual teenagers in these books.  I guess the meat and bones of this point is this: for some reason, I just can’t get invested in the conflict in these books. I was super invested in the conflict occurring in The Mortal Instruments, but in this one, not so much. Maybe I just don’t feel like the stakes are high enough, or maybe I just don’t like the villains who are running the show as much as I liked Valentine and Sebastian (in the sense that one likes villains, that is).

3. The Relationships

In the same way that I’m not as invested in the conflict in this book, I’m also not as invested in the relationships. The one relationship that holds the most tension, I think, is the one between Julian and Emma because they are parabatai, and I admit, that one was suspenseful for me and I was able to get invested in it from the get-go, because besides their parabatai bond, I really do want them to end up together. You can tell they truly care for each other and have a very strong bond, and I think Clare does a good job of illustrating that through her writing, so I commend her for that. But I couldn’t really get invested in any of the other relationships going on in the book, whether it be because of lack of development or because, again, I just felt that the stakes weren’t very high. For example, Cristina and…well, Cristina and anyone, really. Perfect Diego shows up at the end of the last book and then he and Cristina get back together, but we have so little time to get used to them together, that by the time Zara shows up and reveals that she’s actually his fiancé, I was kind of like, oh, well. Bye, Perfect Diego. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. The same goes for the love triangle between Cristina, Mark, and Kieran. It felt very contrived to me, and I thought Kieran losing his memory of ever having hurt Mark and his family was almost a little too convenient for the plot. I find that during all the scenes with Cristina and Mark or Mark and Kieran that should carry a lot of tension (and by all means, if they were Jace and Clary or Alec and Magnus, I would have been on the edge of my seat), I was just like generally uninterested. The best example of this would be when they were in Faerie and Cristina and Mark start kissing, and then Mark stops, because he thinks Cristina is only kissing him because of the faerie drink. If this had happened between Jace and Clary, oh, the obscenities I would have been yelling at the book (and I very much did at various points throughout their series), but in this case my reaction was more along the lines of, “Yep, saw that one coming.”

But, of course, rarely do I ever have all negative things to say, so let me point out some things I enjoyed about Lord of Shadows.

Some things I did like:

1. Appearances by the OGs

Like someone who gets excited about seeing their favorite actors guest starring on a show they watch, I love to see the OG Shadowhunters (in terms of kicking off the series) make appearances in the other books, so getting a little Jace, Clary, and Alec, and then of course, everyone’s favorite High Warlock, Magnus, is always satisfying. I loved seeing Alec and Magnus with their children, and thought it was adorable, and really nice to see them being a happy family for a little bit there. And of course, Jace did not disappoint with his trademark smartass remarks.

.

“As far as Shadowhunters go, I’m a pretty big deal. Not to intimidate you.”

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“Come to the library,” she announced. “The tentacle is starting to dissolve.”

“You drive me wild with your sexy talk,” said Jace, pulling on his gear jacket.

2. Emma’s Sarcasm

One of the things I’ve liked about Emma from the get go is that she is sarcastic as Jace and can hold her own in an argument. I love her stumbling across little gems of her wit, and watching her lighten a situation by making some sort of Emma-esque remark. I love seeing a female character get to be the smartass, too, as some books rely on male characters to bring their sardonic humor, and we all know us girls can pack some pretty powerful verbal punches.

.

“Have you ever wanted a really up-close look at a gross tentacle?” Emma asked.

“No,” said Cristina, drawing closer warily. Clary did appear to have something unpleasantly floppy speared on the end of her odd weapon. It wriggled a bit, showing pink suckers against green, mottled skin.

            “No one ever seems to say yes to that question,” said Emma sadly. 

3. Kit

The addition of Kit Rook AKA Chris Herondale (these Herondales with their not knowing their real names, amiright?) was one of my favorite things about this series, and this book in particular since he gets to play a much larger role in this one. Kit was the shining gem of this book. I officially love that kid. Two of the main things I loved about Kit were his overall straightforward personality, and his ability to bring in an outsider’s perspective. In discussing dealings with Downworlders and the idea of the “Registry”, I found myself so taken aback and disgusted, thinking, “Don’t you people know what this sounds like?!” only to have Kit echo my exact sentiments. Rarely do you think something and then get so lucky as to have a character in the book voice it for you, but in this case, I did. Kit drops wisdom bombs all over the place, warning Zara and her lackies that they should really read some mundane history books, and telling them that anytime one party thinks another group of people needs to be registered, it never ends well.

On top of the insight he’s able to offer by being a relative outsider to the Shadowhunter world, I just liked Kit’s personalities and some of the more humorous moments he brought to the novel. I loved when he was telling Jace he wasn’t a Shadowhunter and it says, “It was ridiculous. He wasn’t a ninja.” It’s so funny because the Shadowhunters do seem to have ninja like powers and while Clary, brave and firey as she is, sort of charged into things head on, I like Kit’s reaction of essentially, “dafuq?” I imagine I’d feel somewhat similarly.

Another of my favorite “quintessential Kit” moments was when he was conversing with the ghost of Jessamine in the London Institute”

“He was very proud of the house—right on top of some famous caves. Dreadful he’s turned out to be a villain. And poor Arthur,” she added. “I used to look after him sometimes when he slept. He had the most awful nightmares about Faerie and his brother.”

“What’s she saying?” Livvy asked, her pen poised above her paper.

“Polperro,” said Kit. “Southern Cornwall. He was very proud of the location. She’s sorry he turned out to be such an asshole.”

Livvy scribbled it down. “I bet she didn’t say asshole.”

Oh, Kit.

4. Arthur sacrificed himself

Okay, it sounds bad to say that I’m happy that someone sacrificed themselves, but I actually really liked that Arthur Blackthorn stepped up and sacrificed himself to satisfy the need for “Blackthorn blood”. It was a heroic decision on his part, he saved the Blackthorn children by doing so, and he went out like a badass, after having lived a life where he may not have gotten as much respect as he deserved due to his mental health issues.

So, that’s pretty much all I have on Lord of Shadows at the moment. Again, I can’t emphasize enough that I love Cassandra Clare so much and I absolutely adore The Mortal Instruments, and it holds such a special place in my heart, but this particular book and this series maybe just isn’t for me. Everyone likes different things, and though I’m surprised by my own reaction to this one, I just don’t like it as much as I’d like to. I don’t like it, I don’t hate it, so I suppose the best way to sum it up would be simply… “meh.”

Keep in mind, this review is by no means meant to offend anyone who loved the book with all their heart. Like I said, different people like different things. Does anyone else have any thoughts on LoS? Did you find any of the same things turning you off or onto it as I did? What’s your favorite Shadowhunters series? Let me know in the comments. You know I’d love to talk. <3

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