If I had to pick three adjectives to describe Lord of Shadows, they would be daring, challenging, and exciting.
As the thirteenth book in the Shadowhunters Chronicles, it was a daring project on Cassandra Clare’s part: it is an enormous novel, the longest she’s written so far, with an equally enormous emotional impact, and a huge cast of main and secondary characters. Lord of Shadows is divided in two parts and narrated through eight point of views. The closest Clare ever got to this was in City of Heavenly Fire, which is still shorter and had fewer point of views, but the expectations of a final instalment usually calls for an author to have to cram everything in and tie up all the character arcs.
Lord of Shadows, as the second book in The Dark Artifices trilogy, was a lot to take in. For obsessive readers like myself, who are unable to put the book down, it meant a day and a night of uninterrupted reading. However, for casual readers who don’t like to give all their focus to the book, LOS had too many characters to keep track of, too many storylines to follow thoroughly, and some were abandoned for far too many pages. This made the book a challenging read, especially since the storylines are all happening at the same time and often the characters have no way of communicating with one another, we always have to keep in mind where everyone is and what they are doing.
And lastly, why exciting? Because it is a Cassandra Clare book, and the feels are all over the place. It is fast-paced and packed with information. Her writing style hasn’t changed, but it has certainly improved since City of Bones. Clare’s poetical style never bores the reader and never fails to stir up all kinds of emotions, and the constant classical quotes and references are always a bonus.
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One thing that is extremely electrifying is it seems like every relationship in this book is illicit with every stolen kiss forbidden, and this goes beyond Julian and Emma, whose kisses are, in fact, forbidden by law. In every romantic interaction, the characters know they are doing something they shouldn’t. We are made to perceive even the most innocent kiss, the one between Livvy and Kit, as a wrong, secretive act. This continues on with every interaction between Cristina and Mark, such as the episode of the faerie revel being a paramount example as Cristina lets herself take that step and kiss Mark because she thinks she is drunk on faerie wine when she’s not. And so on with Mark and Kieran, and Cristina and Kieran.
Which brings us to another important point: the tension between the three of them is so palpable that even the characters are self-conscious about it, and Emma, like us readers, prefigures a “hot faerie threesome.” It is so refreshing to read about a love triangle where all three characters have feelings for each other. Kieran could have easily hated and scorned Cristina for gaining Mark’s affections, but instead he is drawn to her because of her innate kindness. At the beginning of the book, Cristina has an excuse not to think about Mark because Diego came back and also, Mark is fake-dating Emma. But as soon as the two impediments disappear, she still hesitates out of respect for Kieran and Mark’s own feelings for him. And at the end she is so inexplicably attracted to the faerie prince, it’s intriguing. The eldest Blackthorn boy is perhaps the only one of the three who is conscious and sure of his feelings for both of them. He knows his feelings for Kieran are rooted in the need and urgency of the years in the Wild Hunt, whereas his love for Cristina is a new, more rational emotion. The positive thing is that he sees there are very unhealthy things about his relationship with Kieran, but he also understands most of them are circumstantial. Cassandra has written a very thorough, very interesting essay on the matter of Kieran’s being problematic.
Now to the main couple. Emma and Julian never fail to make us cry. Their energy with each other is magical, and every one of their interactions can only either end in a passionate kiss or in a fight—sometimes in both. I guess after the events of Lady Midnight that is the only way things could play out. It is excruciating to read about Julian’s pain about Emma and Mark because we always see him as a model of décor, always so composed and in control… but the calm on the surface hides the storm inside. Emma suffers in equal way, but at least she knows why they can’t be together and decided to take drastic measures, even if it meant Julian would hate her. Unfortunately, Jules is physically incapable of feeling any negative emotion towards his parabatai slash love of his life, and instead is left to suffer in silence with no one to confide in. It’s in his darkest moments that we see how scarily similar Julian and Malcolm actually are. Julian really considered destroying all parabatai bonds in the world so he and Emma could stay together without jeopardizing his family. Now that Livvy is dead, Julian will literally stop at nothing to make sure that his siblings are safe, he doesn’t care if the rest of the world burns. He is this close to becoming a villain.
Moving on to the younger Blackthorns. They stopped being ‘the kids’ and started gaining more definite character traits. Livvy is protective and caring and looks up to Julian the most; Ty’s autism is finally openly explored; Dru is tired of always being left behind and wants in on some action; Tavvy is lonely and sad. Mark sees all that and wants to cry, desperately wishes he could be of some help, he could be like Julian.
I loved the relationship that Livvy and Ty created with Kit. Everything about Kit was natural and realistic: his internal journey from Kit Rook to Christopher Herondale was gradual and void of drama (I’m looking at you, Jace), his friendship with the twins from suspicious to trusting. It’ll be interesting to see how the relationship changes now that Livvy is not there to balance them.
Diana! The scene when she finally revealed her secret was such a powerful moment. So much love and self-acceptance, that speech is a true inspiration for the trans community. Gwyn’s reaction was beautiful: as a faerie, it was her spirit, her soul that he fell in love with, and he did not bat one eye at her confession.
It is always a pleasure to catch up with the TMI gang. We finally learned why Clary refused to marry Jace (even though I highly doubt Clary is going to die for real), and we saw how Alec and Magnus are doing as parents with Max and Rafe, which turns out to be wonderfully! Except for Alec still needing to perfect his Spanish. We also briefly got to see Helen and Aline who will play a more prominent role in Queen of Air and Darkness, as will Simon and Isabelle, who are getting married! Hopefully, Helen and her wife will get some of the pressure and the responsibility off Julian’s shoulders.
LOS also had a lot of Easter eggs: references to The Last Hours, like the pictures Emma finds in her room at the London Institute, of James and Lucie Herondale, Cordelia Carstairs, and Matthew Fairchild, the inscriptions of the walls and in the library books.
And now, the bad guys. We saw a different side of Malcolm through his journals, of what he was like when he was young and in love. Annabel was a great plot twist, but not one that we didn’t see coming: she was like a bomb begging to be ticked. The Unseelie King is also nothing we did not expect, perhaps more ruthless than his Seelie counterpart. But the enemy that we had all underestimated was the Cohort—a group of extremist Shadowhunters born of the Cold Peace. Despite being a small group in the Clave, their hate is so deeply rooted that it makes a difference. Their anti-Downworlder politics could not be a clearer racial metaphor, as Cassandra Clare once more proves that fantasy is not so far away from the real world.
In conclusion, Lord of Shadows is not the lightest of reads, and certainly not the brightest: the protagonists have never been this close to doom, and tragedy is already in the picture. However, every character is so thoroughly well-written, every storyline so carefully planned (as everything was set in motion books and years prior), every emotion so deep that we don’t care how much we suffer. Cassandra Clare has made us all addicted to her pain, and we will always come back for more.
Queen of Air and Darkness, the third and final instalment of The Dark Artifices will come out in 2019, after Chain of Gold, the first book in The Last Hours series.
What did you think of Lord of Shadows? Tell us in the comments below!