When selecting a book to review, I typically choose to stay in the debut novel lane. That way, readers can fall in love with a new author without feeling obligated to commit to a series, especially if they prefer stand-alone-books. Makes sense, right? Except that Cassandra Clare’s Lord of Shadows released last week, and OMG, you guys, it might have been one of the single greatest plots I’ve ever read. And that’s coming from someone who’s twice majored in English.
If you’ve never read a Clare novel, then finish whatever you’re currently reading and pick up one of her novels. Seriously. I’ve been following her work since City of Bones first published in 2007, and her books are some of favorite on the planet (which is why I’m especially gushy for this review). More so than almost any creative writing course I’ve ever taken, Cassie taught me how to write in multiple POV. She taught me that metaphors can be luscious and help to propel plot. She taught me that there’s strength in fear and bravery in weakness. And, in each novel, she reinforces two of my favorite motifs: love and family. I truly fell in love with urban fantasy when I slipped into her Shadowhunter world a decade ago, and it remains one of my favorite places to visit.
Even though many of her characters and timelines intersect in her varying series (as of now, there are three main series), you don’t have to start with City of Bones to progress to Lord of Shadows (eleven books later). I mean, you certainly can; I did. But if you’d prefer to get a taste of her kick-ass characters and worldbuilding and don’t mind a few spoilers, then jump into The Dark Artifices. First in the series is Lady Midnight (amazing title, right?), followed by Lord of Shadows. Set in modern-day Los Angeles, both novels follow the teenage demon-fighting Shadowhunters Emma Carstairs and her best-friend Julian Blackthorn, as they navigate a tentative peace with the faerie courts after a horrific war five years prior. I won’t spoil LM, so let’s skip over to Lord of Shadows, shall we?
In LOS, we pick up where we left off in LM: The well-being of the Blackwood children balances on the edge of a knife, the validity of the institute’s head is questioned, alliances are shaken, and relationships almost as tempestuous as the sea become tested against a deadly new threat. The Unseelie King seeks to destroy the Cold Peace—a “treaty” created by Shadowhunters that basically reduces fae rights, as punishment for fighting against them in the past war. Clare writes spectacularly not only of relationships, temptation, and sacrifice, but of the horrendous effects of hate and ignorance when they’re given even an inch to thrive. She tackles heavy topics, such as racism and bigotry, while showcasing the splendor of individuality and loyalty, and remaining true to your heart and those you love.
Without giving too much away (because really, go bask in these books), Lord of Shadows is a high-action tale that merges fantasy with mystery, romance, and horror, blending the contemporary with the classical. C’est vraiment magnifique!
And best (and worst) of all, the ending WILL DESTROY YOU. After I reached the conclusion and picked up my jaw from the floor, I honestly didn’t know what to do with myself. Should I cry? Curse? Make a cup of hot chocolate? Curl up in a corner until the sun rose? I actually chose Option E: Stay up until three in the morning watching stupid comedies in an attempt to block LOS from my brain. This novel was so devastatingly brilliant that I couldn’t even handle processing it. Like, you know a novel is genius when it takes command of your heart and lungs and tear ducts and rage, and you JUST. CAN’T. EVEN.
So, if being emotionally gutted yet intrinsically invested in the lives of fictional characters who will break your heart sounds like a rocking weekend, then snag a copy of anything Cassandra Clare, but especially Lord of Shadows.
(If you have read her work, share your favorite[s] in the comment section below!)
Don’t forget to keep an eye out for Issue Four, which goes live this month!