Book Review: Lord of Shadows

Cassandra Clare is one of my favourite authors. Her books are always compelling with vivid characters and settings. I was therefore extremely excited for the publication of her second book in The Dark Artifices series, Lord of Shadows, which was back in May.

One of the great things about Cassandra Clare’s writing is the universe she has created. I love how each series is connected although they are all set in different time periods. Lord of Shadows opens with Jace and Clary, of The Mortal Instruments fame, visiting the Los Angeles institute. It is little cameos like this that make these books so special and it was great to see what Jace and Clary are up to now. They are not the only characters from other series to make a cameo – Alec and Magnus also appear.

The core characters of Lord of Shadows are, of course, the Blackthorns – Julien and his brothers and sisters. An adopted member of the family, Emma Carstairs, is our heroine and along with Julien they are trying to figure out how to keep the family together and how to navigate their complicated feelings for one another. Julien and Emma are parabatai, and falling in love is forbidden. As we saw in Lady Midnight, the two have developed feelings for each other and much of the book is devoted to their struggle with these emotions.

It is difficult not to root for Julien and Emma. Clare describes their passion and love for one another in such rich language that you can feel every moment of heartache and desire that they experience. When the book begins, Emma is pretending to date Julien’s brother, Mark, in an effort to make Julien hate her. For the first half of the novel Julien and Emma are at odds with one another and the angst is palpable in every scene they share.

Emma and Julien’s relationship may be at the heart of the book, but there are plenty of other complicated love stories going on around them. Relationships form the heartbeat of Lord of Shadows and a wealth of human bonds are explored from romantic to familial and friendship. As always, Cassandra Clare manages to make her reader invest in her characters and their relationships, and then rips their hearts to shreds.

It is difficult to write a review about Lord of Shadows without giving away spoilers. Suffice it to say that it is a rollercoaster from start to finish. The Blackthorns find the Institute invaded by the Centurions, a group of warrior-like Shadowhunters who are sent to investigate the appearance of sea demons. Like so often in the Shadowhunter world, there is more to this group than meets the eye and we soon learn that some of them are involved in a faction called the Cohort – Shadowhunters who want harsher rules for Downworlders.

Politics plays a huge role in Lord of Shadows, even more so than in Clare’s other books. As the story unfolds we see how people in power can abuse it and how that affects the lives of everyone else. There is a lot of deception and deal-making in this book and at times it is hard to know who the Blackthorns can really trust. Their world is being threatened on all sides and it isn’t long before they find themselves displaced to the London Institute.

Maybe it’s because I know London, but the parts of the novel set here were my favourite. I simply love the way Clare describes the city and brings it to life. It also reminded me of The Infernal Devices which is, so far, my favourite Shadowhunter series.

A lot happens in Lord of Shadows. It is nearly 700 pages long. In those pages, Clare deals with a wealth of issues, from heartbreak to racism and gender identity. It is very much a book of the moment, dealing with modern issues. I would say that in terms of the subjects dealt with and the issues some of the characters face, this is Clare’s most ambitious novel. As always her core characters are ones the reader cannot help but form an attachment to and it is this emotional investment which makes the events of the novel all the more heartbreaking. Be prepared to cry, especially towards the end.

There is a lot to digest after reading this book and a lot of questions still left to be answered. Clare has managed to craft a complex and entertaining novel which will leave readers desperately awaiting the next installment. Sadly it has been announced that we will have to wait up to two years for the final book in this series. In the meantime Lord of Shadows has left plenty of materials for readers to mull over.

Lord of Shadows is a great read and not to be missed if you are a fan of Clare’s writing. It is a fitting sequel to Lady Midnight and is proof that there is still lots to explore in the Shadowhunter world.

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