Thursday, June 2, 2016

Book Review: Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

Following on my last post that reviewed the show, "Shadowhunters" based on The Mortal Instruments series, I decided to finally write up a review of the first book in Cassandra Clare's new series taking place in the Shadow World, The Dark Artifices. This new trilogy takes place five years after the events of City of Heavenly Fire, the final book in the Mortal Instruments series. The first book of this new trilogy is Lady Midnight, and it introduces a new crew of Shadowhunters, fighting new forces of evil and with copious mentions and cameos of characters from both The Infernal Devices and The Mortal Instruments.

Lady Midnight primarily follows Emma Carstairs, the last surviving Carstairs family member (yes, she's a descendant of Jem Carstairs from the Infernal Devices, although not directly), after her mother and father were murdered. Emma actually makes her first appearance in the series during City of Heavenly Fire, along with her dear friend and now parabatai Julian Blackthorn. Parabatai, in case you weren't aware, are a pair of Shadowhunters that have chosen to be bounded to each other; they move in battle as one and can often feel each other's pain as well as know instinctively when his/her parabatai is in trouble. Among Shadowhunters, it's considered to be a very special bond and a duty that should not be taken lightly.

The plot of Lady Midnight is two-fold: first, there's Emma's thirst for revenge. She is positive that her parents were not casualties of the war incited by Sebastian Morgenstern and when she gets a lead, she pursues it relentlessly, placing herself, Julian, and the other members of the Blackthorn family in danger. The second part of the plot is in regards to Emma and Julian's feelings for one another. As parabati, they're forbidden from falling in love with one another, a rule that is set because of the consequences that can result. The details of what happens when two parabatai fall in love is, for some unfathomable reason, never shared with anyone. Emma is able to learn what it's and she has to struggle with the fact that she shouldn't reciprocate Julian's feelings despite her urge to do so. It's romance and action tangled into one complicated web against the backdrop of Los Angeles and the Shadow World.

So, on to the actual review. What I really liked about Lady Midnight was the Blackthorn family dynamic. Julian is among my favorite characters because you get a real sense of everything he has scarified and everything he has suffered in order to make sure that not only his family is safe, but that Emma is safe as well. He was 12 when the war took his father, and when his two siblings (because they are half-fey and the fairies collaborated with Sebastian Morgenstern) were taken from him: Helen was exiled to a remote island while Mark was claimed by the Hunt, never to be seen again). Therefore, at 12, Julian had to become a parent to all of his siblings. He had to learn to cook for them, and care for them when they had nightmares. He is sensitive, caring, and a total romantic but behind that, lies a fierce loyalty for his family for which he is more than willing to deceive and fight. His opposite is Emma. While Julian tries weighs everything carefully, Emma pushes herself beyond her limits, determined to be the best Shadowhunter of her generation, not unlike Jace Wayland. She is brash, impatient and headstrong and unfortunately, doesn't stop to think about the consequences of her actions. At times, I felt like I was dealing with a 10-year-old. There's a world of difference in maturity between Julian and Emma and while it's constantly stated that Emma was traumatized with her parents death, so was Julian. But Julian grew up while Emma maintains her mindset of a little girl. To be honest, I wasn't all that impressed with Emma. Every other character seemed more sure of themselves and level-headed then she was. She may be a great warrior, but she often wasn't a smart one and I had trouble feeling any attachment to her at all.

On the other hand though, we have once again, an amazing supporting cast. Let's take a moment here and appreciate the awesomeness that is Cristina Mendoza Rosales. As a Latina myself, I was first of all, super impressed that the second last name was used in this series. Yay, research! In Mexico, a second last name is a given. In fact, not having a second last name in your papers causes some suspicion because a legal name includes the last name from both the paternal and maternal lines. Also, Cristina is kickass. I wish we knew more about her background, but what I saw (read) of her was totally awesome. Unlike Emma, she's level-headed, weighing the pros and cons, but she is also an amazing Shadowhunter and would have been a perfect parabatai for Emma (even though Jules is <3). I totally ship her and Diego (sorry Mark and Cristina is just not working for me. It seems forced to me for various reasons, but we'll see how that pans out). Along with Crisitina, we have the rest of the Blackthorn siblings each of which are given great character development. The twins Ty and Livvy are both really smart and headstrong. Ty's different views of the world were not only interesting but once again brought attention to the fact that Shadowhunters can be harsh, spurning anything or anyone that is different. The clash here between modern acceptance of age-old occurrences against a very rigid and tradition-based, centuries-old society is interesting and one that I hope will be explored further in follow-up books. Both Dru and Tavvy are younger and therefore, have less of a presence in the book, but I didn't feel like they hindered the action or the plot at all. Finally, there is Mark Blackthorn, that, for the purposes of the plot, shows up once again in the lives of the Blackthorns. I'm not sure I liked Mark, but I think there's much more that still needs to be explored about him.

When a warlock friend turns out to be helping the Blackthorns and specifically Julian, keep secrets from the clave, I immediately was like, "Ohhh, Malcolm Fade is this series' Magnus Bane?" So I was initially quite disappointed, but it did not work out that way at all and I honestly, couldn't be happier. The plot was a bit iffy in some places, as I'm still not sure I buy the whole parabatai thing and half the time, I was too caught up in the day-to-day drama of Julian leading an entire Institute pretty much by himself and Emma trying not to admit to herself that she's in love with Julian that I forgot there was another plot. I definitely felt like the book meandered around a bit and while I enjoyed it, the book dragged on a bit too long for my liking.

I feel overall that this book set-up a lot of additional plot devices but didn't really fully develop a single one. The main plot with Emma's parents was very anticlimactic. I don't know, I guess I expected something else to come from so much build-up, but in the end it was just like, "Oh bad guy gone. Wrap this up, let's get back to the romance plot." Which by the way, ended horribly. Like, I didn't particularly like Emma, but to end that plot and the book on that note was awful. I just rolled my eyes at the end and closed the book. My only thought was, "I'll probably pick up the next book because of Cristina and Julian, but why oh why did Emma have to be the main character?" Seriously, I think I would have liked this book better had Julian been the definitive main character. On the plus side, lots of loose ends means I'm looking forward to something being properly addressed and dealt with in the next book, hopefully.

Finally, we do get some cameos from Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices characters. Some of then seem forced (mostly the whole- oh! Something going on at the Los Angeles Institute? Jace and Clary are coming along. Never mind the fact that they're at a party because there's clearly NO ONE ELSE to call. Sorry, it was just too convenient), but it was nice to hear about how their lives have changed and read how they have matured and are making their way in the adult world of Shadowhunters.


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