Wednesday, June 1, 2016

On: Shadowhunters: The Revival of a YA Urban Fantasy

A few years ago, I decided to read the first book in the Mortal Instruments series, City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare. My main motivation was that the movie was about to be released on DVD. I had wanted to watch it while it was in theaters but didn't have the time to read the book. So, I proceeded to read not only the first book, but the second, third, fourth and fifth! Then, I waited patiently for the release of the 6th and final book. While I waited, I watched the movie and to be honest, I was pretty neutral on it. I felt like certain aspects of the story were well portrayed and I liked the casting for Simon, Jace, and Clary, the 3 main characters of the show. However, the movie didn't do so hot and a sequel was trashed. After having watched the movie at least 10 times, I read the Infernal Devices, a series that takes the same universe from the Mortal Instruments, but is set in 1800's London. With the release of the final book in the series, I considered the story of Jace and Clary to be mostly done (a third series, the Dark Artifices is in the works and the first book was released this year. More on that later). 

But! I was wrong. Freeform picked up the series for a TV Show and the first season just wrapped up so I'm here to talk reactions/thoughts/general musings on the show. Now, in the world of the Mortal Instruments, there is a "Shadow World." The shadow world consists of all manner of legendary creatures - werewolves, vampires, warlocks, and fairies, referred to as "Downworlders." They're very real, but are able to hide themselves in plain sight. Along with the Downworlders, there are demons that wreak havoc in the human world if left to their own devices. To keep the Downworlders in line, kill demons, and protect mundanes (aka mortals), Shadowhunters also exist in this world. Half human, half angel, Shadowhunters are a race of incredibly strong, supernatural beings that hold tight to their traditions and interestingly enough, have a general disdain for both downworlders and mundanes. They're not tied to any specific religion, but train ever since they're young to fight demons. They use wand-like glass objects called seraph blades, to burn runes into their skin (kind of like getting a tattoo) which gift them with various powers depending on the rune - among these are swiftness, the ability to see across long distances, endurance, and healing. The Mortal Instruments follows the story of Clary Fray, a young girl who one day finds out that her mother was a Shadowhunter and that everything she thought she knew, was a lie. 

I think the best thing about both the show Shadowhunters and the books, is the supporting cast. The main characters are Clary and Jace. Jace is a young, bashful Shadowhunter who meets Clary by chance in a nightclub. An orphan, he was raised since he was ten by the heads of the New York Institute for Shadowhunters, Maryse and Robert Lightwood. As such, he grew up viewing the three Lightwood children - Alec, Isabelle, and Max - as his siblings. Max is fairly young in the story, so it's really Isabelle and Alec with whom he has the strongest bond and with whom he fights demons with. In addition to the Lightwoods, there is Simon, Clary's best friend. He is inadvertently pulled into the world of the Shadowhunters and really sticks around just to make sure Clary is safe (because he's totally in love with her which you can tell FROM THE FIRST EPISODE and he doesn't trust Jace cause' duh!). The final member of our supporting cast is Magnus Bane, the High Warlock of Brooklyn whom our gang go to often to ask him to use his magic to help them (Bane charges a steep price for his services though ;) ). Magnus Bane is an amazing character in the book and I really liked the way he was portrayed in Shadowhunters. 

Izzy, my favorite character!
The supporting cast in the movies honestly, didn't quite do it for me. But I felt like the casting in the show was spot-on. While initially a bit awkward (to be expected with any new show), the characters really grew into their roles, especially Emeraude Toubia (Isabelle), Matthew Daddario (Alec), and Harry Shum Jr. (Magnus) This is HUGE for me because Izzy ultimately, was my favorite character from the books. Toward the end of the series, I was very much invested in what would happen to the supporting characters as much as, if nor more than, the three main characters, Clary, Jace, and Simon. I think a lot of this also stems from the fact that the series does not follow everything that happens in the books word-for-word. There is a lot of extra sub-plots and new characters introduced that weren't in the original. They weren't bad additions at all though, because the essence of the story is still there and the main plot remains the same: stop Clary's psycho-father from creating a new race of Shadowhunters. Still, I enjoyed these changes because as someone that read the books, I had new material to look forward to. Overall, I felt like the casting was done very well, although I have yet to really connect with the main character.

The fight scenes were well done and I felt like the special effects used were tastefully added. Some things were a bit jarring at first (such as the make-up of the vampires), but I grew used to them more as the series continued. The music though - was spectacular! I've always felt like music can make or break a series, I felt like the music chosen for Shadowhunters fits perfectly with the plot and the scenes chosen. Among my favorite songs used were "Monsters" used in this scene, and "War of Hearts" used perfectly in the wedding scene. :) 

Overall, I enjoyed the show and while there could have been improvements in the acting in certain scenes here and there, for a first season, I think it was well done. I loved, loved, LOVED the mention of Tessa from the Infernal Devices in one of the episodes and the introduction of aspects of the Shadow World that weren't introduced until much later in the books. I was also amazed initially that it didn't cover the entire first book, but it makes sense as they added additional sub-plots to the storyline. If this is the manner in which the material from the book will be covered, then we can expect Shadowhunters to stick around for several more seasons. 

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