Cassandra Clare’s writing style is engrossing and seamless but her plot here suffers from repetition of patterns that the reader has already witnessed in The Infernal Devices and The Mortal Instruments. The ideas of being ‘cursed’ and ‘forbidden love’ are used again and again till they become wearisome and bring down the level of the book. It almost seems as if the same issues are recycled and portrayed in different time periods with different characters. Most of the motivations and fears she’d used in her previous series appear again and create patterns that make the story lag. As The Odyssey writes, “Clare writes heroines as strong as they are stubborn, and boys as tortured as they are handsome.” I rated this book 3.5/5 stars.
On the elevating note, Clare’s character building is stunning yet again, she makes the reader care for and fall in love with the characters. Even though there is a big cast of characters, each one brings something new to the book in terms of personality. Monotonous characters can often be a problem with YA fantasy but that is not the case here. The side characters have their own quirks and issues which stand out distinctly. Some commonplace details (Emma’s love for chocolate, Christina’s obsession with coffee, Dru’s hobby of watching horror movies and Ty’s thing for Sherlock Holmes) added by Clare throughout the 698 pages made the characters more likable and true to life. Clare creates a wistful and summery image of LA, describing the beach and the sea almost fondly, with intense imagery that is a treat to the senses. As is norm for a Shadowhunter book, this one is also ripe with adventure, dangerous missions, killing demons and investigating in dingy alleys, atop roofs and has crooks and devious downworlders thrown in for good measure.
This book has autism and body image issues (possibly BDD) representation. The portrayal of female friendships is refreshing and heart-warming. Moments of Emma and Christina supporting each other and being there in times of need added an aspect that isn’t often represented in popular literature.
The title is apt as it points to the central mystery that is unfolded throughout the book. The plot works to solve an anonymity on the bigger scale and has chapters that add the ‘slice of life’ aspect to it on the smaller scale. This book reads like a camera zooming in to the lives of young Shadowhunters and then zooming out to piece the puzzle together.
Julian and his parent’s love for art makes this book more humane and endearing. It also adds an individual dynamic to his character as Shadowhunters are known to despise art and other forms of expression characteristic of mundanes.
“These pictures are my heart. And if my heart was a canvas, every square inch of it would be painted over with you.”
“How long have you been drawing me?”
He sighted. A moment later his hand came to rest in her hair. His fingers twined in the strands. “My whole life.”
As with The Infernal Devices, family bonds are shown in a raw and unflinching manner while true friendship is also portrayed beautifully. The loyalty that Shadowhunters show to their own is heart-warming and heartbreaking in equal parts. They work as a team and have each other’s back in the direst of circumstances.
“You belong where you’re loved.”
Clare does not shy away from showing the true dysfunctional, chaotic side to families or the bittersweet relationship of siblings. The ups and downs of family life, past trauma and isolation are woven beautifully into the bigger story. The way responsibility and confinement of a family are shown makes this book cherished and true to life.
“When you love someone, they become a part of who you are. They’re in everything you do. They’re in the air you breathe and the water you drink and the blood in your veins. Their touch stays on your skin and their voice stays in your ears and their thoughts stay in your mind. You know their dreams because their nightmares pierce your heart and their good dreams are your dreams too. And you don’t think they’re perfect, but you know their flaws, the deep-down truth of them, and the shadows of all their secrets, and they don’t frighten you away; in fact you love them more for it, because you don’t want perfect. You want them.”
Emma’s courage and resilience in the face of dangerous obstacles is another merit of this book. Her character is written as an amalgam of hard work, stubbornness, courage, intense emotion, humor and loyalty. She becomes a positive role model quite quickly.
Julian: “That’s not the spirit of the law, Emma. Remember? The Law is hard, but it is the Law.”
Emma: “I thought it was ‘the Law is annoying, but it is also flexible.”
I’d recommend this book to anyone who loves fantasy, books with young-adult leads, adventure or mystery novels.
- Urban Fantasy
- Family & Friendship
- Forbidden love
- Action & Adventure
(c) Saadia Peerzada
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