Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
"In violent times, you shouldn't have to sell your soul."
-Tears for Fears, "Shout"
"You say in love, there are no rules...Sweetheart, you're so cruel."
WHOA. Bloodydamn goryhell.
I think it's safe to say that this second book of The Dark Artifices is Cassie Clare's equivalent to Victoria Aveyard's Glass Sword. That comes from not only this book being a slightly-flawed, but very much jaw-dropping sophomore effort like The Amazing Spider-Man 2, not only from the plot that starts out strangely slow and accelerates rapidly to a screaming finale, but oh my God, that finale. It not only emulates Glass Sword not unlike how that book was similar to my own Blue Monday, but delivers a truly Aveyardian cliffhanger, diabolical and infuriating and BY THE ANGEL WHY WOULD CASSIE GO THERE?
Yes, the book starts out pretty slowly, to the point where I found myself wondering how Cassie was able to give us 700 pages only about a year after Lady Midnight. After all, LM and City of Heavenly Fire both came out about two years after their immediate predecessors (Lost Souls being the predecessor for CoHF despite Clockwork Princess coming out between them), so their being 700-page bricks was pretty well worth the wait. Here, the wait was shorter, and we weren't expecting Lord of Shadows to be another brick, were we? Hell, I was really, really hoping it wouldn't wind up being like TACOWAR, long and numbing and drawn out.
Nope. Not when Cassie Clare is writing, because even when the story is long, her writing still sucks me in like nothing else. Just like Lady Midnight, what draws me in is the characters. Emma, Julian, the rest of the Blackthorn family...even Mark, as much as I deplored the fake relationship he had with Emma because there was really no getting around how fake it was, and how much it interfered with my Emma/Julian ship to no end. But then Kieran comes back into the picture, and hoo boy, the mess that ensues...also, Kit starts slowly incorporating himself into the Shadowhunter world, very slowly and reluctantly, but the Blackthorns are only too eager to help him along. Especially Livvy and Ty, both of whom seem particularly attached to him. Now, I know that a lot of readers ship Tykit hard, but me, I'd be cool with Cassie writing them with either romantic or platonic love, and while this book doesn't quite settle the question, there's no getting around the fact that there's some flavor of love between them.
As for Ty and how well he represents the autistic community...being autistic myself, I have to say that while Ty doesn't reflect me 100% (the biggest difference between us being his trouble with figurative language, which I don't have nearly as much of), he reflects me enough that, more than anyone else in this book, I really just want to scoop him up and hug him and tell him everything will be fine even though Cassie Clare really can't be trusted to leave her characters - or our feels - alone. What I relate to most with Ty are his Baby Driver-esque need for musical distractions from the real world (even to the point of wearing headphones to sleep), as well as his tendency to talk to himself - though where he whispers strings of words just because he likes the way they sound, I tend to run through summaries of my favorite movies and/or books like I'm writing their Wikipedia articles. I can go on for days getting myself through the entire Harry Potter series, for instance. From an #OwnVoices readership perspective, I give Cassie full marks for Ty's characterization.
What really makes this book stand out, of course, is the continued storylines of the Cold Peace and its dreadful effects on both the Shadowhunter world and the Faerie world. War is brewing in Faerie, with the Unseelie Court, heretofore mostly unseen, finally starting to rise up and lead the charge against the Shadowhunters. (You would almost think it's the Seelie Court 'cause they really are just the worst - I still haven't forgiven the Seelie Queen for that Clary-Jace kiss in City of Ashes, which the Freeform series just adapted into its latest episode and utterly dashed my poor Climon fanboy heart to pieces! But then remember, every book in this series has a dark-themed name associated with the Unseelies.) As for the Shadowhunters, there's a new ultra-conservative faction, the Cohort, who really wants to take the Nephilim back to their bigoted days when they oppressed the Downworld like nobody's business - and their main representative in this narrative, Zara, is an utterly loathsome piece of Young Republican backpfeifengesicht shit, even worse than any other Cassie Clare villain to date.
And in between all that, there's Emma and Julian's forbidden love, the method for which they can save themselves requires an ominous-sounding Black Volume of the Dead. No spoilers, but the cost for how to save their love, it's really just too much.
And that ending. But I'll come back to that later.
I just also wanted to address one other tidbit about this book - the way they highlight the Clave's disdain for mundane medicine. Because the Nephilim are so backwards scientifically, they really don't have the language to explain Ty's autism - which is why he was merely coded as such in Lady Midnight, but enter Kit with his mundane-world experience and he recognizes Ty's condition right away. There's also the case of Diana Wrayburn, a transgender woman who, under Clave law, would not have been allowed to transition because that requires mundane-style surgery, hormone-replacement therapy, etc., to which the Nephilim have no equivalent. This just goes to show, as awesome as the Shadowhunters are, they're flawed as hell too, and that helps explain why it's only too easy for rabid right-wingers in their ranks (like the Cohort now, and the Circle before) to keep on rising up and challenging progress in a vicious cycle that seems so much more relevant now than it did when Cassie started working on these books over a decade ago.
Though it'll be a while before we conclude this trilogy with Queen of Air and Darkness, at least we'll have the first book of Cassie and Wes Chu's Eldest Curses trilogy to look forward to. And maybe even the first of The Last Hours, if I'm not mistaken. But to have to wait possibly till 2019 for QoAaD, especially after that weapons-grade ending to this book where there was just too much death, including that one super-aggravating one right at the very, very, very end...
Let's just say that this one's clawing with The Hate U Give for second place in the Pinecones this year, and hell, it may even beat out King's Cage - something I previously thought would've been impossible.
Cassie Clare, you are a mad, mad genius.
And now if you'll excuse me, I have to figure out a way to reverse polarity on my disrupted feels the way I had to do after Lady Midnight. I may not have a new Supergirl-The Flash crossover episode to do the trick...oh, but there's Spider-Man: Homecoming, which I'll finally be watching tomorrow, and hell of about time!
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