Book Review: Lord of Shadows (The Dark Artifices) by Cassandra Clare
Every time I read a Cassandra Clare book, specifically her books in the Shadowhunters world, I can't help but think that it is her best work yet, and she could not possibly top it. And then she writes another book, and I am once again proven wrong. She definitely did not disappoint with Lord of Shadows, the second installment in The Dark Artifices series. If you were looking for the first book in the series or just need a quick refresher, check out my review of Lady Midnight. In my review of Lady Midnight, I kept the summary spoiler free and went a little light on the analysis of the book. However, this review is about the second book in the series, so I am going to assume you are not just jumping in. I will still try to keep my synopsis spoiler free, but I will be delivering a heavy dose of analysis and opinion.
Lord of Shadows picks up right where Lady Midnight ended. Emma found the vengeance she was so desperately seeking and Julian has succeeded at keeping his family safe. However, the threat from Malcolm is not over. His death and the missing Black Volume have caused a chain reaction. There are factions of Shadowhunters at odds with the Clave, others are making a grab at the Los Angeles Institute, and the Unseelie King is looking to wage war on the Shadowhunters.
External threats aside, Emma and the Blackthorns must deal with loss and relationships. These include relationships amongst friends and acquaintances, the forming of unlikely alliances, and most importantly, the relationship between Emma and Julian.
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I tried to keep my description of characters brief in my Lady Midnight review as to not give away major plot points. Since this is book two, I do not see any harm in breaking down the characters. Here is your warning that there are possible spoilers. To make this easy to follow, I am going to do my best to organize the characters by their importance, i.e. primary characters first, secondary, tertiary, etc. I will also save everyone time by saying now, instead of individually with every character, that all of these characters, especially the Blackthorns and their friends, are extremely dynamic characters with tremendous depth.
Emma - Emma has finally avenged her parents' death by killing Malcolm at the conclusion of Lady Midnight. However, this did nothing to ease her pain. Even without Malcolm, Emma has other things to worry about. I'm just going to get this out of the way: Emma is in love with Julian. Most of her problems in Lord of Shadows revolve around her relationship with Julian. The least of these issues is the law. As parabatai, they are forbidden by Shadowhunter law from falling in love. Punishment is severe and could result in banishment and the stripping of Marks, which for Emma, would be a worse fate than death.
Believe it or not, there is a bigger problem with falling in love with Julian than the law. First told to her by Malcolm before she killed him, and later confirmed by Jem, parabatai who fall in love are cursed. She keeps this to herself most of the book, only telling Julian towards the end. She goes to extreme lengths to protect Julian from the curse, to include a fake relationship with Mark.
Besides her relationship issues, it is clear to see the Emma is her generation's Jace. She is the most competent and fierce warrior of the bunch.
Julian - Julian is a very interesting character for a number of reasons. Since I mentioned his relationship with Emma already, I'll keep it brief and just say that it is something to look out for. Julian plays father figure to the Blackthorns and still continues to run the Los Angeles Institute behind the scenes until they are all forced to London. For someone so caring and gentle with Emma and his siblings, it is interesting to see him be the polar opposite with external threats. With anything that threatens his family, Julian becomes ruthless and cold. He would, as the book mentions in more elegant terms, destroy the world and everyone in it for his family. As someone who loves watching characters develop and evolve, Julian's range of emotions is certainly something to watch.
Mark - Mark is the eldest Blackthorn male, but still has trouble taking on that eldest role. However, he is finally reconnecting with his siblings, specifically with Julian. He recognizes and appreciates the sacrifices Julian has made to keep the family safe in his absence. Mark's relationship with Kieran, Mark's relationship with Christina, and the combined relationship of the three of them has an interesting trajectory in this book.
Kieran - Kieran is still very much the Kieran we saw in Lady Midnight, at least during the vast majority of the book. He is entitled and outspoken, acting like the Prince he is. However, there is a visible change towards the end of the book. Kieran develops an odd relationship with Christina that I will be interested to follow in Queen of Air and Darkness. Kieran's relationship with Mark also changes drastically in this book. Aside from his relationships, Kieran is essential in orchestrating a defense against his father, the Unseelie King.
Christina - We saw Christina a lot in Lady Midnight, and we see her just as much in Lord of Shadows. Christina is from the Mexico City Institute. She is with Emma and the Blackthorns for her travel year. In the first book, she cements a relationship with Emma, Julian, and Mark and helps them defend the Institute and the rest of the Blackthorns. This book also has her dealing with relationships. Her relationship to Diego, to Mark, and most surprisingly, to Kieran.
Kit - After losing his father at the end of Lady Midnight, Kit has been living among the Shadowhunters of the Los Angeles Institute. At the end of book one and through a large portion of Lord of Shadows, Kit is still trying to cling to the life he had, not the one he now has in front of him. It isn't until late in the book that Kit finally realizes that his future is that of a Shadowhunter.
Kit is one of the most dynamic characters in this series. He came to the Shadowhunters are a rebellious, angry teenager and slowly (very slowly) begins to evolve into the Shadowhunter that he actually is. You can actually see him maturing and growing throughout the story. Though he still goes by Kit, he does finally acknowledge (to himself more than anyone) that he is Christopher Herondale.
His growth is due, in large part, to Ty and Livvy. Kit identified with the twins more than anyone else upon his arrival at the institute. This is presumably due to their closeness in age. His relationship with Ty and Livvy, specifically Ty, changes from an unsteady friendship to a near familial bond.
Ty and Livvy - Let me preface what I am about to say with this: By lumping Ty and Livvy together, I am not saying I find them to be the same person. This is for the sake of brevity, and also because they are twins, they are inseperable, and they do successfully operate as a unit. In Lord of Shadows, Ty and Livvy take on much more responsibility than we had previously seen. They are going on missions and helping the others with pertinent research.
On more of a personal note, they both have interesting relationships with Kit. Livvy begins by being very protective of Ty. She is wary of Kit, assuming he will leave at the first chance he gets, hurting Ty in the process. As the book goes on, she and Kit share an awkward, oddly romantic moment, but it quickly passes and they become friends.
Ty is one of the more interesting characters in the series. Kit seems to understand Ty in a way no one else does, except maybe Livvy. They have developed a brotherly bond. They have an intimate relationship and often lean on each other. Ty confides in Kit and trusts him. Kit, used to trusting nobody, including his father, eventually comes to love and trust Ty as well.
Diana and Gwyn - Why are Diana and Gwyn put together? I'm shipping them. Say what you will, but a relationship is on the horizon for these two. I realize that the narration in this book is not third person omniscient, but Clare still gives you a tiny peek inside the mind of some of the characters. Gwyn has admitted his fancy for Diana. While Diana has not done so aloud, Clare alludes to the fact that his feelings do not go unrequited.
When you stop and think about it, especially after completing the book, Diana and Gwyn are perfect for each other for several small reasons and one huge reason. I won't dote on the smaller reasons and just hit you with the big one. Diana came out as transgender towards the end of the book. Gwyn, as with most faeries, does not seem to care about gender, or recognize gender, with matters of love. I will be excited to see what Clare has in store for these two in Queen of Air and Darkness.
Annabel - As the book goes on, Annabel plays an increasingly important role. She is the holder of the Black Volume and eventually agrees to help her distant relatives, but of course things can never go as planned.
Malcolm - Dead is never really dead, is it? Even after being killed by Emma, Malcolm finds his way back from the dead. He continues his mission of torturing the Blackthorns until he is dispatched for good by someone unlikely.
Magnus and Alec - Magnus and Alec play an integral part in the conclusion of this book. Alec steps up as the mature adult figure to temporarily run the London Institute while Emma and the Blackthorns are staying there. Magnus also helps Emma and the Blackthorns by providing the use of his magic and protection.
Other Characters - Yes, I left out Diego and Zara, the Cohort, Dru, and Arthur. No, I did not forget about them, nor am I downplaying their role in Lord of Shadows. I wanted to be sure I talked about all of the main characters and protagonists, leaving some of the tertiary characters to be lumped in with my general statements about opposition, struggle, and loss.
Cortana - Why does Cortana get a spot in the list of characters? Why not? Cortana may be a sword, but certainly no ordinary sword. I feel like we are missing a huge piece of information about Cortana, and I cannot wait to see what it is. No other sword could have done what Cortana did in Lord of Shadows.
Thank you for sticking with me during this review. I just wanted to finish up with a few thoughts. These thoughts will contain spoilers, so read on at your own risk.
As much as I loved The Mortal Instruments series, this book may be my favorite in the Shadowhunters world. I never lost interest, the plot and the characters are well developed, and it is a fun read. I'll read some of the book, put it down to go do something, and then wonder what I was watching earlier. That is how vivid a picture Clare paints. It makes me think I was watching a show or a movie.
As far as the book's conclusion goes, all I will say is: complete plot twist. I did not see that coming. Also, what the heck, Annabel?
I cannot wait to see what happens in Queen of Air and Darkness. That applies mostly to Emma and Julian. Their relationship frustrated me (in a good way) this entire book. Hopefully we are shown some mercy in the next book. Thanks again for reading, and feel free to leave some comments below.