BOOK REVIEW: ‘Lady Midnight’ by Cassandra Clare

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Shadowhunter fans, are you ready for Cassandra Clare’s next big Shadowhunter trilogy? Are you ready for more demon hunting, fighting the causes of evil, amazing plot twists, beautifully complex characters bleeding all over the pages, wild humour and forbidden love? Because if you are, Lady Midnight the first book in The Dark Artifices is here.

Lady Midnight is set in Los Angeles five years after The Dark War, following parabatai Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn as they investigate a series of murders of mundanes (the Shadowhunter name for humans) and faeries. But these are no ordinary series of murders, they are linked to the deaths of Emma’s parents.

But there’s another twist, they are asked to investigate the deaths by a faerie convoy, in exchange for the temporary return of Mark Blackthorn, who had been taken by the wild hunt, and his permanent return if he chooses, if they are successful in the investigation. This is against The Cold Peace, the law that says that Shadowhunters cannot investigate anything related to faeries.

So, Emma and Julian embark on an investigation, try to hold together a big family (as Julian’s uncle who is supposed to be their guardian lives up in the attic leaving them to it) and maybe just maybe, fall in love.


A New Series with Characters we Recognise

“She looked immediately over at Jace, who matched her glance—a look woven through with years of shared history.” 

This may be a new series with new Shadowhunters, but it follows on directly from The Mortal Instruments. If you’re new to Cassandra Clare and this series sounds good to you, I recommend you start with City of Bones.

Reading this review won’t spoil that series for you, but reading Lady Midnight would mean that if you went back to read The Mortal Instruments, you would be able to guess many of the resolutions to the conflicts as well as be able to work out some of the plot twists. Besides, if you read The Mortal Instruments, that’s six books with no waiting in between, which is ideal as Cassandra Clare is very good at leaving tons of unanswered questions at the end of books that won’t be answered until the next.

While not as primary characters, key characters from The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices do feature in Lady Midnight. Cassandra Clare herself explains in a post that, the reason she isn’t going to keep writing about Clary and the other Mortal Instruments characters, is because she doesn’t want to hurt them anymore. She explains that without conflict, a story would not be a story, as the conflicts make the happy moments more meaningful.

Despite this, she is keeping the characters from her other books in her new Shadowhunter books, to allow us to find out how they are doing, while introducing new conflict with new characters, so we essentially have the best of both worlds. In practise, this works quite well. It’s cool to see all these characters five years later and gain some insight in to what’s going on with them.


Our New Characters

“You don’t have to do this for me,” Emma was saying, softly but earnestly, in a voice Cristina had never heard her use before.

“I think I do,” said Julian, “I think I remember making a vow to that effect.”

“Whither thou guest, I shall go, whatever stupid thing you do, I shall do also.”” said Emma, “Was that the vow?”

I was apprehensive about this book, because I didn’t really like these new characters that much when we met them in City of Heavenly Fire. I was disappointed when I found out we’d be losing Clary and The Mortal Instruments crew, to follow Emma and Julian. However, I was so pleasantly surprised by them, that I would go as far as to say this is my favourite Cassandra Clare book.

It’s nice that there are key differences in character. There are many similarities that can be drawn between Clary and Tessa or Will and Jace, whereas the Blackthorns and Emma are very distinctly different. For example, it’s the lead female, Emma cracking all the jokes, where as usually she tends to assign that role to the lead male. Also, it’s Julian that’s the sensitive one, which is cool because it’s unusual.


Cassandra Clare’s Writing

“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.”

Since writing City of Bones all those years ago, I definitely think as a writer Cassandra Clare has improved immensely. I like The Dark Artifices crew much better than those of her other series. I felt I was enjoying the plot lines more in Lady Midnight than in the other books. It was kind of nice to dive straight into the action as our characters already know the Shadow World, where as both Clary and Tessa were just finding out about it at the start of the series.

My only complaint is the fact that she has a plotline where Emma and Julian lie to each other, akin to what goes on between Clary and Jake and Tessa and Will in her other series. That sort of thing annoys me, because it is so irritating reading a book wishing the characters would just talk to each other, especially when there are much better ways to create conflict. Thankfully though, it’s only a small plot line near the end. Emma and Julian are definitely closer than any other pair of Shadowhunters so hopefully she’s doing slightly better this time.


A Murder Mystery

“Julian calls it my Wall of Crazy,” Emma said.

The main conflict of the story is the murder investigation. As always, we follow our Shadowhunters on an adventure so captivating I did not want to stop reading and even when I did, I was wondering about the story as I did other things.

There is of course plenty of demon fighting, wounds and fear of death. Cassandra Clare has certainly not lost her epic plot twisting abilities. Plot twists that even those who have read so many books that most things seem familiar find a shock, are something she’s always been good at and she’s only improving.

They also have some pretty unique investigative methods, from the meticulous research of Ty and Livvy the twins who I’ll talk about later, to Emma’s “wall of crazy” which is basically the back wall of her closet covered in evidence about her parents’ death, these characters breathe quirkiness in to serious things like investigations. Murder mystery may be the main plot line and there is no denying that it is done well, but what drives the investigation, as well as the story is the characters.



“It’s so hard to be sassy to the Fair Folk. You people never get jokes.”

We may not have a male lead who uses humour as a self defence mechanism this time, but we’ve certainly got a sassy heroine to fill the role. Humour is the foundation of everything they do in this book, it helps Emma keep herself going through excessive training, it helps hold the Blackthorn family together through rough times and it helps Emma and Julian forget about everything else when they joke together.

It’s hard to find a writer who can keep you laughing consistency, while also telling a deep story. It’s hard to isolate an example to show, but in the flow of the story there are so many things that are just hilarious. Countless times, I’ve been asked why I’m laughing so much when I’m reading Cassandra Clare books.


Meet the Blackthorn Family

“…everyone who lives under this roof, whether they are bound by blood or not, we are tied together by an invisible net of love and duty and loyalty and honor. That is what it means to be a Shadowhunter.”

Love is a very central theme in this novel, not only in the brewing romantic relationships, but between friends and between the adorably close knit Blackthorn family.

We have the Blackthorn children, who due to their uncle’s tendency to spend his life in the attic studying Classics, have been raised for the past five years by Julian and Emma. In addition, we have Cristina who has come to the institute from Mexico with her own secrets.

“Beside them was Drussilla, holding the hand of the youngest, Tavvy.” – Tavvy and Dru

The youngest of the Blackthorns serve as an adorable adornment to the story. They are a constant reminder of the importance of this family that Julian and Emma are trying to hold together. Despite being minor characters, they are developed so well, that as readers we come to care about them, feeling their pain and laughing at some of the childish things they do.

“Together they were a formidable team.” – Livvy and Ty

Livvy and Ty are inseparable twins, a couple of years younger than Julian and Emma. The way they support each other in everything they do from research for the investigation to giving each other emotional support is extremely endearing. It’s so nice to see twins so close, who are always loving and caring for each other.

“”He walked into a payphone and said “Excuse me miss,” on our way in,” said Julian.

“It’s polite to apologise,” said Mark with the same small, smile.

“Not to inanimate objects.”” – Mark

Mark might be back from faerie, but it doesn’t end there. He hasn’t aged in faerie, he is bone thin and he doesn’t believe his family are real.

It’s seriously heart-wrenching watching him reintegrate into human life. Again, there’s that beautiful balance of sheer emotion as he tries to learn things, to humour when he’s causing a scene in public unknowingly. And as much the demon powered vampire bike days are over, Mark has a flying horse from faerie which I have to say is pretty cool.

“Emma turned, her boots balanced on the edge of the roof. Cristina was sitting on the shingled slope behind her, polishing a throwing knife with a pale blue cloth.” – Cristina

Cristina is Emma’s best friend. Their friendship at the start of the book was the thing that turned my apprehension in to a sense that this was going to be a good book. It’s actually nice for the two main girls in a Cassandra Clare novel to be so close. Because we’ve had Clary and Izzabelle who took some time getting to like each other and Tessa and Jessamine who I don’t really think ever liked each other. Their friendship is a nice variety from all the romance going on. And of course, Cristina has some pretty big secrets too.

“She remembered the panic that had sent him stumbling to the bathroom to throw up, the nights she’d held him on the cold tiled floor while he shuck as if he had a fever.

I can’t, he’d said. I can’t do this, alone. I can’t bring them up. I can’t raise four children.” – Julian

Julian is very much a gentle character. He is consumed by love for his family and for Emma and trying to hold everything together. It’s fascinating to see how he manages his family, but also quite upsetting to think that he has to do that in the first place. He is also an artist, which is interesting. As much as we know Clary’s an artist, she drew more in runes than anything else, where as there are some very captivating scenes about Julian painting as well as about things he has painted, which I thoroughly enjoyed despite not being in to art.

What I think made me really like him as a character, is the blend of all the secrets we gradually learn about him, his love for his family, his efforts to do things that no one else can, the fact that he is always worried about his family, his ability to make very good jokes and his close friendship with Emma. This combination, make a truly amazing character.

“Sometimes, she thought, it was as if she were a kite, and Julian the flier: She soared above the ground, and he kept her tethered to the earth. Without him she would be lost among the clouds.” – Emma

Emma blends fierceness, humour, vulnerability and love in a truly unique way. She’s a shadowhunter you would not want to mess with, while also having her own unique fears and sensitivities. There’s an awful lot of depth to her at some times, yet at others she’s being sarcastic with people and putting them in their place. That’s Emma and it’s amazing to watch.

I know these might sound like common character traits, but she’s not like every other female heroine. She’s not the kind of girl you read about and start mixing up with the last book you read that had a female lead because they’re so alike, it’s the sort of book you read discovering that you can follow Emma around for quite a long time, because for whatever reasons she’s a truly adorable yet fresh character.


Parabatai Love

“I love you more than starlight.”

Cassandra Clare seems to have a bit of an obsession with forbidden love. There is always some really drastic obstacle in the way of a relationship. And this book is no different, because Emma and Julian fall in love. Because in case you’ve forgotten, parabatai are not allowed to fall in love.

There’s a part of me that says, I should be annoyed about the repeat of storyline, but thing is, I’m not. I think this is because I’m more invested in Emma and Julian than in any other Shadowhunter couple. This is because, they know each other well. It’s not like Clary and Jace or Tessa and Will who fell in love over a short period of time. It’s a relationship built on years of friendship, on years of having to hold together a family together and on years of being the one solid thing in the other’s life. And that means something. It’s a relationship that makes sense.

Cassandra Clare may have recycled some old ideas, but I honestly feel like she’s recreated them in a way that’s fresh and engaging. You would have to have a pretty hard heart not to feel anything when reading about Emma and Julian.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I think as a writer, she is developing, which is always good. If you’re new to her, then I highly recommend reading The Mortal Instruments first, but you’ll fly through them. They are the sort of books that you have to be really disciplined with, because they are real page turners. If you let them, they can wreck your life. But they are well worth it, so enjoy.

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