Returning to her expansive fantasy world which began with ‘The Mortal Instruments’, Cassandra Clare’s latest novel chronicles the Shadowhunters of Los Angeles, rather than the more familiar turf of New York.
For those new to the series, the heroes are teenaged Nephilim; half angel warriors who battle demons and keep the peace between creatures such as faeries, werewolves and vampires, as well as maintaining the secrecy of their magical world from the “mundanes”, as they call humanity at large.
Set five years after ‘City of Heavenly Fire’, a harsh “Cold Peace” now exists between Faeries and Shadowhunters, with victims and simmering resentment remaining on both sides.
Given such a detailed backstory, we initially feared we would be overwhelmed by the weight of past adventures. However, Clare drew us in gently – our first sight of Emma Carstairs, the heroine of the tale, is given by a third party who looks upon her with the kind of perspective we found we could easily share.
As we meet Julian Blackthorn, her platonic life-bonded warrior partner, the tale widens to become a grisly mystery; mutilated bodies have begun to appear bearing demonic writing, in the same language as those of Emma’s murdered parents.
Clare writes in an easy and engrossing style, the complexities and emotions of teenage life are mixed in amongst the diabolic and the fantastic; Skype calls and text messages, as well as dating dilemmas and pizza takeaways, are as much a part of her heroes’ lives as mystical peace agreements and fearsome demons.
We particularly enjoyed the diverse younger characters of the Blackthorn family, who supported the investigation in various ways. The close-knit bond however was strained by the arrival of their troubled half-brother Mark, returned to them by the faerie folk, who came with not only a terrific flying motorbike, but a wild streak to match Emma’s own, in sharp contrast to Julian’s responsible, more cautious nature.
For all the supernatural elements though, the story is fundamentally about love in its various forms, from romantic to friendship and familial, and about the lengths people will go to as they cope with loss and bereavement.
While resolving the central mystery across a dizzying 669 pages, two major storylines remain unresolved, one deeply personal and the other political. Both seem destined to dominate the two further instalments of this trilogy and will surely draw us to the next instalment.
With its heady mix of magic and modern life, we are sure that ‘Lady Midnight’ will appeal both to fans of Clare’s previous Shadowhunter books and further afield to those looking for a rich fantasy tale with plenty of drama and heart.
Out now, published by Simon & Schuster.
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