This summer, I took on the rather daunting goal of reading the Shadowhunter Chronicles by Cassandra Clare, at least the first two series. I never really intended or wanted to read them but they just get so much hype on Booktube that I just felt like I should read them so that I could understand what people were talking about. It was a rollercoaster of a journey to say the least. I read them in publication order so the two series kinda intertwined for me and just felt like a giant 9-book series. Still, I shall review them separately because I had very different feelings for each of the series.
The Mortal Instruments
TMI is technically the first series in the Shadowhunter Chronicles, although you have to read The Infernal Devices before you read the last book in the TMI series. TMI follows Clary as she discovers the Shadowhunters, which are half-human half-angels who protect the world from demons. I wasn’t really expecting much from the series so I was sort of pleasantly surprised after reading City of Bones because it was fun and entertaining enough. Not like an epic work of fiction but enjoyable enough to continue reading. It’s too bad the first book set me up to have a fun time because the next 4 books were kind of disappointing in that aspect. Yes, the plot was kind of interesting and intriguing but I couldn’t get over how annoying Clary as a protagonist was. I could forgive her incompetence and stupid decisions in the first two books because she was new to the world and didn’t know anything. But I didn’t expect that this kind of behavior would continue right up until the later part of the VERY LAST book in a 6-book series. It was so excruciating to read the scenes that she was in because she was pretty whiny and she made some selfish choices that had me wanting to throw the book (or my Kindle) at the wall. For all her talk about caring about the people she loves, she sure jumped at the first chance she could get to put them all in danger for her own selfish reasons. It’s not just Clary, but a lot of the female characters in TMI annoyed me because they came off as whiny and immature a lot of the time. Some might call these characters headstrong but I just call them stupid.
I also couldn’t fully get behind Clary and Jace. I thought they were interesting in the first book and had a lot of promise but once Cassandra Clare threw in the whole incest thing, I became hesitant about them. It seemed like such an unnecessary plot twist because we obviously know that they aren’t actually siblings (otherwise this would be a totally different kind of book), so we’re expecting the big reveal that they’re not, and the whole incest thing also made reading all their scenes together kind of an uncomfortable experience. I understand the need to put an obstacle between the couple to increase tension and all that but I don’t think incest is the way to do it. Their relationship also got really annoying in the later books because it made Clary make stupid decisions and put all her friends in danger for the sole purpose of keeping Jace alive. The kind of love that can burn down the world indeed.
I wavered back and forth on a lot of the characters and had a love-hate relationship with most of them but the one consistent ray of sunshine in the whole series for me was Simon. He was also a mundane who didn’t know anything about the world, just like Clary, and yet somehow, he’s the one who saved the day in the first book, and many more times after that. It was even him who made the ultimate sacrifice in the last book. His personality is also a joy to read about amidst the darkness that was happening. He’s super down-to-earth and is a welcome break from the dark and brooding Shadowhunters, who can be really pompous and arrogant sometimes. Simon might have been the only thing that kept me from DNFing this series.
Ultimately, TMI was kind of a meh series for me. The plot was kind of interesting but I had a hard time caring about any of the characters (except Simon) and since I’m very much a character-driven sort of reader, I didn’t have the best time with this series. Better luck with the next one.
The Infernal Devices
TID is set in the 1800s and in London and follows Tessa as she herself discovers the Shadow World and her own identity and lineage. I actually did have better luck with this one. As I said, I am very much driven by well-written and likeable characters and TID definitely has that. I loved all of the characters (that I was supposed to love) in this series and they all worked together so well. They truly understood what it is to make sacrifices for the people you love and it’s all very heart-breaking and beautiful.
This series also features a love triangle, which I usually hate, but I’ve never read one like this before. There is absolutely zero animosity between the three and each of them have a special relationship with the others. The friendship between Will and Jem is the absolute peak of bromance and yet it doesn’t feel like Tessa is intruding on their friendship. I heard it said before that a great threesome is when each of them are the awkward third person and Tessa, Will, and Jem definitely showcase that.
While TID has amazing characters (not just the main three but everyone else at the Institute too), the plot seems somewhat lacking. The main driving plot could have probably been wrapped up in one book to be honest and the climax seemed to end very quickly and abruptly for a 3-book buildup. Still, I suppose the focus of this series is really on the characters and not the plot so I’m okay with that.
Cassandra Clare’s writing in both the series is decent, she makes things flow nicely although sometimes she is a bit too descriptive and I found myself skimming past those long paragraphs of descriptions. One thing I found annoying was her bible or classical references, not because it makes me uncomfortable, but because I found it somewhat pretentious. Something you can’t deny about Cassandra Clare though is that she does conclusions well, if you like endings where everything is wrapped up neatly with a bow on top. I personally like my endings with a bit of tragedy but the endings in City of Glass (the original trilogy that TMI was supposed to be), City of Heavenly Fire, and Clockwork Princess did move me quite a bit. In fact, City of Heavenly Fire moved me so much, I’m actually tempted to pick up the next big series in the Shadowhunter Chronicles, The Dark Artifices, even though I swore I wouldn’t read another Cassandra Clare book. She really pulls you in, doesn’t she? Alas, I am too weak to resist the black hole that is the Shadowhunter Chronicles. I’ll probably wait a few years until the last book in TDA is released though because frankly, I’m pretty exhausted. Till then, Shadowhunters.
Cheers and happy reading!