The Dark Artifices

“I’ll kill him,” Emma muttered. “I’ll kill him while talking the whole time.”

Cassandra Clare, Queen of Air and Darkness

In continuing with the re-reading of Cassandra Clare’s The Shadowhunter Chronicles, I moved on to The Dark Artifices. This trilogy follows Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn as they attempt to find out who is killing several mundanes (humans). As they navigate the terms of the Cold Peace, five years after the events of The Mortal Instruments. Much of the main conflict has to do with Malcolm Fade, a warlock who attempts to raise his true love from the dead and his partnership with the Unseelie King. Much of the secondary conflict deals with the bigotry within the Shadow world. Emma and Julian also have to raise the younger Blackthorns while maintaining their status as parabatai and navigating their budding romantic feelings. 

While this isn’t my favorite trilogy, it comes in at a close second for a few reasons. The main reason is the characterization of the Blackthorns, Emma, and Cristina. Each of them have their own distinct personality, never feeling like they’re piggybacking off of similar characters in TSC. Emma and Julian have an intricate relationship due to their responsibility towards the younger children and Clare does a great job of exploring this relationship. In terms of the Blackthorns, they each have their place. Ty and Livvy, the twins who are so extremely devoted to each other have their own likes and dislikes that become a large part of their contributions to the story. Dru, the misunderstood thirteen-year-old with a love for horror movies proves that she is the heart of the Blackthorn family while Tavvy, the youngest, proves to be the glue that keeps the family together. Cristina, a visiting Shadowhunter from Mexico City is on the outside, brought into the fold by Emma and Mark’s love for the girl. After spending years in The Wild Hunt, Mark Blackthorn slowly has to determine what it means to be Nephilim again and he does that with Cristina’s help. They’re truly a family and each member of the family complements each other. 

The structure of this trilogy is different from much of what Clare has written before. Usually, the main character has no idea who they are and they require an introduction to the Shadow world. Here, Emma is considered one of the best Shadowhunters and Julian is an incredibly skilled diplomat. This allows Clare to explore the nuances of the Shadow world and the political turmoil that exists between the Shadowhunters and the Downworlders. I appreciated this so much more than the typical “what am I” structure because I almost feel like at this point, most of Clare’s readers would be intimately familiar with the Shadow World. Also, I appreciated that Clare did incorporate concise explanations for everything without spending too much time elaborating. 

There are two major criticisms that I’ve seen for this trilogy that I wanted to address in this review. The main criticism is the characterization of Julian Blackthorn. I saw that many people believed that Julian should’ve been written as a villain because of some of his “problematic” actions. To these critics, I want to say that Julian became a father at a young age and that included developing protective instincts towards his siblings whom he viewed as his children. Many of Clare’s characters admit that they would essentially sell their soul to the devil for the people they love, but Julian is one of the only characters who actually does so repeatedly. While some of his actions may be considered problematic, most of them come from a place of love and devotion that runs so deep that it is fundamentally part of his character. The second criticism revolves around the pacing of this trilogy, which I actually happen to agree with. Lord of Shadows ends with a cliffhanger and the first hundred or so pages of Queen of Air and Darkness deal with the aftermath of this cliffhanger. Truthfully, LOS could’ve been a hundred pages longer in order to save the reader from burnout in QOAAD. But, that would definitely be my one major critique for this book.

Overall, this trilogy remains extremely enjoyable despite the awkward pacing. I truly love Clare’s ability to make the reader feel like they are part of the Blackthorn family and the traditions that come with that. I really appreciated the intricacy of the plot (which had some really interesting segways). Emma Carstairs makes a compelling protagonist due to her sarcasm and innate sense of goodness. Though there are so many characters that overlap with Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices, Clare makes sure not to overshadow the Blackthorns’ stories while continuing the stories of other beloved characters.

Rating: 9/10

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