“You’re my heart, Magnus Bane. Stay unbroken, for me.”Cassandra Clare and Wesley Chu, The Lost Book of the White
This review is another Shadowhunter’s book review and does contain spoilers from The Mortal Instruments (this book follows directly after City of Heavenly Fire). This is also the sequel for The Red Scrolls of Magic. So if you haven’t read those books, this review will spoil them for you. Read at your own risk.
The Lost Book of the White takes place three years after the end of the Mortal War. The Cold Peace has been enacted and Alec and Magnus have formed their Shadowhunter-Downworlder alliance. They live happily in Magnu’s loft in Brooklyn with their son Max. Everything is good. Until, Shinyun Jung, the warlock that Alec and Magnus set free as an act of kindness has returned with a deadly weapon and has decided to stab Magnus with it. After years of believing that his friend, Ragnor Fell is dead, Magnus learns that he was forced to team up with Shinyun and is under the spell of the most deadly of the Nine Princes of Hell, Sammael. In an attempt to rescue his friend, Magnus insists that he go to Shanghai but Alec won’t let him go alone. After calling the Shadowhunters of the New York Institute in for backup, the pair head to Shanghai where they run into even more danger than they could’ve ever predicted.
This book was just wildly entertaining. I enjoyed the fact that we got to see the aftermath of the Mortal War a little closer to the timeline. The Dark Artifices are wonderful in the sense that the readers get a taste of what happens to the Shadow world as a whole after the war, but the reader is never really given a concrete answer as to what happens to the New York Institute. I love that we got a resolution even though this is a story primarily about Alec and Magnus. Clare and Chu manage to write this conclusion without taking away from the main couple. They are always the narrator and the authors never jump to the other characters because they already had their story. If the narration had fluctuated, it wouldn’t have been as enjoyable because the readers already got to experience a Shadowhunter mission through the eyes of Clary, Jace, Simon, and Isabelle. Though, I will say that Clare and Chu do a great job at building up the Shadowhunter timeline so it lines up with the events that are already true in TDA.
Another thing I really loved about this book was the amount of Chinese lore in it. Much of TSC has focused on Western lore because the stories largely take place in western countries. Even though Clare has made it clear in the past that Eastern lore is just as real and important to Shadowhunters, she never really got the chance to explore it. Here (though I suspect much of the lore came from Chu), Clare finally takes the time to explore eastern lore and include demons that wouldn’t be found in New York. I love how Clare and Chu connect Jem to the story, proving that he is very much still important to Magnus and Alec. Tian, the most obvious red herring who is not a red herring is such an important character because of his motives. He struggles with having such an open family when the law is so unforgiving in the situation with his girlfriend. This makes it clear that even though he seems to be a red herring in this book, he is actually proven not to be. It was a completely different plot structure and I quite enjoyed it.
There are two final things I wanted to touch on. The first is Alec and Magnus’s descent into parenthood. Both Clare and Chu do an incredible job of exploring the anxieties of being a new parent in a world where one of them might not come home. Both Alec and Magnus always seem to consider what would happen to Max if one of them died. Alec fears that he will be left with Max if Magnus dies and he won’t be able to raise Max in a way that will appreciate his warlock heritage. Magnus fears quite the same thing, he worries that if he dies, Alec will be left to his own devices but at least someone will take care of Max. Their primary concern is always Max and their family and I think it’s quite a telling portrayal of the joys of parenthood. The last thing is Simon. He wasn’t necessarily my favorite character in TMI or TOTSA but I did really enjoy his character in this book. Simon went through countless traumas whether it be dying, becoming a vampire, losing his immortality and eventually his memories, and I always felt like he was never given a space to explore his trauma. At least now, he has the chance. He questions the efficacy of being a Shadowhunter when there’s never a guarantee that your loved ones will return. It’s a question that the rest of the natural born Shadowhunters wrestle with and one that has no answer. The way that Alec responds to this is so telling because it’s such a hard job to do and losing loved ones is something that you learn to accept. The law is hard but it is the law.
Overall, this is it. This is what has built TSC’s fanbase to rise to over 50 million readers. These books explore different kinds of themes that a growing audience can relate to. Alec and Magnus remain an important couple for LGBTQIA+ representation and they are a (relatively) realistic couple. They fight, they worry, but overall they love each other. As always, I recommend this trilogy for anyone.