Official Summary: Emma Carstairs has finally avenged her parents. She thought she’d be at peace. But she is anything but calm. Torn between her desire for her parabatai Julian and her desire to protect him from the brutal consequences of parabatai relationships, she has begun dating his brother, Mark. But Mark has spent the past five years trapped in Faerie; can he ever truly be a Shadowhunter again?
And the faerie courts are not silent. The Unseelie King is tired of the Cold Peace, and will no longer concede to the Shadowhunters’ demands. Caught between the demands of faerie and the laws of the Clave, Emma, Julian, and Mark must find a way to come together to defend everything they hold dear—before it’s too late
My Thoughts: As I sit here writing this review, I am still trying to pull myself together. I am hurt. I am broken. I am ruined. As is the hyperbolic way of fandom, I often say I’m crying over something when I’m really not. I feel pain, but don’t shed any real tears. But this book made me sob. I had big, fat tears streaming down my face and my mouth dropped open. That ending destroyed me. And, as much as I hate what happened, any book that can elicit that much emotion from me is a damn good book. But, other than the extreme pain I will absolutely need the two years until Queen of Air and Darkness releases to put myself back together, I have a lot more feelings about this book.
First off, the character growth was on point. Each character is progressing in a direction that makes perfect sense for them. Julian grows closer to being an antihero, out only to protect his family. Emma grows in maturity and in emotional capacity. Mark is settling back into life as a Shadowhunter and learning to balance his human self with his faerie self. Cristina is becoming more emotionally available. We even interact more with Livvy and Ty, as we watch Kit navigate life as a Shadowhunter for the first time.
The only character whose growth seemed unrealistic to me was Kieran’s. He seemed like an entirely different character and I had trouble believing he was truly on their side. But, Cassie seems hell-bent on redeeming him, so I guess I’ll have to seethe quietly. I also love reading how each character perceives the others and how that changes over the course of the book, especially in regards to Julian, who spent the entire first book frequently mischaracterized as gentle and harmless.
The dynamics between the characters were also fascinating. It was interesting to see what groups formed and how relationships changed. Dynamics that really moved me were Julian and Emma’s, Mark and Cristina’s, and Ty, Livvy, and Kit’s. Each relationship has different challenges and is at a different point, but all help push the story forward. While this book does have somewhat of a plot, it is largely character-driven and these relationships are at the center.
As I said, there wasn’t a particularly distinct plot. There were specific goals the characters had, but no traditional plot. The action usually moved forward when there was a revelation or a character pushed the story forward. And, as these characters are so great, this worked really well and never came across as too convenient or contrived. The conflicts were a backdrop to the plot, whether that be preventing a war with the Unseelie Court or fighting against the Cohort and their anti-Downworld agenda. In many ways, this is what forces characters to show their true colors more than anything, especially with the temptations thrown at them.
This was a book that wasn’t focused so much on theme, but rather building a sense of terror and anxiety. Nothing is guaranteed and anything can be lost at any time. This is how the theme comes across. Your own fear for the characters is the very lesson the characters must learn. It’s a clever tactic and it certainly kept me reading.
This book also stands as proof that Clare is getting better and better at representation the more she writes. This book is perhaps her most diverse of all, having many characters of color, many different sexual identities and gender identities, and focus on mental illness and neuroatypical thought patterns. Each of these is stated explicitly and done with care. I especially appreciate the confirmation of Clare’s first trans character.
And, while we already know Mark and Helen are bisexual, we receive strong hints in this installment that Kit is also bi and Julian is demisexual. This wider range of rep is both important and realistic. I am glad to see such inclusion increasing.
All in all, this book was fantastic. Honestly, this series is starting to give The Infernal Devices a run for its money. And you know how much I love The Infernal Devices. This book made me feel so much, in a way no other author is ever able to make me feel. The characters are wonderful, the ships are beautiful, and the plot is twisty. I am both excited and terrified to find out what happens next, especially given all the unanswered questions and that dramatic ending. And, because of how this book went down, all I can say about that is… Angel help us all.
My Rating: 5/5