A collection of Shadowhunter short stories proves a good read between series’

Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So well have I done with all the Shadowhunter world books this year that the only 2 I have left to read are the collections of novella’s in Tales from The Shadowhunter Academy and The Bane Chronicles. Keen to try and reach my achievement of reading them all by the end of 2017 I decided to push on and read Tales from The Shadowhunter Academy, the book that would ultimately complete my Good Reads 2017 challenge of reading 52 books this year.

This book picks up with Simon after the end of City of Heavenly Fire so if you haven’t read the mortal instruments series it’s probably best you do that first to avoid any spoilers as this collection is full of references to both The Infernal Devices and The Mortal Instruments. It also looks forward into the books that came after this one, The Dark Artifices and offers a brief glimpse at some of the new characters who Clare is going to be building her new adventures around in the Shadowhunter world so we meet Emma and Julian and Mark & Helen Blackthorn.

Set inside the school for Shadowhunters we follow Simon as he trains to become a Shadowhunter himself and the different people he meets during his journey and the friends he makes and trials he faces. Popping in and out of the school we find lots of familiar faces who are either just dropping by to see Simon such as Isabelle, Clary and Jace or we have some guest teachers who drop by to share their stories from the Shadowhunter world in the case of Magnus Bane, Tessa Grey and Robert Lightwood.

There are lots of cautionary tales in here for new Shadowhunters that give us extra glimpses into the world we’ve learned about through the previous series’ and it’s nice to revisit stories that have been touched on but never fully explored in the past. They are also great at highlighting the political and social inequalities in the Shadowhunter world, the prejudices they inflict on others and their harsh rules that they often live by and hide behind. As we have moved into The Dark Artifices this has become more important to Clare’s storytelling and so this book was another great chance to explore stories that make you think about whether at its core there is something corrupt in the whole world.

I am not a lover of short stories which is effectively what this book is, all be it strung together cohesively into a sort of story. I sometimes find myself losing focus with them but I didn’t find this an issue with this book. It was because of the way the stories were drawn together and fed on from each other that I think helped with this. It didn’t feel so much like jumping from one time period to another without reason or hearing about tales individually from each other, they were all linked with clever storytelling and strong moral teachings from each one.

I have given this a 4 out of 5, but honestly, I’d probably lean more towards a 3.5 however this is because held up against the other Shadowhunter novels it is one that you really could take or leave and not impact your understanding of the others. It was a good read but it was really a filler book to get us from The Mortal Instruments to The Dark Artifice through the use of the short stories that had been written about the world.

A satisfying and tear jerking end to the wonderful Infernal Devices

Clockwork Princess (The Infernal Devices #3) by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This month I feel like I’ve gone on such a wonderful journey through the world of Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters and her Infernal Devices Trilogy, I’ve been what I would term a transient reader for the past year and have struggled to read sometimes one book a month but somehow in May I have managed to read this entire trilogy and a few other books besides. The other books were there as fillers to stop me from reading The Infernal Devices books back to back but my desperation to return to Clare’s world meant I found myself devouring those books quickly too lest it takes me too long away from the world of Jem, Tessa and Will.

I had tried to begin The Mortal Instruments, the companion series to these books, and each time I had stalled. I just couldn’t build that picture in my mind of the world Clare was building but now I can see it as clearly as day. I feel it’s been fundamental for me to read this series, essentially the prequel to The Mortal Instruments books in order to be able to fully prepare myself to go back and delve into the modern world setting of the other books. I think I needed to have that gothic, historical setting and wonderful love stories to make me fall in love with the Shadowhunter world and to build the family background of all the characters that I will meet as I move into The Mortal Instruments.

And what a story this was, from the opening chapters it is full of a wonderful mix of adventure and suspense and emotion and love. It picks up immediately after the end of Clockwork Prince where we find that Will Herrondale’s sister Cecily has arrived at The Institute and is training now to be a Shadowhunter. We are still trying to track down the mysterious Magister and his army of clockwork automatons and to piece together how Tessa forms such an integral part of his plans. We also are still questioning how Tessa has the ability to shapeshift when both of her parents were apparently mundane’s. All of the characters we’ve come to love are there and it’s like coming home to family, you feel like part of the Institute and care about each and every single one of them. From Bridget the cook and her somewhat annoying if not insightful singing to Charlotte, head of the institute who is now pregnant with her first child.

Alongside all of the adventure of this book, the story is fundamentally about the one story we are all desperate to know the end of, the love between Jem, Will and Tessa. When we left them Tessa was engaged to marry Jem but his health is failing and unbeknown to him his best friend and parabatai Will is also in love with his fiancee. For the first time in any love triangle, I was so desperately rooting for them all. Jem and Will are so intricately a part of each other and such wonderfully written characters that you want to be able for Tessa to love them both. This book had me wrung out emotionally throughout, there were so many moments of wonderful writing where Clare would move their story forward but also take great care not to rush past the difficult emotions that were going on within. At times there is humour and light moments to lift us from the darkness and this balance is a very special thing.

We do reach a wonderful and very satisfying conclusion at the end of the book, one I certainly didn’t see coming. In fact, throughout this book, there were so many moments where Clare would so utterly surprise you with how the story changed and moved that I found myself catching my breath and in sheer joy or amazement. Those surprises you don’t see coming make this an amazing end to her wonderful Infernal Devices series. Coming away from them I feel like I’ve made a whole group of new friends, not real friends but as a book lover, I’m sure you know that feeling that the people you read about when written well leap so off the page that they feel as real to you as can be. I am still utterly enraptured by Magnus Bane, I don’t know what it is about him that makes Clare write him so vividly that each time he is on the page he totally consumes it, he is so utterly three dimensional you feel you could reach out and touch him. I want to learn so much more about how each of the families of Shadowhunters will move forward in The Mortal Instruments. I want to see how their children’s children and great grandchildren will reflect the characters of their ancestors.

These books have been such a wonderful experience to read this past month. Someone said to me recently that if you are in a reading slump maybe it’s not the reading that’s the problem but what you are reading. Never has a truer word been spoken. To break away from my usual genre’s and to enter a world unfamiliar has paid me such dividends and rejuvenated me so much that I feel more enthusiastic about reading than I have in such a long time. For that, Cassandra Clare, I thank you.

Absolutely joy and escapism in the historic Shadowhunter world

Clockwork Prince (The Infernal Devices #2) by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reading is such a precious thing and it’s the ability it has to transport you to another time and place and to fully immerse you in a world that is not your own that makes it such a magical thing. For some time now I’ve struggled to find books that have absolutely engaged me fully but I’ve been very lucky recently to find books that have helped me to really rediscover the joy of reading which had been not fully there for a time. I find myself somewhat breathless with joy as I write this review for Clockwork Prince, the second book in Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices Trilogy because I’ve only just finished it and so enraptured was I with it that I want to tell the world to read it, immediately if they haven’t already.

Often I will read the first book in a series and then leave it a long time before I progress to the second, and subsequent books in the set but having loved Clockwork Angel I took a break of only one book between reading that and returning to the Infernal Devices to read Clockwork Prince. Therefore the story was absolutely fresh in my mind and the characters were crystal clear. Clockwork Prince picks up immediately after the events of the first book and is a direct continuation of the story laid out in book one. We are still following the search for the mysterious Magister and trying to understand why he hates Shadowhunters so much and why he is so intent on marrying Tessa Grey.

The action moves very quickly in this book, unlike book one, Clare doesn’t waste time recapping any of the Shadowhunter history or building the characters but immediately moves the action on from the end of book one with a meeting of the Counsel of Shadowhunters and the challenge from Benedict Lightwood to Charlotte Branwell’s guardianship of the London Institute of Shadowhunters. Charlotte is given two weeks to prove her suitability for the role by finding out where Axel Mortmain, the Magister is and what his intentions are otherwise the guardianship of the Institute will be handed over to Benedict Lightwood and his sons Gideon and Gabriel. It is also agreed that his sons should provide training in combat to both Tessa and Sophie, the Institute’s servant to help them protect themselves in the future.

From this point, we follow the group of Shadowhunters we grew to know so well in Book one as they try to find out all they can about Axel Mortmain’s whereabouts before the two-week deadline expires. All of the familiar characters from Book One return along with some new faces. We learn more about why Will Herrondale pushes people away as he works with warlock Magnus Bane to try and free himself of a curse. We learn more about the complex Lightwood family and the two sons of Benedict and just why they have been sent to the institute to instruct Tessa and Sophie and why their father seems hell bent on gaining the institute.

This book is so rich with atmosphere, again we are drawn into a dark and gothic London of the late 1800’s where we are aware of dark going’s on that are hidden from the view of mundane’s as downworlders mix with the dark side of London’s alleyways. Clare paints such vivid pictures of the world she is building that we lose ourselves entirely in it. In this book, she also paints wonderful pictures of the bleakness of Yorkshire and the landscape there.

It is her character writing that truly stands out. The way she writes the wonderful triangle between Jem, Will and Tessa would take your breath away. We know that both Jem and Will love Tessa deeply and in most occasions when this happens in books we pick a team, people will post and say #Will or #Jem but honestly, she has so brilliantly written all of the characters and has given them such deep emotional range that we cannot pick. We don’t want either to win the heart of Tessa, we root for them both and feel distraught that Tessa cannot have them both. We don’t want her to break either’s hearts. Instead, we want them all to be happy.

And as for Magnus Bane, well, I am falling in love with that character, you can tell there is so much more we have yet to discover about this Warlock and his past that every time he is on the page it lights up. I want to spend chapters with him, his enigmatic personality and his history and his depth of emotion. I could literally read about him all day long.

There are so many unresolved issues at the end of this book that I am itching to read book 3, Clockwork Princess, I want to know the answers to all the loose ends now. I am going to take a break between this and book 3 but I know I’m going to be so desperate to get back to this story it will be an immediate TBR (to be read) after I have finished the book I choose to read next. I can say, even without reading book 3, that this is a world I have fallen in love with completely. I now cannot wait to read The Mortal Instruments, I am literally itching to get started in the modern Shadowhunter world. I love that Cassandra Clare has built a whole world for us to escape to and at the end of the day, whether we are an adult reader or a Young Adult reader, isn’t that really what we all want from the books we read? To escape completely for a while to a place we can leave ourselves behind and feel part of the world we go to so completely that when we return to real life we feel a little bereft?

The first of the Infernal Devices Trilogy is a wonderful, atmospheric read

Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices #1) by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book has been on my TBR (to be read) shelf for a while now along with the other two books in The Infernal Devices series, Clockwork Princess and Clockwork Prince. Written by Cassandra Clare and based in her world of Shadowhunters it is a companion to her Mortal Instruments series. The only reason I hadn’t already picked this book up is I wasn’t sure if it was ‘okay’ to read The Infernal Devices books before I’d finished The Mortal Instruments and so I’d been trying and trying to get into the second book of The Mortal Instruments when I saw a great YouTube video that reassured me it’s okay to read The Infernal Devices first and that was all the information I needed to have me delve into Clockwork Angel immediately.

I had already read City of Bones, the first in The Mortal Instruments series, and so I had a little background knowledge on Clare’s Shadowhunter world but I read it a few years ago now and my knowledge was hazy and so I went into Clockwork Angel hoping that I would be able to glean as much information as I needed to understand the narrative. Also, for me a book with a historical, in the case of this book Victorian, setting really helped me engage with the world more than the modern setting of The Mortal Instruments series. I kept thinking Penny Dreadful, the TV show, when I was reading this and imagining a similar vibe of gothic London in the 1890’s and it helped me build the atmosphere in my mind and I found that really helped.

The story begins when Tessa, a young American, travels to London after the death of her aunt to be reunited with her brother. When she gets to London she is taken prisoner by two sisters, known as the Dark Sisters who are trying to train her to use the powers that she has that allow her to physically change into another person. She is told that if she learns to use her powers she is to be married to a powerful man known as ‘The Magister’ who is currently holding her brother prisoner and that only her co-operation will guarantee her siblings freedom.

Rescued by a mysterious young boy, Will Herrondale, Tessa is introduced to the world of ‘The Shadowhunters’ a group of angelic fighters whose role it is to protect the human world from the dangers of ‘downworlders’ which consist of Vampires, Werewolves, Faires and Warlocks. While helping Tessa to try and understand the strange powers she has they begin a quest to find and rescue her brother Nate from the mysterious ‘Magister’ and deal with a new threat to The Shadowhunters that may be able to wipe them out forever.

I loved this book. It was dark and gothic and the action within the chapters was non-stop. It has a totally new collection of characters from The Mortal Instruments series except for the Warlock, Magnus Bane, whose name I recognised from reading City of Bones. Tessa is a great lead character, she begins the book with little confidence and much confusion in her abilities but by the end, she’s clearly learning to use her strange powers and has grown in maturity. There is also somewhat of a love triangle in this book between Tessa and two young Shadowhunters, Will and Jem. Will is a dark, cocky and enigmatic young man who is confident in his abilities but whose attitude splits the opinions of those around him. On the other hand, we have Jem, Will’s best friend and fellow Shadowhunter. Jem is more guarded, more thoughtful and also frailer. He is suffering from a mysterious illness that weakens him but he battles through it to ensure he is there for his friend when he needs him.

I liked the different relationships Tessa has with Jem and Will. With Will it’s almost a gentle sparring between them, a teasing relationship but he is her protector and the one she looks to when she feels unsafe. With Jem, Tessa shares more about her inner feelings, how she feels confused by the new world she’s learning about and what it means about who her parents were and her new life in London. At the end of this book things are left wide open and clearly are going to be explored in more depth as the series progresses.

I really needed to read this book in order to open a door for me into Cassandra Clare’s world. I felt much more connection to the characters in this book than I did to those in City of Bones. I came away from this book desperate to delve into Book 2 in the series, Clockwork Prince. I genuinely have not felt that same calling back to The Mortal Instruments. This doesn’t mean however that I do not intend to go back to them. I am using this series as a way to lose myself in the Shadowhunter world so much that I will then go back and reread City of Bones with a fresh perspective and then with my wider knowledge and background to the world move forward from there and after having read Clockwork Angel I’m sure I will do so with more insight and awareness than I did first time around. I am also studiously avoiding the TV series, Shadowhunters, so I do not spoil anything for the books but am saving it till I’ve finished both series.

I know I am coming to this series very late as much of the book community has already digested them and are already awaiting the second book in Clare’s new series The Dark Artifices but I am so glad that now I am finding my way into the series and cannot thank Emmabooks and her channel on YouTube enough for giving me that reassurance that it was okay to pick this up before I read The Mortal Instruments. I had recently been in a bit of a reading slump, not finding anything to really engage me but I’ve changed up my usual genre’s in the past few weeks and it’s really re-energised me and given me a boost. Rather than sticking to my normal contemporary or historical adult fiction novels I’ve found an escape in Young Adult fantasy novels into worlds that really take you away from the normal and it’s been really refreshing. Clockwork Angel has been such a joy and a book I would highly recommend if gothic adventures are your thing.