I thought I wasn’t going to read another Cassandra Clare book after The Infernal Devices.
(I apologize for the joke to those who are now hurting with a serious case of the feels. I know I am.)
Five years ago, Emma Carstairs found her parents murdered, soaking wet and covered in mysterious runes. Everyone said they were killed by Sebastian Morgenstern. She didn’t believe them.
Five years ago, Julian Blackthorn killed his father in the war against Sebastian Morgenstern. With his older brother, Mark, taken by the faerie Hunt and his older sister, Helen, exiled, Julian was left to raise his four younger siblings alone.
Now sworn parabatai living in the Los Angeles Institute, Emma continues to investigate her parents’ murder, and Julian raises his siblings with the hopes of Mark and Helen’s return. Then, Emma discovers a series of murders similar to that of her parents’ so many years ago. Investigating this is strictly forbidden, as the murders include faerie victims, but with the opportunity to bring Mark back, Emma and Julian find themselves keeping their findings a secret from the Clave.
But the investigation is not the only secret the parabatai are keeping. There is something else forbidden between them, a secret that would tear them apart—though they don’t know why. It is the law, but the Clave never explains why parabatai cannot fall in love…
Reading Lady Midnight really shows how far Clare has come in terms of storytelling since City of Bones. Like most of her novels, the adventure plot tends to take a backseat to the dramatic character interaction, but the emotional investment is too deep to really care.
To get the negatives out of the way quickly, I will admit that the adventure/mystery plot gets completely overshadowed by the romance and family drama. While the reveal of the antagonist at the end was surprising, the conflict itself was not really interesting. Rather, the world of shadowhunters and downworlders and faerie allows for complex character interactions—and that’s what had me on the edge of my seat.
This is because Clare’s character design and development is just so damn good. Take our male lead, for example. Julian Blackthorn may be one of the most complex characters she has written—and that includes William Herondale. I am in love with character, not because he’s a tortured, smoking hot shadowhunter (a.k.a. all of Clare’s male leads) but because of how the mixture of gentleness and ruthlessness within him. Julian’s motivation is the love he has for his family. And while that’s great in moderation, it is absolutely devastating to anyone who gets in his way—including himself. He teaches himself to be a parent in order to raise his siblings. He teaches himself to be strong. But everything he does is sort of intense, like he’s overwhelmingly driven by his love that he can’t see anything else.
This is mostly in reference to of leading lady, Emma Carstairs. Emma is a great female lead, wanting revenge, wanting to prove herself—but at the same time, not believing she is really worth anything she is credited with. It took me a while to figure out her character, but I think I get it. Emma is still very much lost. She will fight and die to protect those she loves, feels like it’s her responsibility to do so. But she seems to have this preset idea that she doesn’t truly belong anywhere, that she is expendable. This makes her incredibly vulnerable emotionally, almost making her seem empty, while maintaining an appearance of a strong warrior.
Cristina, the visiting Shadowhunter from Mexico, is a great new female character. I like how she stands by her beliefs, and can keep her head in a crisis. She kicks butt without having to be the snarky female stereotype. And I’m completely invested in her romantic plot.
The Blackthorn siblings are now on my list of favourite fictional families. I can’t help it. Clare give each sibling a distinct personality, memorable enough to be able to identify them, but compatible enough that they work as a cohesive unit. Mark and Ty are especially good examples of this, and Ty’s character is particularly intriguing, as he’s probably autistic and this brings out the collaborative power of the family.
My one (and unfortunately huge) gripe is the structure. The plot is heavily unbalanced with heavy emphasis on the emotional trauma of forbidden love and family problems. Kit’s appearance in the first chapter isn’t reprised until quite a ways into the book, which is odd for the character that starts the book. While Emma’s search for revenge is interesting and the mystery of the murders was a good premise, there just wasn’t enough weight given to the plot line for it to hold enough significance for me. Often, characters make stupid decisions (coughEMMAcough) just so that some adventure can be thrown in.
I can certainly see what Clare is trying to do here, contrasting the villain’s motivations with the romantic conflict. And while I appreciate the exploration of the dangers of loving too fiercely or acting without emotional discretion, I often had to put the book down and think, Why? Why does it have to be this way?
But what strikes me the most is that, for all the trust and love flowing between the characters, the lack of communication is astonishing. How many of Clare’s (melodramatic) conflicts could have been solved if people just talked to one another? Basically all of them. This book in particular has a pretty half-assed reason for censoring some pretty important information, especially considering that Julian totally entered the parabatai bond for the wrong reason and now he’s basically screwed. Thanks for ruining his life, Clave.
While I probably will pick up the sequels, I know it will be with some cringing. I know Emma is doing what she thinks will protect the people she loves, but it will be painful to see how the ending of Lady Midnight plays out in Lord of Shadows.
Final Recommendation: Read. All in all, Clare’s skill in character building, interaction, and development outshine her plot line. Fans of the Shadowhunters universe and character driven novels are sure to enjoy Lady Midnight. People looking for an epic adventure may be disappointed with the lacking conflict.