Posted in fantasy, review, young adult

Queen Of Air And Darkness – Cassandra Clare

“We are dust and shadows,” Emma said. “I guess we’re all ashes too.”

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Blurb: “Innocent blood has been spilled on the steps of the Council Hall, the sacred stronghold of the Shadowhunters. In the wake of the tragic death of Livia Blackthorn, the Clave teeters on the brink of civil war. One fragment of the Blackthorn family flees to Los Angeles, seeking to discover the source of the blight that is destroying the race of warlocks. Meanwhile, Julian and Emma take desperate measures to put their forbidden love aside and undertake a perilous mission to Faerie to retrieve the Black Volume of the Dead. What they find in the Courts is a secret that may tear the Shadow World asunder and open a dark path into a future they could never have imagined.”

It’s no secret that Cassandra Clare is one of my favourite authors and, like many, I have been sat impatiently waiting for the final instalment of The Dark Artifices series. This new aspect of the Shadowhunter world has not been plain sailing for me: I didn’t like the previous book and even in my reread in preparation of this release, I still didn’t rate it much. To me, it’s a series that peaked at the first book.

The first thing that really strikes me about this world is just how detailed it is. Cassandra Clare has stated in talks before that she’s a full on planner and it really shows in her writing. The Dark Artifices features her biggest cast of characters to date and she manages to ride that perfect balance of allowing each group the appropriate amount of readership time. It’s so intricate and carefully handled that I can’t help but marvel at it.

The blackthorns are reeling from a family tragedy and the many ways grief is explored throughout the book is painful to read but absolutely necessary. There’s a distinct shift in how Dru and Ty deal with the loss compared to Julian and the older siblings and all of it was so beautifully done. Consistently, Mark Blackthorn has been my favourite character and his overall growth throughout the series has been an absolute treat and, dare I say it, he may be up there with Alec Lightwood as my favourite Shadowhunter character. He’s come such a long way from the sugar incident in Lady Midnight to protecting his siblings with his life and I just adore everything about him. In fact, love triangles are one of my least favourite tropes but my favourite segments to read were any scenes with Kieran, Christina and Mark. The growth and development there was, again, beautiful to read. I also loved seeing a bisexual character exploring relationships with both men and women.

The Clave are a government body that have always absolutely terrified me and this book was no different. If anything, they really ramped up the fear factor. As lot of their decisions feel all too familiar from our world with talks of walls to keep certain species out, creating registries and handing out numbers to identify Downworlders. I love seeing politics in other world and it was fascinating to have the character of Diana through which to see these Clave events play out.

However, at 800 pages, Queen Of Air and Darkness really feels its length. I had periods where it just felt like a slog to get through and I really didn’t enjoy the majority of Part Two and find myself getting distracted by other things. I’m not really a big fan of “alternate reality” stuff within an author’s work and, minus one particular factor, it just didn’t feel like the reader gained much apart from an long drawn out “what could have been” segment. And frankly, if I wanted to see that I would turn to fan fiction. Also I read this via ebook and there were a lot of typo errors.

It’s sad to say goodbye to another area of this world, but with the news of The Last Hours due to be released next year, I won’t have long to wait before I delve back in!

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Posted in Audiobook Of The Month

Audiobook Of The Month – Lord Of Shadows

This month I’m continuing on with my reread of The Dark Artifices series by moving on to Lord Of Shadows. This was a bit of a disaster book for me the last time I read it. I really didn’t like it and, again, didn’t appreciate the endless info-dumping about The Mortal Instruments series. But, as the case has been with a few books I’ve reread in the past, a different format can sometimes make the world of difference.

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Tensions between the shadowhunters and downworlders are continuing to rise following the events of the Great War and plans to create a register listing downworlders and their abilities only adds to it. In the midst of this, Emma and Julian are fighting their feelings for each other as their parabatai bond forbids them from it and the faeries are plotting something very bad.

The narrator James Marsters is a lot better than the narrator for the previous book. He’s adding distinctive voices for the characters which is making the story really immersive.

I found the plot difficult to follow in my last reading of it and the same is happening this time round but new life is being breathed into the characters.

I am sure to be prepared for Queen of Air And Darkness next month!

Have you read Lord of Shadows? What did you think?

 

Posted in Audiobook Of The Month, fantasy, young adult

Audiobook Of The Month | Lady Midnight

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I’m sure every reader on the planet has heard about Cassandra Clare, let alone The Dark Artifices series, but here I am spending the month of October venturing into a reread in preparation for the finale in December.

Lady Midnight is the first installment in The Dark Artifices series and set a few years after the events that took place in the hugely popular The Mortal Instruments which has been made both into a TV show and a movie.

The book focuses on a young shadowhunter Emma Carstairs who is trying to uncover the secrets behind her parents mysterious deaths and seek vengeance upon those responsible, with the help of her Parabatai Julian Blackthorn.

Cassandra Clare made a big point with this new series that it intended to be an entryway to the world for new readers. While that is nice in theory, Clare consistently adds characters of plot elements that tie every one of her books together (for example, if you haven’t read The Mortal Instruments you’re instantly spoiled for the ending in the first twenty pages of Lady Midnight). While I loved this book when I first read it, the constant heads to the other series really took me out of the experience because, to frequent readers, this book is mostly just recap. But, if it was a new reader approaching it, then it’s absolutely necessary.

I’m enjoying seeing the relationship dynamics play out and the story is starting to get going now. I’m 35% through at the time of writing this post.

Have you read Lady Midnight?

What did you think?

Posted in discussion, lgbt

My Sexuality In Fiction

While it may be hard for many to believe, I didn’t hear the term “bisexual” until I was fifteen. Up to that point I was very aware of my attraction to men and women so I didn’t fit into the gay or lesbian categories. It was the introduction of a character in the TV show One Tree Hill who later announced their bisexuality that helped me realise a big part of my identity. That label has stuck with me ever since and after facing several years of feeling like it’s a part of myself that was “not relevant to discuss” I’ve started to become more open about it.

After seeing the film trailer for The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones I decided to buy the book as I always like reading the source material prior to watching an adaptation. This was the first time that I saw a bisexual character in fiction. Of course there are probably hundreds of books featuring bisexual characters that were released prior to City of Bones but this just happened to be the first book I came across. It had a monumental impact on me. In the pages of this vast urban fantasy world, there was a character openly declaring their bisexuality and that was that. It wasn’t made a big deal of and it was through following Magnus Bane in this world Cassandra Clare has created that I started to think that maybe my own sexuality didn’t need to be a big deal either.

I had the opportunity to meet Cassandra Clare on the UK book tour for The Iron Trial in 2014 and thank her but I completely bottled it and got into such a starstruck state that I asked her about something else instead and completely forgot to even say hello to Holly Black. Thankfully, another opportunity came around last year when Cassandra Clare did a UK book tour for Lady Midnight; Another book featuring a bisexual character.

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The picture above shows the exact moment when I started to share part of my story with an author who has made me feel validated. Looking back on this snapshot of time and seeing how happy Cassandra looks just made it matter even more to me. She went on to explain why she felt it was so important to include bisexual characters in her books and listed all of the ones she’s included. While they are all male characters, I was so overwhelmed at what she’d said and just how many are included in the Shadowhunter world that it was only until later that I started to question why most of the bisexual characters I had come across, in other media forms including books, seemed to mainly be men.

While the LGBT genre in Young Adult boasts about the diversity it holds, there isn’t much outside of the discovering-your-identity gay and lesbian stories. (Note: I want to make the point that I am no way discrediting or saying there should be less of one type of representation to make way for another.) Earlier this year I picked up the new release from Becky Albertalli called The Upside of Unrequited and it was brilliant as expected but came with quite a shock.

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The protagonist has two mothers in the book but it is late revealed that one of them is bisexual. I broke down crying. This wasn’t just a character close to my age mentioning her bisexuality. This a grown married woman with children stating the fact. It showed that, despite what people try to tell me, my sexual identity is not a phase and it is possible to be wife and a mother as well as being bisexual. I will champion this book for the rest of my days.

Another book I experienced this year was a debut called Noah Can’t Even by Simon James Green. While a book about a boy discovering he’s gay, it encouraged me to make a video over on my booktube channel talking about coming out and how important the treatment of bisexuality is to me. Simon actually watched this video too.
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Naturally, this response made me cry too but also has been a big motivator for me. I never really thought that what I was starting to do constitutes as “brave.” As I mentioned, I’ve become more vocal about my sexuality and the representation of it on books and not been afraid to call out bad representation when I come across it, regardless of how popular the book and author are. It’s also encouraged me to “write the change I want to see” and I have plans for a bisexuality driven YA book which I hope makes it out into the world one day.

I can only hope that slowly there is more of an inclusion of bisexuality in books.

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Posted in fantasy, review, shadowhunters, young adult

Lady Midnight – Cassandra Clare

“Cristina handed Emma’s stele back to her. ‘I’ve always wanted a parabatai.’ She said a little wistfully. ‘Someone who is sworn to protect you and watch your back. A best friend forever, for your whole life.”

 

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Blurb: “In a secret world where half-angel warriors are sworn to fight demons, parabatai is a sacred word. A parabatai is your partner in battle. A parabatai is your best friend. Parabatai can be everything to each other – but they can never fall in love.
Emma Carstairs is a warrior, a Shadowhunter. She lives for battle. Alongside her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, she patrols Los Angeles. Where vampires party on the sunset strip and faeries – the most powerful of supernatural creatures – teeter on the edge of war with the Shadowhunters. When the bodies of humans and faeries are found murdered in the same way Emma’s parents were when she was a child, an uneasy alliance is formed. This is Emma’s chance for revenge and Julian’s chance to get back his brother Mark, who is being held by the faerie courts. All they have to do is solve the murders within two weeks… and before the murderer targets them.
Their search takes Emma from sea caves full of sorcery to a dark lottery where death is dispensed. And each clue she unravels uncovers more secrets. What has Julian been hiding from her all these years? Why does Shadowhunter Law forbid parabatai to fall in love? Who really killed her parents – and can she bear to know the truth?”

 It has been a long two year wait but Cassandra Clare is finally back in our book-loving hearts with a brand new Shadowhunter series called The Dark Artifices. Following Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn, readers are thrown back into the Shadowhunter world, but this time in a new location. The characters reside in the Los Angeles Institute meaning that those who know Cassandra’s works well are completely out of their comfort zones, minus the snippets of information about runes and parabatai that – if you have read her other series – is all too familiar. If you’re new to Cassandra’s work, or looking to get into it, this is a fantastic place to start because it lives up to the hype that has been mounting up in the final months to release.

The brilliant thing about Cassandra Clare’s writing is that you know it will make sense. Everything is planned to such an extent that there aren’t any plot holes sneaking through. Just when you think you’ve worked out what’s going to happen, she throws another curve ball at you, leaving you stumped. I’ve seen many people trying to guess the ending to Lady Midnight but no one could possibly predict the actual ending. Personally, I never saw it coming.

I will admit that I struggled to get into this book at first. While The Dark Artifices is an entirely new series, there is a massive amount of information dump for the first 100 pages. Details are given about how the Shadowhunter world works and its inhabitants but as Lady Midnight is set five years after the events in City of Heavenly Fire a lot of the information being thrown at me were things I already knew so I had to take into account that someone should be able to pick up this book not having read any of the other Shadowhunter books. I do have to say that if you haven’t read The Mortal Instruments series yet and plan to, read that first and then come back to Lady Midnight.

Emma Carstairs is being crippled by her need for the revenge of her parent’s murders. The Clave tells her the deaths were the work of Sebastian Morgenstern but Emma knows that isn’t true. When she discovers another body drowned and covered in the same unnerving markings that her parents were, her suspicions are confirmed. Julian Blackthorn is her parabatai which carries a lot of weight in the Shadowhunter world and he is one of the only people who believes Emma. Together they start to uncover the true darkness hiding behind these murders while struggling to keep their parabatai bond intact.

The idea of parabatai is something I’ve always found fascinating in this world and it was interesting to see the negative side of that play out in the sense of not being sure if you want a parabatai anymore and feeling any pain they feel, after all it’s a life-long commitment.

I didn’t reckon much to Emma Carstairs in City of Heavenly Fire and when I found out that she was going to lead this new series, I was slightly worried. I have never been so wrong. Emma is a fantastic character. She’s sassy, determined, and her narrative is so strong that she feels like a real person. Emma lives at the Los Angeles Institute with Diana Wrayburn and the blackthorn family which is quite big. As a result, Emma’s storyline is very frequently overshadowed by what is happening with the Blackthorns which really put me off the book at times. While the Blackthorn storyline was important, it just seemed to push Emma out of the picture to the point where she became more of a side character to Julian. This is what led me to giving Lady Midnight a four star rating instead of five stars.

Another character addition I enjoyed was Cristina who is staying at the institute for a year. She fit in so well to the group and provided a good branch of support for Emma whenever it was needed. She was insightful, funny and just the kind of person you’d want to have your back.

Along with the information dumps and blackthorn storyline taking over, there are so many references and even appearances from Jace and Clary that (although they had connections to Emma) it just felt like Cassie was pandering to fans of The Mortal Instruments and although I adore that series with all of my heart, I wanted this to be more about the new.

This may be an unpopular opinion but I adore the faeries and the seelie court. They’re just so difficult to believe because while they can’t lie, they can evade the truth and so you never really know what to expect from them. It keeps you on your toes while reading any chapters with them in.

Overall, Lady Midnight lives up the hype and is a fantastic adventure but isn’t without its flaws.
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