“Lady Midnight” by Cassandra Clare

I wanted to read Lady Midnight when it first came out. Despite the romance, which isn’t my thing, I’m a big fan of The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices, so I suppose it’s to be expected that I wanted to read the new one. I also knew that it involved more Downworlders, specifically fairies, and that got my attention.

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I borrowed it from the library when one of my students returned a copy (all of ours were on loan at once) and read it straight away, although it’s fairly long so took me until the next day to finish. And I honestly think it’s Cassandra Clare’s best book so far.

Mainly, this is due to the characters. Every single character in this book is engaging, with their own personality, wishes, and interests. Some of them, I just wanted to protect — Julian is my precious child, and I want to look after him. Honestly, my heart physically heart when he reflected on the five years he’s spent bringing up four children (he’s seventeen, guys, this kid was twelve when he had to be a parent to his siblings), and how much he loves them. Julian’s care for his family is overwhelming.

Then there’s Mark, who’s been away with the fairies for a while (literally) and is readjusting to the real world — a process that was entertaining at times because of his cluelessness and odd behaviours, but also emotional as he attempted to deal with the trauma he’s suffered. Emma is hilarious, loving, and courageous in a way that few characters are, because her endless bravery actually feels real rather than too-perfect.

The other siblings are equally wonderful: Ty, who is autistic and really loves puzzles, Livvy, Dru and Tavvy (yes, they all have weird nicknames for weird Roman names). I found it occasionally confusing to figure out who was who because I’m bad at names and the nicknames / real names thing muddled me, but that’s definitely my own fault as they’re very distinct characters. I just find weird names hard.

I could probably go on all day about the characters and relationships in this book. My only dislike in that area of things was that I wasn’t wild about the forbidden love thing with Emma and Julian (they’re parabatai, and it’s not allowed). It wasn’t particularly intrusive and didn’t get in the way of the plot, but it was yet another Straight People Can’t Fall In Love Oh No Whatever Shall We Do plotline, and I find those a little tiresome. Plus I was much more interested in how they behaved around the other characters. But like I said, it didn’t get in the way particularly. I fear it will in later books.

The mood of this book is thoroughly creepy and Otherworldly, using Edgar Allan Poe’s Annabel Lee throughout the narrative. I found that incredibly effective. There’s a recording of Ben Whishaw reading that poem which I kept in mind the entire time, and it’s creepy as anything. I think being away from the busyness of a city like New York also contributed to this Otherworld feel, since the LA Institute is on the edge of a desert and near the sea — it made it more isolated and gave credence to the fairy plotline.

And what a plotline! This book ties itself in knots, but nothing seems overly coincidental or too complicated. It makes sense. It stems from the murder of Emma’s parents five years before, and involves fairies and warlocks and mundanes and generally moves away from the very closed, insular society of Shadowhunters — which I definitely felt was necessary in order to make this feel fresh after all the other books.

A few characters make cameos or are mentioned — Jace and Clary appear briefly, as do Magnus Bane, Tessa Gray, and Jem Carstairs. This helps tie it in, without feeling too contrived, but on the whole it’s a book that stands alone but for the knowledge of the world that’s required.

I would say it’s not one to read if you’re totally unfamiliar with any of the Shadowhunter books — Cassie Clare draws extensively on the world she’s created and the events that happened in it in previous books, so while these characters are relatively new and can be read in their own right, the context needed to fully appreciate what they’re experiencing comes from the other books.

Oh, and I should also mention that despite all the emotions and the deep ache in my heart whenever I think about my precious child Julian, this book is funny. It’s got the classic Clare humour with witty comebacks and sassy remarks (mostly from Emma) as well as characters being unintentionally hilarious with their oddness (Mark).

It also has good representation, including Cristina who is from Brazil, Mark who is a precious bisexual child and Ty who is autistic and possibly gay? (I’m intrigued to see what happens with him and Kit in the next book.)

So yeah, it definitely had the features that made me like Cassie Clare’s writing in the first place (humour, diversity, etc), while moving into more Otherworldly territory that is My Thing, and I actually loved it. It probably could have been shorter — it was super long and the book was huge and it was difficult to hold (publishers, just make the print smaller) — but I wasn’t bored, just aching.

I would love to give you some of my favourite quotes, but I’m typing this at work where I can’t access my Goodreads account because Facebook is blocked (the joys of working in a school). I will tell you that one of them involves llamas, and one of them involves t-shirts, and that there are far too many of them to list because they are so funny.

Plus because I’m feeling well-disposed towards books this morning, I’m going to make it my first five-star rating since October. Thanks, Cassie! That was a loooooong drought of awesomeness.

Rating: *****

Find ‘Lady Midnight’ on Amazon (UK)

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