“There was beauty in the idea of freedom, but it was an illusion. Every human heart was chained by love.”
Disclaimer: This discussion does contain spoilers for Lady Midnight, so I suggest reading the book before reading this post.
Lady Midnight is the first book in Cassandra Clare’s latest Shadowhunter series, The Dark Artifices. Set at the Los Angeles Institute, the novel follows Emma Carstairs and the Blackthorn family, characters introduced during City of Heavenly Fire. Emma has spent most of her life trying to figure out who killed her parents, but when a series of murders around Los Angeles seem to mimic their deaths, she is determined to avenge them. Add in the fact that the Wild Hunt has offered to return the Blackthorns’ brother, Mark, if they can catch the killer, and it becomes crucial that they decipher the meaning behind the murders and find the person responsible.
In my opinion, Lady Midnight is one of Cassandra Clare’s strongest works to date. The premise itself stands out from the other Shadowhunter books, focusing less on an epic, good versus evil storyline and more on one specific mystery. I love the previous stories, but this was a refreshing change of pace. Clare’s writing itself has also improved noticeably, and there’s a certain joy in seeing how far she’s come as a writer.
The story does start off slowly, with a bit too much info-dumping for my liking. I’d normally reason that this is necessary to set up the world for people who have never experienced it before, but as Lady Midnight spoils her other two series, it seems like you’d need to read those and explore the Shadowhunter realm beforehand regardless.
The characters kept me invested despite the initial pacing. Emma is a fabulous protagonist, with a layer of depth I don’t feel is as present in Clary or Tessa. The rest of the cast offered a satisfying sense of diversity that is becoming more common in YA literature, but less so within the fantasy genre. That a fantasy novel included a bi-sexual character, Latino characters, and a character on the autism spectrum was such a pleasant surprise. The relationships between characters also feel so natural, whether they’re friendships, romantic relations, or familial ones.
I had mixed feelings in regards to the relationship between Emma and Julian. I love both of them as individual characters, and I’m a sucker for the “best friends who are actually in love with one another” trope. I’m also excited that Clare is exploring the consequences of the forbidden Parabatai romance. But Julian feels too intense at times, and the painting room scene still makes me cringe. I don’t know how to interpret his obsessive behavior, since I assume we’re supposed to root for Blackstairs. I hope Clare finds a way to address the unhealthiness of this behavior and works to solve that problem in future books. It really doesn’t sit well with me as it is.
The book wraps up nicely, and I thought it was incredibly clever that Malcolm Fade turns out to be the murderer. Reading any book like this, I find myself being suspicious of almost every character. But we’ve witnessed Malcolm come to Clary’s aid during The Moral Instruments, and we’ve seen his friendship with Magnus and Caterina in the Shadowhunter novellas. Because of this, he was the one character I never stopped to wonder about, and it made it that much more shocking when I realized that he was the one killing people to perform a necromantic spell.
My only complaint about the ending is Emma’s characterization. I adored her throughout the whole book, but she feels so out of character during her last few scenes. I could buy that she’d lie to Julian about her feelings in order to protect him. But to go so far as to purposely date Mark? And for Mark to just go along with it? The entire situation felt off to me.
I gave Lady Midnight 4 out of 5 stars, and I can’t wait to jump into Lord of Shadows and see what our newly resurrected Blackthorn gets up to. What did you guys think of Lady Midnight? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!