Book Review: Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices Book 1)
3 out of 5 stars
Format: Hardback (Library) - YA fantasy - Goodreads summary:
"In a kingdom by the sea…
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, and the best in her generation. She lives for battle. Shoulder to shoulder with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, she patrols the streets of Los Angeles, where vampires party on the Sunset Strip, and faeries—the most powerful of supernatural creatures—teeter on the edge of open war with Shadowhunters. When the bodies of humans and faeries turn up 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 prisoner by the faerie Courts. All Emma, Mark, and Julian 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?"
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: I've seen a lot of reviewers on Goodreads who seem personally offended that Cassandra Clare has written another book. She writes books, y'all. And if I spent that much time and effort building a unique world, you better believe I'd keep writing in that universe because no one else can. Regardless of whether you're in the "she stole the idea" camp or not, an idea is not a book. I repeat: an idea is not a book. Ideas alone don't sell your book. She's a good writer.
THAT SAID, this was not my favorite book of hers. I fell in love with The Mortal Instruments, but The Infernal Devices was what really drew me to historical fantasy. It's now my favorite genre. So obviously, I was pumped about this book. It was decent, but didn't blow me away. The romantic aspects were on FIRE, but everything else felt a little forced. Still a solid book though.
*** SPOILERS AHEAD: PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK ***
SETTING: I really liked seeing another present-day institute. In TID, we see Victorian London which is just amazing. Of course, we're all familiar with the New York institute in TMI, so it was neat to see L.A. I don't know L.A., I've never visited, so I think anyone who's familiar with the city will find the setting even cooler.
The first 50 pages or so were like the first few weeks of 10th grade Biology after coming back from summer break. It's all review. Clare spent a weird amount of time telling us things that anyone reading this book should already know. Like what's a stele, and how shadowhunters came to be, and what runes are. But when we stumbled upon some detail of the Dark War I'd definitely forgotten (because how many years ago was that??) or the intricacies the Unseelie Court, Clare just danced right over it. So get through the weird review-world-building and the jolt and jostle should level out.
CHARACTERIZATION: Most of the characters were pretty darn full. They felt like real people, even in a fantasy world, and that's no easy task as a writer. Emma felt legit, as did Julien, and even though I didn't agree with their choices always, I understood why they were making them. Case in point: Julien's reasons for lying to the Clave and drugging Uncle Arthur weren't (what I would consider) good enough reasons. But I get why they were good enough to him. Here are the characters who were a little paper-doll-esque for me.
Mark was a great, complicated character, but I wish we spent less time in Cristina's head (more below) and more in Mark's. Outside of his relationship with Kieran. I didn't get a chance to see who the real Mark was, only how he acted around other people, usually in the face of an antagonistic environment. I wanted more about his journey with The Wild Hunt, and not just how Kieran saved him. Without a thoroughly fleshed out backstory, Mark seemed at the whim of his environment. And even though he may have been that when he first joined The Hunt, 6 years later, he should have some self-efficacy.
Diana. What is she even doing here? Aside from the battle-ish scene in the cave, she influenced a whole bunch of nothing and kept disappearing. And do we even find out why?? No.
I kinda hated Cristina. I just don't love perfect characters. Cristina's fatal flaw? She eavesdropped on the wrong part of a conversation. That's it. And she runs away to L.A.?? And why does she hate Diego, again? It was his brother who was the A-hole. Meanwhile, Cristina is the ONLY one who understands Mark because she wrote a paper on Faeries once, and she's so calm and caring. I know, I should like a character who's understanding, and super duper kind to others. But she was just SO annoying. She was always the first one to be like "let me bandage your wound" and I'm like back off Cristina.
BELIEVABILITY: It's fantasy, so there has to be some suspension of belief, but there were several things that bothered me the more I thought about them. I don't believe Clary and Jace and family are that involved in this L.A. institute. They're talked about in a believable way in the beginning (Emma is pretty much saying they're famous in shadowhunter world, which I can definitely see), but then they literally show up just to be like, "Hey, you guys okay?" after the big battle royale. How did they even know to come to L.A.? A surge of dark magic and they're just like, "let's go." It had me scratching my head and I felt like Clare wanted an excuse to make us see Clary and Jace again.
Also, why is everyone carrying Tavvy around? Why does he want to sit in a bag of sugar? Why is Julien carrying him off to give him a bath? HE'S SEVEN YEARS OLD! And seven-year-old boys are getting tall and gangly and definitely don't need to be bathed. Maybe my parents made me weirdly independent, but Tavvy acts like he's three or four. Not seven. And as a three or four-year-old, he works as a character. Yes, he's the baby of the family, but if anything, Tavvy would've grown up fast given his parents' deaths and all the crap they went through. Julien was there, but Julien was 12 when he started raising his brothers and sisters. More times than not, that results in everyone acting way older than they are. Because they have to. One might argue that Julien raised them all in a way to make SURE they stayed young, but then Tavvy is left to be seven and he acts half his age. I loved his characterization and his reactions made sense... if he'd been < 5yrs.
STYLE: This is another tale of forbidden love, and Clare does it so well, I'm not even mad about it. TMI, don't love your same-gender parabatai or your sister. TID, don't love a boy addicted to yen fen or a half-warlock girl. TDA, don't love your opposite-gender parabatai or your long-dead lover.
Speaking to some of the repetitiveness, I started gritting my teeth every time Mark was described as having wildness in his eyes or freedom in his hair or whatever it is he might've picked up from the Hunt. We get it. I lost count of how many times The Hunt was mentioned. Enough! If it was so darn pivotal to who Mark is today, then why does he only talk about his love interest while there? Why aren't we given a true look at what it was like for Mark rather than a few lines telling us how wild and crazed it was? On that note, I loved the water imagery and comparison to Julien's eyes, but it was like... all we ever talked about. Everyone's eyes were like the sea.
This book is a little long for what it covers. There were scenes that didn't advance the plot, unnecessary exposition, and repetitive information (how many times can two people almost-kiss??) After the fourth almost they-nearly-caught-us kiss, it was starting to feel cheap. That's not to say my heart wasn't going pitter-pat the whole time, but the element was a bit contrived.
Overall, there was a good bit of info dumping at the end. I did love how it all came together, but I just wish it had been tightened up a bit. The resolutions took WAY too long in my opinion. We saw every single character's fallout and reaction to the revelation of Malcom, but it wasn't necessary. In fact, there only were 2 things I needed to know after the cave fight: what was Malcom saying about parabatai before he died (answered), and what is Diana's secret (not answered and I'm pissed about it).
I tend to be a complainer, so let me emphasize I really enjoyed the concept of this book and how each of the main characters was so motivated by love. It was also cool to see how Clare weaved in a well-known poem into the story. The single-paragraph epilogue was a little on the nose for me, personally, but I still was like "ooohhh" by the end.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I love the world, I love Julien, and I think Emma is one of the best protagonists Clare has written in a long time, but the reason I'm giving it 3 stars is because I'm left with so many frustrating questions after this book.
What does Anselm's addictive pizza have to do with anything?
(not a question) I'm gonna need shadowhunter family trees at the back of every book from now on. Thanks. How many Herondales are there? Sweet lord.
What is Diana's big bad secret? If there's a reason we can't know, fine. But I feel like the author tied up all these loose knots only to leave that one hanging. Why?? I'm not left curious, just mad.
Overall, I love any opportunity to dive back into shadowhunter world, and this book definitely is worth picking up! I just feel Clare could have made this story sharper, especially compared to her other works.
Happy reading! (and don't watch the TV show on Freeform)