Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Review: Lady Midnight ɤ by Cassandra Clare

Title: Lady Midnight
Author: Cassandra Clare
Publication Date: March 8th, 2016
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Series: Book #1 of The Dark Artifices

Rating: ★★★★★ 5 stars (BEST BOOK OF 2016)

Synopsis: It’s been five years since the events of City of Heavenly Fire that brought the Shadowhunters to the brink of oblivion. Emma Carstairs is no longer a child in mourning, but a young woman bent on discovering what killed her parents and avenging her losses. 
Together with her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches across Los Angeles, from the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica. If only her heart didn’t lead her in treacherous directions… 
Making things even more complicated, Julian’s brother Mark—who was captured by the faeries five years ago—has been returned as a bargaining chip. The faeries are desperate to find out who is murdering their kind—and they need the Shadowhunters’ help to do it. But time works differently in faerie, so Mark has barely aged and doesn’t recognize his family. Can he ever truly return to them? Will the faeries really allow it?

After anxiously counting down the days until my most anticipated book of the year is finally in my hands, the wait was over. Hours upon hours spent pouring over these pages and absorbing this story in the ungodly hours of the night until early mornings. This book has been everywhere with me as I frantically read, so content to finally be back in the Shadow World again, and as you can see I fairly enjoyed it.

Which is an understatement. This book, THIS BOOK was everything I wanted and then some. I'm going to split this review into two parts. The first one being a non-spoilery general thoughts of this book. And the second part is where I spoil the life out of it, so I advise you don't read part two unless you have read this book. And I advise you to go read The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices while you're at it. I won't be spoiling any of the events of Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy unless it was directly mentioned in Lady Midnight, which if you have read LM by now, you were spoiled for a majority of TFSA. But if you need further convincing to read these novellas read this.

Part I: Non-Spoiler Review

❝ Once I was the elder, but now you are elder than I. When I was in the faerie country, each night I would think of each of you—of you and Helen, of Livvy and Ty and Dru and Tavvy. I gave the stars your names, so that when I saw them wink to light in the sky I felt as if you were with me. It was all I could do to still the fear that you were hurt or dying and that I would never know. But I have come back to a family not just alive and healthy, but whose bonds have not been severed, and that is because of what you have done. There is love here, among you. Such love as takes my breath out of my body. There has even been enough love left for me. ❞
There is always that dreaded feeling whenever you begin a new series by one of your favorite author. There's always that nagging thought in the back of your mind of: what if this book isn't as good as the other series? Or the dreaded: what if I really hate it? Though I was excited for the release of Lady Midnight, these were the thoughts going through my head as I counted down the weeks in anticipation. This was the first new release of the year I was purchasing, and my most anticipating book of the year; it would kill me if I hated it or thought it was just meh, but rest assured that wasn't the case.

There is something so familiar but different about this newest Cassandra Clare book. It feels more mature in the aspect of writing as opposed to her other books, but that is obviously the case when this is her most recent book and has had time to perfect her craft. But also we are reading a shadowhunter's novel where we are seeing these characters deal firsthand with the effects of the war and how it directly impacted their family, which is another reason for the more solemn tone of this novel. But don't get me wrong there is plenty of humor found throughout this story in increments which is classic to Cassandra Clare.

Honestly with the way this novel is going, this might replace The Mortal Instruments for my second favorite Cassandra Clare series. (The Infernal Devices hold a special place in my heart and will always be #1)

I just can't believe how much I fell in love with these characters. And I fell hard. While reading City of Heavenly Fire we were first introduced to Emma Carstairs and the Blackthorns and to be honest I didn't care much for them at the time because I have this thing where I can't bring myself to like characters who are brought in at the end of the series. I don't even know why I do this, but I do. Anyways, now that they are all five years older, I really grew to love them. Cassandra Clare doesn't just write characters. Each member of the Blackthorn family is their own individual person and they all feel as tangible as one's breath.

Some people complain that this novel is very slow in the beginning, but I have to disagree. Lady Midnight is the first in a new series, and it can be read without reading her previous books, though I wouldn't recommend it because you honestly will not enjoy this book half as much if you did not read any of her previous books and novellas.

Reading this was an emotional roller-coaster for me. There is no greater feeling than to be back into the Shadow World again. And this time it takes place at the Los Angeles Institute. Even though I've never been to the west coast, reading Cassie's descriptions of Los Angeles, and the Sunset Strip, and Santa Monica, were so vividly descriptive it felt as if I was there right along side of these characters.

And this is a big book, but Cassie manages to balance the plot to the point where it doesn't drag. Honestly I was having so much fun reading this that I wouldn't mind if there was a mundane scene of them just in the supermarket. This is essentially a mystery and as the novel progresses we are increasingly advancing on discovering who killed Emma's parents and who is behind all these murders going on and it was just genius how Cassandra Clare manages to weave this core plot, with the other advancements that are going on in this novel.

A favorite part in this book (though there's many tbh) was seeing Emma and Julian's relationship strengthen and development. I highly recommend you just go and read this book because those two are just something you need in your life. This book was everything I was expecting and then some, some things Cassie gives us that we didn't even know we wanted, until you realize that you are fangirling over the most frivolous thing a character is saying.

Lady Midnight is full of action, mystery, suspense, family values, and core love aspects which ranks this book as my favorite of 2016. I know it's a little early in the year to be making #1 spot declarations, but I honestly can't see what can top this read for me.

Part II: Spoiler Review

Spoiler city for all ye who enter. You have been forewarned.

As I write this review hours (it was hours, but I was too lazy to finish it which is why it is actually days later, but then again I digress) after completing Lady Midnight, I am still in awe of the masterpiece that is this book. As aforementioned one of my biggest fears in the back of my mind was not loving it in comparison to her other books, but this book was heaven on earth for me.

We start off with the perspective of Kit Rook, which threw me off guard for a short while. I will admit that I was so anxious to meet my favorite characters that I did sort of read this quickly, but in my mind I was questioning why would Cassie start off a book with a character we never heard about, and who we only see a couple of hundreds of pages later? It was when I was halfway through this prologue I went on twitter and saw that Cassie had tweeted that we would find out what had happened to the lost Herondale in this book. And that was when it clicked for me that Kit was most likely a descendant of the original lost Herondale. If you didn't know who the lost Herondale is about, it's a novella in Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy called The Lost Herondale, which you should definitely check out. I literally screamed and noted "I KNEW IT!! I CALLED IT!!" on my book in the middle of the night because I was so excited to have figured that out in just the prologue. I'm really excited to find out more about Kit in the next book Lord of Shadows, I honestly want to see him have an interaction with Jace and Clary. *please Cassandra Clare make it happen*

Reading this book was just an incredible experience. Lady Midnight is definitely a book of it's own in light of the rest of the shadowhunter books. You really get to see how much Cassie's writing has grown and developed and honestly the way she can construct sentences so beautifully had me highlighting and tabbing things all over.

This book felt so much more mature in certain aspects of it. There was definitely less comic relief in this book, mainly due to the fact of how the Dark War had impacted these children's lives, but when there is humor in here, it's pretty hilarious.

What makes this book so phenomenal is the amount of love in it. I loved formally meeting the Blackthorn family and getting to see their different personalities and weird idiosyncracies that make up who they are. You can see there is a strong bond and connection that they share with each other, because they only have each other.

What's interesting is that we do get to see a new aspect of nephilim society, which is the Scholomance. Which was originally opened to train Shadowhunters to deal with both demons and Downworlders, but it was closed after the signing of the First Accords in 1872. But now after the Dark War, it is reopened to investigate cases involving faeries. I'm intrigued to know more about this place and I wonder if we'll visit it in later books. It's also interesting how Cassie draw this version of the Scholomance from an actual fabled version, because the original version of the Scholomance is a fabled legendary school of black magic run by the Devil located somewhere in the Transylvanian mountains.

We also get to see a new face that we haven't seen previously before in Cassie's other books and that is Cristina Rosales. I really grew to love Cristina in this book. Not only is she a great friend to Emma, but she stands so solidly in her own right. She's very understanding and can really compartmentalize situations and seek out solutions among the craziness that is the Blackthorn family. I just love her sense of sensibility and wisdom, which is unusual for people her age. Like how she made everyone clear the room when Mark was first returned to them and how she could see how much everything was overwhelming him. I also really love the growing bond between her and Mark throughout and I really hope it does pan out into a relationship.

I really want to take this time to mention again how much I love Mark Blackthorn. Originally I believed that we wouldn't be seeing Mark until later in book two, but when I read on twitter that we would see him return home in this book I was beyond excited. I wasn't expecting it to be so early on in the book, which led to a lot of tear shedding. Mark Blackthorn is honestly one of my favorite characters in this novel. When he comes back for the first time it's heartbreaking to see how he struggles to recognize his siblings faces, for they've grown so much without him in the past five years. There's that constant feeling in the back of his mind, once he eases more into his family that he worries he will say something to screw it and up and make them hate him. Honestly I just wanted to hug Mark and take him under my wing. *must protect at all costs*

I love the repetition of the reference of the stars throughout this, which was a nod to the Bitter of Tongue novella where we first see Mark mention naming different stars after his siblings every night so he wouldn't forget them. That was my favorite quote in Bitter of Tongue and probably out of all the Shadowhunter Academy novellas, and it was making me so nostalgic to see it again. And also a little teary eyed.

But can we talk about how much I love his faerie speech. Everything that comes out of his mouth is so lyrical and beautiful that he could probably make an insult sound like a compliment. That scene at the diner with the strawberries honestly killed me.
But you do have strawberries on the menu,” said Mark. “And I have seen plates being carried to and fro. So it stands to reason that the strawberries could be placed upon a plate and brought to me.” 
Jean stared. 
“He has a point,” said Ty. “Strawberries are offered as a topping on several dishes. Surely you could separate them out.” 
“A plate of strawberries,” Jean repeated. 
“I would take them in a bowl,” said Mark with a winning gaze. “It has been many years since I have eaten freely at my choice, fair one, and a plate of strawberries is all that I desire.”
Jean looked dazed. "Right," she said, and disappeared with the menus. 
“Mark,” said Julian. “Was that necessary?” 
“Was what necessary?” 
“You don’t have to sound like a medieval faerie poem,” Julian said.”
Honestly that was just perfection. Can we also talk about Mark and Kieran? I sort of saw this coming having know previously that Mark was bi, but also in Bitter of Tongue, (one of my favorite TFSA novellas) when Mark is talking to Simon and then Kieran tries to lead Mark away there was something strangely intimate the way he would talk to him that lead me to believe that there was something going on between them. Though I'm grateful for Kieran taking care of Mark while in the Hunt I couldn't help but ship Mark and Cristina. Mark and Kieran's relationship felt more of something inevitable because they were all they had in the Hunt and Cristina puts it perfect in saying "That is not love, that is a debt." I feel as if Mark hangs on to Kieran so long because he feels guilty of leaving him alone in the Hunt. I was pretty chill with Kieran in this book, but at the part where he got petty and told Gwyn and Iarlarth about Mark breaking the Hunt's rules I was done with him. I don't even care that he sort of tries to redeem himself by the end of this novel, because if he truly loved Mark he would want him to be happy and not forcibly bring him back into the Hunt as a punishment.

That entire whip scene was a mess. I knew. I KNEW. That once the punishment was twenty lashings that this would turn into the Hunger Games with everyone volunteering as tribute for Mark. Of course Julian had to step up to the plate and volunteer despite me frantically screaming at my book for him to stop. Then Emma has to be martyr too and knock him out so she could take the punishment instead. Can all my faves stop putting themselves in danger, that would be great. *cries*

But now let's talk about the bane of my existence; Blackstairs. I can't even express to you how much I am Blackstairs trash. I have never shipped a couple so much in these shadowhunter books as I have with Blackstairs.

But let's start off with their friendship. Emma and Julian have such a unique and all encompassing parabatai relationship, that it was giving me throwbacks to Will and Jem's relationshp, which led to more crying. The way they look out for each other and how they sleep in each other's beds at night to just to comfort each other. Cassandra Clare loves to do this thing where she likes to drag out romantic tension and slowly kill you with feels, which was evident in this book. Oh my god I can't tell you the amount of times I was squealing whenever they would do something so simple such as placing runes on each other. Then in their minds they would always be scolding themselves of how they shouldn't feel this way about each other and how the other would find them disgusting for feeling this way. Which as a reader you're like "WELL MAYBE IF YOU TWO JUST TALKED TO EACH OTHER THEN YOU WOULD KNOW HOW THE OTHER FEELS." Like c'mon Emma and Jules a little heart to heart wouldn't kill you.

This was dragged out a good 350 pages or so until we get to the dance scene at the midnight theater where Julian and Emma finally dance together while I'm hyperventilating in a corner. I shall enlighten you with an excerpt:
“He had never touched her like this. 
He seemed like someone under a spell. Someone who knew he was under a spell, and was fighting against the pull of it with every nerve and fiber, the percussion of a terrible internal struggle pounding through his veins. She could feel his pulse through his hands, against the bare skin of her back. 
She moved toward him, just a little, barely an inch. He gasped. His chest expanded against hers, brushing the swell of her breasts through the thin material of her dress. The sensation whipped through her like electricity. She couldn’t think. 
“Emma,” he said in a choked voice. His hands contracted, sharply, as if he’d been stabbed. He was pulling her. Toward him. Her body slammed up against his. The crowd was a blur of light and color around them. His head lowered toward hers. They breathed the same breath.”
In my Blackstairs trash mind I was chanting for them to kiss, but of course that didn't happen. Earlier on, about 270 pages in we begin to see the abnormality of Emma and Julian's parabatai relationship. More specifically the scene where they are in the car after Julian has been shot with that arrow. Emma's panicking, I'm panicking, Julian's trying to calm her down and this turns into another mess. In my mind at that moment I'd rather take my chances and call the Silent Brothers, then just sit there hopelessly trying to heal them. And when she puts on the iratze on him and it doesn't work my heart clenches, and when she tries again and it doesn't work I'm then again panicking. And then third time she is able to do it:
“Something in her chest seemed to split and crack; she marveled that it wasn’t audible. Energy raced along her veins and the stele moved in her hand, tracing the graceful outline of a healing rune across Julian’s chest. She heard him gasp, his eyes flying open. His hand slid down her back and he pressed her against him, his teeth gritted."
Honestly when I first read this I didn't know it had anything to do with the bond. I thought maybe that Emma maybe had some sort of power we didn't know about. It's later emphasized when Malcolm tells Julian that that arrow should have killed him, that he shouldn't even be alive right now. We're still pretty unclear so far as to why parabatai can't fall in love. Throughout all the shadowhunter novels we've consumed we never really know the reason why, I'm honestly surprised why I rarely question it. I didn't even think that Cassie would give us an answer in this book, but right around the end of the book we have a scene with Jem and Emma and he finally tells us that if the parabatai fell in love romantically, the parabatai spell would cause them to wield magic similar to warlocks. But he also say that it would drive them mad and they would destroy their family. I'm curious to see how that would work out. This part had me internally screaming because I honestly don't know H O W we are going to get around this. This isn't some minute law where we can talk our way around, it psychically affects and its only a matter of time before they're found out.

But my Emma and Julian NEED to be together, there's no question about it. Cassandra Clare can't do this to me. We need to find someway around this. They can break the bond if they become mundanes, but being stripped of your Marks can lead to death and besides they don't want to not be shadowhunters. I highly doubt the Clave will ever legallize something that can be so potentially dangerous so my guess is that they're going to have to find some way to break the parabatai bond. Maybe sever it with Cortana, because "A blade by Wayland the Smith can cut through anything." Could that be possible foreshadowing? Who knows Cassie never does anything in this book without reason.

I truly believe that their lives are tied together. Like if Emma dies, Julian would too. There's a physical connection through the bond where they can feel each other's pain more strongly than a normal parabatai bond. In the studio, when he throws up seawater. That has never happened in a normal parabatai relationship. Julian even goes on to think:
"He placed his hand over the rune. And he knew. He knew without knowing how he knew, knew it down in his soul where his connection to Emma had been forged in blood and fire. He knew in the way that she was a part of him, the way her breathing was his breathing, and her dreams were his dreams, and her blood was his blood, and when her heart stopped he knew that his would too."
And even afterwards on the beach when he pulls out the water he says to Emma that "I don't live if you die!" After that terrifying scene of possible imminent death Cassie rewards us with an official Blackstairs kiss scene. I squealed, cried, and died at the same time. Oh my god you don't know how hard it was to read this in the middle of English class trying to keep calm. This epic scene which just gave me all the feels and made me emotionally unstable:
“He found her mouth with his again, and as if her lips were connected to every nerve ending in her body, her “whole self seemed to spark and dance. So this was what it was supposed to be like, what kissing was supposed to be like, what all of it was supposed to be like. This. 
He leaned in to outline her mouth, her cheek, the sandy curve of her jaw with kisses. He kissed his way down her throat, his breath warm on her skin. Tangling her hands in his wet curls, she stared up in wonder at the sky above them, wheeling with stars, shimmering and cold, and thought that this couldn’t be happening, people didn’t get things they wanted like this. 
“Jules,” she whispered. “My Julian.” 
“Always,” he whispered.”

I just couldn't anymore. I am so glad that we had a kiss and sex scene this early on in the first book of the series. This is something that so rarely happens, but these characters are so intimately connected in every other way, it was only inevitable. And they can also speak in each other's minds now?? What even.

I am so in love with the way Cassie write's Emma and Julian. They're so different from characters from other books and they feel so tangible. Especially Julian. My heart just goes out to him. This is a kid who had to kill his father when he was twelve years old, see his two older siblings getting taken away from, raise his four younger siblings like they're his children, AND not only RUN the Los Angeles Institute by himself at the age of 12, but hide the fact of his uncle's mental deterioration. If this is not a steadfast example of endurance then I don't know what is. So many decisions, so much adult responsibilities was thrown onto this boy of twelve years old, who is just trying to keep his family together, which is what makes him into the 17 year old he is now. Julian has such a strong sense of protection for his family, even more so that he refers to them as his children. In Lady Midnight it is evident that he will do anything to keep them safe and together. Not caring if he has to get his hands dirty. Which is what makes his character so interesting and as Kieran said it perfectly that Julian has "a ruthless heart". The ease and conviction which he can lie is also frightening, even to Emma. He knows when something needs to be done and he does it, to save his family. Such as convicting Anselm Nightshade at the end of the novel which he with no remorse, but I believe will have repercussions later on.

I also saw in watching emmabooks review that Nightshade is a shadowhunter last name and that it was the last name that Clary's grandmother, Adele Nightshade, so it stands to good reason that Anselm might be/was a shadowhunter.

But I digress. Emma is the first main character we have in the Shadow World who grew up as a shadowhunter, unlike Clary or Tessa. I loved how people compared Emma's combativeness to Jace. OMG can we talk about the fact that Jace and Clary are now the most famous shadowhunters in the world, this makes me so nostalgic and proud, and weirded out at the same time. But anyways back to Emma. I honestly loved Emma as a protagonist more than I did Clary. She has the fierceness about her and the kind of person that gets stuff done. You still see her struggle with coming to terms with her parents death, as the rage and the need for revenge consume her daily thoughts. You see Julian be her balance and the one to rein her in. There's no perfect match than these two, okay. The way she has found her place among this family where she is related to no one. I'm just really in my Emma Carstairs feel right now. *cries*

So we've reached the inevitable betrayal. I. Was. Not. Expecting. This. At. All. Usually I'm good at predicting things, but I did not see Malcolm's betrayal at all. I was reading this in the car and audibly gasped at my book, something that I practically never do. I didn't see it coming right up until a second before Emma did. It then all clicked, and had me thinking back to a quote Malcolm had said in the beginning that "they should not depend on him too much, because he'll let them down, people always do" or something along those lines. When reading it first struck me as such an odd statement, but now I can see the foreshadowing. I can't imagine how this betrayal of Malcolm will affect the Blackthorns in later books. I was so ready to be trusting of him, because of Magnus and Catarina I actually liked warlocks, but then we were so blinded to see this betrayal. A part of me wants to feel bad for him, though I do feel terrible for what Anabel Blackthorn had to endure. Being buried alive, by your own family? Who even does that?? I can't help to wonder if this took place during the time of The Last Hours or Infernal Devices or if it was before.

Anyway it will be interesting to know more about this situation considering the fact that she is now alive. Even though I saw this coming I'm still anxious I know what happens next. I doubt that Annabel is going to come out her grave and be all chill. How is she even alive? I think that one of Blackthorns probably started bleeding during the fight and that must have been the 'Blackthorn blood' that was needed. Can we also talk about the fact that Malcolm is supposedly dead. I do not believe for a second he is dead. I wanted to yell at my book when Emma stabbed him and then pushed him into the water, like whyyyy??? Why couldn't you make sure he was dead. Even though we see a demon grab him in the water I still believe he's alive and the Black book is now in the ocean and probably in his possession.

And JESSA. For some reason I was lead to believe that there was a lot of Jessa in this book, but they were only really seen at the end. *sigh* You can bet I got emotional when I saw my favorite characters again. And I love Jem and Emma's relationship, I really hope to see more of it in the later books. And I couldn't help but think of Will when Tessa was speaking about love.
“Oh, if we could end love just by willing it, life would be very different!” Tessa laughed. “It’s easier to end someone else’s love for you than kill your love for them. Convince them that you don’t love them, or that you are someone they cannot respect—ideally both.” Her eyes were wide and gray and youthful; it was hard to believe she was older than nineteen. “To change your own heart, that’s nearly impossible.”
That part of Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince where he tried to push Tessa away from him because of the curse. *hides and cries again* 

And then, the end of the novel, where Emma basically pulls a Will Herondale and tries to convince Jules that she doesn't love him.
“Emma,” he said, reaching for her hand. “I will never, never give up on you.” 
It was a strange irony, she thought, a terrible irony that because she loved him so much and knew him so well, she knew exactly what she had to do to destroy everything he felt for her, in a single blow. 
She pulled away from him and started back toward the house. “Yes,” she said. “You will.”

At least Julian knew that she was doing this on purpose to protect him. But to make matters worse Emma then goes to Mark, and tells him that they should "fake date" to protect Julian. Honestly I don't know how Mark wasn't able to catch on to why she was asking him this, but then he agrees and the ending line was him closing the door and saying, "Why Lie?" I love you Mark but you need to take 500 steps back.
“The storm calls you as it calls me, does it not?He held out a hand to her, half-beckoning, half-offering.“Why lie?” he said.”
I wanted to scream at my book at this part. Why does Cassandra Clare do this to me? I can already see the mess that is going to be in Lord of Shadows, ughh why would Mark agree to this?? Like you obviously like Cristina, and now she's going to think you're in love with Emma and this going to hurt Jules and ugh this is such a mess. I hate it when characters try to do something that they think will benefit the other person. Why do you think this is a good idea??? It's almost NEVER a good idea. I'm not ready for the next book at all. I'm so unprepared, and I'm anxious and excited all at the same time for Lord of Shadows. So now Jem and Tessa are going to look for the Black book. Like how does that work are they physically going to have to in the ocean or can they track it? But I'm just waiting to see them again.

I'm also very excited to see more of Christopher Herondale and how he is at the Institute. Even though we pretty much see how he isn't too fond of shadowhunters, but hopefully he'll come around. What are your thoughts on Lady Midnight? I don't know how I'll survive a year for the next book Lord of Shadows, but rest assure that they'll be a lot of rereading in the near future. I have various playists plan for these books so keep an eye out on my 8tracks or bookish playlists tab.

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