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Saturday, 19 March 2016

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare (Dark Artifices, #1) - Book Review

4.5/5 Stars

Emma Carstairs is a warrior, a Shadowhunter.

She lives for battle...

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Edition: Paperback
Pages: 669
Chapters: 27 (Plus a prologue, an epilogue and a short story surrounding characters from Clare's Mortal Instruments series.)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Book Links: Goodreads
                      Amazon
                      Author's Website

Review

The much-awaited return to the Shadowhunter world is here! With the first entry in a new series Clare incites your imagination with a supernatural story led by a cast with scorching chemistry. 

In fact, in my own humble opinion, Lady Midnight, overall, in terms of plot and characters, blows Clare's previous Shadowhunter works out of the water. And trust me, I adore those Shadowhunter works. The note hit within this novel is just perfect. The story runs on magic and mystery, truth and lies, and it does it with a confident wink to the reader. The cast feels instantly distinctive, full of promise and connection that's apparent from the start rather than something being built to (be that because we've met them briefly during The Mortal Instruments series or not, the point still holds).

The writing is often lyrically beautiful, and while that might not be your cup of tea, Clare imbues her scenes with the required emotion that's conveyed powerfully to the reader. My only real shortcoming is the length. At almost 700 pages it's a big pill to swallow, especially during more contemplative and exposition-focused scenes.

Synopsis (Not a copy from the book, but I always keep my interpretations close.)

Emma Carstairs, a half-human, half-angel warrior, lost her parents when she was young.
The ruling members of the Shadowhunters, angelic beings who fight demons, attributed their murders to a now dead enemy who ravaged many fellow fighters.
But Emma isn't convinced.
Closer than anyone to her parents and the circumstances around the end of their lives, she sees the cracks that could reveal the truth.
And she'll find it.
Whether or not it leads to her end...

Plot - 5/5 Stars

If you're new to Cassandra Clare and her works set in the Shadowhunter world, then I'll try to sum it up: If you love modern fantasies with intricate mythology and large, apocalyptic-like battles with cast members in the kinda cheesy position of forbidden love, then you are going to explode when you get your hands on these books. They are awesome. Personally I recommend starting with The Mortal Instruments series; it is the beginning books that started the world in the mainstream. 

Not to say that Lady Midnight doesn't do a good job of building and explaining the world to newbies, it does (sometimes a little too much), but the journey through this novel with previous knowledge adds a whole new layer of insight.

But let's focus on Lady Midnight. And to start, does anyone else get a distinct Harry Potter feel from the prologue? I like the nod, intentional or otherwise.

The content of this story is fascinating and fantastic. The mystery surrounding Emma's parents' deaths is engaging, and the twists that follow expand it into a huge point of tension. It helps that the characters are wonderful and sell the plot threads. But Emma's search for the truth isn't the only source of contention within the novel. We see the aftermath of the war that happened back in The Mortal Instruments; the way it's affected the supernatural order and relations between supernatural species.

The content cultivates a strong set of emotions that make the experience that more sweeter. Plot threads create contention between cast members and disrupts the goal of good. Even as we journey through blood and battles and betrayal the reader is never sure of anything. It's thrilling.

Clare does great work with the conclusion as well. It would've been easy to leave us hanging, postpone the answers to the big questions for another entry, but this isn't the case. Clare satisfies our curiosity and resolves some important threads, all the while creating and extending more to keep us invested. 

Pace - 4/5 Stars

The pace, overall, is smooth. There's action, adventure and adrenaline, balanced with exposition, world building and character development. The length, however, is just a tad too much. Even with the content being so glorious, there were times I put the novel down to absorb information and prepare myself for more. If 100, or even 200, pages were to be shaved off, I don't think it would've done much damage.

Characters - 5/5 Stars

Lady Midnight contains my favourite cast from the author so far. The connection is instant and the progression/development is on point. The chemistry sizzles from its intensity, and Clare creates some phenomenal dialogue to build the characters' personalities and dynamics. The romantic undertones can sometimes be a little in your face, especially as it seems characters are just appearing to be paired up, but all in all Clare conveys it to the reader naturally, and once you push past the cheese, it's a worthwhile and heartfelt part of the story.

The family dynamics are probably the novel's strongest aspect; the camaraderie and chemistry help sell the story and the cast's predicaments, which smooths over some cracks that would make the length completely unbearable. 

Emma appears, only by an inch, to be our protagonist, with Julian coming a close second. We follow her for the majority of the story and she's a capable lead. She's funny, likable and brash, the half of the whole made by her and Julian that favours chaos. The tragic history that precedes Emma gives the reader an understanding to her motivations and helps us remain invested in her progression even when she makes ridiculous decisions.

Ty, Liv, Dru, Tavvy, Mark, Christina etc. etc. You will not find a member of this cast that isn't engaging and fleshed out. You won't necessarily like everyone, but there's no denying they feel like real people.

My personal favourite is Julian, Emma's other half, the one who is more inclined to order and thoughtful approaches to conflicts. Julian is a complex character that is probably one of Clare's best. His nurturing side is fearsome, but threaten those he considers family and his ruthlessness could destroy anything placed in his path. He's a great character that makes this story exceptional.

Writing - 5/5 Stars

Clare's style strikes me as one you'll either love or hate. It's very poetic, hyperbolic with its metaphors. Sentences flow perfectly however, and the way scenes bleed into one another makes for an intense and smooth experience. The fact that such a world populated with such a cast works so well is testament to extreme talent.

Overall - 4.5/5 Stars

A stellar start to a new story. I cannot wait for the next entry, and I really appreciate the cameos and nods to past characters in the world that we know and love.


For more Cassandra Clare reviews: Index


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