A Kingdom by the Sea: ‘Lady Midnight’ in Review
April 5, 2016
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A book is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get.
Over the past two years, after wildly popular author Cassandra Clare’s last novel in the Mortal Instruments series was released and quickly devoured by readers worldwide, the fanbase that has grown up with Clary, Jace, Simon, and the rest of the gang waited with bated breath for the next adventure.
On March 8, Lady Midnight, the first book in the new Dark Artifices series, was released to the public, and so many readers like myself cherished the opportunity to dive headfirst back into the universe we so dearly love.
I’ll admit that I was skeptical of how good this book would be – after all, Clare’s already written a six-book series and a three-book trilogy (the last of which, Clockwork Princess, is quite possibly my favorite young adult novel of all time) in this same world of magic and mystery, so how could she possibly crank out another novel that both felt necessary to the story and was different enough from the thousands of pages I had already enjoyed?
I’m happy to announce that my uncertainty was entirely unfounded – but let’s sum up what’s going on here before I delve into the reasons why this book left me squealing.
Most of Clare’s books center on a universe of Shadowhunters – people gifted with angelic powers and endowed with the task of preventing demons and other rogue beings from taking over the world. “Mundanes,” or ordinary humans, are completely unaware of the existence of such heavenly soldiers, while Downworlders – vampires, werewolves, faeries, and warlocks – are often oppressed and stigmatized by them.
The Dark Artifices picks up five years after the ending of the Mortal Instruments series and shifts the narrative’s focus from the escapades of the New York Shadowhunter’s Institute to its Los Angeles equivalent, prompting the introduction and development of new characters across every background.
There are several main points that made Lady Midnight an adventure worth embarking on, though it did have its drawbacks – this spoiler-free list will give you an overview of what to expect when you open the cover.
1) It’s not just one kind of story.
Based on these series’ reputations, you might think that Lady Midnight is a love story. Well, you’d be right – but not totally. Sure, there’s your typical tale of forbidden love and secret lust, but this book offers so much more than that. It’s laugh-out-loud funny; it’s terrifyingly gory; it’s so sad you’ll wind up wanting to fling it across the room at certain points. I like to think of this book as a combination of a lot of different genres: a high-fantasy murder mystery family novel with some gushy love bits sprinkled throughout. You don’t have to pick which part you like the most, or try and put this massive novel into one box – it’s in its own category, and however much you might think you won’t like a certain aspect of this book, there’s something in it for everyone.
2) Characters, characters, characters!
Man, are they wonderful. If you’ve read any of the past books in this universe, there’s a 100% chance you’ll see those characters again in this one, and they’re just as witty and fantastic as they are in their original form. It’s incredibly nice to catch up with these old faces while delving into a new story – their reappearance grounds the narrative to what you already know and might make you cry a little…not that I shed a tear at the mention of a certain character’s name or anything.
What’s more is that it’s not just these old faces that’ll make you smile: Lady Midnight dishes up amazing characters that have become some of my favorites in their own right. Representation is fully prevalent; there’s at least one character that anyone can connect with and see themselves in. The last Mortal Instruments book, City of Heavenly Fire, served as a tool for Clare to introduce the Blackthorn family, who become the center of attention in this trilogy. If you didn’t fall in love with the characters back then, you certainly will now – five years after their first appearances, each member of the family only has more to offer the reader in terms of personality and sheer relatability. I do have to say that my favorite Blackthorn still remains Ty – to find out why, I guess you’ll just have to read the book.
3) Plot twists galore – and great ones, too.
One of Cassandra Clare’s most well-wielded gifts is her ability to craft a good plot twist, and this gift does not fall by the wayside in Lady Midnight. There was not a single occasion in which I saw one of these reversals coming – they’re just masterful in nature and almost undetectable. Clare builds up a world that’s so completely interconnected and continuous with her previous writing that it’s truly hard to imagine how she keeps track of it all. Just a word of warning – trust no one in this book. They might betray you in the end.
4) However…there’s some prerequisite reading to do.
One of this book’s only drawbacks was the fact that it’s very difficult to understand or read fully without having read all of the other Shadowhunter novels. The plot points, characters, and relationships of the previous nine books would all be spoiled if you read Lady Midnight before the Mortal Instruments or Infernal Devices, so it’s kind of a requirement to read those first. I know, it’s a bummer – but at least this gives you an excuse to jump right into a universe that will welcome you with open arms.
Though the hype built up for Lady Midnight was monumental, it certainly does not disappoint – head to a bookstore near you, and pick up your copy right away to join the adventure before the second book comes out next year.