Title: Lady Midnight
Author: Cassandra Clare
Review: Emma Carstairs is a Shadowhunter, one in a long line of Shadowhunters tasked with protecting the world from demons. With her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, she patrols the streets of an secret Los Angeles where vampires party on the Sunset Strip, and faeries teeter on the edge of open war with Shadowhunters. When the bodies of humans and faeries start turning up murdered in the same way Emma’s parents were murdered years ago, an uneasy alliance is formed. This is Emma’s chance for revenge — and Julian’s chance to get back his half-faerie brother, Mark, who was kidnapped five years ago. All Emma, Mark and Julian have to do is solve the murders within two weeks . . . before the murderer targets them.
The new release isn’t all bad though. In fact, it’s far from it although I remain rather unimpressed by the opening chapters. Cassandra Clare’s characteristic humour and intellectual intertextuality shines through, complete with snarky comments about the existence of a newly-created birth control rune that are a quiet nod to complaints voiced in the City of Bones.
Lady Midnight features a likeable, dynamic and diverse cast which will appear oddly familiar to readers of The Shadowhunter Chronicles, most notably The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices. Emma Carstairs flouts rules and authority defiantly in Lady Midnight, just as Isabelle Lightwood and Clary Fray do in The Mortal Instruments. Similarly, Emma and Julian’s forbidden love in Lady Midnight echoes that of Jace and Clary in The Mortal Instruments, and Tessa and Will in The Infernal Devices. The odd but friendly neighbourhood warlock, Malcolm, has characteristics vaguely reminiscent of Magnus’s elusive eccentricities, both of whom feature in Lady Midnight.
However, I remain unconvinced that the novel’s cameo appearances of certain beloved characters from previous books are entirely necessary. Magnus Bane’s warlock abilities may be rather central to the plot and Malcolm’s betrayal is a quiet nod to Hodge’s betrayal in The Mortal Instruments. Yet, comparatively, the brief mentions of Jem Carstairs in relation to Church are relatively obsolete. Indeed, Clare does bring Jem in towards the end where he provides vital information regarding the madness that will result if two parabatai fall in love. Nonetheless, the extent to which Clare successfully integrates Jem into the plot is highly questionable. Similarly, while Church, the cat who comes and goes as he pleases, is adorable, he does seem slightly forced into the novel.
More problematically, Kit, a brand new character, is given a full introduction in the prologue that makes the reader fall in love with him, but it’s not until halfway through that he briefly reappears. The fact that Clare features him at the beginning and the end of the novel makes him seem both unnecessary and an inelegant solution for creating loose ends that can be developed in subsequent novels. Lady midnight also deals with several intriguing themes, including the parallel between sexuality and race. As with Clare’s earlier novels, tensions between Nephilim and Downworlders, the Fey in particular, are prominent in Lady Midnight and these are stand-ins for the racial prejudice still present today.
Interestingly, Clare also explores what it’s like to love someone with autism and work around their difficulties without assuming a lack of proficiency or intelligence within the individual. She develops ways in which communication can be affected, and how hypersensitivity, routines and repetitive movements can come into play, especially in stressful situations, through an illustrative portrayal of Ty Blackthorn. Autism is never mentioned by name though instead Clare uses descriptions rather than labels, allowing the reader to grasp the reality of the situation themselves.
Overall, Lady Midnight might not be Cassandra Clare’s best work and it won’t be my favourite but fans of The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices will still likely find it an interesting read. I can wait to see how the rest of The Dark Artifices turns out.