Friday, April 1, 2016

Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices #1) by Cassandra Clare

Though its buildings have been repaired. the Shadowhunters are still dealing with the results of the war.  At the Los Angeles Institute, Emma, Jules and the entire Blackthorn family are very much on the front lines of the destruction. It's been five years since the war ended and though she has been told by the Clave that Sebastian is responsible for the death of her parents, Emma is convinced that he is not the guilty party and is determined to find out who the murderer really is.   Julian has been taking care of his younger siblings after having to kill his father in the war.  Julian struggles each day to keep his family together and to hide the fact that it is he and not his uncle running the Institute.

It all comes to a head when the fae arrive at the institute wanting to make a trade. Years ago they had stolen Mark Blackthorn and forced him to be a part of the Wild Hunt. When Emma learns that there are bodies being discovered in the city with the same markings as her parents, Emma becomes convinced that this is the long awaited clue she needs to discover who murdered her. With bodies piling up in Los Angeles, the fae are determined to get to the bottom of what is going on and since no one will work with them but the nephilim, they offer to trade Mark for the identity of the killer.  The clock is racing. Somehow they have to find the murderer without letting the Clave know what is going on.

Finding out that Cassandra Clare had written yet another Shadowhunter book didn't please me at all.

 She has after all written the same series twice and simply changed the name of the characters.  To be perfectly honest, I didn't go into Lady Midnight with a lot hope which is a good thing because I avoided any disappointment. It's official, Clare is going to drain this world for every dollar it can produce because she suffers from an extreme lack of imagination. Love triangles and angst abound in this 500+ page tome to which I unfortunately sacrificed hours of my precious life.

Sure, this time Emma isn't a young girl with no idea about what really inhabits the world but Clare once again has teenagers saving the world.  TEENAGERS.  Of course there are no reliable adults and the kids always know better than anyone how to deal with danger.  However, with all the danger, they still have time for relationship angst, love triangles and sex.

Clare is nothing if not repetitive and this holds very much true for Lady Midnight. I am sure she wanted to give us an update from The Mortal Instruments Series and the Infernal Devices Series but to do that she had to forcefully ram in Clary, Jace, Jem and Tessa in such a fashion, it felt like she was trying to push a square peg in a round hold.  If the focus of this story is supposed to be about the Blackthorn family and Emma, why is it that we had to read repeatedly about Emma's former crush Jace and how he is the shadowhunter of his generation? What was the point of squeezing in a Jace/Clary love scene into the book?  Why did Magnus supposedly accidentally run into Emma and Jules to impart some crucial information and then absolutely disappear from the story?  Sure, it was great to learn that Magnus and Alec have adopted a demon child together but it had nothing to do with the plot of Lady Midnight.

Even if were to forgive the awkward cramming in of characters, there's still Clare's appalling writing style to deal with.  I have never read such verbose descriptions of eyelashes, hair and facial expressions in my life -- causing me to wonder if Clare believes that her readers will forget what her characters look like -- if she doesn't describe them in painful detail every few pages.  Emma is a blonde, Jules has blue eyes and Mark has heterochromia. I didn't need to have these simple descriptors repeatedly mentioned in the text to remind me, as though I had the attention span of a toddler.  Her descriptions are at times ridiculous. "It was there in the way his lashes brushed his cheeks when he concentrated," thus causing me to wonder how long are dudes eyelashes really? How can he even see if his lashes are long enough to touch his cheeks when his eyes are closed?   Then there's the purple prose:

The light scars of his old Marks; the heat of his skin, filmed with salty ocean water; the fell of his smooth sea-glass barcelet - he took her breath away with the Julian- ness of him.  There was no one else he could be. (327)

Had enough yet? Nah, since I suffered, I'm going to share some more.

When Julian didn't answer, she glanced up at him.
He was arrested midmotion, looking at her. Each of his lashes was a perfect dark line; he was expressionless, his gaze shuttered, as if caught in a peculiar stillness.
He was beautiful. The most beautiful thing she'd ever seen.  She wanted to crawl inside his skin, live where he breathed.  She wanted.  (pg 239)
wtf what the fuck movies sherlock 

The heroine in this case is Emma, and she is a determined young woman. It makes sense to me that Emma would want the truth about how her parents died, particularly after being denied justice for so many years.  I actually liked her dogged determination. As much as Emma's confidence is refreshing, I find it irritating that she doesn't seem think for a moment that formulating a plan before taking off without telling anyone where she is going is probably not a good idea. Considering the stakes, why is it that Emma then spends so much time tying to figure that she is in love with Jules?  You would think that the hunt for justice while fighting off demons might just be enough to occupy one's mind for a time.  When she is not running off half baked, she is obsessed with  reading Jules expressions or touching him. Perhaps if Emma had spent less time reading into every single impression that crossed Julian's face she might have discovered the murderer earlier.

Emma's best friend is Christina and she is from the Institute in Mexico.  Other than the casual appearances of Jem, Magnus, and Diego, Christina's boyfriend she basically represents the totality of inclusion in terms of people of colour. Though the Shadowhunters are a closed society the ratio of POC to White people in this story is ridiculously low.  That being said, I really like that Christina not only didn't read like a trope, we got a strong sense of her culture.  I loved that she spoke Spanish and complained about what Californians called Mexican food.

In terms of GLBT people Clare offered Mark and Kiernan. What would LGBT characters be without a dark and depressing past? No, seriously I would like to know. Mark and Kiernan fall in love on the Wild Hunt both there against their will.  Kiernan was handed over by his royal father and Mark was stolen from the Shadowhunters.  We know that Mark was tortured for the five years that he rode with the Hunt and it was only the arrival of Kiernan that gave him any kind of succor from the pain.
Instead he tucked his hands into the waistband of Kieran’s breeches and pulled the other boy toward him to take another kiss, and with it memories of the Hunt like sweet wine.
Their kisses were hot, tangled. Two boys under a blanket, trying not to make noise, not to wake the others. Kissing to blot out the memories, kissing away the blood and dirt, kissing away the tears. Mark’s hands made their way under Kieran’s shirt, tracing the lines of scars on his back. There, they were matched in pain, though at least those who had whipped Mark were not his own family. (pg 269)
From the moment Kiernan and Mark were introduced as a couple, I knew damn well that this was not going to end happily.  Kiernan betrays Mark out of jealousy believing that Mark is starting to fall in love with Christina and it results in The Hunt arriving to whip Mark as punishment.  Mark may very much seem as though he is back to his Shadowhunter self but he is very much haunted by the torture and privations he suffered while with the fae.  It's Emma who takes the beating for Mark because she knows that he would break.  Mark sees this betrayal as something unforgivable and this is what causes Mark to decide to stay and fight with and for his family.  Mark does promise in the end to come to Kiernan's aid if he really needs him in thanks for Kiernan's role in uncovering the murderer but it's clear that things between them are done.

Normally, when one breaks up with someone they care about, there is a time of mourning and sadness. To be clear, Kiernan and Mark were together for at least five human years and even longer than that in fae time and yet, when asked to pose as Emma's boyfriend to kill the love that Julian has for her, Mark doesn't miss a beat before asking to be Emma's boyfriend for real. Ummm, who the hell does that?  It heavily implies that what Kiernan and Mark went through was of absolutely little consequence.  This isn't just Mark being mercurial this is someone who easily dismisses the man that he is in love with in favor of a heterosexual relationship. It also sets up the Dark Artifices for yet another of Clare's infamous love triangles.  Thanks for that Cassandra Clare, the world just had to have to brothers fighting over a woman.

I really do wonder how it is that Shadowhunter society has been able to survive for as long as it has. Sure, Clare has drone on about the laws but it seems to me that they are often arbitrary and short sighted.  If that were not enough, characters regularly break the law despite the sever punishment they risk to do what they feel to be morally right.  Any society while have it's outliers who refuse to conform, but this seems to be the norm in the Shadowhunter world. This much lack of social cohesion should be enough for A) the Clave to lose power or B) have the world fall apart.  From a sociological perspective, nothing about Shadowhunter society has convinced me that the obviously apparent anomie wouldn't be enough for it to break apart.

There were times when I was very close to giving this book a DNF and saving my brain cells.  It's over written, the prose is absolutely purple and there are many times when the characters actions make absolutely no sense.  While Lady Midnight didn't quite feel like a money grab what it did reveal is that Cassandra Clare suffers from an extreme lack of imagination.  Usually the more one practices ones craft, the better one gets but in the case of Clare it's clear that she is absolutely stagnant and is prepared to simply recycle the same badly written tricks book after book.