(The Dark Artifices - Book Two)
by Cassandra Clare
'Emma Carstairs has finally avenged her parents. She thought she’d be at peace. But she is anything but calm. Torn between her desire for her parabatai Julian and her desire to protect him from the brutal consequences of parabatai relationships, she has begun dating his brother, Mark. But Mark has spent the past five years trapped in Faerie; can he ever truly be a Shadowhunter again?
And the faerie courts are not silent. The Unseelie King is tired of the Cold Peace, and will no longer concede to the Shadowhunters’ demands. Caught between the demands of faerie and the laws of the Clave, Emma, Julian, and Mark must find a way to come together to defend everything they hold dear—before it’s too late.'
*** MIGHT CONTAIN SPOILERS ***
Okay, well, first of all that description above is from Amazon and is quite misleading. The description from the book jacket is a novel in itself and is your first clue that there is waaaaaaay too much going on in this book. In my review of the first book in this series (which I loved!) one of the first things I mentioned was that author Cassandra Clare seemed to have gotten better about her overly complicated and cluttered storylines. Well she completely fell back into her old ways with this book. And that was a huge letdown.
I admit I don't remember a lot of details from the first book. I recalled the very basics, like Mark was back, Malcom Fade was killed, and Emma broke up with Julian in that annoying writers tactic of 'I'll pretend I don't love you so you'll be safe.' I remembered Cristina was a new character but didn't remember much else about her. Just a lot of smaller things that I didn't retain, and a lot of those things popped up in this book's busy-ness and had me either wracking my brain trying to remember or just skipping over because I couldn't see why it was important.
There is SO much going on in this book! I hated *that* about it but didn't hate the book overall. The main thing in this book is that the most powerful of all dark magic spellbooks, the Black Volume, is missing and being hunted by several parties. I never quite understood why though. Julian wants it because the Seelie Queen says she can break the parabati bond with it, so Julian and Emma can live happily ever after in love. But it won't only break their bond, it will break every parabati bond in the world. Julian and Emma agree they could never do that. So why do they continue to look for the book? The Seelie Queen also wants the book to use against the Unseelie King, so she can gain power and unite the whole fairyland. The Unseelie King wants the book so he can use it against the Shadowhunters, and is already dabbling in ways to kill their magic, causing blight and destruction in some areas. I can't even remember who else wants the book or why.
The Centurians have arrived at the LA Institute to help clean up the mess after the battle in the previous book, and to help locate Malcom Fade's dead body. Why are there lingering traces of dark magic in areas associated with him? Why are the Centurians so snotty and secretive? Oh! There is a secret smaller group within the Centurians that are actually trying to seize power and control the LA Institute! They're taking credit for the accomplishments of others, and they're ready to expose some of those secrets that are being kept within those institute walls. Oh yeah, and Cristina's ex happens to be engaged to the worst one of them all, their arrogant leader. But wait, it's not what it seems. He's not really in love with her. He *had* to do it, if you'd just let him explain . . .
But wait, Cristina has accidentally become bound to Mark after a trip into Faerie to rescue Mark's former lover Kieran. This will be inconvient, huh? What's that? Kieran was tortured and doesn't remember events from the previous book, like Mark breaking up with him? So now Mark has to keep that part secret because Kieran is not only in danger, but is now a key pawn in the Seelie Queen's plans. Well this just got a lot more messy.
Kit is now staying with the Blackthorns at the LA Institute. I'd totally forgotten who the heck he was from the first book, and only vaguely remember that his father was killed by demons. He's become best friends with Livvy and Ty now as he slowly embraces his true Shadowhunter roots. A lot of the book has you wondering if he'll end up as couple with Livvy . . . or Ty. Cassandra Clare is not shy about gay characters in her books. And that leads to one of my biggest complaints of all.
Can we stop with trying to work every current hot topic into the story in an effort to be relevant?!?! Seriously! In this book we have autism, gay couples, gay couples adopting children, race wars, mixed race couples, gay couples adopting children of other races, body image (a chubby Shadowhunter), registration and restriction like the Nazis did to the Jews (certain Nephilim trying to do it to Downworlders), and oh yeah, let's now bring transgender into it all. Some of these things can still be worked into the story in an effective way, like the Downworlder registry, but others have absolutely no point in the overall story. The character who is transgender? WHAT does any of that have to do with anything?! No, it's just a weak way to bring a new current social issue into it.
The story shifts from the LA Institute to the London Institute, where for some reason they all have to wear 100 year old clothing that was left behind there. Why? I thought it would come into play later when a certain important character finally emerged from hiding but nope. Just like the whole story of the binding spell between Mark and Cristina fizzled out with a very underwhelming resolution. Why even waste pages on these things? And if I could count the pages of endless babble about how hot Julian is to Emma, and how hot Emma is to Julian, and how painfully deep their love is for each other, and endless explanations of how their feelings came to be . . . probably at least 100 pages could have been cut from this book, if not more. We got the point a long time ago about how attractive they are and how attracted they are to each other. We don't need yet another description of her hair falling loose in a golden cascade, or his long lashes fluttering against his cheeks as he sleeps. Ugh.
I really do think more than half of the things going on in this 699 page beast of a book could have been eliminated. If there are things coming up later, then streamline those storylines and bring those things in when they are needed, not buried somewhere a thousand pages ago where we'll never remember them. The main plot of *this* book could very easily have been stripped down and still gotten to the same point in the end, with probably a much stronger story in the process because we're not forced to bounce all over the place. And of course new things were added right at the end of this one so I'm pretty sure the next book will probably be about 800 pages of chaos.
Despite all that, I did not hate this book. I still like Mark's part of the story, and wish there had been more of it in here. I am still curious to see how Julian and Emma's forbidden romance will be resolved. I am curious to see how the battle for the Black Volume ends up. I just don't care for all the drivel and attempts at social relevance we're forced to endure along the way. Just give us a good solid (and shorter!) story!
If you're okay with long stories and epic adventures, you'll probably love this book. If you like a faster paced, more on-point story, you might want to skip this one. If you love the Shadowhunter world but don't want to commit to this beast, look for a summary online and hope that the next book is better.
Let me know what you decide!
Are you a Shadowhunters fan?