The third visit to Clare’s Shadowhunter world is just as intriguing as the first

*Mild spoilers*

One of Cassandra Clare’s greatest strengths is that she built a fictional world that never gets old. The Dark Artifices is her third series set in the world of Shadowhunters, but it’s every bit as fresh and intriguing as the original Mortal Instruments series.

Set entirely across the country from the New York Institute where we first met Shadowhunters, Lady Midnight takes place in California where the Institute is backed by the desert and fronted by the ocean and that body of water is just about the only thing that scares main character and heroine Emma Carstairs. I liked Emma from the start. She’s a fearsome fighter, a dedicated friend, and hellbent on discovering who murdered her parents. I liked the diversity of the Blackthorn children as well and how they were such a devoted family despite the loss of their parents and the struggles they faced. I must admit, though, that Julian didn’t really do much for me. He was a little too perfect, a little too intense. When he confessed his big secret to Emma and Mark, I didn’t really think it was much of a secret. Wasn’t it rather obvious to anyone reading the book that Arthur wasn’t the Blackthorn who was running the Institute? And I didn’t buy for one minute that Julian actually believed the others would hate him for lying to them. His lies kept the family together. No way anyone could hate him for that. I also thought it was hard to believe that Emma didn’t realize what had been going on for so long. For me, that plotline was a bit weak.

Speaking of Blackthorns, the one I was intrigued by and wanted more of was Mark. Half-fae, half Shadowhunter and forced to ride with The Hunt for incalculable years in Faerie, his reintroduction to his family and life in the mortal world was interesting. I wanted to see more of his thoughts and reactions. I hope there is a lot more of Mark in future Artifice books.

And what Clare fan didn’t love revisiting our favorite characters from The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices? Jem and Tessa, Jace and Clary, and the fabulous Magnus Bane. I hope they reappear in future books. Lady Midnight left a lot of unanswered questions and many, many paths for the characters to follow. I can’t wait to see where those paths lead.

Cruise back in time with Portraits of the Riverboats

William C. Davis has written many books about history, the United States, and the Civil War. His work has earned him two Nobel Prize nominations. His dedication to preserving history is obvious in the pages of Portraits of the Riverboats, a wonderful collection of photographs from the glory days when paddlewheelers plied the muddy waters of the mighty Mississippi River. From the early days of John Fitch’s The Steamboat to modern riverboats built to recall the nostalgia of traveling during the golden days of riverboating, Davis gives a thorough history of the invention, early years, heyday, and sad final days of the many sidewheelers, sternwheelers, and centerwheelers that once moved passengers and cargo along the Big Muddy.

The accompanying photographs are a wonderful visual history of the river, the boats, and the men who worked them. From the roustabouts who loaded the ships with heavy bales of cotton to the captains who steered around all the hazards the waterway could offer to the passengers who traveled aboard these fine ships, the photographs portray a method of transportation and a business lost to time and farther reaching competition.

The photo of the Three Queens was especially personal to me. While taking a dinner cruise on a paddlewheeler out of New Orleans in 2011, I passed the once mighty Mississippi Queen being pushed by a tug on her way to the scrapyard. Even in the waning light of the evening, I could see that she had once been a grand river lady and had the potential to be so again. As the flash of my camera reflected across her empty windows, she faded into the distance, leaving only a few haunting images in her wake. Like so many riverboats before her, the Mississippi Queen met a sad fate in a time period that no longer appreciated her.

William C. Davis captures the images and fates of the Mississippi Queen’s predecessors while preserving their memories and giving readers an engaging history of a lost era.

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The once grand Mississippi Queen is pushed to her indignant end.