The Dark Artifices Two: The Lord of Shadows is not my favorite Shadowhunter tale

Spoilers….

Well, that was a lot to take in, and that ending was certainly a killer. Literally.LoS

Cassandra Clare, you can’t just drop the Clary-is-going-to-die-soon bomb on us, and then not mention it again in the remaining near 700 pages. Because once that exploded in my face, I couldn’t be bothered to care about Emma and Julian and their relationship woes. All I could focus on was that a member of one of my all-time favorite YA couples had portended her death. Clary and Jace, a couple who overcame pure evil multiple times to get their HEA, aren’t going to get it now? And you just drop that little doozy, send them on an impossible and highly dangerous mission into Faerie, and then don’t mention it again? WTF, Cassandra Clare?

Since I have many months to ponder and wonder over that, I guess I might as well get on with this review. I didn’t love Lord of Shadows. In fact, of all the Shadowhunter books I have read (and that would be all of them) this is my least favorite. The day this book was released, I eagerly opened it up and began reading with an intensity that few authors can elicit from me, but Clare did…for about 450 pages, which was about the time that I realized my reading pace had become glacial. I was bored with it. There was simply too much relationship drama and not enough momentum with the overall storyline. There was too much Christina and all her potential suitors. And who can forget the endless, angst-ridden saga of the Emma/Julian forbidden love? Their relationship doesn’t hold my attention. I said this when I read Lady Midnight and the second Dark Artifices book only enforced my opinion: I do not like Julian. I find him completely untrustworthy. There isn’t anything he won’t do for his family. From anyone else, it seems like a cliché, but there really isn’t anything he won’t do to get what he wants, which is one big happy family and his Emma. He doesn’t care who else might get hurt in the process. Kieran says that Julian has a ruthless heart, and he’s right. In his desire to get what he wants, Julian has found a way to break his parabatai bond with Emma even if it means destroying every parabatai bond in the Shadowhunter world. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he goes through with it. Of course, with an ending like that, it might be a moot point.

I also didn’t care for all of the jumping about from one storyline to another. In most of Clare’s books, this method works well to move the story along and provide multiple points of view, but in Lord of Shadows, it happened so frequently that it bogged down the momentum. In some instances, the new viewpoint was so brief that it didn’t serve much of a purpose. I’d rather keep the story going than interrupt it.

And was it just me or was anyone else astounded that The Cohort didn’t elicit a single comparison to Valentine? Here is a hate group that is calling for a registry of Downworlders – think Hitler’s Germany – and thrives on their belief that Shadowhunters are better than faeries, vampires, werewolves, and warlocks, yet not a single character who fought Valentine or survived the Dark War brought on by Valentine’s son compares The Cohort to The Circle. Seriously? How does that not get a mention?

The ending, which was tragic and abrupt, seemed to come out of nowhere and wasted characters who had the potential to be amazing and instead were just fodder for shock value. The conclusion certainly leaves a lot of questions. What’s up with Cortana? Why are the universe’s oldest faeries afraid of it? Why can it destroy the Mortal Sword? Who is Mark eventually going to end up with? What is really wrong with Magnus? Will any of our beloved Shadowhunters and Downworlders ever get a happily ever after? We’re in for a long wait to find out. And despite not loving Lord of Shadows, I still can’t wait for the next Dark Artifices release….which according to Goodreads won’t be published until 2019. WTF, Cassandra Clare?!?!?!?!

 

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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.

A fitting end to the Mortal Instruments series, er, not really

hfYes, it was a fitting end, but it’s not really the end, is it? As we learned with the introduction of Emma and the Los Angeles institute, the series will continue. The amazing world that Cassandra Clare created in the Mortal Instruments will live on in The Dark Artifices series coming next year. But back to City of Heavenly Fire. Yes, I’ve griped a lot about the time gap between City of Lost Souls and the series ender. Yes, I said I was annoyed by Clare taking time to write so many Bane Chronicles when she should be giving us readers the ending we deserve. Yes, I said my interest had waned. And yes, my humble pie tastes delicious.

City of Heavenly Fire was everything a series ender should be. Packed with action and suspense, I wondered throughout if we would get a happy ending or if everything would go to pot and leave us devastated. As usual, I will avoid spoilers, but I will say that I am glad Clare took the time to wrap up the storylines of characters whose lives we have followed for seven years. Our characters grew so much in this book. They aren’t children anymore, no matter their ages. They’ve seen too much death and experienced too much loss to be innocent, and they know it. I loved the insight that Clary and Jace had into themselves and into each other in this book. They have matured so much, and it was obvious in their thoughts and observations, like when Clary reaches this conclusion:

“She had thought once that there were good people and bad people, that there was a side of light and a side of darkness, but she no longer thought that. She had seen evil, in her brother and her father, the evil of good intentions gone wrong and the evil of sheer desire for power. But in goodness there was also no safety. Virtue could cut like a knife, and the fire of Heaven was blinding.”

The book, at a weighty 725 pages, is a lot to absorb. There are many storylines to follow and to remember from previous Mortal Instruments books and Clare’s Infernal Devices series. My advice, if you’d like it, is to reread City of Lost Souls and Clockwork Princess for a refresher before reading City of Heavenly Fire.

So, did anyone else get to the end of Heavenly Fire and immediately want to go back and read the entire series? Had anyone else forgotten just how much they loved Clare’s characters and the dark world of the Shadowhunters and Downworlders? Who’s going to read the new Clare series next year? I know I will. Hopefully, our favorite Shadowhunters, warlocks, and werewolves will make an appearance or two or three.

Weighing Readers Down with a Series-Ending Behemoth

I came home to find something waiting for me. Judging by its heft, I thought someone had sent me a cinder block or a headstone or something used for ballast in the ships of old.

None of the above.

The item, which could double as a piece of gym equipment or a weapon against intruders, was in fact the latest tome from Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series, Book 6: City of Heavenly Fire.

When I realized what it was, my heart sank. I wasn’t ready for this. Oh, I’m ready for the series to be over. I’m ready to end the more than two year wait since book five was published. I’m just not ready for this massive volume of work, this brick of a book, this 725 page monstrosity that is currently threatening to collapse my coffee table. I’m not sure I can make the commitment that 725 pages requires. During the two-year gap in the series, my interest waned. And by waned, I mean it crashed like a motorcycle running on demon energies when the sun rises. As if that hadn’t deflated my eagerness, the abysmal movie version ate my remaining interest like a Ravener demon.

Why such a long book now? This isn’t Harry Potter!

And what happened in book five? Seriously, anyone got the Cliff Notes version? I can only remember about three details, and I don’t want to read City of Lost Souls again because I didn’t care for it that much the first time around, and I’m not invested enough to put that kind of time into this series anymore, which is a shame because I loved the first three books and really thought the series should have ended as a trilogy. Has anyone read City of Heavenly Fire yet? Is it worth it? Should I commit to this gargantuan collection of pages? Should I bite the silver bullet and just get it over with? Or should I use Heavenly Fire as a doorstop and move on?

Please weigh in and stop this book from weighing me down!

So, I’ve had to revise this list as I’ve read new series and new publication dates have been released…

One of the worst aspects of being a book fan is the waiting…especially when you are hooked on a series and have to wait a year or more for the next book to be published. Sometimes the waiting is bearable. Sometimes I completely forget what the previous book was about by the time the next book is published. But then there are those books that make me want to pound my head against a wall because the suspense is killing me and I cannot wait another nanosecond to find out what happens!!! So here are my most highly anticipated books for 2014.

#1 – Secret (The Elementals #4) by Brigid Kemmerer, January 2014

Okay, so technically I have already read this book because I was very, very lucky to receive an advance copy, and let me tell you, this book is absolutely worth the wait. The Elementals series is one of my top five favorites because the writing is so strong. Some series tend to rely on action scenes or paranormal clichés, but Kemmerer takes the unusual and supernatural and mixes it with characters that are fully developed and dealing with normal and not-so-normal anxieties, relationships, and hardships. Her books are so rich with emotion that I usually read them in a hold-my-breath-page-turning whirlwind. Secret is the most emotional Elementals yet, and the issues it deals with are very real and with Kemmerer’s writing style, the reader experiences every up and down that the characters go through.

#2 – Sacrifice (The Elementals #5) by Brigid Kemmerer, October 2014

The final installment of The Elementals series will be Michael’s book. As the oldest Merrick, he has been raising his brothers since the death of their parents five years earlier. Just when Michael thought he might have something special with Hannah, the trouble that has been brewing since book one has turned uglier. War is on the horizon with the Guides, and who knows where Kemmerer will lead us with the last book in her series. I can’t wait to get inside Michael’s head and see how he thinks, what he feels, and what he will do to protect his brothers from their enemies. Judging by that title, we fans best pray that the Merricks and Co. are still standing when Sacrifice ends.

#3 – The Captive Prince Volume 3 by S.U. Pacat, 2014

I love this series! I read the first two back-to-back in a don’t-sleep-don’t-eat-just-keep-reading-because-I-can’t-breath-until-I-know-what-happens storm of heart-pounding, page-turning anxiety. The series is so fresh and vivid. The descriptions put the reader right into each scene without feeling like we are wallowing in detail. The characters are bold and intriguing. Damen is a prince sold into slavery to the enemy of his beloved people and nation, but with a backstabbing brother who now rules his homeland, he has nowhere safe to flee even if he could escape the bonds of his captor. And what a captor he is. Laurent is heir to the Verethian thrown and a spoiled-beyond-belief brat. Or is he? Somewhere beneath all the vanity, is there a man who could lead his nation to glory? And what will Laurent’s reaction be when and if he finds out who the slave known as Damen really is? So far the date for publication is listed as “expected 2014.” Please, S.U. Pacat, don’t keep us waiting much longer. The anticipation is unbearable!

#4 – Untitled (The Raven Cycle 3) by Maggie Stiefvater, 2014

This series is awesome: Welsh history meets fantasy meets hot boys meets a wiccan family meets SUSPENSE! I both love and hate how Stiefvater ends each book by setting up the mystery of the next book. Love it because my reaction is always, “Holy Crap! I didn’t see that coming!” Hate it because now I have to wait and wait and wait to find out what is going to happen next. There were so many reveals in book two that I want to see explored in book three. I so enjoy getting lost in the world of Blue, Aglionby, and the Cabeswater. Where, oh where, will the search for Owain lead us next? We’ll just have to wait and see.

#5 – The King (Black Dagger Brotherhood #12) by J.R. Ward, March 25, 2014

While I have a whole lot of pet peeves about Ward and the BDB books, I am still anticipating this latest in the series because I am hoping that, with the focus on Wrath just as it was in Book 1, maybe we can finally, finally get back to the characters we have known and loved since the beginning. Don’t get me wrong, Qhuinn and Blay are my favorite couple in the series even though I didn’t think their book was as strong as it could have been….and now for the but. But I hate all these new characters Ward is introducing. I do not care about Xcor and his crew or the male and female in the last book (I don’t know their names because I skipped their chapters), and while I like Trey and his brother, I don’t need them taking up pages in a book about my two fave guys, yet, despite all that I am still excited for this next one because I hope our original favorite brothers will have a lot of page time, and I am eager to see the struggle between Wrath and Beth’s decision to have (or not have) young and where Wrath’s role as king of a dying race will take him, the brothers, and us.

#6 – Erased (Altered # 2) by Jennifer Rush, January 7, 2014

Based on hints from her blog and posts on Goodreads.com, I think a lot of this book will focus on Nick, which I am really looking forward to. He was my favorite character in the first book because he was so closed off and angry, but still likeable and intriguing. I am eager to see what new obstacles Anna and the “units” will face in this second installment. I think Anna will be a different character entirely now that she knows her past is a lie. She needs time to figure out who she is, who she can trust, and whether or not she can outrun The Branch and achieve her most basic goal: survival.

#7 – City of Heavenly Fire (Mortal Instruments #6) by Cassandra Clare

My reasons for anticipating this book are probably different from most people’s. I just want to get it over with. Seriously, by the time this book is published, we’ll have been waiting two years – 2 YEARS! – since book five was published. Which earns a big WTH from me. In the time that we have been desperately, eagerly, painfully waiting to find out the fate of Clary and Jace, Clare has published The Infernal Devices series and more Magnor Bane novellas than I can count, and we’ve been subjected to the God-awful casting of the Mortal Instruments movie. Yet, we’ve heard nothing about our starstruck, tragic lovers, and that jerkface Sebastian. So, what has this two years of waiting done to my interest in the series? Made it wane, that’s what! Now I just want to read the book so I know what happens and move on. I’m tired of waiting, Clare. Let’s get this over with!

#8 – The Shadow Throne (The Ascendance Trilogy 3) Jennifer Nielsen, March 1, 2014

Our plucky Sage, better known as King Jaron, is going to war. And that is basically all we know because there’s no synopsis, not even a sentence to give us some sort of clue. All we have to go on is the book cover, which reads, “Fight for the future…Die for the throne.” Oh yeah, that’s reassuring. Who exactly is dying for the throne? Hopefully not the King or Imogen or any of the other cast of characters we’ve come to love. Sage is going to have to pull out all the stops to win this war and win back his true love.

#9 – Pretty much anything by J.H. Trumble or Jennifer Wein

Both these authors have new books coming out in the fall, so we’ll have a long wait until they publish in 2014 (if they publish in 2014), but these are two of my favorite authors. Trumble’s books focus on relationships, usually same-sex relationships, and they are masterpieces of human emotion and reaction, and the struggle for equality and acceptance. Both Don’t Let Me Go and Where You Are were fantastic reads. And Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity was one of the most beautiful, tragic books I’ve ever read. Her characters are so strong and full of surprises and her writing style is breathtaking. Trumble and Wein’s upcoming books are both on my who-can-I-bribe-to-get-an-advance-copy-list, and anything they publish in 2014 will be on the same list.

Have I missed a book that should be listed above? If so, let me know. I am always looking for the next best read. Thanks for stopping by!

Most anticipated books of 2014 (Updated)

When Hollywood ruins a perfectly good book…

You all probably know exactly where you were and what you were doing the moment you heard the news. Maybe you were pouring a cup of coffee and let it overflow and spill all over while the terrible reality set in. Maybe you were driving and the shock made you crash right into a building. Maybe you were secretly looking at your phone in the middle of a test that you failed once you read the awful, devastating news.

You know what news I am talking about…

That moment when you heard who was going to play Jace in the Mortal Instruments movie.

My reaction: Who? You mean the dog-faced boy from Sweeney Todd? Are you effing kidding me?
What the hell happened to Alex “Prettyface” Pettyfer?
No! No! No! Nooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!
Why, God, why????

Then I went through the stages of grief. I denied that this was happening. I prayed that the gods of film would intervene and cast ANYONE ELSE as my beloved Jace. Once I had to accept the truth (which only happened after I accidentally saw 3 seconds of a preview), I cried. Then I boycotted. I refused to watch the previews or read articles about the movie. I un-followed Cassandra Clare on Goodreads and unliked her on Facebook. It was nothing personal, but she kept talking about that abomination of a movie, and I simply couldn’t tolerate it. I cheered when the movie tanked. Frankly, I can’t wrap my head around the fact that it didn’t go straight to DVD.

So, of course, this got me thinking about all the great books that Hollywood has turned into mediocre or downright awful movies, so here goes:

Eragon – The book is a well-crafted world of fantasy, magic, dragons, protagonists, and antagonists. Sort of like Lord of the Rings meets Game of Thrones, if you will. The movie was just bleh. Dull cast, dull characters, and the plot was so hacked to pieces that I found myself wondering if the screenwriters had even read the book. Very disappointing.

Seabiscuit – Laura Hillenbrand crafted one of the greatest horseracing books of all time. She captured the people, the horses, the time period, and America perfectly. Page after page, she made the people and the horses come alive and transported us readers back to the glory days of American horseracing, which used to be one of the most popular sports in this country. Then along comes the movie and one of the worst directing decisions of all time. I can forgive the casting of Bug Eyes Maguire as Red Pollard, but what I can’t forgive is the director’s decision in the middle of the match race (which is the height of tension, the point that the entire movie has built up to) to cut away from the race and show people listening in on radios. Are you kidding me? Get back to the damn race! Cutting away from the horses at that crucial moment killed the momentum and ruined the movie for me.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – Director Alfonso Cuaron was praised for his “amazing vision,” and many critics said it was the best Harry Potter film yet. Uh, what movie were they watching? I could barely follow the film because I was too busy trying to figure out what on earth had happened to Hogwarts. The once beautiful castle now looked dark and foreboding and even the layout of the grounds had been changed to suit the director’s “vision.” The pacing was off and so much of the story had been cut that my friends who hadn’t read the books (yeah, I actually hang out with people like that – hard to believe, isn’t it?) had trouble understanding what was going on. The movie has grown on me somewhat over the years, but it is still far from my favorite.

Confessions of a Shopaholic – While I think this books series has gone from fun and entertaining to utterly ridiculous, the movie went straight to unbearable. How do you take a British book by a British author about a British girl living – you guessed it – in Britain, and then have the movie take place in NYC? As the salsa commercials used to say, “New York City? Get a rope.” Better yet, get a ticket to any other movie playing. I refused to watch this movie based on that fact alone. And judging by the money the movie didn’t make, other fans of the books apparently felt the same way.

I am not saying Hollywood always gets it wrong when converting a book to a movie, but if given the choice, I’ll take a book in my hands over a movie on a screen any day. Did I miss a terrible movie? Toss in your two cents, and thanks for visiting.