#3.5 “Saving Raphael Santiago” by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan


I am morally opposed to eBooks. They cheapen what it means to be a quality writer. Anybody can publish an eBook on Amazon or wherever else one goes to publish an eBook. Which means that there is no gatekeeper to keep out all of the shit that gets published. Not to mention these books are very rarely edited, and so they have ridiculous spelling and grammar mistakes and are just plain terrible. At no point is there someone trying to make the work better, like a professional editor does. The work just is, in its rawest form. There is no drive for the writer to improve.

Did you know that the Harry Potter series didn’t go on sale  as eBooks until last year? Well, you probably did know, but I’m making a point here: if the creator of the Harry Potter world refused to have her books available online until so very recently, shouldn’t we all take a step back? I mean, the woman’s a genius. So if she’s not using something, maybe we should reconsider using that something.

Plus, who enjoys looking at a screen for so long? I don’t mind watching TV or movies online. And looking at a screen as you write is kind of exciting. You can see that blank white canvas filling up with tiny, perfectly sculpted letters as you listen to the productive tap-tap-tapping of your keyboard. But staring at a screen to read something bores me. Whenever I have online readings for class, I have to force myself to concentrate. Give me a book and I can read for hours. Give me a document I have to read on my computer and you may’s well assume that I haven’t read it. Or I’ll kill some trees (my deepest apologies, trees) and print the damn thing off.

There has only been, and probably will only be, one exception to this rule. And that is only because of my inner fangirl. And that is The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare and various other fantasy YA authors. The Bane Chronicles centres around a warlock named Magnus Bane who appears in both the Mortal Instruments cycle and the Infernal Devices trilogy. I was browsing through Cassandra Clare’s website one day and discovered that she was releasing short stories focusing on the enigmatic warlock and I had to have them. In whichever form they were in. Which was, unfortunately, eBook. So I got the Kindle app for my phone and I bought all of them. Because they’re only about $2.50 each, and you can pre-order all of them. So once a month, for the past six months, a new Magnus Bane adventure is delivered to my phone, just waiting to be read. Usually, I knock them out on the bus to and from uni because I just can’t wait to find out what trouble Magnus has gotten himself into this time. But this month I was just about to finish Neverwhere and Neil Gaiman demands nothing less than your undivided attention. So I started, and finished, Saving Raphael Santiago today.

For those of you unaware of the Shadowhunter universe, we are introduced to Raphael Santiago in the City of Bones where he fools Jace and Clary for a moment into thinking that he is just an innocent teenage boy, warning them to stay away from the vampires of the infamous Hotel Dumont. But merely a few pages later we discover that [SPOILER!] he is actually second-in-command to the leader of the New York clan (of vampires, obviously). I found Raphael to be an unpleasant character. You are never truly sure whose side he’s on and he’s always picking on geeky, lovable Simon. So whenever he’s in a scene, I always know something rather unpleasant is going to happen.

But this story is about when Raphael is first turned, and it gives you an insight into why Raphael is the way he is. I actually felt sympathy for the poor guy. I think that’s why backstory is so important. Characters are never completely good or evil, there are shades of grey in everybody. Brennan and Clare explored that concept beautifully. We get a glimpse into Raphael’s family life, his struggle with becoming one of the Night Children, and how his belief in God battles constantly with the idea of being an unnatural, undead creature. All of these polar opposites converging onto one individual makes for an incredibly complex and well-rounded character. In other words: the best kind of character there is. Clare never disappoints with her characters. And now the fact that she has fleshed out one of the more minor characters in such a way gives her world more depth. Not that it really needed it, but it’s awesome to see that Clare never stops widening the horizons of her universe.

Brennan and Clare actually accomplished something that I have never encountered before in YA fiction: I felt horrified. And this is a good thing. I don’t know about a lot of you, but when something untoward happens in YA fiction, I’m able to keep reading with very little reaction, except for maybe an sharp intake of breath, or a slight tightening around the jawline. But in this short story, I actually got shivers down my spine.

He saw dust, and he saw bodies; humped-up, tossed aside like rag dolls, sprawled like crushed spiders upon the ground and against the walls. There was no grace in death.
There were the bodies of teenage boys, the ones who had come in an eager fearless bevy to hunt the predator who was stalking their streets, who had innocently thought good would triumph. And there were other bodies, the older bodies of younger children…There was no saving these children, Magnus thought. There was nothing in this room but blood and death, and the echo of fear, the loss of all possibility of redemption.

And that was just setting the scene. It is brutal and absolutely emotive because you can visualise these brave boys trying to save their neighbourhood and getting struck down, slaughtered, and tossed aside for their troubles. But here’s the part that got me. I swear, they could make horror movies based on this tiny piece of dialogue:

The girl’s eyes widened. “You’re Magnus Bane,” she said.
“Yes,” Magnus said. It was sometimes good to be recognised.
“The  bodies are upstairs. In the blue room. He likes to play with them…after.”

He likes to play with them after. 

Just let that sink in for a moment.

Let that image terrify you for a few seconds.

Because it sure as hell scared me. And I don’t scare easily when I read. In a horror movie I am either curled up with my teddy shaking like a leaf or I am in the other room, headphones on, watching something with raucous canned laughter. But in a book, I can read about limbs being cut off and people being tortured, no worries. Brennan and Clare changed all that.

So for all of this, I am awarding “Saving Raphael Santiago”



About Bec Graham

Bec Graham, 24, was born on the wrong continent. Everything from her burns-like-paper skin tone to her inability to cope with the slightest hint of a hot day suggests she should have been born under the gloomy skies and mild sun of the UK. She hopes writing will get her to her rightful home one day. Failing that, she scans the skies for a spinning blue police box, hoping to catch a lift back to the motherland.
This entry was posted in Extorting Bibliophilia, My Fangirl Life and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s