I know, right? Why aren’t I reviewing City of Heavenly Fire? I’ll tell you why:
- I haven’t read a book that wasn’t a textbook since this time last week.
- It HASN’T COME YET!
I ordered my copy from Barnes and Noble months ago because I wanted a signed one, dang it. But what that means is that I have to wait for someone else to deliver it when, for the past five books, I’ve gone out and bought them myself.
I’m really hoping it comes soon. The internet is becoming unbearable. And don’t even get me started on Twitter.
While waiting for CoHF, I reread the series, as you may have gathered from my discussions with C.J., AKA thebookboozer. But one day, I saw The Shadowhunter’s Codex just sitting on a shelf, begging to be bought. What was I going to do, say no?
The Codex may be my favourite book in the series. And why? Because it shows how detailed Cassie’s world actually is. History, wars, rituals, weapons, and stories are all detailed here. And it actually reads like a textbook. Albeit a textbook that’s been graffittied. By Clary, Simon, and Jace. It’s exactly like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in the Harry Potter universe except with Shadowhunters.
I have one qualm with the book. As much as I love seeing bits of Jace, Clary, and Simon on every other page (and Clary’s, AKA Cassandra Jean’s, beautiful character portraits), it felt contrived at points. I couldn’t help but feel that what was written by these guys was there just for the sake of being there. The graffitti I’m used to on textbooks was never conversational. It was always either notes for tests or scribbles from one of my friends being an idiot. And these kinds of doodling do happen. But more often that not, it felt like Clary and Simon were passing notes but for entertainment-of-the-reader’s-sake these notes were emblazoned on a textbook rather than on scrap paper, which is the way any self-respecting teenager passes notes.
That being said, there were some gorgeous
details in Clary’s notes. As we all know from our respective history textbooks, the winners tend to gloss over, tweak, or altogether leave out nasty details of their conduct in official retellings. So there are bits and pieces in the text that are written with all of the propaganda that being a victor entails. So when the Codex goes into details about the horrific treatment of Downworlders throughout Shadowhunter history, we get bits and pieces of the truth. (How strange is the concept of “truth” in a fictitious world?)
For example, the Codex talks about the founding of the Praetor Lupus and the reasons for it. Now, the Codex‘s reasons sound fair enough: rogue werewolves are dangerous, as are werewolves who aren’t in control of their newfound powers, which we already kind of get from Jordan’s story. But what Clary does in her notes is write down what Luke tells her. He kind of gives us the real version of events in his eyes, and by extension the eyes of the Downworlders. For example, when the Codex refers to a Downworlder as a “model Downworlder” that is incredibly offensive. And apparently, the original mission of the Praetor was to save new werewolves from being killed, by Shadowhunters I assume, rather than protecting mundanes from said werewolves.
A few pages later, Clary adds some notes from Jordan about the Praetor. My favourite part was when Jordan explained that the Praetor is only super secretive when it comes to the Nephilim. Which I totally understand. I mean, Shadowhunters are Downworld police. So if someone is doing the wrong thing and the Shadowhunters found out about it, their first response would be to punish, not to rehabilitate.
Similar instances happen for bits and pieces of warlock history and vampire history. It was these bits that made me feel like I was actually reading a textbook. Except for the content and the fact that I was actually interested, that is.
The Codex does this awesome thing where the personal pronoun of choice is “her” or “she”. You know how in really old textbooks they use the masculine? Well, I loved that Cassie chose to use the feminine. Although, because the use of “him” is so ingrained into my academic subconscious it took me a while to get used to it. How’s that for everyday sexism?
Another awesome thing is that the Codex is aimed specifically at mundanes who are Ascending, that is becoming a Shadowhunter. [SPOILER FOR TID] If you’ve read The Infernal Devices then you’ll know the bear essentials of the process from Sophie’s Ascension. So I kind of felt like I was experiencing the same learning curve as Sophie.
Fun fact: the New York Institute is not the largest Institute in the States. It’s the Los Angeles one.
Here and there throughout the Codex you get these delicious tidbits of information that just enrich the story of TMI and TID. For example, the demon city of Pandemonium of the Void is mentioned. Where have we heard Pandemonium before, guys?
What I found most interesting was the creation story of the Shadowhunters. We all know Johnathan Shadowhunter’s story. But there was also Abigail Shadowhunter, Johnathan’s sister who became the first Iron Sister, and David the Silent who became, you guessed it, the first Silent Brother. We actually get a little bit of background on the Silent Brothers, like their humble beginnings of both their order and the Silent City. Now that was cool. But my favourite bit was the fact that Silent Brothers like to freak out new Nephilim, or Nephilim who have never met them before, by messing around with the super sneaky silent powers of the Silent Brothers. This so reminded me of [SPOILER FOR TID] Jem. I mean, Jem was a stolid, dependable soul. But can’t you just imagine him messing with new Shadowhunters? I so could have seen him messing with [ANOTHER TID SPOILER] Will’s kids. Because he couldn’t be their Uncle Jem, so he had to settle for playing pranks on them.
Well, that hurt. Let me just grab a tissue…
My favourite part of the book may have been the introduction. We got a letter from Clary and a letter from Magnus. It was kind of like finding loose leaf paper shoved into the cover of an old textbook. Except, of course, Walker Books couldn’t actually do that, so the “loose” pages had to be bound in, just like the rest of them.
But what this did was give us a bit of a personal touch to the textbook. Yes, the book is covered in scribbled notes, but I already said I didn’t find them believable. These letters, I believed.
Oh! Here is something I found so helpful. Does anyone else get the Clave, the Conclave, and the Enclave mixed up? I do! Well, not Conclave and Enclave because I think Will explained the difference to us in Clockwork Angel – different areas use different terms. But I always thought the Clave was just shorthand for the Con/Enclave. Nope, I was wrong. Turns out:
The Clave is the collective name for the political body made up of all active Nephilim.
So when Alec goes to the Clave in CoG, it is an assembly of Nephilim. It is not, as I originally thought, a congress. But rather, it’s just like the town meeting they have in Stars Hollow (Gilmore Girls). The Clave is like a constituency. These guys vote, can put things on an agenda, and voice concerns. It’s the Council, with the Consul and the Inquisitor, that has the power. I found this bit so über helpful.
Because this is Clary’s Codex there are no mentions of her adventures with the Lightwoods or Simon. However we get mentions of some TID characters, which I found very exciting. Henry Branwell is mentioned a few times. Remember, he invented the Sensor? That gets talked about. But there was this one mention of Henry that so piqued my interest. Because it falls smack dab in the middle of the TLH timeline. Are you ready? Here you go:
This course of Branwell’s experimentation, however, was disrupted when in 1914 he began a long collaboration with the Iron Sisters, the results of which remain secret to this day.
So I’m thinking that something goes down in TLH that requires a specialist weapon. Kind of like with Jace and Sebastian and Michael’s sword. Only the Iron Sisters can actually make this one. I honestly cannot wait until I read this. Tell me again why TLH has to come out after TDA?
What may have been my favourite part was Appendix B: The Ninth Accords. For those of you who know your Shadowhunters, you’ll know that that is when the Uprising took place. The appendix isn’t some factual, emotionless recounting of the attack in Angel Hall back in 1992. It was written by the Head of the Melbourne Institute (Australia, represent!), Christopher Makepeace.
I had to do a double take when I read that. I had someone in a few of my undergrad classes with the last name Makepeace. Um, I think Shadowhunters are actually real, guys.
I think Cassie really just wanted to write the Uprising in some small way because this tiny excerpt actually gave me chills. I got a little uncomfortable as I read the story, during this part in particular:
Good men and women were cut down in front of me, for no better reason than that the blood spattering their Accords robes would highlight the message of the Circle’s attack. Downworlders whose only crime was a demonic parent, or a demonic disease beyond their control, were murdered for having the misfortune of being present. Council members and Downworlder representatives alike shouted themselves hoarse, trying to restore order, unable to be heard over the din of metal smashing against metal and into human bodies.
It’s the screaming to restore order that got me. Amid the slaughter, people were shouting for peace as their brothers and sisters in blood (Raziel, Lilith, Moon, Night, Fey) were being annihilated. I can hear it as I read it. And it’s terrifying.
I feel weird about actually rating this book, though. I can’t review plot, character, metaphor, or any of that. It’s not a story, it’s reference material for a story. It is beautiful, detailed, and has enough tiny crumbs of possible future story lines to entice any lovers of the Shadowhunters. But it’s not really a novel, if you get me.
So I suppose my advice is this: if you want to know more about the Shadowhunters, read this book. If you want to see just how involved Cassie is in her created universe, read this book. If you are happy with the level of detail already in the novels and prefer action to history, I don’t think you would enjoy the Codex. You aren’t missing out on any story lines if you don’t read The Shadowhunter’s Codex.
PS: there are repeated mentions of “unnamed warlocks” haloing the Nephilim through the centuries. My gut feeling is that they’re all Magnus. Because I feel like Magnus is that kind of guy.
“Sure I’ll help you, but I want to keep my Downworlder street cred so don’t mention me in your Boy Scout manual.”