Finally we get some classic Cassandra Clare brilliance. Finally we get a story that’s not just pandering to fans. Finally we get a story in which Clare delights us with nothing but her ability to tell a good story.
In “Pale Kings and Princes”, we join Simon as he comes back to the Shadowhunter Academy for his second year. The opening scene was brilliant. Simon writing a “What I Did During My Summer” essay, as the cliché seems to go. Only, Simon’s writing his essay in a demon tongue. Cthonian, to be exact. And in that opening paragraph, Clare reasserts herself as one of my favourite authors.
I always feel bad about neglecting to mention the co-author in these stories. But I feel like I need to this time. Maybe Wasserman told Cassie to stop sucking up to her fans and just write good stuff. Either way, this story was the best Shadowhunter Tale thus far.
I think the reason that this story was so much better than the others is because Clare is starting to zero-in on her endgame. Tales of the Shadowhunter Academy is essentially the precursor to The Dark Artifices. So Clare has to start giving her readers bits and pieces about what to expect in her upcoming trilogy. In this case, Clare explored the ramifications of The Dark War for the fey.
IF YOU HAVE NOT YET READ THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS, SPECIFICALLY CITY OF HEAVENLY FIRE, DO NOT READ THE NEXT SECTION. I WILL TELL YOU WHEN IT’S SAFE TO COME BACK. JUST KEEP SCROLLING.
We all know that a huge percentage of the fey helped the Seelie Queen to aid Sebastian in his quest to rid the world of Shadowhunters. So many people died in that war. So many good people. And so, as a result, Shadowhunters are looking at the fey as the enemy. The whole thing reminds me of a quote that I, for the life of me, can’t find a source for:
Not all Germans were Nazis, but most Nazis were German.
Yes, a lot of the fey were aligned with Sebastian and did terrible things for the sake of ambition. But not all of the fey did this. Except, the Shadowhunters are lumping the entire race together and treating all of the fey as criminals. And that’s not on. We get up close and personal with this prejudice when Helen Blackthorn, who’ll you remember was exiled after the events of CoHF, was brought before Simon’s class and told to explain to the class the horrific story of her parents and what her fey mother did to her Shadowhunter father. It is later revealed that the Clave had Helen give this “lecture” as part of a deal for both her and her girlfriend, Aline, to come out of exile to get married. This is simply awful.
But this is Clare touching on serious issues, and most likely prominent themes, that will run throughout the course of TDA. I was thoroughly impressed.
OK, THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE SLACK AND HAVEN’T READ THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS YET, IT’S SAFE TO COME BACK.
Maybe my favourite part was Sizzy. Simon and Isabelle. Those two maybe have the most organic relationship out of all of the Shadowhunter couples. These two are madly in love but keep screwing it up. Jace and Clary didn’t really have a choice in their obstacles, Will and Jem and Tessa just were royally fucked, and by the sounds of it Emma and Julian are going to have a rough time. But for Simon and Isabelle, their problems are usually normal. Insecurities, flaws, all the stuff that we mundanes are used to. I mean, they’re currently battling Simon’s demon-induced amnesia, but the way these two characters interact because of this is downright humble. Simon gives into his insecurities, and so does Isabelle. In very different ways, of course, and yet we see them both struggling to get what they want (each other) because they each keep getting in their own way. And who hasn’t done that? After months of Sizzy see-sawing backward and forwards, up and down, and every which way you can think of, these two are finally on some positive footing. And it’s fantastic. They finally find a way back to each other.
The least few pages of “Pale Princes and Kings” made me squeal in a very undignified manner. Despite the horrific feels of the final pages, these were Cassandra Clare all over. The same woman who [SPOILER FOR CLOCKWORK PRINCE] had Will Herondale realise he wasn’t cursed at all just as the woman he loved got engaged to his best friend. She drives her point home on the blade of a knife, plunged into our hearts.
Clare is back, kids, back with a vengeance.