I finished Lady Midnight this morning and I’m not entirely sure how I felt about the experience. There’s this thing that seems to happen to YA authors where, when they get popular, editors just let them do whatever they want, at the expense of the story. I understand that publishing companies aren’t doing so well at the moment and need to keep their star authors so that their respective companies stay afloat. But does that mean that everyone has to become yes men? Stories suffer when people stop being constructively critical. And I have a feeling that this is what has happened here. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty of classic Clare in there, it’s just been peppered with bits and pieces that should have been edited out. Well, if the editor had been doing their job.
Let’s start with my biggest gripe: fan service. I bloody hate fan service. Fans like stories because they’re good. I mean, sure, I get a kick whenever I see the Herondale name in The Mortal Instruments, but that was done sparingly (and even then, it amped up towards the end and I felt a little uncomfortable). Because the Herondales turned out to be pretty crucial to the plot. But in The Dark Artifices, I felt like the mentions of the other Shadowhunter characters were a little gratuitous.
Now, I understand that Emma and Clary have a special bond, after the Dark War. And I even understand that Jem and Emma have a strong bond, due to them being the last of the Carstairs family. But I felt like Clare was trying to validate her new story with characters from established stories, and it just didn’t sit right with me. The Dark Artifices would be amazing without the other guys showing up every few chapters.
I’ve also noticed a bit of a pattern with Clare’s stories. They all seem to follow an almost Romeo and Juliet kind of plot. The main love story is faced with (seemingly) insurmountable odds. Jace and Clary? Brother and sister. Will and Tessa? Will’s curse. Like, the problems are all different and they never feel reused, but the fact that this is a staple of Clare’s stories is becoming very apparent. Same as the fact that parties are always crucial to moving the plot along. Whether it be for developing the main romance or for getting new information, these things always happen in a party scenario.
I also noticed a little too much of the whole “saved-at-the-last-minute” kind of thing. Don’t get me wrong, I love that both Emma and Julian had to save the other at some point, but why was it always at the last minute? And why did it have to be Clary, Jace, and Magnus at one point? Or Jem and Tessa? Both of these instances were explained, but instead of feeling like legitimate reasons, these felt like excuses for Clare to have these characters involved. Again, fan service.
All of this being said, there is one thing that Clare continually does well, and that’s the reason I will continue to read her stories. Her characters. Her characters are always vivid and flawed and intriguing. Clare was dealing with a larger cast of characters straight off the bat this time round, but I feel like she did a decent job at making the Blackthorns feel like more than a mess of faces. She really did differentiate the characters. Even the twins. Actually, especially the twins.
Speaking of characters, I just want to talk about Ty and Arthur Blackthorn for a minute. Both of these characters had issues with their mental health. And I loved the way that Clare presented these issues.
For Ty, Clare showed both how Ty’s family supported him, and how the Shadowhunters would treat Ty if he were too different. If he had to live at another Institute and mingle with other Shadowhunter officials. She did this through Julian’s dogged devotion to his family. It was just…beautiful.
This brings me to Arthur. Arthur is treated differently by the Blackthorns. This is partially because Julian doesn’t let his brothers and sisters realise how bad Arthur’s mental health actually is. Arthur isn’t accepted, he is treated with indifference; left alone in his attic with his books. And that is definitely not the best thing for his mental health. Julian has to do the best he can to keep his family together, which means that Arthur has to appear to be in charge. Meaning that Arthur’s issues aren’t addressed. I thought this was a fantastic parallel between how people can be treated when they have mental health difficulties. I have no doubt that, further into the story, both Ty’s and Arthur’s difficulties will be discovered and we’ll see just how the majority of Shadowhunters will treat them. But, for now, I felt like this was really well done.
Clare is also really good at romantic tension. The scenes with Emma and Julian (this is so not a spoiler. Everyone knew this was a thing) were so steamy that I found myself skim-reading the main plot to get back to whatever Emma and Julian were doing. Character relationships are something that Clare gets spot on, every time.
Now, I could continue on for a while. I could talk about how I didn’t really like the main villain or that I found their last speech unbelievable. About how much I loved the fact that different sexual orientations were explored. I could talk about Clare’s use of Greek mythology throughout and how that was part of forming the Blackthorns’ collective identity; or about Clare’s use of the poem ‘Annabel Lee’ to inform both characters and plot. I could even talk about how Clare dealt with sex, making it seem natural and part of teenage life. But I’m not going to. Because otherwise this post would never end. So I will just say this:
Lady Midnight was a beautiful story, with a gorgeous message, and wonderful characters. It just needed a little more pruning from Clare’s editor to weed out the fan service and to maybe change up Clare’s plot structure.