It has been a long time since I’ve been here. Last semester completely wiped me out and it was one of the most stressful three month periods that I have endured in a while. When I wasn’t working or studying, I was sleeping. So, unfortunately, my blogging fell by the wayside. Since my last post, I have read all of the P.C. Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch. That series is fantastic and shows a side to police work that we don’t often seen: the banality of it. So much paperwork.
But that’s not why I’m writing today. I have just finished Lord of Shadows and I need to talk about it.
Because I didn’t like it.
I actually found Lord of Shadows a struggle. Why? In two words: fan service.
Fan service is something I usually don’t pick up on. According to my friends, there was a whole lot of fan service going on in the last two seasons of Sherlock, but I couldn’t see it. “Sign of Three” remains one of my favourite episodes to this day. But in Lord of Shadows the fan service was everywhere. You couldn’t turn too many pages without some kind of reference to fan favourites Alec, Magnus, Jace, or Clary. Clare even threw in Tessa and Jem for good measure. Narratively, it always made sense why these characters were in Los Angeles with the Blackthorns, or in London with the Blackthorns, but the reasons were very flimsy.
Most importantly, though, was the fact that Clare seemed to place a lot more importance on the appearance of old characters rather than developing the new ones. Essentially, the two main characters, Emma and Julian, were thinly veiled rehashings of Jace Herondale and Will Herondale respectively. And I am mad about it. One of the reasons I loved Clare was her ability to create vivid characters, but these guys were not those characters. In fact, most characters were placeholders for the plot. And that pissed me off because Clare was always so good at creating unforgettable characters who leapt off the page. But, because Clare was so focused on making sure we knew that the old crew was around, her new characters suffered. And there was so much room for these characters to be just as magnificent as those of the previous series. It just seemed that Clare did not have faith in them.
Lord of Shadows was a story made up of fan service with a bunch of angsty love scenes thrown in, and a very small serving of an actual plot. The plot almost seemed to get in the way of Julian and Emma’s pining for each other, of Mark, Christina, and Kieran’s love triangle thing. Plus, why was it necessary to have the Blackthorn’s tutor Diana go on a date with Gwyn of the Wild Hunt? That did nothing for the story at all. And actually didn’t overly make sense. Not when the Cold Peace expressly forbade contact with fey. Diana just went. There was no debating the decision or even a glimpse into why Diana may have felt so comfortable breaking the law for a first date. It was this weird thing that we were just supposed to accept.
None of the story flowed together. It was a mess. Pacing and structure were all over the place. And dear Lord, the descriptions. When Clare was talking about Emma and Julian’s relationship everything was so unbelievably repetitive. Actually all love scenes (not sex, but when love was the primary focus) seemed to have a similarity to them. Which not only pissed me off because it’s lazy writing, but because all love is different and so should be represented as such.
What this all boils down to is a problem I have with a lot of mainstream authors; once the author gets famous enough and starts earning their publishing house lots of money, the editors seem to cower in fear of these authors. They stop with the constructive criticism and let the authors do as they please. But when this happens, the story suffers. When authors think they can do no wrong, that is when they need their editors the most. In the case of Lord of Shadows, I feel like an editor would have tightened up the story, gotten rid of some of the goddamn angst, and maybe helped the flow of the plot.
I’m going to stop here, because I feel like I could rant for ages and ages about how much this book let me down. And how I am now scared to go back and read The Infernal Devices for fear that there may be a whole lot of fan service that I missed.
I think I judged this book so harshly because Clare was an author I’ve loved for years and now she’s resting on her laurels by banking on our love of her previous books. That’s not how this works, Clare. We don’t have to continually love these books because we loved the old ones. Especially when this is the second book in a trilogy and we still don’t really know your new characters.