Book Review: Shadowhunters and Downworlders

13583766Shadowhunters and Downworlders: A Mortal Instruments Reader, edited by Cassandra Clare

I’m a longtime fan of what Smart Pop Books does with their series of accessible but smart essay collections on awesome pop culture franchises. (A Visitor’s Guide to Mystic Falls? Highly recommended for the TVD watchers among you.) And this book does not disappoint.

The book begins with an introduction by Cassandra Clare, recounting the story of how she came to create the world of the Shadowhunters, which is a fascinating read. I’d heard bits and pieces of the story before, but to read it all in one place and in context is great. What follows is a series of essays by various talented writers on topics ranging from art as weapon, law in the Shadowhunter universe, New York as setting, Simon as Jewish vampire hero, Malec, tattoos, villainy, friendship, and — naturally — incest. While the essays are incredibly thought-provoking and smart, they are never academic or a drag. Entirely a pleasure to read (and especially fun to jump between authorial voices in each essay), Shadowhunters and Downworlders makes you think about The Mortal Instruments series in new and interesting ways — even if you don’t always agree with the argument being made. It’s like being in a room with a bunch of super informed, well spoken friends having great conversations about this beloved series.

The book achieves what Jen and I hope Navigating the Shadow World will for TMI & TID enthusiasts: it takes a beloved subject and casts new light on it, sparking consideration, debate, and probably a re-read or two. (Not that we need much encouragement to pick up the books again!)

Highly recommended! You can read excerpts from the book on Smart Pop Books’ great website.

And, after the jump, a selection of quotations that I found particularly evocative!

“Seeing past the glamour — past the superficial — takes effort, but it’s a critical step Clary has to take in order to reconcile what she has been seeing with what’s really there and to walk confidently through the city she thought was home as something more than an interloper. It’s the only way she can learn to navigate the once-familiar streets without getting lost, and without being afraid.”

“In the scenario of the uncanny city, the protagonist isn’t questing for the portal home, she’s questing for a way to be at home.”

From “Unhomely Places” by Kate Milford

“The true measure of a hero is what a person does with what they have, how hard they’re willing to fight, and how far they’re willing to go to set things right.”

“Clary, though … Clary is like you, or me, or that kid in class who’s always drawing instead of taking notes. We know this girl. And that’s part of what makes Clary such an amazing heroine. Because she manages to do extraordinary things using talents she honed during a mostly ordinary life.”

From “The Art of War” by Sarah Cross

“No matter how hard he might be working to exorcise Valentine’s twisted teachings, to Jace, emotions and connection are still a weakness, and humor is the way he tries to keep his distance from the things out there — demon or otherwise — that might hurt him.”

“The most insidious thing about the Sebastian-controlled Jace was how much like Jace he remained. Enough like Jace that he was afraid Alec and Isabelle wouldn’t believe he was cured when they came to visit him in the hospital. Enough like Jack that even Clary had her doubts about what was best for the man she loved.”

From “Sharper Than a Seraph Blade” by Diana Peterfreund

“Over and over again, these supposedly trustworthy adults abuse the faith of their children — and that isn’t to mention all the times that adults in the highest positions of authority in the Clave abuse their power for their own misguided purposes.”

“The problem with Shadowhunter Law is that it’s not a law of physics. It’s a social contract, and as with all social contracts, its only magic is the magic of mutual agreement. Its power derives from belief in the impossibility of defying it — which means there’s nothing more threatening than an outsider who can see the Law for what it is. A choice.”

From “When Laws Are Made to Be Broken” by Robin Wasserman

“Simon’s retention of his Jewish beliefs and identity in the face of circumstances in which it would behoove him, help him, to give them up echoes the Jewish people’s ability not only to endure and to survive but to believe in the face of persecution, even when it would be easier to let go.”

“He demonstrates more than any other character in the Mortal Instruments that it is not our blood but our actions that define who we are.”

From “Simon Lewis: Jewish, Vampire, Hero” by Michelle Hodkin

“Blood, whether the blood of the angel that makes a Shadowhunter a Shadowhunter or the blood that ties you to your family, is important in the Mortal Instruments series. Jace and Clary’s blood has brought them together, united them, and then threatened to separate them forever. It has twisted them, turned them, and defined who they are. But now we know the truth of it, and we know where they stand. Or do we?”

From “Brotherly Love” by Kendare Blake

“On some level, a friendship always requires a choice. And, as the Mortal Instruments clearly demonstrates, that choice can be one of the most important ones we ever make.”

“Relationships are power in the Mortal Instruments, and friendship has a place of pride, treated as carefully and with the same respect as familial bonds and true love. This is a series about a family chosen, not just born.”

From “Asking for a Friend” by Gwenda Bond

“To be human is to wrestle with two related but contrasting ideas: that our nature is inherently compassionate but that we will act without compassion often, and we must accept not only that it has happened before but also that it will happen again. Fundamentally, then, to be human is to know what is good, to be tempted by what is evil, and to choose to strive, over and over again, for the former over the latter.”

From “Villains, Valentine, and Virtue” by Scott Tracey

“the risk of dying young, being a Shadowhunter, being mortal, gets associated with divinity, with the way that things should be. And on the other hand, immortality is linked to the infernal.”

“One of the things that we sometimes forget about immortality is that it’s not invulnerability. Death can come to all the immortals in the world of the Mortal Instruments.”

From “Immortality and Its Discontents” by Kelly Link and Holly Black

“Blood doesn’t matter. Tradition doesn’t matter, and following the accustomed forms and rules of family doesn’t matter. Love is what matters. Love is the song you hear even while you sleep, and you know you are healed, adn safe, and where you belong.”

“We need more scandalous books by deviant wenches.”

From “What Does the Deviant Wench Think She’s Doing? Or, Shadowhunters Gone Wild” by Sarah Rees Brennan


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