Raybearer is a West-African inspired fantasy novel, and I cannot believe it’s a debut. I’m so impressed by the writing, world-building, mythology, and magic system. If I read this a few months earlier I would have loved it even more, but in the last month I’ve started transitioning to the adult genre and YA hasn’t really grabbed me. However, I did enjoy this. I look forward to reading the next book(s), and I highly recommend this!
Things I like
the writing is phenomenal
world-building, mythology, magic
asexual and bisexual rep
dynamic in the counsel is fascinating
the cover is gorgeous, and I saw somewhere that it features fabrics/patterns from the different nations in the book, which is so cool!
didn’t feel very connected to the characters- the internal narration was mostly dedicated to the plot, and I would have liked to hear more about the characters’ feelings
I got major polyamorous vibes from the council, and I wanted to see more of it, but hopefully in the next book it will be explored more when the characters are older
Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer
DNFed at 21%
I wasn’t going to read Midnight Sun, but the hype totally drew me in. I mostly blame it on Twilight Tik Tok. So I tried, and it was just so bad. If it was a shorter book I might have been able to soldier through, but it’s over 650 pages and I just couldn’t do it. We’ve just moved beyond the need for the ‘girl is so beautiful but doesn’t know it’ and ‘she’s not like other girls’ tropes. It would be interesting if this was modernized a little bit, with some old tropes thrown out, but I get that’s not really possible when you’re just telling the same story from years ago from a different POV.
The 13 by M.M. Perry
DNFed at 11%
I was drawn to this because it reminded me of Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner, which I loved. Unfortunately, the beginning didn’t grab my attention. I read some reviews that said it got better, but I just didn’t want to put in the time to see if that was true. The main reason why I DNFed this is because of the dialogue. There are sentences like, “we’re max compat, yeah” and it just pulled me straight out of the story. There was so much lingo thrown around that wasn’t explained, so I had no idea what was going on.
It’s no secret Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter Chronicles are some of my favorite books of all time. I love the characters and their journeys, and with each new series I’m even more impressed with the world and the way Clare has managed to weave all these characters together over the course of five series. I can reread these books for all of eternity. Which is why it is my shame that I hadn’t read Queen of Air and Darkness two years after its release. I am also yet to read Chain of Gold, but it’s only been a couple of months so I’m letting myself off the hook.
At the beginning of 2020 I was prepared for another abysmal reading year. In 2019 I read less than 20 books, which compared to previous years when I was reading upwards of 50, is pretty bad. I attribute this to school, working full time, mental health, and just not being in the right headspace. But then a global pandemic hit and suddenly I wasn’t working. All of a sudden my ability to read came flying back, and I decided to reread, or read for the first time, every single book in the Shadowhunter Chronicles. I also decided to chronicle my reading journey here. So after rereading The Mortal instruments, The Bane Chronicles, Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, and the first two books in The Dark Artifices, it was finally time to read Queen of Air and Darkness for the first time.
QoAaD is a monster of a book at over 900 pages, and I admit I was worried that I would feel like it dragged on. Looking back, I should have known better because I’ve never had this issue with a Cassandra Clare book (excluding her anthologies). The plot moved along nicely, and I never felt like things were unnecessarily slow. Seriously, I was able to read QoAaD in three days, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I wasn’t intrigued and invested.
As always I loved Emma’s and Julian’s tortured romance. It’s Cassandra Clare’s specialty and she just does it so well. Even though I love Emma and Julian, I actually found myself loving the supporting characters even more. Diana, Christina, Mark, Kieran, Ty, Kit, and even Dru just grew on me so much. I enjoyed every single point-of-view, and usually I have a hard time reading books with multiple POVs. I also really love the diversity in this book. This is the first book I think I’ve ever read with polyamory rep. That being said, I can’t compare QoAaD to anything else, but I really enjoyed the way it was written and I’d love to see more of it in books. QoAaD also features Diana, a trans woman, and she’s one of my all time favorite characters, and I hope we get to see more of her in future books. Diana and Gwyn are perfection and one of my favorite couples in the Shadowhunter World. Kit’s and Ty’s relationship was also one of my favorite parts. I was so torn up at them being separated at the end, I hope they find their way back to each other.
While I’m admitting my deepest darkest secrets and telling you all what books I haven’t read, I must also admit that I am terrible at staying away from spoilers. I I read basically every Shadowhunter-wiki page there was on Thule before I read the book, and I was super worried about how this concept would play out. Obviously the wiki articles aren’t the greatest source of information. If you’ve already read a book, they’re a good refresher but if you haven’t they definitely don’t give you the full picture. I didn’t see how this storyline could play out authentically and make sense, but I’m glad I was wrong. It’s worked in seamlessly to the plot, and I didn’t get pulled out of the story while the characters were in Thule. It was so fun to see some of my old favorite characters in an alternate universe. I wonder if Thule and alternate timelines are a one-off in the Shadowhunter world, or if we will get to revisit Thule, or a different dimension with alternate characters, in the future.
The final battle wasn’t my favorite battle in the Shadowhunter Chronicles. While the concept of Thule worked for me, I wasn’t as huge a fan of the way the True Nephilim were written. It makes sense that that is the parabatai curse, but I felt like Emma and Julian as True Nephilim were just standing there for too long not doing anything. They should have been destroying more or they should have started dying quicker, in my opinion. It just felt like it took too long for Dru and everyone to get down to them, and while they were all rallying things should have gone way worse. But for the sake of the story everything had to work out, so Emma and Julian just waited around as True Nephilim for the rest of the Blackthorns to get it together to save them.
Random thought: it’s really weird to me when friends call each other sweetheart, and I noticed it in Lord of Shadows and QoAaD. Emma and Christina call each other sweetheart, and it just about the only thing that pulls me from the story.
I’m unsure how I feel about the ending. I’m excited for the next series to come out, but I don’t know how I feel about the villains. If you’ve read QoAaD you know that at the end, the Thule version of Jace shows up with Ash and says he wants Clary. It’s just… we’ve already had this villain and motivation. In The Mortal Instruments Jace was controlled by Sebastian, so we’ve already had an evil Jace as a semi-villain. A huge motivator for Sebastian doing what he was doing was to get to Clary and have Clary. I’m just worried that this plot will seem redundant, but I’m do have a tremendous amount of faith in Cassandra Clare because she hasn’t let me down yet, and I always end up loving whatever she writes into the Shadowhunter world.
After finally finishing The Dark Artifices, I’m so happy with how this series wrapped up. I’m both content and excited to see what happens next.
In early June of 2020, JK Rowling published her now infamous tweets on transgender individuals, which are riddled with inaccurate information that gender and sexuality scholars could easily disprove and are incredibly harmful to the transgender population. I’m not here to disprove everything harmful JKR said- that’s already been done. I recommend you check out Violence Against Queer People and Normal Life in order to hear from scholars and academics who have researched violence against transgender people and can disprove JKR’s statements about bathrooms and transitioning. For the sake of this article, my big question is: can you separate the author from the work?
When JKR came out as transphobic, I was primed and ready to distance myself from her and her work. At the beginning of 2020 I decided to reread the Harry Potter series for the first time in years. I had just finished Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and I was feeling underwhelmed, to say the least. For context, I was the biggest Harry Potter fan as a child. I reread the books so much and so often that my hardback editions were falling apart- literally, pages fell out and binding just fell apart. I loved the movies, all I wanted was Harry Potter march, and I read HP fan fiction on Quibblo. I loved the books and I couldn’t find one thing wrong with them.
But as a 23 year old woman, I found the books had lost their luster. The writing was not the incredible writing I remember it to be, and at times it was so distracting I wanted to stop entirely. The story wasn’t as fast-paced and exciting as I remembered, and I couldn’t really find myself relating to the characters. The excessive use of “er” in the fourth book made me almost quit altogether. I didn’t like Harry, which surprised me. The house elf plot, and Ron’s and Harry’s feelings towards them, was off putting. So when I read everything JKR had to say, I was ready to be done.
I stopped my reread and decided to not support JKR anymore. Something I’ve noticed that she feels very proud of is that she already has everyone’s money- and yes, she does. I’ve already purchased books, movies, merchandise, and more. If you are looking to not support JKR anymore, don’t let this discourage you. What matters is what you do going forward. Donate to support charities and organizations that provide resources and support for transgender peoples.
So, can you separate author from work? In my opinion, no. But because of the massive cultural impact the Harry Potter series had, I think people are reluctant to fully distance themselves from Harry Potter, even if they know they should. Harry Potter is nostalgic and influenced people during their formative years. Harry Potter is an identity now, and influencers can make livings off of being a fan and collector of Harry Potter items. Take The Bakeey, a YouTube channel with over 200K subscribers, whose most popular videos are all Harry Potter themed and vary from taste tests to challenges/games. Sophie, the creator behind The Bakeey, has a bedroom that is entirely Harry Potter themed, and many videos on her channel are dedicated to redecorating her room and acquiring new Harry Potter merchandise. The Potter Collector, run by Peter Kenneth, has over 300K subscribers, and posts videos showing off a massive Harry Potter book collection and unboxing Harry Potter merchandise. While these are extreme examples of Harry Potter fans who have used their love of a series to gather their own fans, it is clear that Harry Potter has become an identity. For people like Sophie and Peter, and so many others, I’m sure it would feel impossible and painful to have to distance yourself from something that has become a part of your personality.
That’s why some people make the argument that yes, you can separate author from work. Despite being owned and created by JKR, Harry Potter has morphed into something that is completely out of JKR’s control. Characters are claimed and reimagined by fans. Hermione is frequently drawn as a Black woman, and fan fiction is written that reimagines characters as LGBT+. There are LGBT+ fans of the work who say Harry Potter helped them through hard times and is incredibly meaningful to them. On the other end of the spectrum, there are LGBT+ people who say seeing Harry Potter related things is triggering- like seeing a Harry Potter house listed in someone’s Instagram bio.
Some people say no, you absolutely cannot separate the work from the author. Books are incredibly powerful. We carry stories, characters, and lessons with us long after we finish reading. We derive new messages and create our own meaning from books, even if it’s not what the author wanted or intended. Books are a part of us, and because of this I think the no separation argument scares people. For people that feel like they absolutely want nothing to do with Harry Potter or JKR ever again, I applaud you. If you feel like you can appreciate one and not the other, or support one and not the other, then okay. There’s no right answer, and the situation isn’t black and white. This is a time for reflection, and figuring out what feels right and how our actions reflect our beliefs.
Here’s where I stand. I know I’ll never buy another book from JKR. I know I don’t want to buy any more official merchandise or see any movies that she’s involved in. I know I’ll probably never read Harry Potter again, but I’ll still watch the movies because I already own them. I probably won’t post anything related to Harry Potter on my Instagram page anymore. I also know that it’s always been my dream to visit Harry Potter world, and despite everything I have a hard time letting go of that dream, but I’m okay if I never go now. One way I’ve thought about justifying going is making a donation to an organization like The Trevor Project of equal or greater value to the amount of money I would spend at HP World. I know some people are only purchasing Harry Potter merchandise that is unlicensed and unofficial from places like Etsy, and therefore no profit is given to JKR. Personally, I can no longer read Harry Potter without also thinking of the incredibly harmful statements made by the series’ author.
It’s yet to be seen if JKR will suffer any real consequences. Bloomsbury is still pushing her new picture book, and the third film in the Fantastic Beasts film franchise is still set to premier. JK Rowling wrote the screenplay, and following the pattern of the first two films, will likely also be a producer. No matter what happens to JKR, and based on her immense wealth it will probably be nothing, we have to continue to educate ourselves and to support transgender individuals in their quest to live their lives the way they are meant to. Read books from transgender authors. Read scholarly work from academics who spent years studying gender and sexuality and have peer-reviewed research. If you have the resources, donate to organizations that support transgender individuals. Regardless, we must hold JKR accountable for her incredibly harmful statements. Plus, there are so many other incredible, amazing works that are far better than Harry Potter, and are written by incredible people, out there.
I always enjoy The Bane Chronicles much more than I think I will- I managed to finish this in one day. I really enjoy Magnus, Ragnor, and Catarina as characters, and I love their dynamic as friends.
My favorite stories are “The Course of True Love (And First Dates)”, “What to Buy the Shadowhunter Who Has Everything”, “The Last Stand of the New York Institute”, and “Saving Raphael Santiago.” I love the stories with Alec. I can’t wait to finally read The Red Scrolls of Magic so I can see more of their relationship. Raphael’s sacrifice in City of Heavenly Fire is so much more meaningful after reading about the beginning of his and Magnus’ relationship. “The Last Stand of the New York Institute” is so good because I hate it so much, if that makes sense. It’s truly revolting the things that the Circle did, and I can’t believe that Luke, Jocelyn, Robert, and Maryse were all a part of it. It really clouds my liking of their characters. In The Mortal Instruments, it’s never explicitly described what the Circle did. I wish it had been described, because I think it would have made Valentine a much scarier villain.
Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy
Rating: 2 out of 5.
I blew through TBC in one day, and my reading experience couldn’t be any different for TFTSA. I have struggled to get into this- I wish every story was a little shorter. Part of the reason I think I’m having such a hard time engaging in these stories is that Simon’s character seems pretty different from The Mortal Instruments. I don’t know if this is because half his memories are gone, or if it’s because Clare is writing with three other co-authors, or if they’re purposefully trying to make him much funnier. He just doesn’t seem as charming or naturally funny, but that could be because so much of his humor in TMI involved bouncing off and interacting with the other characters. The whole “shadowhunters-vs-dregs” plot is so frustrating, but that’s shadowhunters for you.
Ok, so almost three months later I finally finished this book. It was a STRUGGLE. First, what I decidedly don’t like. The characters just seem so off to me. Simon’s humor is so forced, and for me, his appeal came from his easy and witty humor. The writers just took it so far into the next level that he did not seem funny to me. Also Isabelle just drives me insane in this book. I love her character in every other book she’s in, but this one almost completely destroys her for me. Isabelle even says at one point that Simon has completely changed her and turned her into a sappy, lovestruck girl, and I just don’t think anyone could do that to Isabelle. Her arc in this book seems so forced and very off-line from her arcs in the rest of the books.
The plots are also a weak point for me. When Simon and Clary are drugged my Magnus to make them figure out they need to be parabatai- it just lost me. There was an explanation for why it needed to happen, but it seemed like a poor explanation and did not line up with the characters past actions and motivations.
Finally, what bothered me the most is the fact that (almost) EVERY character is described as having brown skin. Jace, who is just a tan white dude, whose skin is usually described as “golden,” because of course it is- is described as having “brown” skin. Jem, who is half Chinese, is also described as having “brown” skin. There’s a lot of dialogue out there about how writers won’t describe Black characters as having Black skin- they will use weird descriptions like “chocolate colored skin that’s glowy,” or something like that. But then white and Asian characters are described as having brown skin? Definitely don’t understand, and also I think it’s lazy writing.
Perhaps the only saving grace of this book is Malec- and I don’t even know if his story can raise the rating for me. Magnus’ and Alec’s story “Born to Endless Night” is by far my favorite. I also enjoyed “Pale Kings and Princes.” None of the other stories really stood out to me.
City of Lost Souls is definitely tied with City of Heavenly Fire for my favorite book in the series. The plot is great and the character development is equally fantastic. Sometimes I forget why Jonathan Morgenstern is such a scary villain, but then I reread this book and I remember. He is just plain evil, and the dynamic between him and Clary is so intriguing.
As I said in my last review of the first four books, I got tired pretty quickly of New York as the setting, so part of the reason I enjoy CoLS so much is because it takes place in a magically traveling townhouse. This might sound far out, but Cassandra Clare writes it in a way that makes it totally believable and plausible. I love getting to travel all around Europe in this book.
Character-wise this novel also just really did it for me. I love Alec and Magnus’ struggles, as well as the progression of Simon and Izzy’s relationship. Clary has grown by leaps and bounds since the first three books, and her character is so much more enjoyable for me to read. In addition to Clary’s character, another vast improvement I saw was the writing of the fight scenes. I thought they were so much more engaging than in previous books, and really captivated and thrilled me.
City of Heavenly Fire
Rating: 5 out of 5.
This is by far the longest book of the series, but it never drags. Edom is such an intriguing setting, and all the characters really grew while there. While in Edom, I felt like we finally got to see Alec and Jace act like parabatai. In previous books it was always established that the two were parabatai, but I felt like we never really got to see the intensity or depth of their relationship. It kind of came out of nowhere, but it makes sense because the longer Cassandra Clare writes in the Shadow World, the more details she will uncover.
Simon was definitely one of my favorites in this book, and I definitely look forward to rereading Tales form the Shadowhunter Academy. Alec also really gets the chance to shine in this book. The Blackthorn’s storyline is so heartbreaking, and it really shows the children’s strength.
I have no qualms with how this series is wrapped up. At the end, I love getting to see Jem and Tessa together, and I love how all the characters arc were wrapped up, but at the same time they were all set up for future stories.
I love reading new books, but I love rereading my favorite books just as much. It might be my terrible memory, but I always forget little details, and sometimes major ones, and when I reread a book it’s almost like I’m reading it again for the first time. One of the book series I reread the most is The Mortal Instruments, or anything by Cassandra Clare. In fact, I read it so much that I told myself I was not going to reread any Cassandra Clare book this year. This became a problem when Queen of Air and Darkness came out, because my terrible memory made me forget most of what happened in Lady Midnight and Lord of Shadows. I tried reading Queen of Air and Darkness, but I just couldn’t get as into it because I knew I was forgetting so much of the story. Then by chance I browsed through my goodreads account and discovered that I actually haven’t read The Mortal Instruments series since 2016. I had no idea it’s been four years since I read one of my favorite series, so I decided to reread every book in the Shadowhunter Chronicles. I’ve read every book in the Shadowhunter Chronicles except Ghosts of the Shadow Market, Queen of Air and Darkness, Chain of Gold, and The Red Scrolls of Magic, so I’m excited to use this reread as a chance to finally get to these.
City of Bones
Rating: 5 out of 5.
I definitely feel the most nostalgic when I read City of Bones. Cassie Clare does such a good job introducing us to the Shadow World and immediately making me care about the characters. The banter in this book is so good, especially between Simon and Jace- it always makes me smile. I noticed that during this reread I found Clary slightly annoying. I forgot that I felt this way towards her, but I think in 2016 the last time I read this book I felt the same way. It probably has to do with the fact that I’m getting older, and Clary is written as a really stubborn sixteen-year-old girl. I think the angle Cassie Clare was going for is that Clary is so blinded by her love for her family and friends and her desire to save them that she doesn’t consider the consequences. I totally think this is a valid angle, but I feel like sometimes the lines got blurred between just being rude and being rude/abrasive for the sake of the people she loves.
City of Ashes
Rating: 4 out of 5.
One aspect that majorly weirded me out in City of Ashes is the incest. I know it’s a super old scandal and it’s been talked about a lot, but it definitely bothered me this reread. I don’t think it really mattered that much to me when I first read these books. I think it’s because I knew they would end up together and not related, and also because when I first read this series the first five books were already out, so I was able to read the books back to back.
This is really the first book where hints and connections start getting dropped about all the different bloodlines, which did get me excited for the rest of the books.
The major setting for The Mortal Instruments is New York. It’s basically another character. I’ve never felt this before, but by the time I finished City of Ashes I was kind of sick of New York. I think this is because now that I’ve read most of The Dark Artifices, and I knew what was coming in City of Glass and later books, I was just really looking forward to getting to read about Idris, the Faerie Court, Los Angeles, and all the other places we visit. Finally my last gripe, if Jace would just talk about his problems so much could be avoided! I still love him, but he definitely annoyed me at parts. I actually ended up lowering my rating to four stars because after reading City of Glass, I realized I did not enjoy this book as much as others in the series.
City of Glass
Rating: 5 out of 5.
I love City of Glass because finally we go to Idris and get to see more of the Clave and meet characters like Amatis and the Penhallows. Clary at the beginning still drove me pretty crazy, and I was glad when Luke, and even Amatis, finally gave her some parental-like guidance.
Valentine definitely bored me and I was glad to see him go. I think Sebastian is definitely more interesting, and I think his beliefs and methods are just a little more plausible to me as a villain. I just never really understood Valentines’ beliefs, which might have been the point because he’s basically got very Hitler-esque tactics.
I really love the ending because it wraps up so nicely. It’s really easy to see how this was originally intended to be a trilogy.
City of Fallen Angels
Rating: 4 out of 5.
This has a really slow beginning for me. I didn’t get excited until the last 75 pages. There’s a couple reasons this felt slow to me. First, we’re back in New York, which just makes me miss Idris. Second, because the last book wrapped up so nicely, this book is almost like a second first book. The plot had to be reestablished. This was also very heavily character based and not plot based, and part of what I love about Cassie Clare books are the major plot twists, so City of Fallen Angels just lacked a lot of that excitement for me.
I did enjoy this because I saw so much growth in Clary. She seems worlds more mature, which definitely makes sense given everything she’s gone through. I also really enjoyed getting to read more about Maia and getting introduced to Jordan.