All The Books I Can Read

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Review: The Red Scrolls Of Magic by Cassandra Clare and Wesley Chu

on April 29, 2019

The Red Scrolls Of Magic (The Eldest Curses #1)
Cassandra Clare & Wesley Chu
Simon & Schuster AUS
2019, 345p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

All Magnus Bane wanted was a vacation—a lavish trip across Europe with Alec Lightwood, the Shadowhunter who against all odds is finally his boyfriend. But as soon as the pair settles in Paris, an old friend arrives with news about a demon-worshipping cult called the Crimson Hand that is bent on causing chaos around the world. A cult that was apparently founded by Magnus himself. Years ago. As a joke.

Now Magnus and Alec must race across Europe to track down the Crimson Hand and its elusive new leader before the cult can cause any more damage. As if it wasn’t bad enough that their romantic getaway has been sidetracked, demons are now dogging their every step, and it is becoming harder to tell friend from foe. As their quest for answers becomes increasingly dire, Magnus and Alec will have to trust each other more than ever—even if it means revealing the secrets they’ve both been keeping.

So recently, I did a lot of catching up on the Shadowhunter universe. I finished the Mortal Instruments (originally I’d read the first book about 8 years ago!) and then tackled the Infernal Devices trilogy. I still have another trilogy to go (the Dark Artifices) and then there’s another trilogy beginning originally later this year but now I think in 2020. This trilogy deals with two of my favourite people in the universe – Magnus Bane the High Warlock of Brooklyn and Alexander (Alec) Lightwood, a Shadowhunter with the New York institute. This first volume is considerably slimmer than most other Shadowhunter universe books and it’s also co-written. Cassandra Clare has done this before (the Magnus Bane Chronicles, the Shadowhunter Academy book too) but I haven’t read either of those.

This takes place when Magnus and Alex go to Europe for a much earned holiday (before being called back to New York) in the middle of the Mortal Instruments series. They have finally overcome a lot of obstacles to begin a relationship but it’s only in its fledgling stages and there is still a lot of things they haven’t told each other and it seems that they aren’t completely at ease yet. Both of them (particularly Magnus) are trying hard, maybe too hard. And because this is the way of the Shadowhunter world, they can’t even go on vacation without being drawn into a situation, this one revolving around a demon-worshipping cult that Magnus himself began centuries ago as a joke that someone is now taking way too seriously.

As I’ve mentioned, I love Magnus. From the very first book he’s been one of, if not my favourite character. I enjoy his unashamed flamboyance and his attitude towards a life that’s hundreds of years old. Magnus has done and seen a lot in his time and has long been a friend to various shadowhunters and their institutes. He’s popped up on a regular basis it seems, drawn into helping in their troubles whenever he can. His chemistry with Alec was really enjoyable and I adored their oppositeness. And I was actually quite keen to read a book centred around just the two of them, exploring their new relationship without the rest of the gang to complicate things and cause the inevitable drama that follows them around. However, drama finds them anyway!

This book was a bit of fun but it doesn’t have the same feel as the others. I’m not sure if that’s because it does feature mostly Magnus and Alec on their own (with some cameos with a couple of characters we’ve encountered once or twice before) or because it’s co-written. When books are co-written, it’s always hard to know precisely how much each author did – did they write alternate chapters, did they work on the whole thing together, did the author that created the universe come up with an outline and leave it to the other author to flesh it out, checking in occasionally with feedback and suggestions? I enjoyed the setting of Europe and Magnus and Alex basically hopping from one city to another after Magnus is informed about the goings on of the cult, searching for information. The thing is, I immediately knew exactly who was behind the cult’s newfound resurgence and it didn’t feel at all well concealed. And it kind of makes Magnus and Alec look like idiots that they don’t see it until the person basically spells it out for them in no uncertain terms. I think that it can be quite hard to write a believable mystery and introduce the person who is the mysterious figure without it being glaringly obvious. And while the reader should be able to pick up on it, there’s a danger that when it’s too obvious too early, it just makes the actual characters in the story look incompetent. Which is a shame.

However, the end was pretty cool – I am very excited to see where it goes because it involves a character I liked a lot, that everyone thinks is dead. So I think for a first book in a trilogy, it was just okay. But there’s plenty of room for improvement as Magnus and Alec iron out their issues and become more comfortable with each other (I mean, I already know how that goes, it plays out in the background of the Mortal Instruments, but it’ll be good to experience a bit more with them first hand) and they can surely make a very formidable team. I find this universe just a lot of escapist fun and I’m always interested to see what’s happening. This isn’t one of my favourites but I think I will become more invested in the next two books because I just like Magnus and Alec too much not to enjoy books focusing on them.


Book #56 of 2019

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