All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

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

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/Goodreads.com}:

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.

6/10

Book #56 of 2019

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Review: City Of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

City Of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments #2)
Cassandra Clare
Walker Books
2008, 411p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what’s normal when you’re a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who’s becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn’t ready to let her go — especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary’s only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil — and also her father.

To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings — and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?

In this breathtaking sequel to City of Bones, Cassandra Clare lures her readers back into the dark grip of New York City’s Downworld, where love is never safe and power becomes the deadliest temptation. 

Even though this book is old, here’s a ****SPOILER ALERT***** for key plot points from the previous book, City Of Bones.

I remember that about 5 or 6 years ago, I bought the first 3-4 books in this series for an event with Cassandra Clare in Melbourne. I ended up missing that event because my oldest child was sick. I read the first book so I’d know what was happening and I started the second one but didn’t get very far before I abandoned it for something else. Not because I really disliked it but I think at the time I was just a bit annoyed by the “cliffhanger/reveal” at the end of the first book. So when I saw the “Respawn” side challenge for #TheReadingQuest, I looked at my shelf and saw this book. The Respawn challenge is to read a book you previously DNF’d. And so I figured I might as well attempt this again.

It’s been 5 years, so I did read my review of the first novel just to refresh my memory but mostly what I remember was the reveal about Jace and Clary which so obviously seems a red herring. So in this book they’re all angsty because they’ve just found out they’re supposedly brother and sister, even though they were basically falling in love. Awkward. They are kind of tiptoeing around each other, not sure how to act. How do you act, upon discovering you have a surprise sibling….the kicker being that sibling is your crush.

Reading this, I noticed just how much the ‘love triangle’ takes up. Obviously Clary and Jace as a couple are out for now. So the focus switches in a way, to Clary’s friend Simon, who seems to decide to step up and make some decisions etc. Clary just kind of sits back and is like ‘alright’ when Simon kisses her or declares her his girlfriend and part of me gets it. She’s had a big shock, she can’t feel that way about Jace anymore and perhaps it’s just easier to go with the flow for a while. But on the other hand I was rolling my eyes. Like this is something you should be a part of. She loves Simon, but she’s not in love with him. But I guess her feelings are pretty confused, her mother is still in a coma, she doesn’t seem to have any female friends to hash this out with. Clary is pretty passive when it comes to her own feelings.

There’s some bad stuff going on,  the rebel Shadowhunter Valentine is raising demons (or getting someone else to raise them) as he has some cup thing that I’ve forgotten about from book #1 that allows him to command them. His aim is to steal a second Mortal Instrument in this book and he also plans to destroy the Clave. Because Jace is his son, the Inquisitor doesn’t trust him at all – she keeps imprisoning him thinking that he’s Valentine’s spy, despite the fact that Jace keeps swearing that he isn’t. So Alec, Isabelle, Clary and also Simon in a way, spend a lot of time running around either attempting to free Jace or hiding Jace so that he can’t be imprisoned again.

I was not sure I’d like this – I had already DNF’d it once but perhaps the time was enough for me not to be so annoyed about the deliberate ways to keep Jace and Clary apart because I actually found myself quite entertained. So much so that I dug my copies of the 3rd and 4th books in the series out of an overflowing bookcase in order to add them to my pile of books to read in the next month or two. I’m way behind, I honestly don’t even know how many books are in this series and it’s various spin off series’ now.

This series has attracted a lot of controversy, most notably arguments that Clare has “borrowed” elements from a lot of other series’ and she’s also been sued by an author who claimed that this series was too similar to her own. I haven’t actually read pretty much any of the works that Clare is said to have borrowed from. I’ve never read Harry Potter and Clare got her “beginning” in Harry Potter fanfiction. I’ve never read the series of the author that filed suit against Clare either. Her past in fanfiction appears very dubious for sure.

Overall – this was okay. I enjoyed it enough to finish it and I kind of want to see where the series goes. I’m not sure how long the whole Jace and Clary are brother and sister thing is going to drag out but hopefully not for too much longer. To be honest I kind of like Magnus and Alec the most I think. That’s an interesting dynamic and I wouldn’t mind reading more about them.

7/10

Book #146 of 2017

City Of Ashes was read as part of my participation in #TheReadingQuest Challenge, created and hosted by Aentee at Read At Midnight. The awesome artwork is by CW at Read, Think, Ponder. This ticks off the side challenge: Respawn. Read a book you have previously DNF’d.

Time to update my character card:

Another 10 experience points for completing a book and another 41 health points gained for the pages read.

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City Of Bones – Cassandra Clare

I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf for a little while, but I picked it up because I was supposed to attend an author event with Cassandra Clare in my city last Wednesday night. Unfortunately my little boy came down with a nasty tummy bug and I couldn’t make the event – but I did finish the book in time for it anyway!

Clary (short for Clarissa) thinks she’s just an ordinary teenager in an ordinary world. She goes to school, she fights with her overprotective mother, she has a best friend named Simon that she does just about everything with. One night her and Simon are out at an all ages club named Pandemonium, Clary sees a young blue-haired boy follow a beautiful girl into a store room and then two other teenage boys follow with knives. She goes into the room behind them, only to see things that she cannot explain – the beautiful girl and the two teenage boys kill the blue-haired boy who simply vanishes. The three left behind are amazed that Clary can see them – as a “mundane” or average human, she shouldn’t be able to. When Simon arrives, to him Clary is alone in the room.

Not a day later and Clary, who  has had another fight with her mother and stormed out, receives a hysterical call from her telling Clary not to come home. Clary, knowing her mother is in danger, does anyway and once at her apartment, is attacked by a demon creature which she manages to kill. Clary is then thrown back into the world of Jace, Alec and Isabelle, the three teenagers from the club who are Shadowhunters – those who see and kill the creatures that are invisible or hidden to normal human eyes, like the blue haired boy from the club who was really a demon. Clary’s mother has disappeared and her mother’s friend Luke has turned his back on her so Clary has to trust her three new friends in order to help her figure out just what she is and how the rumors of a believed-long dead member of the Nephilim (Shadowhunters) is actually not dead, apply to her and her family.

Before long Clary finds out that she is not the normal teenager she thinks she is. Her parentage has been a lie her whole life and her mother has gone to extreme measures to make sure that Clary never sees the things that normal humans aren’t supposed to see. With her mother having disappeared and the blocks on her mind beginning to lift, Clary’s true heritage is becoming more evident by the day. She realises exactly what it is that her mother has that Valentine, the not-so-dead Shadowhunter wants – and how to find it. Now all she has to do is make an exchange – the item for her mother. But she’s not dealing with someone who operates within the normal realm. It could all go terribly wrong – for everybody.

I’m going to get my nitpicks out of the way first, so they stop bothering me during the rest of the review. At close to 500 pages, this is a pretty hefty YA book. And when you’re reading it, you realise that probably, it didn’t need to be that long. It could’ve benefited from a pretty thorough editing as it seems like there are several very lengthy scenes that serve little more purpose than to a) show Jace off as some sort of daredevil hero extraordinare that fears nothing and no one at all and b) to showcase the sort of creatures that populate the world of which normal folk are unaware. The scenes serve no actual purpose to the storyline, other than to say yes, there are vampires in this city! Here’s a lengthy interaction with them in order to prove it. The author also spends a lot of time laying the foundation of Jace’s character only to have him do something that seems totally out of character towards the end of the novel. That’s either sloppy writing or a testament to the manipulative powers of another character, but we don’t actually see these powers so, it’s hard to draw an accurate conclusion. And also – what is the stele thing? What does it do? Because as far as I can see, it seems to do whatever it is a character needs at any given time. It’s like one massive deus ex machina in a small convenient form.

Despite that, the storyline itself is very good. Clary is a likable teenager, not without her angst but without the whine and ‘why me’ complex. She displays loyalty towards the people she feels strongly about and she’s eager to learn all she can about this new life she has discovered and use what she learns in order to help. Isabelle and Alec are not particularly fleshed out but they are little more than periphery characters in this novel and I’d expect them to become more in the next few books. Jace is of course, the hero but he’s pretty enjoyable. His wit goes a fraction too far sometimes into ‘try hard’ territory but other than that, I found him a pretty engaging and plausible romantic possibility for Clary. There is a love triangle going on here and Claire executes a classic twist towards the end of this book to no doubt push the focus onto the third participant in the second novel. If you don’t like love triangles, this entire plotline might irritate you.

There was a bit of controversy about this author regarding some fan fiction and I have to admit, I only know the bare bones of the story but it does seem that Clare has borrowed quite heavily from paranormal story lines that have gone before her in these novels. There’s nothing wrong with that – it still makes for a very fast paced and action filled book with plenty of fascinating twists and interesting threads that all come together very nicely at the end but still leave enough set up to guide the way through the rest of the series. I have already bought the 2nd and 3rd books (the 4th has just been released in large paperback here, I’ll wait until it comes out in the smaller version so that it matches the rest of my collection and also, because it’ll be cheaper then) and I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens. I hope Clary really starts to develop her skills and gifts that she would’ve been born with that have been stifled until now.

A lot to like despite a little bit not to!

7/10

Book #72 of 2011

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