Cassandra Clare has delighted us all with the Shadowhunter literary universe since 2007. Almost every year since, she has released a variety of novels and novellas that take place in this fictional world and span through generations of characters. I’ve been reading Cassie’s fantasy book adventures since 2013 when my best friend lent me her copy of City of Bones, the highly successful first installment of the Shadowhunter Chronicles that later inspired a movie, and eventually, even a TV series (Shadowhunters).
Last March, Cassie released Chain of Gold, the first book in her new series The Last Hours (TLH) and the direct sequel to her popular prequel series, The Infernal Devices (TID). I had been waiting for this book for a couple of years now, and as soon as I got myself a digital copy, I read it in just two days. Before I get into what I think of this book, here’s the official book description by Cassandra Clare herself:
Welcome to Edwardian London, a time of electric lights and long shadows, the celebration of artistic beauty and the wild pursuit of pleasure, with demons waiting in the dark. For years there has been peace in the Shadowhunter world. James and Lucie Herondale, children of the famous Will and Tessa, have grown up in an idyll with their loving friends and family, listening to stories of good defeating evil and love conquering all. But everything changes when the Blackthorn and Carstairs families come to London, …and so does a remorseless and inescapable plague.
James Herondale longs for a great love and thinks he has found it in the beautiful, mysterious Grace Blackthorn. Cordelia Carstairs is desperate to become a hero, save her family from ruin, and keep her secret love for James hidden. When disaster strikes the Shadowhunters, James, Cordelia, and their friends are plunged into a wild adventure which will reveal dark and incredible powers, and the true cruel price of being a hero…and falling in love.
I’ve always been a fan of sequels that deal with the offspring of the original characters. I find it so fascinating to see the characters that we previously enjoyed and loved as parents and in an entirely new element. Chain of Gold was no exception. The previous TID main characters like Will, Tessa, and Jem all make appearances, and you get to see them in their new roles as adults and parents. However, as much as I love them and enjoyed seeing what they were up to, it was the new generation of Shadowhunters that kept me reading until the early hours of the morning.
We follow this new generation through the streets of London where, surprisingly, there hasn’t been much demonic (or any) activity lately. This worries James Herondale, since he’s used to hearing about the incredible adventures his parents went through in 1870s London. Many demons and unruly Downworlders roamed the streets back then, but now, the same roads are deserted. Little does James know that mysterious forces are at work in keeping him and his friends Matthew Fairchild, Thomas Lightwood, and Christopher Lightwood untrained and inexperienced. All the while, James is experiencing visits to the shadow realm that occur because of the warlock blood he inherited from his mother, Tessa. Additionally, some old friends (and some enemies) like Cordelia Carstairs, Alastair Carstairs, and Grace Blackthorn visit the London Institute for the summer, bringing along with them their problems and adventures.
Something I loved and enjoyed about this book was the bonds between the main characters. They were all incredibly well-developed. Each character took the spotlight they deserved to maintain a balance between their individual stories. The book, like all of Cassie’s other novels, is written from a third person omniscient perspective, meaning we get a rounded look into each of the characters' lives, no matter how small their part. Character dynamics work tremendously within the story’s context because you get to see how deep the bonds between these characters run and how far they’d go to protect one another.
Of course, romance broods as well. The book’s primary focus isn’t the romance aspect of the characters, but it still packs its dose of steamy scenes throughout its 592 pages. And oh, were they steamy. I was very swooned by the relationships starting to develop in the story, especially (and this isn’t a spoiler), between James and Cordelia.
Another aspect I much enjoyed was the diversity and representation between the characters. Cordelia and Alastair are both of Persian descent. The book highlights their use of their culture and the characters even speak their language on some occasions. Matthew, Anna, and Alistair are strong LGBTQ+ characters that are unabashedly themselves, even when their identities are not recognized in the times they were living in. Anna, for example, identifies as non-binary and is described as a pantsuit-wearing badass who enchants any woman they come across. Although heavily judged by the elders in the Shadowhunter community, they are loved and supported by their friends and family. Because of this, I can’t wait to read more of this character’s journey in the next book!
Other characters that stole the show were the villains! They were all solving personal vendettas, and not pursuing world domination or anything like that. Unlike in the other Shadowhunter novels, the wellbeing of the whole world is not at stake. Instead, what hangs in the balance are the lives of our main characters and their families. They’re fighting to protect their loved ones. For some reason, I preferred it that way. It made the story feel more personal and condensed. It also helped the main characters feel more human.
I feel like I can’t recommend this book enough. My friends are all tired of hearing me talk about it at this point, so I hope this article reached some of you and made you want to pick it up! You can buy Chain of Gold at your local bookstore or through here. Enjoy!