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Literature / The Dark Artifices

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The punishment for the contravention of [the parabatai law] shall be, at the discretion of the Clave: the separation of the parabatai in question from each other, exile from their families, and should the criminal behavior continue, the stripping of their Marks and their expulsion from the Nephilim. Never again shall they be Shadowhunters.

So it is decreed by Raziel.

Sed lex, dura lex. The Law is hard, but it is the Law.

A Young Adult Literature, Urban Fantasy trilogy by Cassandra Clare. The Dark Artifices is the sequel to The Mortal Instruments, her six-book, bestselling writing debut, as well as the third series (or fourth in chronological order) in the overarching Shadowhunter Chronicles universe.

Since her parents were killed During the War, Emma Carstairs has been living at the Los Angeles Institute alongside the Blackthorn family - her parabatai and best friend since childhood, Julian, and his four younger siblings - under the tutelage of their uncle Arthur, who is the head of the Institute. The Clave, which is the governing body of the Shadowhunter community, believes Emma's parents were casualties of the war. Emma has spent the five years since convinced they were killed for different reasons, and conducting an investigation of her own.


When she comes across a series of supernatural murders with the same signature as her parents', it will cause the Faeries - a group of downworlders disgraced in the eyes of the law for their involvement on the wrong side of the war - to insert themselves into the investigation. Now the Blackthorns have to solve the murders on a tight deadline and under top secrecy if they want to get their older brother Mark back, and Emma will come closer than she's ever been to the truth behind her parents' murder. Her quickly deepening feelings for her parabatai don't make the situation any easier.

The books in the trilogy are:

  1. Lady Midnight (March 2016)
  2. Lord of Shadows (May 2017)
  3. The Queen of Air and Darkness (December 2018)


This book series provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Emma's sword, Cortana, proves to be one. It kills one of the Seven Rider, who were previously thought to be un-killable and shatters weapons, including The Mortal Sword
  • Adults Are Useless: Arthur Blackthorn, head of the Los Angeles Institute who is also the guardian to the Blackthorn kids, has largely become a Cloudcuckoolander since his horrific experience in the Land of Faerie. He spends most of his time in his attic office, studying the classics and philosophizing, while largely leaving the run of the Institute and the day-to-day business to the younger members of the family. Diana Wrayburn, the children's tutor, tries to help them where possible but the many secrets she carries often leaves her taking action on her own and not being around to supervise the younger characters.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Emma has been calling Julian "Jules" since they were kids.
    • Played with: When Emma and Julian have sex, and later admit their feelings for each other, Emma calls him Julian. Then, upon learning about the curse, she tells him she loves Mark, not him, and goes back to calling him Jules. Julian starts hating it, and missing when she called him Julian.
  • The Ageless: Warlocks tend to be this, and Los Angeles High Warlock Malcolm Fade is no exception - he appears to be in his twenties, but is actually over 160 years old. Tessa Gray is also repeatedly noted by Emma to look like she's around 19, despite being born in the mid-nineteenth century.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Ty's personality quirks are understood by his brothers and sisters, even though their Uncle Arthur berates him for relying on headphones as a coping mechanism during training sessions. By the beginning of Lord of Shadows Kit notes to Julian that Ty is somewhere on the Autism spectrum and that he's interacted with Autistic kids in Mundane schools.
  • Ancestral Weapon: Emma's sword, Cortana, has been passed down the Carstairs family for generations.
    "Steel and temper, daughter. And remember that a blade made by Wayland the Smith can cut anything."
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: When Julian finally admits to Emma that he's been in love with her all along, there is much anguish about how he wishes he weren't, because their love is against the law and can have grave consequences for both of them.
    • In Lord of Shadows, it’s taken Up to Eleven, when Julian finally breaks down and very angrily tells Emma just how hard it is love someone who you shouldn’t and who doesn’t even want you back. After she realizes all her efforts to make him fall out of love with her haven’t worked, Emma delivers a much less angsty one to Julian in response.
    • Kit to Ty in Queen of Air and darkness, while trying to stop Ty from raising Livvy from the dead, complete with crying, which makes it all the more sadder when Ty treats it like nothing.
      • Kit ends up moving to Devon with Tessa and Jem out of hurt and humiliation from the rejection. To be fair, he's a Herondale. Kid's literally got liquid drama running through his veins.
  • Anyone Can Die: Robert Lightwood and Livvy, courtesy of Annabelle Blackthorn.
  • Back from the Dead: The main villain in Lady Midnight had the ultimate goal of bringing his dead lover back to life. It worked.
    • And that villain comes back from the dead again in Lord of Shadows... for a very short while.
  • Bi the Way: Mark Blackthorn. He left behind a Faerie boyfriend in The Wild Hunt, but is also attracted to Cristina. He easily admits to being bisexual when Emma questions him about it. Most Faeries are bisexual as they view love and lust differently than mundanes.
    • Kit makes a few statements and observations that imply this throughout Lord of Shadows.
  • Black and Gray Morality: The Clave is a bastion of justice in the supernatural world, upholding the Accords so that all the races of the downworld can live in peace and the Mundanes can be protected. At the same time, they exhibit Fantastic Racism toward most of the downworld races, and in the case of The Fair Folk they push it to the point of disavowing them from the aforementioned Accords due to their involvement in the war and even go as far as to exile or punish completely innocent individuals just for being half Fey.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: The Fair Folk are notorious for this, as it is physically impossible for them to lie. This doesn't stop them from often skirting around the truth in order to manipulate events and get their way. Notably, half-faeries are able to lie; Mark Blackthorn himself is called out on this at least once in Lady Midnight.
  • Covered in Scars: Shadowhunters tend to be like this, due to their strenuous training regimes and inherently dangerous job of hunting demons and rogue downworlders - while they can heal themselves with runes, scars often remain. Emma mentions repeatedly that her body is scarred because she tends to be reckless about her own safety. She's left with even more scars after she takes a whipping from the Faeries in order to protect Mark and Julian.
  • Did They or Didn't They?: Averted. While an intimate scene between Julian and Emma is left ambiguous, it doesn't take more than one chapter for Emma to admit to Cristina that they did have sex.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: As of Lord of Shadows, a new faction in the Clave called the Cohort is pushing an agenda of registering all Downworlders and half-Downworlders like Mark and Helen Blackthorn. As Kit says, "Have NONE of you read an X-Men comic?"
  • The Fair Folk: Two of the Blackthorn children are half-Faerie, with Mark being a main character of the series. Some members of The Wild Hunt and the Unseelie Court are key to the plot of Lady Midnight and the Clave's Fantastic Racism toward Faeries is a big theme in the story.
  • Fantastic Racism: The Clave towards mundanes and downworlders, particularly The Fair Folk as they were revealed to have been working on the opposite side during the war. This resentment extends even to individuals who are half-Faerie/half-Shadowhunters, such as Helen and Mark Blackthorn, who were just children during the war and completely innocent, yet were still punished on the basis of their blood alone.
    • Taken Up to Eleven in Lord of Shadows. A new faction in the Clave thinks the treaty at the end of the Dark War didn't go far enough, that Alec Lightwood isn't gay and is just under a mind control spell from Magnus Bane, and wants to begin actively registering all Downworlders.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Mark's relationship with Kieran.
      Iarlath: [to Kieran] You've always been partial to blondes.
      • Mark has blond hair.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Parabatai are supposed to be this. It is even illegal for parabatai to love each other "in the manner of eros" and should only love each other "in the manner of philia or agape" - that is, as friends or family. Breaking this law can lead to the two Shadowhunters being stripped of their marks and exiled.
  • Intimate Healing: Emma heals Julian from a fatal injury while they're cramped together in the back seat of a car. She even notes that she's straddling him. It's even this on an emotional level, as the only reason Julian's wound was able to be healed was because his and Emma's romantic feelings for each other enhanced the power of the healing runes.
  • Insult of Endearment: Emma and Cristina tend to call Diego Rosales "Perfect Diego" because he seems to be good at everything, which they find highly annoying. He is, but he also turns out to not be as bad as Emma initially thought he would be, and was actually very helpful.
    • Goes back to an insult and as bad as they remember in Lord of Shadows. Diego was concealing the fact that he was engaged, right up until the moment his fiance shows up at the LA Institute. His fiance, Cristina, and the Blackthorns are not amused.
  • Interspecies Romance: Malcolm Fade, a warlock, and Annabel Blackthorn, a Shadowhunter.
    • Diana and Gwyn in Lord of Shadows.
  • Lawful Stupid: The Clave is so overly-concerned with upholding the law that they often forget or willfully overlook the terrible consequences following the law might bring to downworlders or even Shadowhunters themselves. Actual Lawful Good Shadowhunters often have to bend the law, skirt around it or find loopholes in it, in order to do what they believe is right and fair without incurring the anger of the Clave.
  • Literal-Minded:
    • Tiberius is like this. Despite being highly intelligent, he often doesn't understand slang or figures of speech until they're explained to him, and he doesn't see the purpose of certain societal conventions such as looking at people in the eyes when you speak to them. He will do it if he feels it's necessary, however, because he understands that these conventions are important to people. Kit notes that Ty seems Autistic, and Julian acts as if he's never heard of such a thing.
    • Mark, having spent a long time in the Land of Faerie, seems to be out of practice when it comes to interpreting figures of speech, as well.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Kieran is in love with Mark, who loves him back, but at the same time is starting to fall for Cristina. She, for her part, reciprocates the attraction but is still in love with Diego. And just when you're thinking the main pairing might manage to remain completely removed from this love polygon, Emma decides to fake a relationship with Mark in order to make Julian fall out of love with her. Considering Julian spends much of Lady Midnight being jealous of Mark for no good reason other than "the way Emma looks at him," it might just work - or lead to feelings on Emma's part that will make these emotional entanglements even more complicated.
    • In Lord of Shadows, this settles. Emma and Mark decide they have no romantic feelings for each other and she and Julian commit to each other despite their relationship bring forbidden. Meanwhile, Mark continues to have feelings for Cristina and Kieran, who both seem to be interested in both him and each other.
  • Magitek: When Faerie steeds are taken from the land of the fey, because "their substance is magic," they are able to change in order to fit into the mundane world. Much like the flying vampire bikes of The Mortal Instruments series, Mark's steed takes the form of a flying motorcycle - or, as Emma would aptly put it, a "pony-cycle."
  • Moment Killer: Nosy siblings and angry Faeries, among other things, repeatedly interrupt Emma and Julian as they are attempting to confess their feelings in Lady Midnight.
  • Necromantic: The ultimate goal of the main villain in Lady Midnight.
  • Nephilim: As expected for a series that is part of The Shadowhunter Chronicles.
  • Please Don't Leave Me: When Emma has seemingly been stabbed to death, Julian holds her in his arms and begs this word for word.
  • Please Wake Up: After Livvy is killed, Julian repeatedly begs her to open her eyes.
  • Posthumous Character: Emma's desire to solve her parents' murder drives much of the plot of the first book. We even get to see the two of them in a Dream Sequence Emma has in Lady Midnight.
  • Power Tattoo: Runes are this. Runes applied by your parabatai are even more powerful. And they're even more powerful than that when you and your parabatai just happen to be in love.
  • Promotion to Parent: Julian for his younger siblings. He's not the oldest, but his older sister Helen was exiled by the Clave and his older brother Mark was kidnapped by the Wild Hunt; therefore when their father died in the war, Julian, at the tender age of twelve, had no other choice but to step up and take care of the rest of the Blackthorn brood.
  • The Reveal: Several in Lady Midnight, but especially Malcolm's reveal as the villain of the plot, and the murderer of Emma's parents.
    • Several more in Lord of Shadows, such as the fact that Malcolm Fade was only mostly dead, Clary is seeing visions of her own death, Diego's fiance is a member of the rabidly anti-Downworlder Cohort and plans to install her father as head of the LA Institute, Gwyn has a crush on Diana, and Diana is Transgender.
    • Many in The Queen of Air and Darkness as well. The person the Lord of Shadows has kidnapped from the Unseelie Queen is her son by Sebastian Morgenstern, Kit is the descendant of the lost heir, and the Annabel that is conspiring with Horace is really a demon impersonating her with help from Zara and Manuel. Just to list a few. There are quite a lot more.
  • Shout-Out: One of Edgar Allan Poe's works is central to the plot of the story, and later on he is directly mentioned to have been inspired by a conversation with a downworlder.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Julian's never felt attraction to anyone except Emma.
  • Spell Book: The Black Volume of the Dead contains some of the darkest spells and instructions in existence, to the point that even warlocks are forbidden to own it.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: The Blackthorns tend to have brown hair and blue-green eyes, as Emma notes several times. The exceptions are Helen, Mark and Tiberius - the first two because they're half-faerie, while the latter simply has black hair and gray eyes. This might be to make him stand out as different from the rest of his siblings, or to emphasize his High-Functioning Autism.
  • Supernatural Elite: Shadowhunters fancy themselves this, and the friction this causes with the rest of the downworlder species - particularly with the Faeries - is a big theme of the books.
  • Switch to English: Cristina and Diego speak to each other in English even when no English-speakers are around, because Cristina "is trying to keep up her practice."
  • There Are No Therapists: The Clave has absolutely no support mechanisms in place for Shadowhunters who suffer from any kind of mental illness. In fact, due to their often pre-modern culture, suffering from such issues is heavily stigmatized and may even be punished. For this reason people like Arthur and Tiberius have their problems concealed from the Clave by their families as no help would be available.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Shadowhunters often face this dilemma when it comes to doing what they think is right, or following the laws of the Clave. The Blackthorn family motto especially exemplifies this struggle: "Lex malla, lex nulla" - a bad law is no law.
  • Transgender: Diana was once called David, but transitioned from male to female several years ago while recovering from a demon attack in Bangkok. Catarina Loss encouraged her to use mundane medicine instead of magic for the transition (magic can be reversed, after all), and Diana took the advice. She refuses to lead the Institute because taking such a position requires her to hold the Mortal Sword and answer the question: "What is your birth name?" She is not too keen on being publicly outed to the whole Clave.
  • The Wild Hunt: Mark was part of the hunt, and some of the other members make appearances in Lady Midnight, including the leader of the hunt himself, Gwyn the Hunter.

Alternative Title(s): Lady Midnight, Lord Of Shadows, Queen Of Air And Darkness


Example of: