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Literature / The Eldest Curses

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The Eldest Curses is a Young Adult, Urban Fantasy trilogy written by Cassandra Clare and Wesley Chu. It focuses on Magnus and Alec and is a part of The Shadowhunter Chronicles.

The first book in the series follows Alec and Magnus on their trip to Europe. They are having a good time until Tessa Gray informs them that the Crimson Hand, a demon worshiping cult, has been killing people and that it is rumored that Magnus is their leader. Chronologically, the book is an Interquel of The Mortal Instruments series, taking place between City of Glass and City of Fallen Angels.

In the second book, Magnus and Alec have just adopted Max when they suddenly have to travel to Shanghai to save Ragnor Fell and prevent the Book of the White from falling into the wrong hands. Luckily Clary, Jace, Isabelle and Simon are there to help them. Chronologically, the book takes place during the five-year gap between The Mortal Instruments and The Dark Artifices series.

The books in the trilogy are:

  1. The Red Scrolls of Magic (April 2019)
  2. The Lost Book of the White (September 2020)
  3. The Black Volume of the Dead (TBA)

This book series provides examples of:

  • Author Appeal: The cast is noticeably much more Asian than any previous books, and the second installment delves into quite intricate and obscure details of Chinese culture, since it is mainly set in Shanghai. This is because the main author, Wesley Chu, is Chinese-American.
  • Badly Battered Babysitter: Maryse and Kadir are given the job to babysit Max while Magnus and Alec go to Shanghai. When they return, it's clear that the task is taking a toll on them, though they claim otherwise.
  • Bathhouse Blitz: Shinyun drugs and kidnaps Magnus while they are in a bathhouse to sacrifice him to a demon.
  • Big Bad:
    • The Red Scrolls of Magic has Asmodeus, Magnus' demonic father.
    • The Lost Book of the White has Sammael, the Serpent from the Garden and the demon who started the Incursion towards the human world.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Magnus is aware that Tessa's fully capable of taking care of herself, but he's known her for almost her entire life and feels protective of her as a result.
  • Call-Forward:
    • When the group are leaving Venice, Malcolm Fade daydreams about a lost love, which Magnus recognizes to be a reference to his dead Shadowhunter lover. Malcolm's plan to literally bring said lover back is explored in The Dark Artifices, where he serves as a major Big Bad.
    • In the second book, Maryse is planning to retire from heading the New York Institute and give the job to Jace. By The Dark Artifices, Jace and Clary have been leading the Institute for a few years.
  • Cast Full of Gay: In the first book, most of the characters are LGBTQ: Alec is gay, Magnus is bi, Aline is lesbian, Helen is bi, Lily is also bi and Raphael is asexual. The only non-LGBTQ characters are Shinyun and some more minor characters like Isabelle and Catarina. Averted with the second, which features returning characters from previous series who are mostly straight, though Magnus and Alec still take center stage.
  • Crossover Cosmology: In The Lost Book of the White, the characters visit Diyu, the Chinese afterlife, which has been inactive ever since its king, Yanluo/Yama, was killed over a century ago.
  • Cult: The Red Scrolls of Magic focuses on Alec and Magnus trying to stop the Crimson Hand, a demon worshipping cult that uses Human Sacrifice. The cult was apparently founded centuries ago by Magnus himself, as a joke.
  • A Day in the Limelight: For Magnus and Alec, the only POV characters of this series.
  • Evil All Along: Shinyun Jung, she was leading the Crimson Hand the whole time and was only pretending to help Alec and Magnus investigate them, so that she could kidnap Magnus.
  • Foregone Conclusion: In the epilogue of the first book, Shinyun is seen visiting her childhood home, where she is holding Ragnor prisoner. However, he will have to escape her confinement somehow, since we already saw him in The Dark Artifices, alive and free.
  • The Heavy: Shinyun Jung. She is the series' most prominent antagonist, as her actions drive the events of the first two books, even though she isn't the villainous mastermind the heroes encounter at the end of each book.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Shinyun used to be a member of the Crimson Hand, but she got out and now she is trying to get revenge and stop them. Subverted, it turns out that she never left the Crimson Hand and is in fact its leader. She only pretended to have left to get close to Magnus.
  • Innocuously Important Episode: The books are Interquels focusing on secondary characters from previous series, so one might think it's not too important, especially as Cassandra Clare did not personally write them. However they do introduce some important concepts and explain things left vague from previous series, such as Magnus' past and the circumstances behind Ragnor's survival. The second book closes with a meeting between the Princes of Hell — half of whom we have never seen before — as they work towards a plan that possibly involves the Eldest Curses as well as Lucifer AKA the demon who started the whole celestial mess in the first place.
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures: In-universe example. In the second book, Simon starts geeking at the Shanghaiinese cuisine the Ke family served and lists the foods he knew back in New York, only to be sharply pointed out that the foods he listed, such as char siu, are Cantonese.
  • Interquel:
  • Interspecies Romance:
    • Alec is a Shadowhunter and his boyfriend Magnus is a warlock.
    • In the first book, Helen (half-faerie half-Shadowhunter) and Lily (vampire) have a brief fling.
    • The second book features Tian (Shadowhunter), who is dating Jinfeng (faerie).
  • Living MacGuffin: The titular Eldest Curses are the firstborn warlock children of the Princes of Hell. So far, the ones we've known are Magnus (son of Asmodeus) and Tessa (daughter of Belial). Sammael claims that he has no eldest curse, because of his banishment from Earth a millennia ago.
  • Modesty Towel: The Red Scrolls of Magic has two scenes featuring towels:
    • Magnus is showering when he hears Alec yelling in the living room. He swathes a towel around his hips before rushing there, only to find it was simply Alec having an argument with Shinyun. The sight of Magnus bare-chested and wearing only a towel is enough to cause them both to stop, with Shinyun averting her eyes and Alec blatantly staring. Curiously, Magnus later just conjures some clothing on him, making one wonder why he bothered with the towel.
    • Later, a towel-clad Shinyun intrudes on Magnus bathing, and he conjures a towel for himself for the sake of modesty. After their Bathtub Bonding moment, they both leave the bath while using magic clothe themselves.
  • The Mole: Tian is apparently outed as a traitor when he is revealed to be Sammael's spy among the Shanghai conclave. However, it is revealed that he joined Sammael to deceive him, so he can gather information about what he is going to do.
  • The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: The epilogue of The Lost Book of the White shows the meeting between the eight Princes of Hell, half of whom we have seen before (Asmodeus, Azazel, Belial, and Sammael) and the other half we haven't (Astaroth, Belphegor, Leviathan, and Mammon). In response to Sammael's concern about the Shadowhunters' success, they decide to work together and also talk about the last Prince, Lucifer.
  • Orient Express: Alec and Magnus take the Orient Express to travel from Paris to Venice. While there they get attacked by a bunch of demons.
  • Religion of Evil: The Crimson Hand, a demon worshiping cult. It was originally founded by warlock Magnus Bane as a joke, but after a change in leadership the cult became a whole lot more sinister and started with Human Sacrifice in order to summon Asmodeus, a greater demon.
  • Sacred Scripture: Parodied: when Magnus created a demon cult called the Crimson Hand as a joke, he also wrote the Red Scrolls of Magic and declared it a sacred text. The book contained a whole lot of nonsense like passages about how handsome he is, how poor fashion is an offence to their religion and commands to always have liquor, cigars and bonbons present.
  • Saved by Canon: Since the books are set between The Mortal Instruments and The Dark Artifices, there's no worry for the fate of many characters who appear in the latter, since they will have to survive the events of this series.
  • Sequel Goes Foreign:
    • The Red Scrolls of Magic is almost entirely set in Europe. The book opens in Paris and Magnus and Alec later travel to Venice, Florence, and Rome. They only return back to the States near the end.
    • The Lost Book of the White has the main characters visit Shanghai, making it the first time that the events are set in a non-Western place. There is even a bit of a Culture Shock involving the New York Shadowhunters.
  • The 'Verse: Part of The Shadowhunter Chronicles consisting of this series, The Mortal Instruments, prequel series The Infernal Devices, sequel series The Dark Artifices, The Last Hours (sequel to The Infernal Devices), The Wicked Powers (sequel to The Dark Artifices), The Shadowhunter Codex (guide book), The Bane Chronicles (short story collection), Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy (short story collection) and Ghosts Of The Shadowmarket (short story collection), all taking place in the Shadowhunter world.

Alternative Title(s): The Lost Book Of The White, The Red Scrolls Of Magic