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Literature / The Last Hours

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The Last Hours is a Young Adult Literature, Gaslamp Fantasy trilogy by Cassandra Clare. The fifth in her overarching The Shadowhunter Chronicles, it is a sequel to The Infernal Devices, taking place 25 years after the events of that series, during The Edwardian Era.

Cordelia Carstairs, a young Shadowhunter from Devon, has spent her entire life moving from one Institute to another to accommodate her father's illness. When her father ends up accused of a terrible crime and imprisoned in the Shadowhunter capital of Alicante, Cordelia and her mother and brother, Alastair, move to London, where they are greeted by the Institute's head, Will Herondale, his wife, Tessa Gray, and their two children, James and Lucie. Cordelia has been acquainted with the Herondale children for years; she is planning to become parabatai with Lucie and secretly in love with James, even though he does not seem to reciprocate her affection.

Although moving from the quiet life of the countryside is hard, Cordelia slowly adjusts herself to the hectic political and social life of the London Enclave. However, just as she is beginning to settle down, the Enclave is rocked by a series of demonic attacks. These attacks are nothing like any other before; the demons are capable of walking in daylight and infect Shadowhunters with a deadly poison. As they work to stop this madness, Cordelia and her friends discover that the answer might lie in the dark powers possessed by some of them — powers that will force them to make a terrible choice.

The story focuses on the next generation of the Shadowhunters of the London Enclave, including the children of the main characters of The Infernal Devices. The series' lead narrator is Cordelia Carstairs, cousin of Jem Carstairs, and the other major narrators are the children of Will Herondale and Tessa Gray, James and Lucie. The children of the Fairchild, Lightwood, and Blackthorn families also play major roles. Unique in The Shadowhunter Chronicles, the series features flashback chapters in between the main story, set at many different points prior to 1903.

The books in the trilogy are:

  1. Chain of Gold (March 3, 2020)
  2. Chain of Iron (March 2, 2021)
  3. Chain of Thorns (January 31, 2023)

This series has a character sheet. Please put all character-related tropes there.

This series provides examples of

  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Elias Carstairs is revealed in Chain of Gold to be an alcoholic, and in Chain of Iron shows up drunk at James and Cordelia's house to ask James for a ridiculous sum of money. James refuses, and Elias is furious.
  • Alternate Universe: Parallel realms owned by the Princes of Hell play a key role in the series. Belial, the main antagonist, is known for stealing realms other demons own.
  • Ancestral Weapon: Cordelia wields Cortana, an Absurdly Sharp Blade that has been passed down through generations of the Carstairs family. It even comes with an an inscription: "I am Cortana, of the same steel and temper as Joyeuse and Durendal."
  • Babies Ever After: The epilogue of Chain of Thorns reveals that Charlotte is pregnant with twins, and Sona has given birth to her third child, a boy named Zachary. Since Alastair suggests that he has no intention of adopting a child after coming out, it can be assumed that Zachary will continue the Carstairs family name.
  • Big Bad: Belial, one of the Princes of Hell and Tessa Gray's father.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: In the second book, it is revealed that Belial is playing a bigger game against other Greater Demons. He is allying himself with Leviathan, a fellow Prince of Hell, against the demons whose realms he took, such as Belphegor and Lilith.
  • Blackmail: Maurice Bridgestock blackmailed Charles Fairchild into testifying against the Herondales and Lightwoods under the threat of outing his sexuality to the whole Clave. Charles values his career more than anything, so he complies. It takes a stern calling out by Alastair and Matthew for him to finally relent from his position.
  • Blatant Lies: James to Will, when attempting to convince him that Christopher's nonexistent dark-magic detecting device was eaten by a demon.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: The main female leads of the series are Cordelia Carstairs (redhead), Lucie Herondale (brunette), and Grace Blackthorn (blonde).
  • Bolt of Divine Retribution: Upon being stabbed by Cortana for the third time, Belial is impaled by a holy light from above — God's, presumably — and is incinerated to ashes. The lightning also disposes of the Chimera demons, as well as giving Bridget a power that even the Silent Brothers have trouble explaining.
  • Call-Back: Contains several to the series' predecessor The Infernal Devices.
  • Childhood Friend: The majority of the main characters are this, having grown up together in London and Idris. While a few of them are related, they tend to refer to their parents (aka the True Companions from the previous series) as "aunt" and "uncle" even if they are not blood relations. Chain of Gold begins with Cordelia's arrival in London, and her attempts to get to know the already close-knit group of Shadowhunters living there.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: One of the heroes, James, has inherited the ability to turn into a shadow from his demonic grandfather.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The series is set in the early 20th century and does not shy way from presenting the old-fashioned values they upheld back then.
    • Alastair Carstairs, who became a jerk because of his insecurities of being a racial minority and gay in Edwardian Britain.
    • Sex before marriage destroyed the life of Thomas' sister Eugenia, and at the end of Chain of Gold, James has to present a Honorable Marriage Proposal to prevent Cordelia from suffering the same fate.
  • Demonic Possession:
    • Belial plans to possess James so he can live on Earth and conquer London. In the third book, he manages to possess James but fails to cement control over London as James breaks his influence long enough to drive Cortana into his own chest, delivering Belial his final wound.
    • In the second book, Tatiana briefly possesses a housemaid to talk with her daughter. Later, it is disclosed that Belial has been possessing Jesse's dead body to kill Shadowhunters and take their runes, something that neither Lucie nor Grace had anticipated.
    • Watchers are the bodies of Silent Brothers and Iron Sisters possessed by chimera demons. The only way to defeat them is to break the rune on the back of the head, or have the souls of the possessed expel the demons by force.
  • Deus ex Machina: Literally. In the aftermath of Belial's defeat, Jem notes that everyone in London, including the mundanes and Downworlders, have swept the events of the last previous days under the rug, even though they are far too massive for the Clave to cover up with their usual Glamour. Belial seems to have strike a chord with the heavenly host for disrupting the balance of the worlds, so they must fix it personally.
  • Fantastic Racism: Par for the course in the Shadowhunter Chronicles. In parallel to the counter part series The Dark Artifices, The Last Hours deals both with discrimination against Downworlders and Shadowhunters with Downworlder blood.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The aftermath of the demon fight in the first chapter of Chain of Gold serves as one for each of the Merry Thieves. The ever curious Christopher tries to figure out why the demon exploded, Matthew complains about his ruined waistcoat, James tries to hide an injury, and Thomas alternates between teasing Matthew and trying to clean Christopher up.
  • Exact Words: Cordelia, with some help from Lucie and the nearby dead, forces Lilith to swear an oath to release her from being her paladin. She's very careful in her wording, stating Lilith will release her once Cortana has slayed Belial, meaning it does not have to be Cordelia who does the deed.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The party at the Helle Ruelle that Hypatia holds in the beginning of Chain of Iron is to honor its patron. Cordelia assumes that "patron" means its customer, but Hypatia corrects her by stating that it means its guardian, Lilith. The answer is both. Lilith is attending the party disguised as a faerie.
    • Magnus comments that Princes of Hell often ally themselves with each other against the angels. This foreshadows the fact that Belial is helped in his plot to possess James by another Prince of Hell, namely Leviathan.
  • Futureshadowing: In the epilogue of Chain of Thorns, Malcolm tells Lucie that he was off in Faerie during Belial's attack on London, and she cannot imagine what business a warlock would do with faeries. As The Dark Artifices shows, Malcolm was making a deal with the Unseelie King to resurrect Annabel in exchange for gifting him the Black Volume of the Dead, upon realizing that Lucie has lost her resurrection powers and will not be able to bring his lover back.
  • Gaslamp Fantasy: Like its predecessor, The Infernal Devices.
  • Going Cold Turkey: Matthew's attempts to stop drinking unilaterally fails miserably; the first time, he quickly goes back drinking after enduring a day of AWS, betraying the promise he made to Cordelia, while the second time, he practically experiences a slow, excruciating death. Christopher plans for Matthew to withdraw by reducing his intake of alcohol slowly, rather than all at once, and has the Merry Thieves and Alastair watch over him so he won't fall off the wagon.
  • Honorable Marriage Proposal: At the end of Chain of Gold, James proposes to marry Cordelia, to save her reputation after she admits a scandalous act with him (namely, spending time together alone), which itself is suggested to save him from being prosecuted for bringing down the Blackthorn Manor.
  • Idiosyncratic Cover Art: The covers all depict a woman with long, flowing hair: Cordelia Carstairs in Chain of Gold, Lucie Herondale in Chain of Iron, and Grace Blackthorn in Chain of Thorns.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The books' titles are all "Chain of [something]".
  • I Have No Son!:
    • Ariadne is effectively disowned by Inquisitor Bridgestock for coming out. Her mother is more forgiving, though, and reconciles with her after divorcing her husband.
    • Ezekiel Blackthorn, Annabel's younger brother, denounced his parents for their cruel attitudes towards Downworlders, and decided to move to America. For this reason, his name was erased off of Shadowhunter records, and the names of his descendants are not recorded in Silent City.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Subverted. When Belial announces his ultimatum to the London Enclave in Chain of Thorns, he possesses several mundanes, jumping from body to body as he burns out their life force. The Shadowhunters manage to make him leave his last vessel, a little girl, alive, but the possession still takes an irreversible toll on her body, and she dies a few hours later.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Matthew to Cordelia, by the end of the series. While saying that he will continue to love her, Matthew has accepted Cordelia's decision to be with James.
  • Knight Templar Parent: Tatiana Blackthorn is obsessed with resurrecting her son Jesse, to the point where she's willing to have Grace [[spoiler Mind Rape him into submission so he will be the son she wants.]]
  • Legacy Character: After James kills Belial, another demon resurfaces and takes his name and likeness, explaining why he is ostensibly still alive decades later, during the events of Ghosts Of The Shadowmarket and The Eldest Curses. The new Belial assumes the title "Prince of Hell" as the old one did, but expresses no interest to middle in the affairs of Shadowhunters, much less his "daughter"'s descendants.
  • Long-Lost Relative: In the third book, Malcolm concocts a plan to introduce Jesse as a long-lost Blackthorn cousin from America, a descendant of a Blackthorn who ran off when he could not deal with his family's racism towards Downworlders, so the Clave is more inclined to accept him rather than the fact that he came back from the dead.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Cordelia is in love with James, who is fixated at Grace. The end of Chain of Gold reveals that Matthew is in love with Cordelia.
  • Mistaken for Suicidal: James assumes this of Cordelia when she decides to summon demons in the place where her father was killed, thinking that she tries to kill herself because she is unable to deal with the emotional issues of the past couple of weeks. Cordelia actually does that so she can gain information about Belial's plan.
  • Outdated Name: Felix and Adelaide Blackthorn, Malcolm Fade's adoptive parents, had four biological children: Annabel, Abner, Jerome, and Ezekiel.
    Lucie: Terrible names they had in olden times. Simply terrible.
  • Outliving One's Offspring:
    • Tatiana outlived her son, Jesse. This series reveals that she is performing a ritual to bring him back from the dead. The result is a pseudo-spirit who can physically interact with people but is otherwise a ghost.
    • In Chain of Gold, Gideon and Sophie Lightwood outlive their oldest child, Barbara, who dies after being infected by Mandikhor poison.
    • In Chain of Thorns, Christopher Lightwood dies during Tatiana's attack on the London Institute and is outlived by his parents, Gabriel and Cecily.
  • Parting-Words Regret: After her father is found murdered by the demonic serial killer, Cordelia laments that they parted on bad terms.
  • Please, Don't Leave Me: In Chain of Gold, Anna Lightwood pleads with Ariadne Bridgestock's unconscious form, begging her to survive.
    Anna: Please don't die.
  • Possession Burnout: Belial can only grace Earth through human vessels, but a random person cannot withstand his powers and will burn out in seconds. Only those who has his blood, like James and Lucie, can properly host him. He can also possess Jesse for long periods of time, because he is in a state of neither life nor death.
  • Race for Your Love: At the end of Chain of Iron, James races to the train station to catch up with Cordelia, who is about to leave with Matthew for Paris. He manages to spot them, but is stopped at the last second by Will, who wants him to search for his sister.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Lucie summons Rupert Blackthorn when the Institute is under attack from Tatiana and a group of Watchers and he immediately calls his wife out for putting young Shadowhunters in danger, along with everything else she's done up to this point. This causes Tatiana to abandon the battle and run away in despair.
  • Self-Deprecation: While trekking across Edom, Lucie at one point complains about Esme Hardcastle's insistence of drawing up Shadowhunter family trees, and thinks that future Shadowhunters will receive inaccurate information given how annoyed everyone are at her persistence, which seems to be a jab at the Herondale/Lightwood/Blackthorn family tree seen in Clockwork Princess, which many feel spoil things that make a lot of plot developments in this series anticlimactic and foregone.
  • Serial Killer: The second book deals with this as the driving conflict. A mysterious figure is killing Shadowhunters at random and without any sort of motif connecting them. Upon autopsy, however, it turns out that the killer is taking a specific rune off of them, albeit different each time. The killer is Belial, who possesses Jesse to transfer the rune to his body, his goal being to make a perfect vessel that will be immune to Cortana, the only weapon that can defeat Belial.
  • Servile Snarker:
    • Risa to the Carstairs children. She has been a mainstay with the family since Sona was a girl, and can get away with voicing her blunt opinions about them.
    • Belial rides a gigantic bird demon called Stymphalia, who is sentient and frequently talks back to him.
  • Sexless Marriage: Since they only intend to marry for a year, James and Cordelia sleep in separate bedrooms throughout the duration of their marriage, and interact only in the library on the ground floor. Until Cordelia finally learns about the bracelet from Grace... then they can't keep their hands off each other.
  • Spin-Offspring: The major characters are mostly children of the characters from the previous series. James and Lucie are the children of Will Herondale and Tessa Gray; Charles and Matthew are the sons of Henry Branwell and Charlotte Fairchild; Thomas is the son of Gideon Lightwood and Sophie Collins; Anna and Christopher are the children of Gabriel Lightwood and Cecily Herondale; and Jesse and Grace are the children of Tatiana Blackthorn.
  • Together in Death: Barbara Lightwood and Oliver Hayward.
  • Unreliable Narrator: In-universe, it is revealed that Esme Hardcastle is the one who wrote the Shadowhunter family tree seen in The Infernal Devices. There are gaps of information, though, as Esme seems to like embellishing details. There are inaccuracies in birth and death years, Sona Carstairs is referred to as "Colette Verlac" (Verlac is the surname of her first husband), and Christopher Lightwood is stated to marry Grace Blackthorn and become ancestor to Alec and Isabelle Lightwood, even though he dies during Belial's attack on London while his romance with Grace is still developing, making it impossible for him to marry her, much less father anyone.

Alternative Title(s): Chain Of Gold, Chain Of Iron