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Literature / The Shadowhunter Chronicles

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The Shadowhunter Chronicles is a shared universe consisting of various books written by Cassandra Clare, spun off from her Young Adult novel series The Mortal Instruments. It is part of the larger The Shadowhunter Chronicles media franchise, which includes a film and TV adaptation, among other things.

The titular Shadowhunters are an ancient order of Demon Slaying humans with angel blood. They keep normal people (known as mundanes) safe from demons and Downworlders, which are various mythological and fantastic creatures like werewolves, faeries, and vampires.

The universe consists of the following books:

  • The Mortal Instruments (2007-2014): The first series of novels. Beginning in 2007, it follows the adventures of teenager Clary Fray, who discovers her powerful Shadowhunter heritage just as a war brews between Earth's Shadowhunters and invading demons led by the mysterious Valentine.
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  • The Infernal Devices (2010-2013): A prequel series, set in Victorian London. In 1878, Tessa Gray arrives in London to visit her brother, but is instead introduced to the world of the Shadowhunters where she discovers her mysterious heritage.
  • The Dark Artifices (2016-2018): A sequel series to The Mortal Instruments. Set in 2012, it follows young Shadowhunter Emma Carstairs as she investigates and avenges her parents' deaths.
  • The Eldest Curses (2019-): A trilogy focusing on Alec Lightwood and Magnus Bane. The two face off against various Princes of Hell while juggling with their attempt to start a family. The books are set at various different points in the franchise's timeline; the first two are interquels while the last will be a sequel to The Dark Artifices. Authored jointly by Wesley Chu, the books were initially written to be spin-offs, but Clare eventually decided to regard them as proper mainline titles, giving them matching covers to boot.
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  • The Last Hours (2020-): A sequel series to The Infernal Devices. In 1903, Cordelia Carstairs becomes entangled in the politics of the London Enclave that prominently involves her two family friends, James and Lucie Herondale.
  • The Wicked Powers (TBA): An upcoming sequel to The Dark Artifices.
  • Various companion books:

Tropes common across the franchise:

  • Alternate Universe: There are an unknown number of alternate realms parallel to the main one where most of the series is set. Three are named and a fourth has been shown. The Princes of Hell all have a personal realm.
    • The first is Edom, introduced in the latter half of City of Heavenly Fire. It is a world where Jonathan Shadowhunter was an arrogant individual who rejected working with the Downworlders in the fight against demons. As a result, the Downworlders sided with the demons, enabling the latter to kill all Shadowhunters in the world. The demons subsequently ate everything else, turning the entire Earth into a wasteland. The sea is drained and the sun is obscured by gray clouds. There are no living things, except for demons who scavenge for food. Edom is jointly ruled by Asmodeus and Lilith.
    • The second is Thule, introduced in the second act of Queen of Air and Darkness. It is a world where Clary Fairchild was killed during the Battle of the Burren in the year 2007, as depicted in City of Lost Souls. As a result, the Shadowhunters lost their primary champion in the fight against Sebastian Morgenstern and his army, who then spread a demonic plague called Blight that served as portals for demons to take over, turning the Earth into a wasteland, much like Edom. However, because the point of divergence with the main world is much recent compared to Edom, Thule still has Shadowhunters and Downworlders, although the former have lost all of their angelic powers.
    • The third is an unnamed realm ruled by Belial, which appears in Chain of Gold. It used to belong to Belphegor until Belial took it. The realm is made of a desert environment that is devoid of color. There is also a ruined civilization that looks similar to London. The realm is destroyed when Cordelia incapacitates Belial using Cortana.
    • The fourth is Diyu, based on the Chinese afterlife of the same name, which appears in The Lost Book of the White. It was ruled by a Greater Demon, Yanluo, until he was killed. It used to be the place where the wicked were tortured, but after Yanluo's death it has fallen to disarray and is currently inhabited by wandering demons. Sammael has plans to take over it.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: The first three series have female protagonists whose hair color fit this trope. Clary, Tessa, and Emma are a redhead, brunette, and blonde, respectively.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: The angels and the highest-ranked demons, the Princes of Hell, seem to operate under this mentality. Because they fight over entire universes, the conflict between Shadowhunters, Downworlders, and even lesser demons matter little to them. When Valentine summons Raziel in City of Glass, the latter seems to be more mildly annoyed rather than disgusted upon hearing his dream of wiping out all Downworlders, citing that he "doesn't fight in mundane battles". In City of Heavenly Fire, Asmodeus basically acts like a landlord who is exasperated that the college party boy (Sebastian) is messing around with his property (Edom) and wants his kin (Team Good) to pay for the damages. He doesn't even act stereotypically evil; it's just business. This makes sense when you realize that, due to the existence of alternate dimensions like Edom and Thule, angels and the Princes have fought each other many times in many different places, likely utilizing the same troops as well.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Many important characters of color in the franchise are half-white.
    • Magnus Bane's mother is Indo, half-Dutch half-Indonesian people who lived in the Dutch East Indies. Since his father is a Greater Demon, Magnus ended up solely inheriting her look.
    • Maia Roberts is half-white half-black.
    • Both Aline Penhallow and Jem Carstairs have white fathers and Chinese mothers.
    • Cordelia Carstairs and her brother, Alastair, have an English father and a Persian mother.
  • Demon Slaying: The main characters' primary occupations. Because they possess angel's blood, they are capable of killing demons.
  • Gaslamp Fantasy: The Infernal Devices and The Last Hours are set in Victorian and Edwardian Britain, respectively.
  • Fantastic Racism: Relations between the Shadowhunters (half-angel, half-human) and the Downworlders (vampires, werewolves, warlocks and faeries) have always been testy, with the former looking down on the latter.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Humans coexist alongside angels, vampires, werewolves, warlocks, faerie, etcetera.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: The Shadowhunters and Downworlders (except for faeries) are technically this. It's worth noting that all of them are considered distinct species, however, so if they intermarry, their children will be identified as half of their parent races, instead of something like "half-human half-angel".
    • The Shadowhunters are humans who have angelic blood in their veins, either because they or their ancestors have drunk from the Mortal Cup, which contains Raziel's blood. Once it enters someone, it will stay on his bloodline for eternity, so any children and descendants he has will become Shadowhunter. Shadowhunters can forgo their status by stripping their Marks, but their children will still turn up Shadowhunter.
    • Vampires and werewolves are humans infected with unique demonic mutations. Both can pass the mutation by feeding their blood on other people and werewolves can additionally pass theirs by having children with other werewolves, since they are fertile (if their spouses are humans, the children will turn out mostly human with some wolfish traits).
    • Warlocks are the children of humans and demons. Tessa is a special case, because her mother is a Shadowhunter, instead of a mundane. Normally, it's impossible; her birth was aided by an angel.
    • Helen and Mark are the children of a Shadowhunter and a faerie. Ditto with Meliorn.
  • Heinz Hybrid:
    • Before Clary and Jace were born, their mothers were fed angelic blood. As a result, they have an unusually high amount of angelic power compared to other Shadowhunters, giving them a special skill (Clary can draw runes which don't exist in the Gray Book, while Jace is considered the best fighter among his kind).
    • Sebastian was also experimented before he was born like Clary, but unlike her, Jocelyn was fed demonic blood. This results in Sebastian becoming a Nigh-Invulnerable Shadowhunter who is immune to most weapons, as well as being a sociopath.
    • Ash is the son of a demon-powered Shadowhunter (Sebastian) and a faerie (the Seelie Queen). Couple this with years of magical experimentation and you get a weird Shadowhunter/demon/faerie hybrid who somehow has wings, something that's previously thought to be impossible outside of literal angels.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming:
    • The Mortal Instruments books are all titled "City of [x]"
    • The Infernal Devices books are all titled "Clockwork [x]"
    • The Last Hours books are all titled "Chain of [x]"
    • Averted with The Dark Artifices, whose books do not have idiosyncratic titles.
  • Interquel: Several books from The Shadowhunter Chronicles are interquels:
    • The first two books from The Eldest Curses are both interquels. The first book, The Red Scrolls of Magic, takes place in the Time Skip in between City of Glass and City of Fallen Angels from The Mortal Instruments series. The second book, The Lost Book of the White takes place in between Tales From The Shadowhunter Academy and Lady Midnight.
    • Most of the short stories from The Bane Chronicles are interquels too. The fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and ninth stories are set between the events of The Infernal Devices and The Mortal Instruments series. The eighth story is set between City of Ashes and City of Glass and the tenth story takes place during the events of City of Bones. Finally, the last story is set sometime between City of Lost Souls and City of Heavenly Fire.
    • The Last Hours series is set 25 years after The Infernal Devices series and 104 years before The Mortal Instruments series.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: It has quite a lot of characters. The wiki currently has more than 400 character pages. This is not very suprising considering the fact that the series consist of more than 15 books/short story collections which span more than 200 years.
  • Mad Lib Fantasy Title: The main novel series all follow the format of "The [Dramatic Adjective] [Noun]" — Mortal Instruments, Infernal Devices, Dark Artifices, and so on.
  • Non-Human Humanoid Hybrid: Faeries are speculated to be the descendants of demons and angels who mated thousands of years ago. Despite this, they look mostly like humans, albeit with some modifications, such as pointed ears and multicolored skin and/or hair.
  • One Steve Limit: Very much averted, probably due to the multiple series that span more then 200 years with Loads and Loads of Characters and a lot of Dead Guy Junior.
    • The most common name is definitely Jonathan. The very first Shadowhunter was named Jonathan Shadowhunter, so a lot of Shadowhunters name their child after him. Other than him, there are six other Jonathans: Jonathan Christopher Herondale (best known as Jace), Jonathan Christopher Morgenstern (Clary's older brother, better known by the alias Sebastian), Jonathan Clark (the Frays' mundane neighbor whom Jocelyn told Clary to be her father), Jonathan Wayland (Michael's son who died as an infant), and Jonathan Cartwright (or Jon, one of Simon's classmates in the Shadowhunter Academy). Plus Kit, whose full name is simply a reverse of Jace's: Christopher Jonathan Herondale.
    • There are three people named Max. Maryse’s brother Max Trueblood is the first and her youngest son Max Lightwood (named after her brother) is the second. The third one is the adopted warlock child of Maryse’s eldest son Alec, named after the second Max.
    • Magnus' and Alec's adopted second son, Rafael, shares his name with vampire Raphael Santiago.
    • Alec and Isabelle's grandfather, and the Blackthorn siblings' father are both named Andrew.
    • Gabriel Lightwood shares his name with the leader of the New York werewolf pack, who was murdered by Luke.
    • There are also two people named Clive: Clive Breakspear (the head of the Buenos Aires institute) and Clive Cartwright (A student at the Shadowhunter Academy who bullies James). They are both complete Jerks.
    • Two Emmas: Emma Bayliss, the deceased mundane girl whom Tessa is forced to Change into so she could access her memories, and Emma Carstairs, the main protagonist of The Dark Artifices.
    • There are two people named Cordelia Carstairs: the protagonist of The Last Hours and Emma’s mother. Although Carstairs is only the name of Emma’s mother by marriage. Her maiden name is Townsend. Emma herself has the full name "Emma Cordelia Carstairs".
    • Granville Fairchild (Charlotte's father) and Granville Fairchild II (Jocelyn's father).
    • There are James "Jem" Carstairs and James "Jamie" Herondale, who is named after the former.
    • There are two people named Alexander Lightwood. The first is the third child of Gabriel and Cecily, who lives in the early 20th century. The second is Alexander "Alec" Lightwood, the first child of Robert and Maryse.
    • Two Christophers: Christopher Lightwood (second child of Gabriel and Cecily) and Christopher "Kit" Jonathan Herondale.
    • Thomas Lightwood is named after the late Thomas Tanner, who was a good friend of his mother Sophie.
    • You also have Jules Montclair (Céline's father) and Julian "Jules" Blackthorn.
    • William "Will" Herondale is named after his grandfather, William Herondale.
    • Similarly, Barbara Lightwood was named after her grandmother Barbara Lightwood (née Pangborn).
    • There’s also some people with similar sounding names like Jonah Carstairs (Jem’s father) and John Carstairs (Emma’s father) and Catarina Loss (Magnus' fellow warlock and friend), Katerina (the Blackthorns' teacher who gets turned into a Dark Shadowhunter) and Catherine Ashdown (who escorted Jace to New York in Ghosts Of The Shadowmarket.
  • Paranormal Romance: Borderline case. It's an urban fantasy where romance is given a heavy emphasis.
  • Pocket Dimension: Silent City, Adamant Citadel, and Faerie. All three are located separate from Earth and can be accessed by many different entrances throughout the world. However, they are not alternate universes, which are something else entirely (Thule is stated to have its own Faerie).
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Used liberally. Every main protagonist in the series is in some or another prevented from pursuing a normal relationship with their lover because of something.
    • In The Mortal Instruments, Clary and Jace are conventionally forbidden from dating after they are revealed to be siblings. Until City of Glass, when it's revealed that they are not siblings after all.
    • The Infernal Devices has arguably the most tragic example. Unlike Clary or Emma, Tessa is perfectly able to pursue a relationship with the love of her life from the very beginning. The problem? Tessa is immortal, while Will is not. The two do live happily ever after, but only as long as Will lives. After his death, Tessa can never see him again. And she never does.
    • A key plot in The Dark Artifices is Emma and Julian desperately trying to find a way to be able to legally love each other, because being parabatai they are forbidden by Shadowhunter law from pursuing a relationship.
  • Strong Family Resemblance:
    • Clary shares her mother's red hair and green eyes. Though her brother, Sebastian, has their father's white blond hair, his eyes are also green. Or should be green, if not for Lilith's blood, which turned them black. The Infernal Devices reveals that the Fairchilds' red hair came from Henry Branwell, who married the brunette Charlotte Fairchild.
    • Jace inherits his father's blond hair and overall look, but his gold eyes are inherited from his mother (Stephen had blue).
    • The Lightwoods are all dark-haired. All of them except for Isabelle also have blue eyes (she has brown). The Infernal Devices reveals that the black hair and blue eyes came from Cecily Herondale, who married Gabriel Lightwood. The Lightwoods of the 1800s actually had brown hair and green eyes. Magnus' fixation on Alec is rooted in his memories of being fixated at Cecily's brother, Will Herondale.
    • The Blackthorn family are explicitly stated to share the signature look of brown hair and blue-green eyes. The look dates all the way back to the early 19th century, since Annabel Blackthorn has them. Whenever someone does not have the combination, he will be singled out. Because of their faerie mother, Helen and Mark have blond hair, but they still share the blue-green eyes. Tiberius, however, has black hair and gray eyes, which are unusual but not without precedent in the family. It's highly implied that his eyes came from his distant ancestor Tessa Gray (whose daughter, Lucie, married into the Blackthorn family), while the hair might come from either Jesse Blackthorn or Lucie's father, Will Herondale.
  • Super Empowering:
    • Ascension, drinking the blood of Raziel from the Mortal Cup can transform mundane humans into Nephilim. Though not everyone survives the process, and it apparently is riskier the older the mundane is.
    • Being bitten by a vampire or werewolf. Their respective conditions are actually demonic diseases with the bite as a vector. Nothing less than an Archangel or a Prince of Hell can turn somebody who has been changed back into a mundane as far as is known.
  • Tangled Family Tree: The relations between the different Shadowhunter families are quite complicated.
    • First you have Valentine Morgenstern's complicated family. He has two children with his wife Jocelyn: Jonathan and Clary. Clary is raised by her mother, and thinks of her mother's devoted, if platonic, boyfriend Luke (who is really a Shadowhunter named Lucian Graymark who was best friends and parabatai with Valentine until he got turned into a werewolf) as her stepfather. He later gets a Relationship Upgrade with Jocelyn and marries her. She believes her biological father was a human soldier killed in action, but later finds out that it is actually Valentine. Her brother Jonathan was raised by his father. He later disguises himself as Sebastian Verlac, a cousin of the prominent Penhallow family. Jonathan also has a Brother–Sister Incest desire for Clary (Clary is not interested).
      • The Dark Artifices reveals that Jonathan had a son named Ash with the Seelie Queen, which links the Morgenstern family to the royal families of the faerie courts.
    • The Gray/Moore family is also quite complicated mostly due to a Family Relationship Switcheroo and a case of Switched at Birth. Tessa Gray is introduced as the daughter of Elizabeth and Richard Gray, the younger sister of Nate, and the niece of Harriet Moore. Yet just a few chapters into Clockwork Angel, we learn that Richard's just an adoptive father; her actual father is an unnamed Greater Demon, making her a warlock. Then we learn in Clockwork Prince that Tessa and Nate are only cousins; Nate is the son of Harriet, who left him in the care of Elizabeth because she had him out-of-wedlock. Then we learn in Clockwork Princess that Elizabeth was never Harriet's sister, Nate's aunt, or even a part of the Moore family for that matter. She's actually Adele Starkweather, the long-lost granddaughter of Aloysius Starkweather, the Shadowhunter head of the York Institute who was switched by the faeries in exchange for the real Elizabeth Moore, a sickly mundane girl. This means that Tessa is the only known person born of a Greater Demon and a Nephilim, meaning that she inherited both angel and demon blood and thus a warlock who can have children. And she's not related to Nate at all. Sorry, Nate.
    • The Lightwood, Herondale and Blackthorn families are all related to each other trough various marriages during The Infernal Devices and The Last Hours series. First off Tatiana Lightwood marries Rupert Blackthorn and has one son with him named Jesse. She later also adopts a girl named Grace. Tatiana's brother Gabriel Lightwood marries Cecily Herondale. They have three children together (Anna, Christopher and Alexander). Christopher then goes on to marry his adoptive cousin Grace. Cecily's brother Will marries Tessa Gray (who has her own complicated family history as mentioned above) and they have two children together: James and Lucie. Lucie later marries Jesse Blackthorn.
      • Alec, Isabelle and Max Lightwood are the great-great-great-grandchildren of Cecily Herondale and Jace is the great-great-great-grandson of her brother Will. This means that Alec, Isabelle and Max are Jace's fifth cousins as well as his adoptive siblings.
    • Jace also has a rather complicated family history. He is the adopted son of Robert and Maryse Lightwood and their children (Alec, Isabelle and Max) are his adoptive siblings. Michael Wayland (Robert's late parabatai) is supposedly his biological father. But then it turns out that Michael was murdered and the man who supposedly fathered him was really Valentine Morgenstern, leading to a Brother–Sister Incest problem with Clary. It later turns out that his actual biological parents were Valentine's right-hand man Stephen Herondale and his second wife Céline. Needless to say, Jace goes through a great many surname changes, although he often uses Lightwood after his adoptive parents and siblings. Although after City of Heavenly Fire, he adopts his father's last name, Herondale. Also worth noting is that Stephen had previously been married to Luke's sister, Amatis.
    • The Shadowhunters are not the only ones with complicated family trees though. The Faerie courts also have one. The Unseelie King has over 50 sons with many different women. He also has one daughter (he had all his other female offspring murdered) named Auraline with the Seelie Queen. She fell in love and had children with Roland Loss, one of the Lost Herondales descended from Tobias Herondale (Will and Cecily's great-uncle). Auraline and Roland are the ancestors of Kit Herondale. The Seelie Queen also had a son named Ash with Sebastian Morgenstern.
  • Trilogy Creep: A notorious case. Cassandra Clare originally planned to write just the first three books of The Mortal Instruments. Needless to say, she got a bit addicted on writing more. City of Glass (which concludes the first half of The Mortal Instruments) has a definitive ending that features no Sequel Hooknote , unlike Clockwork Princessnote , City of Heavenly Firenote , and Queen of Air and Darknessnote , all of which feature blatant Sequel Hooks obviously written so the readers will stay tuned.
  • Urban Fantasy: The Mortal Instruments and The Dark Artifices series are set in the 21st century, and features a Fantasy Kitchen Sink living alongside humans.
  • The 'Verse: A shared universe, with multiple characters appearing across different media.
  • Webcomic Time: A given series usually takes place in a tight timeline where all the events occur.
    • The six books of The Mortal Instruments (published from 2007 to 2014) mostly take place within a five-month timeframe, from August to December 2007. The epilogue of City of Heavenly Fire skips another five months to May 2008, where Luke and Jocelyn hold their long-postponed wedding.
    • The Infernal Devices (published from 2010 to 2013) mostly takes place from April to December 1878. However, the epilogue more than makes it up, skipping 129 years to January 2008.
    • The Dark Artifices (published from 2016 to 2018) takes place within three months, from August to October 2012.

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