I have read almost everything in the Shadowhunters pantheon and frankly I’m slightly amazed. Apart from the Gaiman-esque integration of modern life and fantasy, which is a praiseworthy effort in itself, the books have a nuanced perception of forbidden love.
It’s a common enough of a theme in YA novels, exploited to no end by the various fandoms. However there is something about Cassandra Clare’s work which breathes a fresh breeze into this tired prop. Perhaps because she doesn’t follow the same theme of self-sacrifice as the rest, there are no external aggressors and most are not for ‘life-saving’ purposes. Her protagonists have different flavors to their forbidden love; societal taboo, for the feelings of near ones, a unenviable future…
The protagonists are real, they’re not celebrating the forbidden-ness of their love, it’s not a thrill for them. It’s not something that either of them is doing out self-esteem issues, or out of self-pity. The reasons are as layered as Tessa & Will’s maturity in knowing a relationship cannot be built on someone’s broken heart, to the simplistic but no less horrific reason of Jace & Clary being siblings.
In her latest book, Lady Midnight, she deftly plays across the difference of loving someone near-at-hand and loving someone for who they are. She is also markedly more open about sexual encounters, although no definite descriptions yet given the vast swathe of ages she caters to. In this book she also plays with the idea of the protagonists enjoying casual sexual encounters for the fun of it while knowing they love someone else. It’s not the desperation that fueled Jace nor the curiosity that fueled Aline in City of Glass, it’s a modern representation of love and sex.
However the best reason to keep reading Cassie’s books, once you start? The snippets and Easter Eggs which fulfill the yearning in every fan’s heart:
What happened after ‘The End’?