Highlight: Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy

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Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy consists of ten short stories or novellas written by Cassandra Clare and various co-authors. These stories are connected by Simon Lewis, who was once human, became a vampire, and is now a mundane again having lost his memories in the events of City of Heavenly Fire. Through these novellas we get to see the road Simon takes to become a Shadowhunter and to gain his memories back, meeting some of our other favorite characters as guest speakers in the academy along the way. Each short story is introduced with a quote from the story as well as a wonderful comic book illustration by Cassandra Jean that give a bit of insight to the story before reading.

DISCLAIMER: I would HIGHLY recommend reading all the other major novels in the series (with the exclusion of The Bane Chronicles) before reading these short stories. There is a lot of intervention and new tales form some of the major characters across the Shadowhunter series spectrum.

Each novella will have its own summary and reflective review along with the introductory comic images.

 

“Welcome to Shadowhunter Academy” by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan

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Simon leaves his family and friends behind with no memories of them from past events, only from the present. In this story, we are introduced to the Shadowhunter Academy and all its glory. Simon seems to be revered as a hero, but he has no recollection of what his part was in the previous war. More comfortable rooming in the dungeons with the other mundanes, Simon finds that being a Shadowhunter might be more challenging than he thought. With his new roommate and friend, George Lovelace (a boy adopted into a Shadowhunter family, making him a mundane as well), Simon is ready to take on whatever challenges the academy puts forth for him, whether it’s the lack of indoor plumbing, or the appearance of a surprising gust speaker in one of his first classes!

This is a good introduction to some of the characters we will see throughout the novellas, as well as the Shadowhunter Academy itself and how things work between the various students and staff present.

 

“The Lost Herondale” by Cassandra Clare and Robin Wasserman

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This story begins with some rigorous morning training, something that is a part of the academy daily life whether you are a mundane or of Shadowhunter blood. When Simon seemingly fails compared to everyone else (yet again), the coach keeps him back, along with 19 of the other supposedly top students in the class. A Downworlder has been causing problems, and Simon, among others, has been chose for this out-in-the-field training session to take care of the Downworlder. We learn that many of Simon’s classmates (including his roommate, George) thought he was lying about losing his memories just to seem laid back or cool. Before the students go out on their first “field” mission to kill a vampire, one of the institute heads comes in to talk about Tobias Herondale and how he left his own in battle, the worst thing a Shadowhunter could ever do. Since they could not find him to sentence him, they sentenced his pregnant wife to death. After finding out that Simon came face-to-face with the vampire on the mission and preferred to talk to it over killing it (although Isabelle comes in and destroys it), she confides in Simon that those many eyars ago (1818?) she saved the child from Tobias’s wife, placing an enchantment on her to make her appear that she was still pregnant. Simon learns that, out there somewhere, there is a lost line of Herondale’s living a mundane life. He debates on whether or not to tell Clary and Jace, but since he doesn’t know them that well at present, he decides to wait.

This story was interesting because I am a Tessa and Will fan, and learning even more history about the Herondale line was fun. I believe Tobias is Will’s grandfather’s brother (or something of the sort). Introducing this Herondale story gives us insight into potential Herondale’s that may join us in the future of the Shadowhunter novels, which is an interesting addition.

 

“The Whitechapel Fiend” by Cassandra Clare and Maureen Johnson

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Jace makes an appearance to help train the young Shadowhunters how to leap from heights and land in an efficient manner (through practice with a tree). Of course, Simon isn’t that thrilled or that great at the process. The students also get another guest speaker: Tessa. She recollects a story from 1888 when her children were very small and a demon was murdering women and removing their internal organs. Jessamine, Shadowhunter ghost and protector of the London Institute, figures the demon wants a mother. In an attempt to save the children and play mother, the Shadowhunters are able to dispel the demon whose murders brought upon the name of Jack the Ripper. Jace finally confronts Tessa, and the feeling of knowing there is another Herondale who shares his blood brings Jace Solace. Simon finally builds up the courage to write a letter to Isabelle, despite his lack of memories.

This story was interesting in that it went from the time skip of 2008 to 1888, bringing us back to a story told from Tessa’s time. The Infernal Devices being my favorite of Clare’s novels, the short story within the story was refreshing and fun to see some of the action with Tessa and Will as Shadowhunters as well as new parents.

 

“Nothing but Shadows” by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan

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While Simon and Jon butt heads in class about the superiority of those with Shadowhunter blood over those without, he is asked to stay after class to hear a tale told by history teacher and warlock, Catarina Loss. A time jumps lands us back in 1899 with a thirteen-year-old James Herondale newly admitted to the Shadowhunter Academy. James is a shy bookworm with yellow eyes and begins his reputation at the academy poorly; all he really wants to do is make friends, but he may not have the social skills to do so. When an amiss battering ram being used on the practice field by the students should have killed James, he turned into a shadow, the hunk of wood going right through him. While he can bear marks, he has also inherited the strange demon powers his mother possesses. This makes his reputation even worse, and when a demon pyxis exercise goes terribly wrong, he is expelled. He isn’t alone, though; one other Shadowhunter aims to be expelled with him and become his parabatai. With the outcome of the story, Simon reflects upon his friendship with Clary and decides to write to her and maybe someday ask her to be his parabatai.

This story was the most interesting so far. We get to see a bit of James Herondale, what kind of Shadowhunter and person he is, and how he met his parabatai. I have a feeling that this will be a lead-in to Clare’s newest series, The Last Hours coming in 2018 and featuring the children of some of our favorite Shadowhunters. By far the best of the novellas in the book (thus far).

 

“The Evil We Love” by Cassandra Clare and Robin Wasserman

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It’s nearly summer time at the Academy and the students get a leave-off from the Inquisitor himself, Robert Lightwood, with assistance, to Simon’s dismay, from his daughter, Isabelle. Robert wants to leave the students off to ponder about when given power and how to use (or not use) those powers given. He tells of a time when he was a member of Valentine’s Circle, how close he was to the start of the Dark War himself. We meet Stephen Herondale, a new addition to the Circle, but the most devoted to Valentine. We also get to see the parabatai relationships between Lucian Graymark and Valentine as well as Robert Lightwood and Michael Wayland. The story jumps back and forth between Robert and his rush with power in 1984, and 2008 where Simon fights with his own dilemmas over Isabelle. When Isabelle asks the other Academy students to help her summon a demon at the end-of-year party, they all oblige, except for two: Simon and another girl. It turns out that the demon summoning was a test of following those with power blindly, the Inquisitor hoping some of his lectures of his time with Valentine would strike the students, but no. Only two students could resist the call of power, could demonstrate the difference between right and wrong based on Robert’s lectures. Now Simon continues his quest to find himself and possibly set up a date with Isabelle.

This story was okay, but not the most interesting. The better aspects of this story were the past that we get to see with some of the parents of our favorite Shadowhunters from The Mortal Instruments. We get a glimpse of Valentine’s ideal power and goals, and why he aims at such goals through the weakness of the Clave, his hatred of Downworlders, and the death of his father. We also see a little bit more about Robert Lightwood and why he, perhaps, treats Alec the way he does and was maybe never completely in love with his wife from the start.

 

“Pale Kings and Princes” by Cassandra Clare and Robin Wasserman

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Summer break has ended and Simon is back at the academy, aiming to write a 500 word paper about what he did over the summer, like possibly ruin his relationship with Isabelle yet again. When Helen Blackthorn comes to tell the story about how her father was ensnared by the magic of faeries, she is ridiculed for her half-blood nature. Many Shadowhunters died and lost family members to the faeries that joined Sebastian in the war, and faeries are looked down upon no matter the situation. When Simon goes to chat with Helen after class, to explain that he find the discrimination wrong since she is a Shadowhunter, he finds Isabelle hiding in wait for him in Helen’s living area. Simon and Isabelle are urged to go on a date, and Isabelle keeps trying to get Simon to do things Jace has suggested, when Simon is nothing like Jace! In the end, Simon is invited to Helen’s wedding during her brief stay in Idris, but he is invited as Isabelle’s plus one!

This story is a bit of a lead-in to the next story, which shows Helen’s wedding and a glimpse of the other Blackthorn children as well as Mark in his Wild Hunt setting. A major difference between this story and others is that Helen’s story is short and told within a few pages of her summarizing events, whereas other stories go back in time and tell the event from that perspective. This made the story have a little less impact, but this story was more about Simon and Isabelle rebuilding their relationship, rather than the learning focus of an academy lecturer.

 

“Bitter of Tongue” by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan

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Everyone at the Academy gets a turn to lead a mission, and not it is George’s turn. He is extremely excited, but tends to lack the caution of Simon and some of the elite Shadowhunters. When George’s team is sent to investigate a faerie sighting, George wants the group to split off just far enough that the three pairs can hear each other. When George spots the faerie that has been drawing mundanes in, Simon lunges at him to stop, noticing that it is a trap. With his lunge, Simon falls into the world of the faeries. The one who lured him in with the trap wants to claim him, but Mark Blackthorn lays claim on Simon as Simon is to be a Shadowhunter and thus one of Mark’s brethren. Simon lays the news that there is no search party for Mark, but his sister is getting married. As Mark relays his memories of his sibling, Simon struggles to put a name with a face, knowing Clary had mentioned the Blackthorns at least a few times. When Isabelle comes to help Simon escape from the faerieland, they return to George and the group to a warm welcome. The story ends with Simon and Isabelle’s attendance of Helen’s wedding, where Simon humbly observes the Blackthorn children and reflects upon Mark’s previous ruminations.

This is actually a unique sort of lead-in story for Lady Midnight. The time period of this story places Mark with the Wild Hunt and we find that Emma and Julian have not been through the parabatai ceremony just yet. It also gives us the view of Mark’s feelings of being in the land of faerie and his feelings toward his family members that we do not see much of in Lady Midnight as his end of the tale.

 

“The Fiery Trial” by Cassandra Clare and Maureen Johnson

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Simon and Clary have been invited by Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn to skip out on school and duties to witness their parabatai ceremony. When Magnus gets a portal ready for travel, Simon and Clary find themselves in a familiar, yet obscure and empty, Central Park. When Clary vanishes in thin air and the angel statue’s gaze follows Simon, he knows something is wrong. A swan boat takes Simon through the tunnel of love where Jace tells Simon it is important to remember when they first met, it is key information for events to come. Simon is also visited by various females that he has had in is life, including Maia, Maureen, and Clary. When Simon must choose to save one, he knows who it is immediately and Jumps into the river, fighting the current to save his best friend. When he sees that she is struggling to reach him as well, they awake to find themselves back on a couch at the Academy having tea. It turns out that Jem, Magnus, and Catarina gave them the hallucinogen water of Lake Lyn, the trial by water that has shown the two that they are, in fact, meant to be parabatai. When they finally attend the Fiery Trial in the City of Bones, Simon sees a glimpse of something behind the eyes of Emma and Julian, something he recognizes in himself. It is in that moment that Simon’s memory decides to come forth, showing him a time when he was going to confess his love to Clary, and a time when he indirectly met Jace as well.

At first this story was very strange. Reading it did have the effect of one drinking a hallucinogenic water from a sacred lake. When it was obviously something that was not really happening, it was more interesting to read into the things that the visiting characters of Simon’s subconscious were hinting at. When Simon realizes that being parabatai means being inseparable, he and Clary know that their relationship is perfect for the bond, they just need to let Jace know. It was fun seeing Julian and Emma during their ceremony knowing their feelings for each other and seeing how reluctant they seemed to be because of those feelings, yet they continued on with the Fiery Trial. It will be fun to see Simon and Clary paired at long last as well.

 

“Born to Endless Night” by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan

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Magnus has been invited to be a guest teacher at the Academy for a few months. Bringing Alec with him, he has only eyes for his lover, while everyone else seems to have eyes for him. When Simon and his friends opt for some archery practice, they are stopped in their tracks when they find a blue warlock baby left on the steps of the Academy. When the whole Lightwood family makes an appearance on campus to see the baby, Magnus realizes that he and Alec may be in this for the long haul. When Simon finally approached Alec about the alleged reason for the dislike between the two, Alec clarifies that Simon not only saved his life, but the lives of those he loves. Simon tells Alec that Jace implied something quite different, and the two parabatai duke it out in their own way. With little baby Max Lightwood joining the family. Maryse has the excitement of being a grandmother, and Magnus rationalized that Alec will one day leave them, but he and Max will live forever.

This was a nice introductory to the adopted baby warlock that we only get a small glimpse of in Lady Midnight. It was interesting to see how Alec and Magnus came to take him in in the first place and the feelings behind adopting the child as well. It is also a potential lead-in for future novels. I hope we get to see more of baby Max Lightwood!

 

“Angels Twice Ascending” by Cassandra Clare and Robin Wasserman

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It is finally time for the class of mundanes to attempt ascension. Some of the mundanes have double thoughts about becoming Shadowhunters. While they showed prowess in the events of the Academy, not all were fit to become Shadowhunters, and those who were cowards fled the night before. When ascension time comes, Simon is nervous, but he has Clary and Isabelle there, knowing they have faith in his becoming a Shadowhunter. While we know from events that Simon successfully ascends and later becomes Clary’s parabatai, not all the students make it through ascension, and the brutal death of those unworthy is terrifying. To Simon, even those who did not make it were still worthy, and they had a place among Shadowhunters in a home belonging to the past.

Trying to be a bit more vague with the last story, it was a good one. I was a bit upset, but the resolution and burial of a dear friend as a Shadowhunter brings us back to the London Institute and an allusion to Jessamine, while not explicitly stated in the story. It was a great end to a wonderful collection of stories that really add to many aspects of the Shadowhunter series.

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Should You Read It?–Honorable Mentions (Part 1)

So here I am not reviewing a whole series, but rather the first and maybe second books of some book series’ that I have in my “It was nice to read but I don’t need to keep it or reread it again” category. Now, deciding not to keep something or not to read it again does not equal “No, you shouldn’t read it.” Some of the books I will mention here are for directed audiences. In fact, all of the books for “Honorable Mentions (Part 1)” are children’s or young adult, and all are paranormal or dystopian on some level or other.

  1. Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean (Book 1)by Justin Somper

 On a side note, this is the original cover of the first novel which is no longer published. Now the publisher has different, less appealing art on the books. Because of this, these first edition versions with unique art are valuable and have better resale value than most used books do.

Genre: Children’s Fantasy/Fiction

Rating: 3.5/5

I only read book one, Demons of the Ocean, even though I had the other two books. This is a great adventure novel for simple reading, ages 11-16. The writing is simple and the text is large, making it a fast read. This book features twins Connor and Grace Tempest, whose father dies, and instead of going to an orphanage, they find refuge in taking their father’s boat out to sea and making a new life. When a storm hits, the twins are separated. Connor ends up on a regular pirate ship, while Grace finds herself among the fabled Vampirates.

Connor and Grace seek to find each other once more. That is the basis of the story. It is very simply written with very little development of the novel, BUT this novel has great set-up for the future books in  the series. I liked how this book was self-sustained, and I wanted to read the next ones, but I could be content with just reading the first one, answering the questions it leaves on my own interpretation. If you are a boy or girl or know a boy or girl with my previously mentioned age range of 11-16, this is a great book. If you are over 18, I would say pass on this one because it is just too delved into the world of children’s books.

2. The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening and The Struggle (Books 1 and 2) by L. J. Smith

 These are likewise older artwork editions of these books and hard to find now.

Genre: Yong Adult Paranormal Romance

Rating: 3.5

For the record, I have not seen the TV show. I remember trying to watch it when it first came out and I couldn’t even make it through the first episode. Now that it’s about five years later and I have read some of the books, I will give the show a second chance.

This series features Elena and her superior status as a popular high school beauty. When Stefan moves to town, Elena seeks him out for her newest boyfriend, only to find that she wants more from this relationship than any she has ever had. What she later finds out is that Stefan is a vampire and his brother, Damien, wants to ruin his life. Their lives were already ruined when they were turned by the same vampire girl, claiming to love them both. When she realized these men couldn’t share her, she met the sun. Elena apparently highly resembles this past lover.

This series has a lot of interesting mythical elements to it that take it into the world of paranormal, but it is written in a way that makes it feel so real. This was worth the read and is recommended for the teens who like the usual paranormal vampire romance that has become the normal cliché. This is otherwise a no, don’t read it.

 

3. Deadly Little Secret (Touch Book 1) by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Genre: Young Adult Fiction/Romance

Rating: 5/5

This first book in the series begins with Camelia who is saved by a mysterious stranger when she is about to be hit by a car. It turns out this stranger ends up living in her town and going to her school. Everyone thinks Ben is responsible for the death of his ex-girlfriend, making him unapproachable by the general populace. Camelia makes it her goal to reach out to him and learn his story. Ben is a distant person and keeps pushing her away, telling her she is in constant danger. How does Ben know this? Eventually, for her safety, he tells his secret: he is an empath. Ben can see images and feel things through touch, whether he is touching an object or a person.

YES you should read this book. It doesn’t matter what age or gender you are, the mystery of Camelia’s danger and Ben’s secret keep you itching for more. This is a page-turner that I finished in one day.

4. Evernight and Stargazer (Books 1 and 2) by Claudia Gray

Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Romance

Rating: 3.5/5

Bianca doesn’t seem to fit in at Evernight Academy, but that’s because she hasn’t come into her full vampire powers. Yet. Lucas doesn’t seem to fit in either, but that is because he is actually a member of the Black Cross vampire hunters. In Stargazer, Bianca and Lucas do everything they can to see each other while keeping their secrets from everyone around them. Let’s not forget the wraith problem occurring at Evernight Academy!

This book is fairly well written, a classic Romeo and Juliet story for anyone who is, once again, interested in that classic vampire romance. Otherwise, this book can be skipped. If you want good vampire and slayer action on  a teenage level, check out The Chronicles of Vladimir Todd. Now that was a wonderful series for teens (and not a romance)!

Also, if you like her writing style, Claudia Gray has also written (and is working one) some of the young adult Star Wars books such as Bloodline: New Republic and Journey to Star Wars: The For Awakens Lost Stars.

5. Skinned (Books 1 and 2) by Robin Wasserman

Genre: Young Adult Dystopian

Rating: 4/5

This trilogy is VERY interesting. I am currently reading the third book, Wired, taking my time after I slammed through the first two. This series features Lia Kahn, a girl who died, but her brain was sliced open, copied, and downloaded into an artificial body. This is a controversial issue throughout the series in which Faithers believe that an artificial body goes against God. War between mechs and Faithers.

This is a story of constantly questioning her own identity: is she really Lia or just a copy? She has all of Lia’s memories, but does that make her the same Lia on the inside? Should mechs and orgs (real people, not machines, organics) be able to coincide and be friends like everything was normal. When Lia’s friend Auden tries to save her from drowning, forgetting she doesn’t need to breathe, he nearly dies in the process, becoming the new leader of those who are against “skinners” or mechs.

And there’s Jude: the mech who finds that “skinners” are the new race, the higher level of being and living. He doesn’t seem to care about “org” lives at all, no morality left.

I highly recommend this series, for anyone. The controversial issue is great for readers who love conflict. This  is a very interesting series and keeps me reading to see how the world will come to peace, if it ever will. In a world already destroyed by nuclear war, how do people survive when technology revolves their entire existence?

 

 

 

I hope you enjoyed my short, to-the-point, quick reviews. These are honorable mentions because I did find some interest in reading them. They all had some sort of good hook within the first page or chapter, and that is how I choose my books. Look out for Honorable Mentions Part 2, where major novels like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Fifty Shades of Gray will be mentioned.