A Slice-of-Life Story, But with Demons: “The Red Scrolls of Magic” by Cassandra Clare & Wesley Chu

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The Red Scrolls of Magic by Cassandra Clare & Wesley Chu
Official Summary

Magnus Bane, a centuries old High Warlock, has taken possession of one of the great relics of the supernatural world, a powerful spell book of dark magic known as The Book of the White and there are many who want to claim it for themselves.

After the Mortal War where the part-human and part-angel Shadowhunters teamed with the part human-demon Downworlders to fight against the incursion of an army of demons, Magnus and his new lover, the mortal Alec Lightwood celebrate their survival and victory by escaping the supernatural battlefield of New York City by touring the world, but the world won’t leave them alone.


My Thoughts

This was not my most anticipated Cassandra Clare release of the year. In fact, I would’ve placed it third, after Chain of Gold and the Ghosts of the Shadow Market bind-up with the final few stories. But now Chain of Gold has been pushed back to March 2020 due to health issues Clare is having, so I guess this book now gets to be second.

What I’m saying is I went into this book with pretty much no expectations. I kind of forgot it was taking place during City of Fallen Angels, so it threw me for a loop when Magnus and Alec were on their first vacation after the Mortal War.

“But Ren, the summary says they’re touring the world after a war!” you may be saying. Yes, but they also participated in the war in The Dark Artifices so I just assumed this book would take place in between that and The Wicked Powers.

It’s surreal going back after all the character and relationship development that’s happened for these characters. It’s not like rereading the series. This is a new story that jarringly thrusts the reader back in time. This isn’t necessarily a criticism, just a feeling I had while reading.

No, my criticism of this book mainly stems from the fact that none of this story has any weight. Because it takes place before books we’ve already read, we know Alec and Magnus make it out okay. It’s impossible to feel any fear for them because we already know where they end up.

This extends to the story, in which Magnus’ entire credibility is in question because he may or may not have started a cult that is now killing people and faeries alike. Except we know he must not take a permanent hit because he remains a well-respected figure in the following books.

Additionally, the overall story has little to no impact on the characters or overarching Shadowhunter Chronicles story. It’s one small, contained event. Even the novella bind-ups have some overall impact on the story. They introduce us to characters we’ll meet in later series and have a main goal they seek to achieve.

The Bane Chronicles offers valuable insight into Magnus’ character and life. Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy shows us how Simon becomes a Shadowhunter and how he develops along this journey. Ghosts of the Shadow Market gives a glimpse into Jem’s life as a Silent Brother, provides character development, and explains how and why he protects Kit.

The Red Scrolls of Magic offers none of this. We learn nothing new about Alec or Magnus and they don’t grow as characters at all. We see the seeds being planted for later conflict and development, but none of it happens here. The story is just… a thing that happened to them once.

Plus, the twist is really predictable. I figured it out and was almost immediately vindicated. I don’t think that’s ever happened to me when reading a Clare novel before. The epilogue gives another twist that makes it a bit more interesting, but the initial twist itself is unimpressive and expected.

All that said, it’s not a bad book. On the contrary, it’s a lot of fun! It was nice getting to see more of the early stages of Alec and Magnus’ relationship. I loved seeing Alec— my favorite The Mortal Instruments character (well, tied with Simon)— get to be the badass action hero. In fact, without Jace, Isabelle, and Clary around, he’s really allowed to shine. It doesn’t add anything new to his character, but it’s exciting to see.

It also made me really happy to see how Helen and Aline meet. It’s cute seeing them intrigued by one another, culminating in the proposal of a first date. I desperately need Clare to write more about them. It’s what I deserve.

I am left with one question though: how is this an adult novel? Seriously, this is marketed as Clare’s first novel for adults but… there’s no difference here between this and her young adult work. In fact, it’s less challenging than her young adult work. There’s also nothing explicit. I don’t even think the characters swear. So, again I ask, how is this an adult novel? Because Alec is eighteen and Magnus is centuries-old-but-physically-in-his-early-twenties? Character age alone does not an adult fantasy make.

In some ways, this reads like fanfiction. Perhaps that’s Chu’s influence, as Clare’s signature style is a tad muted here. This is still undeniably a Clare novel, but it lacks that emotional punch. That’s not to say fanfiction can’t be good (and if this were fanfiction, I’d say it’s one of the better stories), but that a canon novel shouldn’t feel like that.

But, honestly, I’m not really complaining. This was too fun a read to be all that mad about. The Red Scrolls of Magic may lack weight and impact, but it’s a cute story that I enjoyed reading. I’m interested to see where the next book will go. What can I say? I’m always a slut for The Shadowhunter Chronicles.


My Rating

better

 


Have you read this book? Let me know what you think in the comments!


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