“Do not let those who cannot see the truth tell you who you are.”
Welcome to Edwardian London, a time of electric lights and long shadows, the celebration of artistic beauty and the wild pursuit of pleasure, with demons waiting in the dark. For years there has been peace in the Shadowhunter world. James and Lucie Herondale, children of the famous Will and Tessa, have grown up in an idyll with their loving friends and family, listening to stories of good defeating evil and love conquering all. But everything changes when the Blackthorn and Carstairs families come to London…and so does a remorseless and inescapable plague.
James Herondale longs for a great love, and thinks he has found it in the beautiful, mysterious Grace Blackthorn. Cordelia Carstairs is desperate to become a hero, save her family from ruin, and keep her secret love for James hidden. When disaster strikes the Shadowhunters, James, Cordelia and their friends are plunged into a wild adventure which will reveal dark and incredible powers, and the true cruel price of being a hero… and falling in love.
I have been waiting for this book since 2013 or 2014 when it was announced. Now, seven years later, I finally got to read it. Was it worth the wait? Sure.
Look, I’m not going to sit here and pretend this book is anything special. It’s a Shadowhunter book! You know what you’re getting into when you read one of these. And Clare delivered exactly what you’d expect with the first installment of The Last Hours. But that’s kind of the problem.
Full disclosure: I really enjoyed this book. I just don’t feel connected to it the way I do her previous series (especially The Infernal Devices and The Dark Artifices). The main reason is because Clare insists on writing about the same Shadowhunter families. This forces her to cycle through the same character traits and archetypes. That’s part of what was so fresh about TDA— it was mostly about the Blackthorn family, as opposed to the Herondales and Lightwoods.
In fact, the first half of Chain of Gold feels really off to me. It’s clear Clare started this story by relying heavily on the fact that these are the children of the Infernal Devices characters. As such, the relationships between these new characters and the dialogue feels forced and stilted. I really began to think this was where I needed to get of the Shadowhunter Chronicles train.
Fortunately, Clare finds her groove in the second half. It finally feels like a Cassandra Clare novel. Most of the relationships are better developed and the plot really starts to kick in. It makes reading through the mediocre first half worth it to me.
That said, this novel isn’t Clare’s best work. After writing a wonderful female friendship in TDA, she really backslides here. The problem is it doesn’t make sense because Cordelia and Lucie are going to become parabatai. So why are they hardly together?
And, of course, there’s a new love triangle between Cordelia, James, and Matthew (the latter two of which are parabatai). Why does this sound so familiar? Oh yeah, that’s a huge part of TID. There’s just no way Clare can pull off another love triangle as beautiful as that of Tessa, Jem, and Will.
The good news is the main conflict is unique, very demon-centric. There’s also lots of great diversity. Cordelia and her brother Alastair are half-Persian. There are several queer characters, including a gender non-conforming lesbian, two or three gay characters, two bisexual characters, and one lesbian minor character.
Would I recommend this book? Only to people who already like The Shadowhunter Chronicles. While you can read this book without having read the others, I feel like you’d appreciate it more if you have. That, and I just don’t feel like this is the best book to introduce someone to Cassandra Clare.
Despite its rocky start and my lack of attachment overall, I did enjoy this book and will be continuing the series. I’m interested to see how James and Cordelia’s relationship will develop and to learn more about Grace’s machinations. As much as I don’t like her per se, I find Grace to be one of the more interesting of the new characters. I just wish Clare had decided to write about a few of the many other Shadowhunter families who we don’t know much about.
But I guess Cassandra Clare is the one laughing to the bank because I can’t stop reading her books. She’s got me locked in chains and I’m not certain yet that I want to try and break out.
Have you read Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare? What are your thoughts? Let’s discuss in the comments!