Hi! Joanne here in italics! Welcome to Ava’s first review, QoAaD! You’ll see two QoAaD reviews since both her and I have our own opinions we want to share, but without further ado, enjoy!
Disclamier: this review has minor spoilers of QoAaD, so read at your own risk, or go to Joanne’s completely spoiler free version HERE!
Do you guys want to know what happened in Queen of Air and Darkness?
That’s what happened.
First of all, full disclosure, I am not a fan of Cassie Clare as a person, considering her history (and my own unpleasant encounters with her), but I also dislike the majority of her books. Before anyone starts to call me out and demand to know why I continue to read them if I don’t like them, let me just say: emotional value. I used to be obsessed with everything she wrote, and I would’ve kissed the ground she walked upon.
People change, I matured, and I reread her books and found them far less enjoyable. If you are a fan? Carry on! I know how it feels to be enraptured with an author and their creations, and I do not begrudge or judge you for that—I simply have a lot of thoughts, and I think it’s fair for them to be expressed, given how much time I’ve dedicated to this series.
Name: Queen of Air and Darkness
Author: Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release Date: December 4, 2018
What if damnation is the price of true love?
Innocent blood has been spilled on the steps of the Council Hall, the sacred stronghold of the Shadowhunters. In the wake of the tragic death of Livia Blackthorn, the Clave teeters on the brink of civil war. One fragment of the Blackthorn family flees to Los Angeles, seeking to discover the source of the blight that is destroying the race of warlocks.
Meanwhile, Julian and Emma take desperate measures to put their forbidden love aside and undertake a perilous mission to Faerie to retrieve the Black Volume of the Dead. What they find in the Courts is a secret that may tear the Shadow World asunder and open a dark path into a future they could never have imagined. Caught in a race against time, Emma and Julian must save the world of Shadowhunters before the deadly power of the parabatai curse destroys them and everyone they love.
Book Cover Comments
I saw somewhere that this cover took two photoshoots to create. And I wonder to myself—why. I can barely use photoshop to make fliers for my classes, but even I feel like I could’ve scraped together something better than this cover. I get that they use real models and then tweak and photoshop them to make them a bit more cartoony, to match Clare’s other covers for the Shadowhunter series—but Annabel’s skin has no depth or texture, her dress is poorly contoured, and it all looks horrendously cheap.
The title is absurdly long: How did we go from nice, concise Lady Midnight to Queen of Air and Darkness and Probably Twelve Other Different Things That A Queen Might Have Domain Over? It’s almost as absurd as City of Bones —> City of Heavenly Fire. It’s a mouthful. It’s a pain in the ass to type. And it barely fits on its own cover. While Lady Midnight and Lord of Shadows have relatively similar color schemes and aesthetics that identifies them clearly as individual stories within the same series, I don’t even know where Queen of Air and Darkness came from. Suddenly we have sky-blue as opposed to a dark green-blue, we’ve got gold, throw in a big splatter of red just for the hell of it…it isn’t cohesive. And if it’s meant to make Queen of Air and Darkness stand out from the other two books, it misses its mark in terms of actual content: this was by far the worst installment of this trilogy, which has failed to grab my attention from the beginning, so I hope the designers were attempting to single it out as the ugly stepsister to Lady and Lord, or else they’ve failed. Next, this thing is too long. It’s too big. Every time I opened it, I heard the spine scream and grunt, emitting noises similar to the ones I make at the gym when I attempt to tackle a dumbbell too heavy for me—it can’t even contain itself. It’s a good thing I’ll never reread it, because I honestly think it would fall apart.
The Actual Review
The Plot (Or lack thereof): It’s been a while since I (skimmed) read Lord of Shadows and Lady Midnight, but I still had a vague sense of those plots: for the first, find out who killed Emma’s parents and who’s leaving body parts around LA (or something like that). Lord was more…rescue Kieran, who everyone except Mark hates, and then come back and…run from more faeries. And deal with Zara Dearborn who sucks. Lord was sort of our introduction to the not-so-subtle nudge toward America’s current political/social situation, where angry white people use fear tactics to turn the world against…everyone else. Yeah, it’s shitty. I have to say it was bold of Clare to go there, and I almost want to respect her for at least pointing out these peoples’ wrongdoings and not heroifying them in the end. But I can’t, and here’s why: we never get an explanation for why they hate the Downworlders so much.
Is it religious zeal? A god complex? Did something happen during the Dark War to make these people hate anyone who isn’t a Shadowhunter (mind you, everyone minus the faeries fought with the Shadowhunters in the Dark War so idk what’s going on there).
It’s never explained. We just get a bunch (too many) scenes where the same characters (Horace and Zara) blame the Downworlders for everything, manipulate people into believing they’re right, and so on. I’m not trying to imply that these scenes aren’t indicative of things that go on in governments everywhere, but for a YA book? There’s too many of them. Queen of Air and Darkness became a political mess. With The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices, the scenes featuring the Council and the Consul (which I honestly still get mixed up, and then she threw in ‘Cohort’ and now I’m triply confused), were at least kept to a minimum. Because this is YA—I expect it to be quick, fast-paced, and exciting. Not a bunch of scenes featuring teenagers sneaking into racist meetings to spy (if they snuck in to mess sh*t up, maybe I’d get behind it, but they just watched and left. Over and over and over again).
The second grave mistake Clare makes is recycling her exact plots from Heavenly Fire and Lord of Shadows. Exact. Plot. Some of our mains get sent to the realm of Faerie to rescue/obtain someone or something (I’m trying to keep spoilers to a minimum here). The rest of the mains follow them into Faerie (shocking, I know). They all get captured, but a daring plan makes for a grand escape! And then some of these mains get sent to an alternate dimension! It’s quite literally the Edom plot-point in City of Heavenly Fire, where the mains are sent to a world where bad triumphed instead of good.
Because the villains won the Dark War in this world, everyone’s Endarkened (exactly like Edom), and seraph blades don’t work (again, exactly like Edom). It’s irksome because I already read these plot lines in Lord of Shadows and City of Heavenly Fire. We know what happens: they go somewhere, it’s shitty, they escape by the skin of their teeth. That’s exactly what happens again. And it’s no better the second time around, either.
Now, to discuss the plot line of the children: BLEGH. I actually like Ty, I think he’s one of the more interesting characters in the series, and I would honestly be intrigued to watch his relationship with Kit develop (unless they become parabatai and then realize they’re in love and CC copies the Jemma plotline, which, at this point, I wouldn’t put it past her). But he appears to have learned nothing from the trauma of books 1 and 2. It’s like all of the necromancy stuff didn’t affect him in the least bit, so he concocts a scheme to “not accept” Livvy’s death. You can see where this is going—a blind mole could’ve seen where it was going. Before I even opened Queen of Air and Darkness I knew what he was going to do, and boy did he do it. Sort of. Ty spent his entire plot line playing with fire, with Kit in the background going “Hoe don’t do it…oh my god.” And then…nothing really came of it. Magnus beat his ass with a painful verbal lashing, but there are no consequences for the thing that Ty tried to do, despite the fact that, supposedly, it could rip the whole world apart (what is it with these kids and literally deciding that they’re more important than the entire Earth?).
Kit was funny in Lord of Shadows. He was always on the outskirts, and we established in that book that he and Ty were friends and he was basically the Emma to Ty’s Julian—they can’t be separated, their bond is deep, blah blah. But in Queen, Kit, who honestly seems smarter than the majority of the cast considering he was raised on the streets and not in a palace in an Institute, he became Ty’s bitch. His shadow (that is quite literally stated in the book). And it was sad to watch. He was willing to sacrifice the world to appease Ty, even though he knew it was a stupid idea that wouldn’t fix anything, and honestly he seemed to have better sense than that. #RIPKit’sSpine2k18
Now let’s talk about the plot’s ending: It was supposed to be dramatic. It was supposed to be “OH my GoD what WiLL TheY dO!” But that’s how all of Clare’s endings go. I don’t think it’s possible for her to write a book that doesn’t end with a straight white ship sailing into the sunset with a tinge of “bitterness” because some side character that we don’t care about didn’t hook up with the girl he wanted to hook up with and/or died. We reach this exact same conclusion (I kid you not it’s the same ending to City of Heavenly Fire, but on a beach), with little to no consequences. This book’s hook was EVERYTHING WILL CHANGE. You guys want to know what changed? Nothing we care about. Going from a racist system to a non-biased system? Yeah, it’s a victory, considering the havoc that would’ve been caused by the Cohort (and it’s blatant disgustingness), but would I go so far as to say the world of the Shadowhunters will never be the same?
Not even close, especially considering ~Shadowhunters with old-world views try to persecute Downworlders and are just barely defeated~ is featured as a plot point in every single series.
Things were mildly rearranged, but I wouldn’t say everything changed. It was absurd. It was ridiculous. Positions of power were given to new characters, and they were all given to the characters you’re thinking about. Y’all know who ended up on the Unseelie throne. You know it. From the moment we met that character, it was basically drawn on his forehead: HELLO. I AM THE NEXT UNSEELIE KING. WE’RE GOING TO BE GOOD GUYS NOW BECAUSE I AM CAPABLE OF LOVE. HAR HAR HAR. Ugh.
My biggest complaint with this plot is that it was way, way too drawn out, and it was so discombobulated and weird, and I didn’t like it at all. Also, it was identical to everything else CC has ever written, ever. Which was disappointing.
I’m going to move on to CHARACTERS.
Okay, let’s start with our “faves”, Jemma. *Deep sigh* Oh boy. I don’t get this relationship. It makes no sense to me. CC goes out of her way to tell us how in love they are, how passionate that love is, how intimate they are with each other…I have never, not even in the SJM books, seen two characters who are hornier for each other. And, that’s…fine. Sure, it’s fine. Have sex, don’t have sex, honestly as long as both parties are 16+ and it’s consensual, I don’t care. But they were pawing at each other’s clothes this entire book. Julian returns from situating Livvy’s body in the City of Bones, and the first thing he and Emma do is take a shower together. How this could be interpreted as anything other than “romantic” is beyond me, but they spend the first few minutes thinking, “Naw, it’s fine, we’re parabatai.” Sounds fake but okay.
What I can’t understand about them is that they need to have sex. They seem to be under the impression that you can’t express love in a way that isn’t physical, and even looking at each other makes them want to rip their clothes off. Is this supposed to be the parabatai curse? If so…it’s not cute. CC shouldn’t have gone that route. And speaking of this curse: supposedly, their love will wreck the whole world. Like, the whole entire world. And they’re still having sex. At least with Jace and Clary, they weren’t endangering the entire Shadowhunter population by banging in a demon cave. But Jemma is literally giving the world their middle fingers just so they can get it on. I have never seen a relationship like theirs. Actually, yes, I have. If you’ve ever seen Crazy Rich Asians, they remind me of Cousin Alistair and his girlfriend, Kitty Pong. THAT is how Jemma behaved throughout this entire book. They are completely self-absorbed, willing to drown the world for their love, and their sense of entitlement is quite literally horrifying. Julian, especially, took the cake for scariest in Queen of Air and Darkness. Julian pulled a William Herondale which, combined with his lack of remorse when it comes to doing anything for his family, led to some angst that I wasn’t okay with. First of all, because it was predictable, boring, and it made him stupid. Second of all, because it didn’t add to the plot in anyway shape or form. I was under the impression that character actions were supposed to drive the plot along, but I guess not.
Next: Kit and Ty. I spoke a little bit about this, so I won’t go over it again, but Kit became Ty’s bitch in this book, end of story.
Next: the warlocks. Does someone want to explain to me why the warlocks are the Shadowhunters’ deus ex machina? Whenever there is a problem, Magnus shows up and fixes it with magic. “But wait, Magnus is sick in this book and can’t use his powers!” Please. If you actually thought that was going to be permanent, you’re a silly goose and have not read a CC book before. And, of course, there’s an exception. Tessa Gray, whose character I actually liked but who needs to be put to rest, and Jem show up out of nowhere and fix everything. They do this practically every book: appear at the end, offer one character some “life-changing” information that said character agonizes over before eventually telling their love interest in a steamy conversation that leads to sex, and everything is resolved. Because Jem read a book, or Tessa had a vision, or whatever. What Tessa’s powers actually are is still confusing to me—it’s been a while since I read TID, but I always thought she had, like, one ability: the shifting. Suddenly she’s a full-blown warlock with all this information? Information that conveniently resolves every conflict these books contain? What?
Zara: Not much to say. She had no complexity, she was stupid and racist and bigoted and had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. She can burn for all I care. But I will say this: she called out my biggest problem with the TMI series. She screams at Emma that Clary and Jace’s relationship is disgusting! Emma says, “They’re not related!!!!!” Zara says, “But they thought they were and that’s the same thing!!!” And honestly? Girl’s got a point. I never ever believed that Jace and Clary were truly related, but the incest plot line still through me for a loop. I wouldn’t have cared if they’d been confused, trying to wrap away their feelings for each other, but they didn’t. Despite the fact that they were 100% convinced that they were siblings, they were still hot and heavy for each other. And then acting on it. W H A T. I didn’t get it. I still don’t. And Zara, despite being the worst person in these books, actually hit the nail on the head with that one.
Next: Manuel. Let’s talk about Manuel. There were hints that this guy was kind of manipulating Horace and Zara and some faeries, and he was running the show behind the scenes. But…that’s never clarified, or confirmed, and if it was a hint at him being our next “big bad,” honestly whatever. He’s annoying, obnoxious, and a total coward. But for whatever reason, he got page time and his own POV. Which leads me to my next point.
What is it with giving everyone and their dog a POV. I was waiting for Will Herondale to start narrating as a ghost, it was absurd. There were probably just under 20 different narrators, and they switched so often that I barely had a grasp on the story. And they were unnecessary. And they blended together. It’s difficult for me to tell Julian’s POV from Emma’s from Mark’s from Helen’s from Cristina’s from Kieran’s…and so on. I barely had any idea who was talking at any given point, and I realized almost immediately that I didn’t care.
Let’s discuss Mark, Kieran, and Cristina. Call it what you want, I actually liked the “hot faerie threesome” going on, as Emma called it. Because it’s different from what we usually see in YA, where the love triangle ends and leaves one person sad—not so with this one. That said, there were points when I couldn’t distinguish Mark and Kieran from Will and Jem, with Cristina being Tessa. The pretty speeches they made, her distress, gah. And it was pretty clear that Mark and Kieran were chill with the whole threesome thing, given their faerie blood (because human blood means we’re genetically coded for monogamy of course), but Cristina never seemed to realize that they wanted the relationship to be the three of them. Which didn’t make sense to me because didn’t CC go on and on about how the Rosales’ know sooooo much about faeries? How has she not been able to pick up on the fact that faeries don’t view love the way humans do? Whatever. They were cute, it was (fairly) new, and Cristina was level-headed enough to be productive and balance her angst. It was by far my favorite ship, but it was kind of a “least hated” situation.
I’m starting to struggle because there were so many characters and I’m losing track of them all, so I think I’m going to wrap it up.
All in all, Queen of Air and Darkness was easily my least favorite Cassandra Clare book, and I say that having suffered through City of Ashes, City of Fallen Angels, and City of Lost Souls. A quick recap:
- It’s WAY too long, takes too long to get started, and even when it gets “started,” it’s boring
- She recycles a potpourri of plots from her former books
- The characters are copy-cuts of each other
- It’s BORING
- There’s nothing surprising
- We were totally lied to: Nothing changes! Whatsoever!
- The ending is identical to City of Heavenly Fire’s.
And I can’t say my final piece without majorly spoiling some things, but one of the final scenes in Queen was…mind-boggling. Reader, if you thought we had finished with our “someone with blonde hair wants to claim Clary as his own” angst, oh. Oh you would be wrong.
*If I got something wrong in my review, I am sorry. I’ll admit, I bought the book, read it in a night, and returned it the next day, so I didn’t write this review with an actual copy at my side*
**Another disclaimer: Any issues I have with CC and her books do not relate in any way to how I feel about her readers. I have met so many amazing people through these books, and I don’t want to take their joy away from them. I just feel it’s alright for me to share my opinion, considering CC is a professional. Also: I didn’t go into QoAaD wanting to hate it. But shit happens**