Lady Midnight: The Dark Artifices, Book 1

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Lady Midnight: The Dark Artifices, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Shadowhunter fans will love, but the romance is nothing new.
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 13 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The short story "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson and Edgar Allan Poe's poem "Annabelle Lee" both figure prominently in the plot, and all chapter titles are taken from Poe's poem. Uncle Arthur is a scholar of ancient Greek and Roman history and literature, with some mentions of his studies. The characters visit a number of places in LA. Check a page labeled Notes on the Text to learn which places are real and which are imagined.

Positive Messages

Loyalty and love of family and friends are key here. And as an extension of that, standing up for and protecting those who face discrimination, either because of having mixed blood (faerie and human) or for not being neurotypical (autism). Also, unjust laws are questioned and not followed often. The Clave's philosophy: The law is hard, but it is the law. The Blackthorn family philosophy: A bad law is no law.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Much is made of Julian's sacrifice, raising his four younger siblings starting at age 12. He's the steady, responsible one compared with Emma, who's more impulsive and driven mostly by revenge for her parents' deaths. Tiberius, Julian's younger brother, is autistic (though a label isn't overtly given). He's fully drawn as an individual with sensitivities as well as strengths.

Violence

With intense battles against demons and strange cult activity involving murders and spells, Lady Midnight gets gory. People are killed with hands chopped off, zombie-like creatures get their heads chopped off with swords, dead bodies show up covered in bloody graffiti, a boy watches his father ripped apart by demons. One detail in an intense demon battle describes slashing open their "bulging white eyes." A poisoned arrow nearly kills a main character, and another main character nearly drowns while being attacked by demons underwater. Characters are whipped until they pass out. A young boy is kidnapped and drugged. A whole group of people sits silently because all their necks have been broken. Mentions of a woman walled up in a tomb alive by her own family, of a main character killing his own father in a possessed state to save the rest of his family, of a mother dying of bone cancer years earlier, and of another character tortured physically and emotionally.

Sex

Characters in their late teens have sex, but only intense kissing and groping are described, and there's a mention the next day that birth control was covered (there's a special Shadowhunter Rune for that). Other couples -- straight, gay, and bisexual -- kiss passionately. A mention of syphilis.

Language

"Bitches" a few times, "bastard," "hell," and versions of "goddamn."

Consumerism

Mentions of iPhones, the movie Notting Hill, and the Avengers franchise.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Older teen Shadowhunters walk into bars and nightclubs where people are drinking wine and champagne, and there's one mention of a woman smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Lady Midnight is Book 1 of the Dark Artifices series and part of a much larger Shadowhunters franchise. It includes six books in the Mortal Instruments series that takes place a few years before this series starts, three books in the Infernal Devices series that take place in the Victorian era, a movie (City of Bones), and a TV show (Shadowhunters). So most teens will already know quite a bit about this fantasy world full of Shadowhunters -- those with some angel blood who fight demons and sometimes faeries, warlocks, werewolves, and vampires. It helps to read the Mortal Instruments series before starting the Dark Artifices, but it isn't completely necessary. This series has always been for mature teen readers, because of both the level of violence and the sexual content. With intense battles against demons and strange cult activity involving murders and spells, Lady Midnight gets gory. People are killed with hands chopped off, zombie-like creatures get their heads chopped off with swords, dead bodies show up covered in bloody graffiti, and a boy watches his father ripped apart by demons. One detail in an intense demon battle describes slashing open their "bulging white eyes." A poisoned arrow nearly kills a main character, and another main character nearly drowns while being attacked by demons underwater. Characters are whipped until they pass out. These Shadowhunters also come with lots of baggage they must constantly sort through -- parents killed, horrors of battle witnessed at too young an age. Main characters have sex, not described beyond passionate kissing, and there's lots of that. As in the rest of the series, author Cassandra Clare offers all kinds of romance: Couples -- straight, gay, and bisexual -- kiss passionately. She also brings in a character on the autism spectrum who's well drawn, showing his sensitivities as well as his many strengths.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byrebma97 August 6, 2016

Not my favorite

I'm a huge fan of the Shadowhunters series, but honestly, Lady Midnight was not my favorite. The book felt too long, and I'm not a huge fan of Emma... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old March 30, 2016

Amazing book!!!

This book is awesome and is great if you have read The Mortal Instruments series or The Infernal Devices series. This book is about Emma Carstairs and her best... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bySlendyDaMan March 23, 2016

Good new start to a new series

This book is based on forbidden love. There is sex (non-descriptive) and a lot of making out between straight and bisexual people. This book has intense violenc... Continue reading

What's the story?

When a dead body turns up in Los Angeles, Emma Carstairs is anxious to investigate. It's soaked in seawater, burned, and covered in a demon language she can't read -- looking just like the bodies of her parents, found years before. Her parents' deaths had been considered casualties of the last big Shadowhunter war, case closed according to the Clave (Shadowhunters' governing body), but Emma always knew someone else killed them. At a secret Shadow Market, she gets a hint about where another body will be found, leading her to a secret LA cult filled with Downworlders. So much of what she's investigating is forbidden by the Clave, leading her parabatai Julian and his whole family at the L.A. Institute on a precarious path. It's a path made more dangerous when a convoy of faeries shows up, offering Julian's half-faerie brother, Mark, in exchange for them handing over the killer. While Julian wants his brother back at any cost, two problems arise: Contact with the faerie world is also forbidden after they sided with the enemy in the war, and Emma will not be handing over the killer to anyone. She's determined to have her revenge.

Is it any good?

Fans of the series who want more forbidden love with a demon-hunting backdrop will adore this start of a new series; those out for something fresh will be disappointed. LADY MIDNIGHT is part of a larger, highly successful formula where love is taboo and almost as dangerous as fighting demons. Emma and Julian make a great star-crossed pair, just like Jace and Clary and Tessa and Will, but spending thousands of pages getting those other two couples together (finally!) makes the whole Emma and Julian forbidden love tale feel a little tedious -- especially when they start keeping secrets from each other as an easy way to drag out the tension.

Lovelornness aside, there's also a big reveal about Julian's real role at the LA Institute that doesn't quite work. Most readers will suspect this big secret much earlier -- and will wonder why they put the clues together before Emma did. Cutting that part out would make Lady Midnight a more digestible length and get us all to the fantastically culty-creepy climactic action faster. That's when the book is finally full of surprises.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the representation of LGBTQ characters and an autistic character in Lady Midnight. Is it a surprise to see these characters depicted? Why, or why not? Do you think the books you read represent most people in society?

  • What do you think about the level of gore in this series? Is it essential to the storytelling? Have you grown used to all the demon battles? Are there scenes you wouldn't want to see in a movie or on TV?

  • With a TV show and many books, this franchise is well-established. Would you like the series to go on and on? Do you think having a ready-made audience affects the way the author writes?

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