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Lady Midnight: The Dark Artifices, Book 1
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?
- Author: Cassandra Clare
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
- Publication date: March 8, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 720
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.