Queen of Air and Darkness: The Dark Artifices, Book 3

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Queen of Air and Darkness: The Dark Artifices, Book 3 Book Poster Image
Parents recommend
Soap opera-like fantasy series has mature sexual content.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 7 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

The book starts with the poem "City in the Sea" by Edgar Allan Poe. Part Two begins with the poem "Darkness" by Lord Byron. Part Three, "Her Strong Enchantments Failing," by A. E. Houseman.

Positive Messages

As in the first two books, 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), of being LGBTQ, or for not being neurotypical (being on the autism spectrum). This book specifically shows the power of mercy and empathy over extremism and revenge, the bravery it takes to confront our own failings, and that every person endures the loss of a loved one differently. Also, a not-so-subtle plug on the importance of voting and having your voice heard by your government.  

Positive Role Models & Representations

Julian learns that to remove the pain of his loss and deaden his feelings means that he loses his capacity for joy and love, and that joy and love are stronger. Emma's desperation to save herself almost has horrible repercussions for others. She finds faith in her family gets her through and that her capacity for mercy puts her above her vengeful past. All kinds of love win out here: The main characters are straight, as always, but there's a trans woman who finds love and acceptance from her family, a gay couple with children who marry, and two bisexual men who both fall for a woman and decide to be together in a polyamorous relationship (not unheard of in the land of the fairies, but new to YA books).


Some jarring deaths, including a man eaten by a kelpie after he's killed with a sword; suicide with a dagger to the gut; a dagger thrown into an eye socket; a throat torn out by a werewolf in battle; a stab in the back; spines snapped; consumption by fire. Many deaths on a battlefield, though good guys try not to kill other Shadowhunters, just knock them out so they can reform them later. In another, dystopian dimension, a once beloved character beheads his own mother -- the head rolls away, eyes on son. Many other atrocities there, including the description of a man strung up by his own nerves and blood vessels and a chandelier made of human limbs. Book 2 ends with the loss of a sibling, and this book starts with her funeral pyre and much description of her body there and the family mourning. Many injuries, including broken bones, are fixed with Shadowhunter ruins placed on body, but not all. A man's arm is severed. In the land of faerie, a cruel prince forces frivolity, including orgies in the grass (only the look of horror on faces and writhing mentioned).


Older straight teens have sex, with protection. Undressing, passionate kissing are described in detail. LGBTQ couples and one threesome (two men and one woman, shown as equally committed) kiss, sometimes passionately, and profess their love often. Mentions of the faerie queen's lovers.


Strong language used infrequently, but includes "f--ked up," "bitch," "bastard," "dickweed," "badass," "damn," "a--hole."


OfficeMax and Uber, mentioned a few times. Peet's Coffee gets a ringing endorsement.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Older teens and adults drink wine and champagne. A nonhuman guard smokes. A teen drinks Jack Daniels.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Cassandra Clare's Queen of Air and Darkness is the third book in the Dark Artifices series and part of a much larger Shadowhunters franchise. It includes six books in the Mortal Instruments series that take 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 teen readers 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. Violence ratchets up in the climactic battle (though there's mercy shown to Shadowhunters) and in a dystopian world the main characters visit. Some jarring deaths include a man eaten by a kelpie after he's killed with a sword; a beheading; suicide with a dagger to the gut; a dagger thrown into an eye socket; a throat torn out by a werewolf in battle; a stab in the back; spines snapped; and consumption by fire. A family that lost a sibling in the previous book prepares for and attends her funeral pyre. There's always much emphasis on relationships and desire in this series, straight and LGBTQ. The straight couple has sex, with protection and an emphasis on the passionate kissing and undressing. LGBTQ couples kiss. A three-way relationship emerges among two bisexual men and a woman. While this apparently is common in the land of faerie, it's a new concept in YA books and worth discussing with your teen. Also worth discussing is Queen of Air and Darkness' positive messages about choosing mercy and empathy over revenge and how facing life's sorrows brings a greater capacity for joy and love.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byLia C. February 9, 2019


If you're picking up this book, you should have already read the other 11 novels (and maybe the short story collections) in the Shadowhunter Chronicles. If... Continue reading
Adult Written byfantasyaddict December 4, 2020

Incredible representation - a must read

Parents rating these books 18+ are a little naive in my opinion. LGBTQ people exist, and I'm sure your kids have heard swears before. I can't stress e... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byafter16 August 25, 2019


This book is extremely interesting and is a book that wraps you and catches you, and gets you into history. Ireally love it.
Teen, 13 years old Written bycestlivvy November 7, 2019

Kinda inappropriate but soooo good!

I don't care that like 90% of parents be like "No that's too inappropriate!" like please I've read worse when I was like seven. Geez. A... Continue reading

What's the story?

In QUEEN OF AIR AND DARKNESS, the Blackthorn family prepares for their sister's funeral in Idris. No one is coping well, least of all Ty, who climbs the high funeral pyre before it can be lit. His brother Julian, always the caretaker, climbs up to retrieve him. Some of the audience remain solemn, but some begin to taunt them. Especially Horace Dearborn, a fanatic who believes the superiority of all Shadowhunters who choose not to mix with faeries and Downworlders like warlocks, werewolves, and vampires. When he becomes the next Consul, it means only bad things for the Blackthorns, with two half-faerie siblings and plenty of secrets. They're targets, which Julian and Emma find out when they're forced to accept his quest to rescue the Black Volume of the Dead from the land of faerie. One of Horace's zealots follows them and nearly kills them. When Mark, Cristina, and Kieran get wind of the danger they're in, they set off for faerie as well. The rescue mission does not go as planned. Julian and Emma fall into a dystopian dimension with little hope of return.

Is it any good?

This 912-page volume is more soap opera saga than fantasy tome, with a cast of characters so large and brooding that the otherwise intriguing story falters. Cassandra Clare has always focused heavily on the inner lives of characters faced with horrible choices. That's her strength. But here, with many characters at once facing love problems, family problems, loss, identity crisis, and more, it weighs down the story. And when something big happens, just like in a soap opera, readers must digest pages of dialogue as different sets of characters talk it out together.

When the Shadowhunters are on the move, in the land of faerie and in a dystopian dimension, the story picks up again. Though the land of faerie could have used more description to thoroughly place the reader there. It's much harder to picture than a decimated L.A. landscape. After a climactic battle that miraculously draws this huge cast together, the last 100 pages languish in happy-ending revelry and oceanside smooches. If that's still not enough closure for the series' rabid fans, there's a bonus story, too.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the relationships in Queen of Air and Darkness. What do you think about Kieran, Cristina, and Mark's choice? What problems do they face? How are they similar and different from the many couples in this story?

  • The dystopian dimension that characters visit packs in a lot of violence and loss. Is it easier to absorb knowing it's not the main reality of the story? Or just as jarring?

  • This book is more 900 pages long. Is that idea thrilling to you, or off-putting? Could the main ideas of this story fit into 500 pages and still satisfy fans?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy

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