A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?
- Author: Cassandra Clare
- Illustrator: Alice Duke
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: McElderry Books
- Publication date: December 4, 2018
- Number of pages: 912
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: February 23, 2021
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