Queen of Air and Darkness is a brick. Surpassing 900 pages if you count the bonus short story in the back, the novel is the heftiest I’ve read in a very long time. Contributing to its length are the appearances of nearly every character from Clare’s previous works, (Clary and Jace from The Mortal Instruments, Jem and Tessa from The Infernal Devices, Magnus and Alec from The Bane Chronicles, and more) who each adds to an enjoyable ensemble cast of characters.
Most of these characters, as well as the expected protagonists in The Dark Artifices, receive their own storyline, or at least their own perspective and I suspect devoted fans will be happy to see past favorites again, as I certainly was. However, some of their stories felt superfluous and like they were taking away from the storyline started in Lady Midnight and Lord of Shadows.
“People were made up of all sorts of different bits…Funny bits and romantic bits and selfish bits and brave bits. Sometimes you saw only a few of them. Maybe it was when you saw them all that you realized you knew someone really well.”
Perhaps because of its length, Queen of Air and Darkness was confusing in a way its two predecessors were not. I felt my attention being ripped into too many places at once, which consequently meant that I was not really paying attention to anything at all. There was just too much going on for a coherent narrative to form. Too much felt like unnecessary exposition for Clare’s upcoming Wicked Powers trilogy, which will star the younger siblings of Queen of Air and Darkness‘s protagonists. Without that exposition, the novel could have been at least 200 pages shorter. But, even the preview of a new story felt tired. When old villains resurfaced, instead of feeling excited to see them again, I couldn’t help thinking, really? Are we really going to do this again?
One redeeming quality of Queen of Air and Darkness was its ten full-page illustrations, which were dispersed throughout the novel during key scenes. Although it black and white, it was fun to see beloved characters appear not just in sentences. Additionally, behind the cover, the hardcover dust jacket boasts a beautifully illustrated full color tableau of the story’s protagonists, broodily marching across the Santa Monica beach.
I have come to rely on Cassandra Clare to annually produce unashamedly trashy fantasy novels, so in this sense she does not disappoint. I delight in returning to her carefully crafted world once or twice a year for a break between novels. But, I wonder how long she can continue to write stories in the Shadowhunters world before it is tired, as it already seems to be becoming. To answer this question, I guess we’ll just have to wait until November, when Clare’s next novel, following the children of Will Herondale and Tessa Gray, hits shelves.