This review is probably not going to be very eloquent. Or coherent. It's been a rough time and I was so looking forward to this book... only to be disappointed.
I've got to admit, I'm not a diehard, I acknowledge a lot of these books aren't that great (far from it), but I have still loved most of them. I tend not to touch the older books because they're almost painful to read (and not in a good way), but I still like them due to the memories I have of reading them way back in the day. But then, something crazy happened, and I genuinely loved The Infernal Devices. I fell in love with Tessa's strength, Jem's kindness, and Will Herondale's ... everything. The second book still haunts me. That series is one I still think of from time to time and am wondering if I should go back for a reread. After this, I'm a little scared. I also absolutely adored The Dark Artifices. Well, the first book anyway. But I was so absolutely enamored with the new characters, even the cheesy love story, and I genuinely felt as if the author's writing had grown and developed. I reread Lady Midnight just last year and still thoroughly enjoyed it.
All of the above means I was actually incredibly excited about this book. A book including characters from my beloved Infernal Devices, paired with better writing that's been developed thanks to her later series, the Dark Artifices? Sign me up. On top of that, one of my most anticipated heroines was going to be starring in this book - Cordelia Carstairs. Why? Because she was supposed to come from an Iranian background, something I've never gotten the chance to see in books! I was so ready to fall in love with everyone, with Will and Tessa's kids, with Cordelia and her family, for all of it. As you have no doubt already guessed, that is not what ended up happening.
I'm disappointed. It took me eight days to finish this book. Eight days. There has never been a time when a Cassandra Clare book has taken me longer than a day (maybe two if you count staying up past midnight). I put this book down several times. I started and finished another book while in the middle of this one. I considered not finishing it at all, but I couldn't - it was like a crash you see but can't look away from. I was too invested to not keep reading, I suppose? Maybe the nostalgia, the little glimpses of goodness that were scattered (very very rarely) throughout kept me going. Maybe I'm a masochist. Who knows? Either way, I finished the book and I'm left wholly disappointed. Cordelia Carstairs was an utter disappointment, someone I found myself often rolling my eyes at and disliking quite a bit. The Iranian heritage I was so excited to see was more painful to read than enjoy. It was either wrong, felt forced, or just ... I can't explain it beyond saying I genuinely cringed at a lot of the Farsi (sorry, she calls it Persian) in the book. I genuinely laughed at loud at one part (if I didn't I think I would cry). The portrayal of an Iranian family was just awful. It was cold, almost stereotypical, and just ... it felt so false? I hated it.
I was supposed to be rooting for certain characters and ships, but really wasn't. That's the other issue. I think with the other books, Clare has always introduced us to wholly new characters and fleshed them out for us to get to know and love (for the most part anyway, the Blackthorn siblings not included). This time, Clare fully expected us to go in knowing who everyone was. Now, I'm actually a fan of the series that leads to this one and I had to pull up a Shadowhunter family tree a few times! It was so hard to keep track of who was who, yes because there were so many of them thrown at us with so little introduction, but also because they were never developed. They are nearly interchangeable save for a few who were just extra as heck. I know I'm supposed to love James Herondale but I only like him because of his parents. I'm annoyed at him. He's boring 95% of the time. The ship I was supposed to be rooting for (and I know I'm supposed to because with Clare you can always tell what she prefers) was unrequited until about 80% into the book, then requited for about 2 seconds (or seven minutes of heaven I guess), and we're more or less back to square one. I understand this is meant for dramatic effect and for the most part, I used to buy the angst that Clare would throw at her ships in the other books but with this one it was just ... exhausting. Not to mention, I was basically rooting for another ship from the very beginning and the pain is real because first I thought it was wishful thinking on my part (ft. tons of grasping at little straws) but then ... THEN I WAS HIT WITH IT IN MY FACE THAT NO, NO THOSE WERE NOT STRAWS they were breadcrumbs carefully placed for no reason other than more drama and dumb pain. Because let's be real, we know how this is going to end. And that's what also sucks: we know how this is going to end. At least for the most part. Clare's favoritism aside, there's a literal family tree that tells you who ends up with who. The only good thing to come of it is that I don't have to hope for a ship I know will never happen.
Oh and I liked Jesse Blackthorn. A lot. But we saw way too little of him. Lucie is cool I, I want to like her more, but really I just felt meh towards her. Towards 99% of everyone in the books honestly. The book almost made me dislike Tessa, Jem, and Will (I lied. Never Will. I could never, but you get my point!).
The only true star in this entire book is Matthew Fairchild. I love him. He is a star who deserves better. So much better. He is this weird combination of Jem and Will and I was here for it and I wish we got to see more of him because, I repeat, he deserves better. I wish he would get better but it doesn't look like that is likely. I can't believe I'm saying this but I think I am officially signing off of the Shadowhunters books.