A review of Lord of Shadows

Lord of Shadows, Cassandra Clare’s newest novel in her massive, three-series collective universe of The Shadowhunter Chronicles, took a turn from the previous books in that it directly takes on politics. The government, in the form of the ominous Clave, has created what is known as the “Cold Peace” in the wake of a horrible war where the faeries of the world had allied against the Shadowhunters. The Cold Peace reflects some of the harshest treaties in history, such as the Treaty of Versailles after World War I. The faeries have been forbidden from taking up arms and from being represented in the Clave, and they are being forced to pay reparations. These are all reminiscent of the treaty that eventually led to World War II. And indeed, like Germany, the fey bristle under the oppressive thumb of the Clave.

Besides being reminiscent of history, Clare also makes clear references to the current political climate of America. One of the main points made by the novel is that when the government passes hateful legislation, the most hateful among its citizens will take that as a sign that their hate is justified. Indeed, much like Americans crying out to make this country great again and calling themselves the “silent majority,” there is a faction in the Clave that wants the Clave to have more power over Downworlders (a collective term for non-human creatures). These scenarios reflect the current times and even human history, as one character states in the book, continuing references to World War II and the Holocaust.

For the first time in eleven Shadowhunter books, the Clave makes a move from being a necessary evil to being a villain. Clare makes a powerful statement about hate, racism, and fascism, and she makes the message easier to digest by putting it under the guise of fantasy. It is easier to call out a fictional government than it is to call out our own. The book contemplates issues that are both relevant and difficult to answer: What is justice and what is revenge? What is necessary and what is evil? Can punishing a whole race be fair?

The series has one more book to be released, so Clare has not offered an answer yet. However, she has given a starting point for her readers to find their own answers.

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