Queen of Air & Darkness (TDA #3)
★★★☆☆ | pub. 2018
Dec 5th — Jan 2nd
This was… a whole mess.
➽P A C I N G I S S U E S G A L O R E
Fuck, you guys, the scope and pacing of this was wild ride. Generally, this just felt very thrown together in comparison to the fairly well-balanced nature of earlier books.
Let’s talk some details.
First of all, the concept of Thule… is good. [And Melanie’s description of it as a Mad Max version of the Shadowhunters world is honestly real.] BUT it takes up about a quarter of this 900 (nine hundred) page book, and it. has. no. bearing. on the plot. until the epilogue. in which it is used to set up another whole ass trilogy.
Also, what the fuck happened with Anabelle? Anabelle honestly has one of the better villain setups Cassie has ever pulled off, and the fact that she does nothing except die, and dies halfway through the book is just. It’s just a mess. I hate it.
Just as in… every one of CC’s conclusions I’ve read, I think the first five chapters or so should have been incorporated into the last book. She has a tendency to set up The Final Showdown conflicts at the beginning of the third book rather than at the end of the second, which messes with her flow, leaving us with abrupt book two endings (Lord of Shadows. i loved that book but admit it, this is a problem) and lacking buildup for events in book three.
Here is a simple way this couldve been done to this particular book: end it not on the note of (view spoiler), but on the note of Julian’s trip to see Magnus. This both makes the ending of book two less abrupt and, more importantly, given how weirdly disconnected some of this conflict feels, sets up an approximate book three conflict.
Oh, and speaking of villains, remember how Zara was going to die and I was going to be all
Yeah. I don’t either.
➽F A N S E R V I C E I N P S
Remember back in my review of book one, when Jace and Clary’s heavyhanded but brief cameo was the most I’ve liked them in the entire canon of the universe, and yes it was fanservice but it was fun? Oh man. Good old days. This could have been The Mortal Instruments book #7, City of I Don’t Give A Shit for all the TMI presence.
I don’t even know if I’m referring to stuff with earlier characters, because I actually don’t mind that too much. Magnus and Alec, two of the only characters in TMI I actually like, have stopped being done dirty finally; Jem and Tessa are two of my favorite fictional characters and I can’t even pretend to complain about their cameo; even though I never got to their minor presence in TMI part two, Helen and Aline are amazing. So maybe it’s not even about the fanservice; it’s just that the. scope. is. so. so. wide. By this, I am of course referring to: Thule, and the return of Sebastian Morgenstern and his secret?? son?? a character I will not even pretend to give a shit about. And also Emo Jace.
And okay, listen, I know Cassandra Clare isn’t exactly trying to get all of her work done completely sans-fanservice: the investment in the characters and relationships is the backbone of her work, what makes it so easy to enjoy. But unlike some of her other books, this just… fell flat? It feels like the heart, the enthusiasm, the genuine love that she poured into The Infernal Devices and earlier books in this series was just… missing.
➽T H E A C T U A L E N D I N G
Uh, so first of all, I will say that I didn’t totally 100% hate the actual ending. I just didn’t really feel it was built up enough. And to me, it demonstrated just how little progress was made within this book.
Here’s the thing: of the three main character dynamics used for conflict within this series — Christina & Kieran & Mark, Kit & Ty, and Julian & Emma — only one is genuinely resolved. And the thing is, this lack of resolution sort of works; one dynamic is about half-resolved and just dealing with problems, and one is not even close to being resolved but they’re getting a whole series written about them, so fine. But I think my overwhelming feeling upon first finishing this book was… wow, is that all we’re resolving? Is that all the progress we’ve made? Really, in 900 pages? In that case… couldn’t it have just been 500 pages?
Moving on. The final battle is… sort of cool, but it is awkwardly written, and feels fairly contrived. We know something magic is going to happen at the end, and we hope it’ll lead to a somewhat decent ending, but the buildup falls apart just a little on the way. On that topic: (view spoiler) To me, it just feels like this series has been pretending the ending is going to make us all sooooo sad, and it doesn’t. It’s a series about hope and coming together, which is great — it just shouldn’t be talked about as a tragic romance, that’s all.
➽I S W E A R, I D I D N’ T H A T E I T
Um… I thought the first 20% or so of this book was really pretty solid? This section was also a lot funnier! Examples of this phenomenon include:
➽“and- julian is like sebastian morgenstern!” *cue Diego laughing really hard*
Julian putting his boots on Horace’s desk like a legend
➽“you two have really fucked up.”
➽“ever wanted to move objects with your mind?” “sure, sounds great!”
➽“who hates you? I’ll kill them!” which is just a deeply Aline thing to say
I’ve sort of alluded to this already, but the most coherent main theme of this book is the idea of grieving for the lost being a necessary process, and when that theme stands out amongst the generally muddled plot, it’s handled well. Julian’s arc around grief is nuanced and fairly well-handled; Emma’s arc has sort of always been about grief, it’s just that this book realizes it better than earlier books. Ty’s arc around grief is honestly just kind of heartbreaking. Kieran’s arc focuses more around finding forgiveness, but it feels coherent with the rest of the arcs. Alec’s arc (I know) is around worrying about eventual grief and is… honestly better than any character arc he got in TMI? SORRY.
For those of you in the comments saying I’m rating generously… I mean, I guess I am. But I can’t actually give this book two stars because, as I deepdived into in previousreviews (#shamelessselfpromo), I like these characters way too much.
OH AND. You all know I’ve been talking about this nonstop, but Mark and Christina and Kieran!! Being a canon dynamic!! I really really wanted more out of their buildup, to be honest, because it’s been utterly fantastic up to this book, but I’m just. So so happy. That the polyamorous trio is canon. I’ve been waiting six months but the rest of you have all been waiting years so round of applause for that!!
I also think, removing all critique, that juggling ten to fifteen lead characters with any degree of success is incredibly difficult, and the fact that this is even somewhat pulled off is really impressive. I mean, even putting important-in-the-future characters like Dru (who deserved more airtime), Tavvy, Dark Livvy, Gwyn (codename the only man i trust), Cameron, Jaime (who i dislike. just facts), Diego (who i now love!!), and Ash (??) to the side, and even eliminating villains like Zara, Manuel, Horace, the Seelie Queen, the Unseelie King, Annabel, Sebastian, and Dark Jace, and even not counting the massive presence of TMI characters like Helen, Aline, Jace, Clary, Magnus, Alec, and Ragnor Fel — several of whom have actual character arcs in this book — we still have Julian and Emma, Mark and Christina and Kieran thing, Kit and Ty, and Diana as genuine leading characters. That’s a total of thirty-one names including eight leads. Impressive as fuck.
➽E N D I N G T H O U G H T S
No one has ever accused me of being coherent.
→this series could also be called Julian Makes A Bad Decision: News at 11
→Everything Diana And Gwyn Have Ever Done. It’s Flawless And Good
→There was a line in this book in which Aline’s posture is described as “straight,” which is something no self-respecting gay would write without making a joke. That’s not a flaw. I just think I’m funnier than I actually am.
Anyway. Yes, as we’ve discussed, the entire existence of this whole world is kind of ridiculous, but I’m not going to pretend I don’t love it.