Shadowhunters and Downworlders a Mortal Instruments Reader: Cassandra Clare

Note: I received an ARC via Netgalley.  This has not affected my opinion of the book.

General Summary: Love The Mortal Instruments or are morbidly curious how anyone could write a critical essay about them or how much they love incest?   Then read this book.


Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have read this had I not heard about the infamous incest essay.

Yes, there’s an essay on incest and how great it is.

And yep, that’s what the essay is really about (I’ll give you a minute to go to the bathroom and empty out your stomach’s contents).

That being said, the book is essentially a collection of essays about Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series edited by Cassie Clare herself.

And that’s where a lot of my problems with the collection lies.  I think it might have seemed like a good idea at the time to have Clare edit the book, but it had to be one of the dumbest choices the publishing company made.  I’ll talk about this more in the worst feature part of the review.  But let’s just say, I think Clare overlooked many of the very obvious problems that most editors would’ve easily caught.

Yeah, it was that poorly edited.

And yeah it’s an ARC.  But ARCs at most are suppose to only have typos so it’s really no excuse.

Besides the various editing and formatting problems, the essays themselves were a bit of a stretch.  The worst one by far was  Kendare Blake’s essay which was called “Brotherly Love”.  This is the incest essay.  Blake already was dealign with a difficult subject matter and I felt like she failed in trying to prove her point.  Look, don’t try to say that incest is okay.  No matter how you try to spin it, it’s not going to come off as sounding right.  Maybe if the essay was worded better it would’ve came off better.  But instead, I just wanted to shake Blake and Clare who chimed in about how romantic the whole incest thing was.




Really, incest is romantic?

You have to be kidding me.

Deep breaths……

Okay, I’m calm enough to continue now.

What makes you think incest is romantic Clare and Blake is it:

A) The biological defects that children that are produced from incestuous unions will have.

B)The fact that there’s no one closer (biologically speaking) than a sibling.

C) The emotional power struggle that occurs in these relationship–i.e. they’re emotionally and often physically and sexually abusive.

D) All of the above.

I bet Cassandra Clare answers D.  Actually, I really think the incest plot was a cheap trick if anything else.  A cheap disgusting trick on Clare’s part.  And I hear it’s not the first time she’s used incest as a plot device in a story-i.e. she had a Ron and Ginny fan fic  ironically named The Mortal Instruments (yep, Ron and Ginny did the nasty.  You can run to the bathroom again, I’ll wait before I continue).

Now that your stomach is completely empty, I guess I’ll talk about the rest of the essays.  The biggest complaint I had aside from Clare’s poor editing skills with these essays was that they were very loosely connected to The Mortal Instruments series.  In other words, they reeked of bull shit.  Someone wanted to write an essay about New York and inserted Clare’s book series in there so they could make a little money.  This occurs over and over again.  There’s an essay about John Hughes movies.  An essay about Judaism.  An essay about growing up.  All of these things are apparently connected to the book series….And yeah, I guess you could say they did a good enough job showing these connection, but I’ve seen better explanations on Ancient Aliens.

I will say this though, you could often tell who was the best writer by their quality of essay.  Robin Wasserman’s essay “When Laws are Made to be Broken” was well crafted despite the fact that it was a huge stretch.

I think if I learned anything from this book is that The Mortal Instruments shouldn’t be analyzed unless it’s comparing Clare’s original work to her fan fic. 

Best Feature: Essays.  I’ll admit it, I do like the idea of a collection of essays.  I was an English major, after all, and spent the better part of four years writing this sort of crap.  However, I felt like most of the essays would’ve gotten subpar marks due to their poor use of supporting evidence (quotes are good, but you need more than a half dozen blocked quotes to give your essay merit).

Worst Feature: It’s edited by Cassandra Clare.  At first this might seem really cool.  The author herself has picked these essays out and edited the.  But in reality it makes the book very skewed and bias.  Here’s the thing, I took a literary studies class back in college which focused on the history of literary criticism.  When one analyzes a book, the author’s opinion of the book is given little thought.  Sure, it’s relevant to cite it.  But when you get to the nitty gritty of it, it’s how society views the book itself.  And yeah, there are two different schools on criticism-The New Critics and New Historicism-but none of them really involved the author’s view of the book.  More like looking at just the text alone or society’s views of the book from various different perspectives.  Besides that, Clare did a pretty terrible job editing.  Other than the editor’s notes she put in before every essay where she basically stated how wonderful she and The Mortal Instruments series was, she really didn’t do that much work.  The formatting is God awful in this book.  I get that there are multiple essays by different people but there should really one citation method.  Either use footnotes or don’t use them.  And if you’re going to use MLA or Chicago style, stick to one and use it properly.  It’s not rocket science.  Especially since there’s a little website known as Easy Bib.

Appropriateness: Hmm, do you think reading an essay about how incest is appropriate?  I thought so.  Really, there while these essays were pretty much essays.  That particular little essay had me wanting to bathe myself in bleach.

Blockbuster Worthy: This book is just essays, so I don’t think you could make a movie out of  it.  But knowing Cassandra Clare…..she’d make a unique documentary about being behind the scenes of the essays of The Mortal Instruments.  Seriously, lady, you can only milk your cash cow for so much before people get wise.

Overall Rating: Four out of ten shadowhunters.  Honestly, I can’t recommend to anyone to buy this book.  If your a fan of the series that’s great.  But this is nothing more than a few thinly padded and edited essays which really stretch themselves in order to be relevant to The Mortal Instruments.


2 thoughts on “Shadowhunters and Downworlders a Mortal Instruments Reader: Cassandra Clare

  1. Wow! I think I totally missed this on NG, but I wouldn't have read it anywhere because, you know, I don't like this series – haven't read it and don't really see the appeal – but yeah, it sounds like it wasn't very successful and i'm with you that having the author edit was a bad choice. The author is always going to pick the essays that cast her book on the best light, so it's obviously going to be biased.

  2. I only found out about it because a lot of people were reading it on GR and were talking about the incest essay and my curiosity go the better of me.I really do not know what they were thinking in letting Clare edit. No one can be objective when it comes to their own work, its just impossible. You're always going to think your work is either way better or way worse than it actually is. Sigh, I really don't understand the popularity with this series either. I enjoyed them enough, but it's not like the best thing I've ever read. Her Infernal Devices books, a stempunk spinoff of TMI, are actually better written and more enjoyable. Maybe it's because they're not heavily based off her old Harry Potter fan fics like TMI are.

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