book review · cssandra clare · shadowhunter academy · shadowhunters

Why You Should Read Shadowhunter Academy

If you’ve been following me around the twitter sphere recently, you may have noticed that I’ve sort of developed an obsession with the Shadowhunter Academy novellas, which should come as no surprise since I am obsessed with anything shadowhunter related. I’d advise you not to read this if you have not yet read The Mortal Instruments or Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare, because the synopsis may spoil events and such.

So if you have read both The Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices, but haven’t heard of Shadowhunter Academy then let me enlighten you. Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy is a 10 novella collection written mainly by Cassandra Clare of course, but also Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, and Robin Wasserman. It contains various stories that center around Simon Lewis, who is currently attending Shadowhunter Academy to no doubt train and ascend into a shadowhunter. The novellas are told in succession, unlike the Bane Chronicles, so I strongly advise you to read them in order of each other. I think it’s about time to get on my soapbox and give you an itemized list of why you should really get around to reading these novellas, especially before Lady Midnight.

1. Because They Are Fantastic

This is a given. I cannot tell you how surprised I was reading them. I previously read The Bane Chronicles before City of Heavenly Fire released and I enjoyed it for the most part, but let me tell you that Shadowhunter Academy is leagues ahead of Bane Chronicles, (sorry Magnus) I will admit the first novella was just okay and I understand why that deters some people very quickly, but if you continue on to the next two, they immediately get better.

2. It’s Not All About Simon

I think the general misconception with these novellas is that people assume they are all about Simon, but they’re not. Seriously, a majority of these novellas are told partly as memories and flashbacks and Simon is receiving these stories and getting insight on these characters lives. So many characters make an appearance throughout these novellas. You get to see characters such as Tessa, Jem, Clary, and of course Isabelle, but also plenty more. You get to see some of the characters of The Dark Artifices and events that prelude to the conflict in that story. There’s so much rich story and livelihood infuse in these novellas I honestly cannot tell you enough you need to read them for yourself and see.

3. TID Characters Make An Appearance

If you needed more convincing then let it be known that Infernal Devices characters make an appearance at some point during these novellas. And no I don’t only mean seeing modern day Tessa and Jem, but the third novella, The Whitechapel Fiend, is told as a flashback to London during the time of Jack the Ripper, and you get to see Will, Tessa, and Jem again, and their children and honestly I cried a lot during this novella due to the fact that it was making me nostalgic towards Clockwork Angel and seeing my favorite characters again, I couldn’t help but shed tears whenever they just started talking. *crawls in hole and hides*

But the fourth novella Nothing But Shadows, is also told as a flashback and tells the time that James Herondale (Will and Tessa’s son) attended Shadowhunter Academy and in the beginning and end you get to see brief interaction between him and his father, you can rest assured that lead to more tears flowing. This was my favorite novella out of all them.

4. Underlying Message and Character Growth

Okay, I can go on about how much I adore this novella collection, and enjoy the humor and the adventures that ensue inside the academy, but there’s so much more than that. You get to see Simon go through significant character growth. There is a vast difference between the Simon Lewis you see at the beginning of City of Bones and the end of the novella Angels Twice Descending. Yes, you still have that snarky sarcastic Simon, but you also see him struggle at coming to terms with being human. A part of him that can’t forget he was once a Downworler and a mundane, and won’t stand for the snide comments that the Shadowhunter Academy students make about either. As he is being told these stories, these memories, fragments of the past, he really begins to open his eyes and sees the world around him for what it truly is.
How he doesn’t want him and his classmates to be like their parents, how he wants them to be a new generation of shadowhunters, with compassion and understanding, not full of god-complexes and superiority. You see him struggle with his memory loss, and how he doesn’t want to be known and held as some hero because of things he’s done in the past. You get to see Simon truly reconcile his relationships with not only Isabelle, but also Clary, Jace, even Alec. You see him form new friendships, encouraging his friends to be more open minded than the generation before them. If I loved Simon Lewis before reading this, I definitely am even more in love with him after reading these. Cannot stress enough how fantastic Cassandra Clare is at writing a character arc and balancing a character throughout all the uncertain variables going on throughout his life.

5. Because You Just Should

Here I am again on my soapbox. I get asked do you absolutely need to read these novellas, and the answer is no. But I made this post to tell you should. There’s so much that goes throughout these stories. It feels like an extension to City of Heavenly Fire, honestly this should just be named Cohf epilogue part II. Definitely do not, I repeat do not read this before completing The Mortal Instruments, but most likely if you’re reading this it’s because you have already, but since Lady Midnight is about to release soon I do advise you read it before then. You get so much more insight on characters from that book, I just feel that you will appreciate it more if you read these novellas prior to Lady Midnight, but once again it’s all up to you, but I do hope you take into consideration to give these novellas a try.
Note that Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy will be out in print form, just like the Bane Chronicles was, but I believe that is somewhere around fall time if I’m not mistaken.

Reviews

Below I wanted to give brief mini review of what I thought of each individual novella. There’s no real spoilers, only general plot thoughts.

1. Welcome to Shadowhunter Academy

Rating: ★★★★☆ 3½ stars

Synopsis: After living as a Mundane and a Vampire, Simon never thought he would become a Shadowhunter, but today he begins his training at Shadowhunter Academy.

❝ There is a saying: It takes a Downworlder to clear up a Shadowhunter mess,❞ Catarina observed.

I love the quote above so much because it’s something that I can picture originating from Magnus.

As much as I loved this novella collection, the first one was my least favorite. Though I understand that it was the first and had to set up our atmosphere that would surround us throughout the course of these novellas. You are introduced to new characters, (I really love George Lovelace) you immediately see Simon’s sarcastic humor, which I missed dearly. The Academy is seen as an old decrepit building, which was not at all I was expecting, but understandable because they haven’t used it in years and just reopened it because the Clave is in need of new Shadowhunters due to the so many lost during the wars. This novella did not prepare me for the beauty that was in-store for me.

2. The Lost Herondale

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4 stars

Synopsis: Simon learns the worst crime a Shadowhunter can commit: desertion of their comrades. In the early nineteenth century, Tobias Herondale abandoned his fellow Shadowhunters in the heat of battle and left them to die. His life was forfeit, but Tobias never returned, and the Clave claimed his wife’s life in exchange for Tobias’s. Simon and his fellow students are shocked to learn of this brutality, especially when it is revealed the woman was pregnant. But what if the child survived… could there be a lost Herondale line out in the world today?

❝ Like all Herondales, his ability to love without measure, without end, was both his great gift and his great curse.❞

This quote. This quote. This quote.

Definitely the beginning of the turn around for these novellas. Not much happens during this novella, but you do get to hear about the story of Tobias Herondale. Oh how this story tortures me so. There’s so much lesson to be learnt by this story, you also see the extent of the Clave’s cruelty, and deeper character development of Catarina Loss. The fact that there could be a lost Herondale out there, unaware, there’ so many thoughts going through my head, so many things left unsaid. But then again all real stories are incomplete.

3. The Whitechapel Fiend

Rating: ★★★★★ 5 stars

Synopsis: Simon learns the truth behind the Jack the Ripper murders—“Jack” was stopped by Will Herondale, his former parabatai, and his institute of Victorian Shadowhunters.

❝ There were few people in the world who understood how much Will and Jem had loved each other, did love each other, and how much Will missed him. But Tessa did.❞ 

❝ Dear heart,” he said. He took her hand and kissed it. “Who knows your courage better than I?❞

This novella was the bane of my existence. Honestly, you probably know that I am complete Infernal Devices trash so of course I was beyond excited to read this. Originally with these novellas I thought they would only be in present day, but lo and behold Tessa Gray comes to the Academy and tells the class a story set during the time of Jack the Ripper and we are transported back in flashback to London. Seeing Tessa, Will, and Jem together again was a lot on my soul, so you bet there was a lot of tear shedding at just seeing my favorite characters interact again. This story was just perfect, it is my second favorite.

4. Nothing But Shadows


Rating: ★★★★★ 5 (million) stars

Synopsis: Simon challenges the setup of the Shadowhunter Academy and in doing so learns the story of James Herondale and Matthew Fairchild and the unusual way that they became friends and parabatai.

❝ James Herondale was the son of angels and demons,” she said softly. “He was always fated to walk a difficult and painful path, to drink bitter water with sweet, to tread where there were thorns as well as flowers. Nobody could save him from that. People did try.❞

❝ You love, and tremble, and burn. Do not let any of them tell you who you are. You are the flame that cannot be put out. You are the star that cannot be lost. You are who you have always been, and that is enough and more than enough. Anyone who looks at you and sees darkness is blind.❞

❝ Pulvis et umbra sumus,” said James once, out loud in class, after hearing too many whispers. “My father says that sometimes. We are but dust and shadows.❞

I will admit that these reviews are becoming a masterpost of my favorite quotes from these novellas, but I can’t help these beautiful words that Cassie spills onto these pages.

This is absolutely without a doubt, no questions asked, no competition, my favorite novella in this collection, and of course my favorite novella of all time. You are transported back into Victorian London as Simon is told the story of James Herondale’s time at the academy. Cannot express enough how beautiful this novella is. I just really love James Herondale a lot now okay, I cannot wait for The Last Hours to release. In Nothing But Shadows you get to see James Herondale’s first experience with the academy. A shy, awkward, young boy who is so use to the comfort books that he doesn’t really know how make friends. Being all the more challenging due to him, not being the easy conversive and charming persona as his father, *ahem*, Will Herondale. I don’t want to say too much about this story because it is absolute perfection and you should just dive right in it. When reading this I was so completely immersed and invested in the story I couldn’t believe when it was over. I definitely long for more, but I shall lie in wait for The Last Hours, so I can see James again. Not to mention father and son banter that we got a glimmer of in this novella, but hopefully extends in TLH.

5. The Evil We Love

Rating: ★★★★★ 4½ stars

SynopsisAll evil starts somewhere, and Simon Lewis learns how The Circle—led by Valentine Morgenstern—began. One of ten adventures in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy.
The Shadowhunter Academy has only just reopened following the disastrous rise of the Circle. Now the faculty can finally admit to what happened when Valentine was a student.

❝ Love?” Michael smiled down at his hands. “Love, real love, is being seen. Being known. Knowing the ugliest part of someone, and loving them anyway. And . . . I guess I think two people in love become something else, something more than the sum of their parts, you know? That it must be like you’re creating a new world that exists just for the two of you. You’re gods of your own pocket universe.❞

This novella is such an important read. Now that I’m reflecting back on it there is so much pact into a a short amount of pages, I’m in awe. Robert Lightwood comes to the Academy to talk to the students about the Circle. But there is so much more to that. You get to see the Circle, through Robert’s eyes, how he saw Valentine. It was so fascinating to see these adults you’re so use to in the Mortal Instruments books, as teens back when they attended the Academy. You learn more about Robert in The Evil We Love and though I will admit he was a pretty terrible person for what he said to Michael Wayland, but this novella did help me understand him better. I really loved the moment where we go back to present day and he is actually talking to Isabelle, trying to understand her and how he wants to do better by his kids, to reconcile and amend what he did to his parabatai, Michael Wayland. This novella was definitely something I was longing for in City of Heavenly Fire and didn’t get, but so happy to have that moment now.

6. Pale Kings and Princes


Rating: ★★★★☆ 4 stars


Synopsis: Simon has an encounter with Downworlders and is reprimanded for not following the rules for Academy students interacting with Downworlders. A story within a story: Andrew Blackthorn, while a student at the Academy, becomes enthralled by a faerie and has two children with her: Mark and Helen.

❝ I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried—“La Belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall! ❞
 

❝ But I know your blood doesn’t define you. What defines you is the choices you make.❞ 

❝ He took her in his arms and kissed her—kissed her the way he’d been longing to kiss her since he first laid eyes on her, kissed her not like a romance novel hero or a Shadowhunter warrior or some imaginary character from the past, but like Simon Lewis kissing the girl he loved more than anything in the world. It was like falling into the sun, falling together, hearts blazing with pale fire, and Simon knew he would never stop falling, knew that now that he’d grabbed hold of her again, he would never let go.❞

This novella was quite interesting to read. We see Helen Blackthorn arrive at the school to speak to class about faeries. We already know Helen is going to be a significant character in The Dark Artifices, and Clare brings back up what is going to be the major conflict in TDA which are the faeries and fey and the consequences that came with siding with Sebastian during the war against the Endarkened. My heart hurts for Helen and the punishment she is given because she is half-fey. This novella also focused a lot on Sizzy which I can never get tired of.

7. Bitter of Tongue

Rating: ★★★★★ 5 stars (LOVED)

Synopsis: After Simon is kidnapped by faeries (why is he always kidnapped?), he uncovers rumors of a secret weapon Sebastian left behind for the faerie queen. He must escape the Fey, relying on his only ally, former Shadowhunter and Dark Artifices character Mark Blackthorn.


*queue quote spam*

❝ I am no faerie,” said the boy with eerie eyes, pointed ears, and leaves in his wild hair. “I am Mark Blackthorn of the Los Angeles Institute. It doesn’t matter what they say or what they do to me. I still remember who I am. I am Mark Blackthorn.❞ 

❝ You see? I have not forgotten. Every night, no matter what has happened during the day, no matter if I am torn and bloodied or so bone-tired I wish I were dead, I look up at the stars and I give each star a brother’s name or a sister’s face. I will not sleep until I remember every one. The stars will burn out before I forget. ❞

❝ Fortunate is the one who knows the name of their heart. They are the ones whose hearts are never truly lost. They can always call their heart back home,” Mark said, his voice almost a chant. “Do you remember the name of your heart, Simon Lewis? ❞

❝ Songs are not blood. Blood is all that matters to Shadowhunters and faeries alike. The songs matter only to me. ❞

❝ Show them what a Shadowhunter is made of!’ What is a Shadowhunter made of, if they desert their own, if they throw away a child’s heart like rubbish left on the side of the road? Tell me, Simon Lewis, if that is what Shadowhunters are, why would I wish to be one? ❞

❝ Mark grinned, something wild and fey in the grin, like sunlight glittering through a spiderweb. “And we do love mischief, Simon Lewis, and sometimes wickedness. But it is not all bad, to ride the winds, run upon the waves, and dance upon the mountains, and it is all I have left.❞ 

❝ Tell the Clave that I have saved more Shadowhunter lives, that I will be a Shadowhunter and be damned to them, that I will be a faerie and curse them! And tell my family that I love them, I love them, and I will never forget. One day I will go home.❞

I can’t help myself and these Mark Blackthorn quotes. Bitter of Tongue came as a surprise favorite to me. Simon has somehow landed himself in Faerieland, and get’s kidnapped (again). That part where Simon even makes a thought about all the times he’s been kidnap had me dying. But anyways, we meet another TDA character Mark Blackthorn, whom we previously see in Cohf. This novella made my heart ache for Mark Blackthorn, who just like his sister Helen, is half-fey so the Clave doesn’t pay no mind when the Wild Hunt come to take him away. This story is mainly set in the forest and I just found myself really loving the conversation happening Simon and Mark. How hard Mark is trying not forget those of his family. I just really want the best for him and for everything to work out in Lady Midnight.

8. The Fiery Trial

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4 stars

Synopsis: Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn become parabatai. Simon and Clary both act as their witnesses, so they can see what a parabatai bond forming looks like as they want to become parabatai as soon as Simon graduates — and because Emma asked Clary. The ritual goes unexpectedly.

❝ I saw the two of you having entire conversations without saying a word. It was like that with my parabatai, Will. I never had to ask Will what he was thinking. In fact, it was usually better not to ask Will what he was thinking. ❞

Honestly, the first half of this novella was quite weird, but what really made me love it because I was so excited to see Emma and Jules parabatai ceremony, but it felt like the most awkwardest event ever. Why did it feel like everyone was so uncomfortable? I could sense that Jules didn’t really want to go through with it, in my head I’m screaming “YOU LOVE HER. JUST ADMIT IT.” But of course I never get my way and the ceremony continues. I honestly don’t know why Simon didn’t say anything because he could obviously tell there was something amiss between the two of them. Highly interested to see more of Emma and Jules relationship in Lady Midnight.

9. Born To Endless Night


Rating: ★★★★☆ 4 stars

SynopsisSimon, like the rest of the Academy, is stunned when a navy-skinned warlock baby is found on the Academy steps. They hand the child over to guest lecturer Magnus Bane, who has to bring a child home… temporarily, of course… to his man!

❝ It was a lesson, Magnus thought, to love while you could, love what was fragile and beautiful and imperiled. Nobody was guaranteed forever. ❞

This story was so cute. Of course with all the weird happenings that goes on at Shadowhunter Academy, there had to be someone who randomly leaves a warlock baby on the steps. And none other than Magnus Bane comes to visit. Thinking back now, there is a lot that happens. You get the the TMI gang all back together in one room, honestly it was giving me so much nostalgia. I also, found a better appreciation for Alec, whom I wasn’t too keen on in the beginning of TMI, but you see him really come into himself and be sure of who is, it was quite astonishing to read about. I wonder if we’ll ever hear about the origins of this mysterious baby.

10. Angels Twice Descending


Rating: ★★★★★ 5 stars (MY SOUL)

❝ His family was here, holding him up.
They would not let him fall.❞
 

❝ The point wasn’t that you tried to live forever; the point was that you lived, and did everything you could to live well. The point was the choices you made and the people you loved. ❞

I didn’t put the synopsis because I felt like it spoiled this novella almost, but of course this was perfection. Cassie is the queen of concluding series and this was no doubt not a let down in the slightest. I feel like I have seen these characters come a long way, even those we just met in this novella. Simon has grown, his views have changed, his relationship has changed, and all for the better. I haven’t cried so hard during these novella since Nothing But Shadows. I don’t feel like the door is closing on this series, but opening to let in all those whose stories who’ve been throughout these novellas. I cannot contain myself with excitement for the humor, joy, laughter and tears that will come with her future books.

Overall Rating of Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy: 4.75 stars

I strongly urge you. I beg you. I implore you to read these novellas, you won’t regret it. I promise.
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