Me again. So, I come clean now – I’ve been following some YA authors on Tumblr recently (by which I mean just reading through their archives because I am NOT going to give in to the Tumblr craze), and it’s been an interesting experience. They’re all really sweet, smart people and write interesting and thought-provoking things and reblog lovely pictures. Some of them are people whose books I’ve read and liked (Leigh Bardugo), or read and disliked (Veronica Roth), or not read at all (yet) (Sarah Rees Brennan). Through these Tumblrs I’ve come across other YA authors who are friends and friends-of-friends, Beth Revis (don’t get me started on Across The Universe. Let me just say that if I had access to this blog while reading it, I wouldn’t be ripping into City of Bones.), Maureen Johnson, and, yes, Cassandra Clare.
One of the recurring reblogs is this piece by an anonymous fan who finds Clary annoying, and Clare’s response. Clare’s response is measured and sensible, I’m not going to say it isn’t. It’s good, and feminist, and clear. And yet. Something about it does rub me wrong. Annoyingly (oh noes) I found a good counter-response detailing exactly what someone finds problematic about Clary’s (and Jace’s, actually) character, but it seems to have vanished from the internet.
I guess I don’t like to have my opinions squashed by “It’s just your internalised misogyny”? (Wow that’s totally just what someone with internalised misogyny would feel!) Because then I feel like I have to justify myself (but I like Isabelle! and I don’t like Jace! and I write female characters!) and you know, none of those things count because so much about Clary is not what I love in a main character. Her willingness to believe the worst of Luke after a single sentence that he said which was obviously a lie to keep him safe in a dangerous situation, her likening Madame Dorothea’s mother to a mule right in front of her, the way she just ignores everyone around her when they’re trying to have a conversation/help her for ages at a time (hey, I used to be super dreamy too! Then I learned – learned – how to pay attention to people other than myself!). All of this outweighs for me the fact that oh yeah that one time she threw what she thought was a magical mobile phone at a demon and it happened to kill it. Sorry.
I’m not going to say “I hate some male characters too!” even though I cannot stand Wolverine because my god it is NOT HARD to work in a team for like TEN MINUTES and not be a raging jerk and ruin everything, because it doesn’t make a difference, and really, I just want to talk about this book. I like to critique the things I love as well as the things I don’t love. In the one case it helps me identify what I didn’t like, and in the other, sometimes there are parts of things I love that aren’t perfect, or I would have done differently. I think these conversations are worth having, always.
I don’t really know where I was going with this. Authors having Tumblrs and interacting with audiences adds another complicated layer to the act of reading, I guess. I don’t want to let my liking of someone as a person (or as a perception of a person through social media) cloud my reading of their books. Basically I’m making things hard for myself. But I just wanted to let you know that I’m not against freedom or love or justice or anything. I don’t even have any readers, so if I was, I’d be doing a terrible job.
But anyway, let’s learn about THE CIRCLE AND THE BROTHERHOOD!
We last left Jace after he identified his father’s killers. Understandably, Clary isn’t sure what to say to this, but Jace is like WE SHOULD GO so it’s all moot. They head to the train, and Simon witters on about whatever until Clary shushes him, and she’s perversely glad that the guys who took her mam are the guys who killed Jace’s dad, because now he’s invested in sorting them out. So far so good.
They get back to the Institute, Simon COMICALLY MISUNDERSTANDS the word “glamour” for a FUNNY ONE-LINER and Jace doesn’t think he’s “sensible” of the honour being done to him, by being the only “mundane” ever to go in.
Wow that is not how teenagers talk.
You can tell me “oh it’s because they’re Shadowhunters raised in isolation from the real world” all you want, because it’s bullshit. None of this is backed up in the way any of them have talked so far. Clare throws in an archaic word here and there to remind us how different the Shadowhunters are, but it’s inconsistent. It jars. Jace knows enough about pop culture to make snide remarks about how he’s super hot, and all of a sudden he’s using the word “sensible” in a way no one has used it for fifty years. It’s not done well, is what I’m saying.
So Clary recognises some runes now, and she thinks of Luke and is sad because he was TOTES EVIL ALL ALONG. and Jace asks Church (the cat, remember) where everyone is. While they’re following him, Simon’s like what even is this place and Clary explains (Shadowhunter research facility etc). Simon’s like wait I thought this was a church and Clary finds herself in a position where she has to explain “no it’s INSIDE a church”, which Simon finds confusing.
Better keep him away from Leeds and Boro and the old churches that are now nightclubs and gyms! His mind would explode.
So Simon doesn’t trust Jace and Clary asks him to try, and then… oh wow. Then they come to the kitchen, where Isabelle is cooking.
Now, there is literally nowhere I can think of that this trope comes from but anime, but Isabelle turns out to be a shitty cook. And not just that she burns things and ruins recipes, but that she thinks throwing together “tomatoes, chopped garlic and onions, strings of dark-looking (? explain) herbs, grated piles of cheese, some shelled peanuts, a handful of olives, and a whole fish” makes SOUP. Anyway, she’s annoyed that Jace brought another “mundie” (have I mentioned yet that the Shadowhunters all pretty much need to learn manners? It’s at the stage where I don’t know if this is just a time-honoured way of introducing things in the Normal Person Finds Out They’re Magical plot or if these characters really are this rude) and Jace is like CHURCH I WANTED TO SEE ALEC NOT ISABELLE.
So he explains about his encounter with the murderers and Simon unashamedly gawks at Isabelle (I take it back, every single one of these characters is rude, call them names all you want). Clary is kind of jealous of Isabelle and fantasises about throwing the soup abomination at her. Disclaimer: I love Clary and Isabelle’s friendship. It’s one of the things I think Clare really does well. So although we know deep down that it’s unfair to want to throw soup at people because of the genetics that they didn’t have any choice in, I think she gets away with it.
Jace goes off to get something from the fridge, which is full of Hodge’s tupperware containers, and Clary follows him (Simon is still staring at Isabelle. I think we’ve cracked the case of The Simon Who Inexplicably Couldn’t Get A Girlfriend) and snaps at him for eating?! Jace is like what I don’t get it, and then Clare wanders off on a tangent and this is never explained.
Like, I assume Clary is being all dude you just saw two guys who murdered your father in front of you when you were ten! How can you have an appetite at a time like this? Which, honestly, isn’t cool. Sorry Clary, you don’t get to be angry at a guy who you barely know because he’s not dealing with a traumatic experience the way you think he should be.
So Jace and Clary are off to see Hodge and Isabelle offers them all soup, which they refuse, except Simon. Jace actually calls him out on wanting to get into Isabelle’s pants, which seems to amuse Isabelle. Then Jace is a massive knobend and tells Simon to hurry up and get rejected so they can all get on with their lives and Clary finally stands up for him. So they head off, but Simon stays sheepishly (I WONDER WHAT HE WILL DO) and Jace is like you know I was only saying all that to save him the trouble, because Isabelle is a heartless succubus (come on, he does basically say this: “Isabelle will cut out his heart and walk all over it in high-heeled boots. That’s what she does to boys like that.” Boys like WHAT? Boring human boys? Boys who stare at her as though they’re entitled to her body? WHO KNOWS.
Anyway, then Clary APOLOGISES for snapping at him, because whatever, he MEANT well.
Then we have this really weird little bit. Jace explains that Isabelle doesn’t usually cook, Maryse, her mother, does. Clary asks why she never taught Isabelle how to cook, and Jace says it’s because women have only recently started to be allowed to be Shadowhunters. Maryse was apparently the first generation of women who were trained to fight as a matter of course, and she didn’t teach Isabelle anything domestic because she was worried Isabelle would be relegated to the kitchen. Sounds pretty reasonable, right?
1. The Clave is full of women. You don’t know that yet, but it is. The highest Clave post is held by a (quite old) woman.
2. No one, not even the super conservative bad guys, has a problem with this, ever.
3. It’s never mentioned again.
Bonus question: Why didn’t she teach her sons how to cook? Why didn’t HODGE teach any of them how to cook? He’s the herb man, and that goes hand in hand with cooking. Look, it’s a glamoured church full of men, and yet it’s still Isabelle who’s in the kitchen, and when it’s not her, it’s her mother. The boys make no effort to cook. Despite the fact that she is a shitty cook (apparently she got this recipe from a water sprite, which seems like a terrible choice for human-edible food) she is still the only one interested in cooking.
Clare does this quite a lot. She’s ambitious, and in a good way! These books are filled with interesting premises – the relationships between Downworlders and Shadowhunters, between Shadowhunters and humans, between Downworlders and humans, all kinds of stuff I’m not going to spoiler you for – but Clare can never really pull them off deeply enough to be convincing. They never have the kinds of consequences that similar issues have in the real world. When they get solved, no one ever makes a backwards step.
And in case you think I’m just shitting on her work for no reason, I will confess to you that the reason these things stick out to me and I bring them up again and again is that I am trying to write them myself. I want to do it justice, and that means both learning from when other authors do it right, and when other authors do it wrong.
Anyway, Jace says that Isabelle is an awesome demon-hunter, and Alec has never killed a demon ever, which is kind of a surprise. He posits that maybe it’s because Alec spends more of his time protecting than killing. Fair enough, and then they go up to the greenhouse where Hodge spends most of his time. They explain to Hodge what’s been going on, and he’s like damn IT IS AS I FEARED, the Circle is back!
Hodge shows them a book, and reads out a weird oath thing about protecting bloodlines. Clary’s like omg sounds a bit fascist and it totally is! Turns out that a while ago, the Shadowhunters had a bit of a kerfuffle with fascist extremists, led by Valentine, who wanted to start a war between humans and Downworlders so they could exterminate them all and basically bask in glory, adored by
Muggles mundanes. Then Jace is like wait, why did you have a copy of that oath?
Turns out Hodge helped write it.
Actually, lots of Shadowhunters were in the Circle!
Including Clary’s mam!
WHO WAS VALENTINE’S WIFE OMGGGGG