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Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy Paperback – August 1, 2017
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About the Author
Sarah Rees Brennan is the New York Times bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Unspoken and The Demon’s Lexicon trilogy. Her most recent book, In Other Lands, was a Hugo Award finalist. She lives in Ireland. Visit her at SarahReesBrennan.com.
Maureen Johnson is the New York Times bestselling author of over a dozen YA novels, including 13 Little Blue Envelopes, The Name of the Star, Suite Scarlett, and Truly Devious. Visit her at MaureenJohnsonBooks.com, MaureenJohnsonBooks on Tumblr, or @MaureenJohnson on Twitter.
Robin Wasserman is the author of Girls on Fire, an NPR and BuzzFeed Best Book of the Year. She is a graduate of Harvard College with a Master’s in the history of science. She lives in Los Angeles, where she writes for television.
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The first novella is Welcome to Shadowhunter Academy, where Simon decides that he wants to become a Shadowhunter. After losing his memories, Simon must decide who he wants to be – a mundane that does not remember the Shadow World or a future Shadowhunter that may regain some of his memories. He meets a collection of students, both Shadowhunter and mundane that will be with him for the next two years as they train to become proper Shadowhunters. Although we know these characters for less time than those we’ve grown to love in the other series, they are still likable and well-developed. Over the course of the two years that the novellas take place, each character learns what it means to be a Shadowhunter, to be loyal to their friends, and to not always take the Law at face value (thanks to Simon’s incessant dialogues that Downworlders are not lesser people.) Of course, we’ve loved Simon since we met him in the Mortal Instruments but this was a great series of stories that allowed us to get to know him better (even though he was missing his memories).
The second is The Lost Herondale, in which we learn more about the beliefs of the Shadowhunters. Deserting your fellow Shadowhunters is considered the worst thing that you can do – so the punishment is severe. This novella tells us the story of Tobias Herondale and shows Simon that not every story is as black and white as it may be presented. We also learn that Catarina Loss, Magnus’ friend and current teacher at Shadowhunter Academy, saved Tobias’ child – which means that there may be a lost Herondale in the world. This plot line is mentioned first in the Mortal Instruments and pursued more in the Dark Artifices, so that is one reason why I believe this series of novellas should be read prior to beginning Lady Midnight.
The third is the Whitechapel Fiend, in which Tessa comes to Shadowhunter Academy to teach a lesson. It was lovely to see more of our favourite characters from the Infernal Devices, especially because this was a later period in time than the books so we got a glimpse into their future lives. The fourth is Nothing but Shadows, which chronicles James Herondale’s time at the Academy. It made me miss the Infernal Devices and impatient for the next series that Cassandra Clare will be writing featuring the children we got glimpses of.
The fifth is The Evil We Love and a tale from the time of Valentine’s Circle. The Circle’s history is considered a dark time and infrequently talked about in the series. Most Shadowhunters who were involved are either ashamed of their actions and largely refuse to talk about it, or dead. It’s always fascinating to see what the power and influence of a charismatic leader can get people to do. Simon learns that he knows better than to just go along with the crowd and speaks out against ideas that he doesn’t agree with. It makes him even more likable as a character because I’m sure we all have experienced times when we disagreed with someone we cared about and how difficult it might be not to just follow their lead.
The sixth is Pale Kings and Princes, which creates some foundation for the world we will experience in the Dark Artifices. We learn how Mark and Helen Blackthorn came to be, with their half-faerie lineage. It is a heart-wrenching tale and makes you question the harshness of the Cold Peace. Helen is no longer trusted, and essentially banished, because of her heritage and that action fractures her entire family – as the Blackthorn parents were murdered during the War. Helen was willing to take care of her family, but she was torn away and those kinds of wounds will certainly affect the characters of the Dark Artifices in the future.
The seventh is Bitter of Tongue essentially just reiterates the point that Downworlders are not lesser beings than mundanes or Shadowhunters. We get to see more of the Blackthorn clan, the utterly repulsive treatment of the half-fae children Mark and Helen, and a lovely wedding.
The eighth is The Fiery Trial, in which Simon and Clary are asked to serve at witnesses for Julian and Emma’s parabatai ceremony. The story focuses more on the relationship between Simon and Clary than Julian and Emma but it was nice to see the ceremony. Jace and Alec became parabati prior to the Mortal Instruments, so until now, we had not seen the ceremony performed. It also made Simon and Clary evaluation their own friendship and the depth of their connection.
The ninth is Born to Endless Night and revolves around the beloved Malec, as well as Magnus Banes short tenure at Shadowhunter Academy. The character development shown in this novella was a culmination of Alec’s experiences throughout the Mortal Instruments and how he grew as a person. While not confident and cocky like Jace, he had become secure in his own skin and learned to love (romantically). It was the most normal of the novellas, showing a behind-the-scenes type look into the lives of our favourite Mortal Instruments characters.
The final novella in the collection is Angels Twice Descending in which Simon and the other mundanes of the Academy have their Ascension. Simon must decide whether he is ready to face the risks, to give up his mundane life and embrace the dangers and responsibility of being a Shadowhunter. It was a beautiful wrap up to the series, allowing Simon the time to explore the life he was leaving behind and the family that he was gaining. As I mentioned before, I would highly recommend reading this series of novellas as it only enhances the Shadowhunter experience (and deepens the world).
“City of heavenly fire” ends with Magnus offering to restore part of Simon’s memories, which had been given freely in exchange for Magnus’ life. Now, in “Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy,” Simon’s story continues in the decrepit Academy where he’s learning to become a Shadowhunter while desperately trying to remember everything he’s forgotten. His relationship with Isabelle is part of those lost memories, and he keeps pushing her away believing she only wants to be with him because of who he was, not who he now is.
Each story told in “Tales” puts a little bit more of a chink into the holes of stories left untold, or hinted at, in past books. The story of Robert Lightwood and his former parabatai Michael, which was hinted at when Alec revealed his true self to his father, as well as how Magnus and Alec got baby Max is another example that will cause readers to get that “aha!” moment as they realize they read a little about it in a different Cassandra Clare book.
What I didn’t like in “Tales” was the constant explanations, as if all the stories weren’t linked. Why do we have to endure explanations of characters and events in each story when we already know them? For example, Simon and George, his roommate, are introduced early, so it makes sense that by the fourth story we would know their relationship. Is it necessary to explain who they are, or who anyone in the Academy is, as if we hadn’t just finished reading about them in earlier stories? These types of “explanations” continue throughout each story, making them feel disjointed instead of seamless.
However, true diehard Shadowhunter fans will still want to read “Tales.” It’s for these 14 and older readers that I recommend it.
I honestly used to think Simon was a sidekick, the token human who ended up being a fluke of nature Daylighter vampire, the tumbling mundane boy who was pulled into the Shadow World by stupidity and happenstance, but through these stories, I feel like he's more than earned his place among Shadowhunters. I used to always define him through his friendship with Clary, but he's shown that he's not weak, not secondary, not static. He's a person like any other, but he's a remarkable one at that, earning himself his many epithets at this point. The fact that he honors his dead roommate by taken on his surname upon his own Ascension sums it all up rather nicely albeit morbidly.
Top international reviews
I decided as soon as I started this book that the fairest way to review it would be to review each tale individually and then get a rating based on my average at the end. This book was slow to start and was very hit-and-miss in the middle, but the ending was well worth waiting for! My full individual story reviews are below to explain my rating.
Welcome to Shadowhunter Academy
I can't fully put my finger on what exactly I didn't like about this novella. I wanted to like it and I did but that was it, I didn't love it.
I think something that I found particularly difficult was the lack of likeable characters. All of Clare's previous books have contained great, rich characters. Even if they're an antagonist you can't help but like chapters with them because they're interesting. This time, however, I counted exactly three likeable characters and approximately 20 annoying, whiny bullies. I dreaded reading about most of these characters because I hated them so much. Don't get me wrong, I understand the need for these characters, but for such a short story you either need to give them some semblance of redeemable qualities or else have less time with them.
It also annoyed me how Clare seemed to directly mock some of her readers at one point. There is a conversation between two friends that, to me, sounds like a jab at people who write fanfiction based on her work. I showed this section to a friend of mine and she thought exactly the same. Not cool Clare. Not cool.
I am choosing to view this novella as chapter 1 of a 10 chapter story (which, technically it is) as that is the only way I can possibly excuse the faults with this story. It's not terrible, it's not great. It's an easy read but I wasn't encouraged to keep reading. It had some good characters, it had lots of horrible characters. Basically, it was meh!
The Lost Herondale
A vast improvement on story 1 but still not spectacular.
This story moved at a much faster pace and was another easy read, only this time I actually wanted to keep reading.
I loved Simon's journey during this story, which felt very relevant and real to the current world climate.
My problem, again, was that he was hugely outnumbered by vile characters that made for an I enjoyable read at times. The only bright side to them was that we were given a small glimpse into some of their minds this time and it seems like there may be tiny glimmers of humanity lying deep within some of these bullies so fingers crossed for some actual character development for them in the coming tales!
The Whitechapel Fiend
Much better! Sadly, I think this mostly comes from the fact that half the book took place in a flashback and the other half included Jace. But, I'm counting it as a win anyway!
This tale was a vast improvement on its predecessors. The introduction of Jace to bring some light-hearted Jace-style comedy to the Shadowhunter Academy was long overdue and very much appreciated by me.
Now onto my favourite part - the flashback! The Infernal Devices had always been my favourite Shadowhunter Chronicles series so this chapter was perfect for me. It was so nice to have Tessa, Will and Jem back together in a story again and they did not disappoint. I won't give away any spoilers, I will just say that the Jack the Ripper twist was definitely creepy enough to have me looking over my shoulder in the dark for the next few weeks!
Overall, a brilliant read that I didn't want to end and am sad that it did.
Nothing but Shadows
This one is definitely the most difficult review for me to write so far as there's not really much I can say about it.
A very slow start to tale number 4 but it did pick up and when it picked up it was excellent.
Taking place mostly in a flashback this story had great characters and a very touching story to go with them. While a bit cliche on places, this tale had enough moments making me angry to make the corny moments moving.
I felt like I could have done with more backstory for the flashback characters, but I am sure that is something that Clare will cover in one of her many upcoming Shadowhunter Chronicle novels!
Overall, a lacklustre beginning that became far more emotional and exiting than I was expecting.
The Evil We Love
Wow. I was fully prepared to give this story 1 or 2 stars and a terrible review but I was wrong!
So I don't give away any spoilers, I will say only this. If, like me, you read this novella and get so frustrated with Isabelle that you want to cry; if you want nothing more than to be pulled into the book so you can strangle her with her own whip; if her completely out of character behaviour is driving you insane, keep on reading. Trust me, all is explained and it is all completely worth it. She is still the same kick-ass Izzy that we all know and love.
The flashback scenes, while slow at first, turned into a truly moving tale of acceptance and courage, or rather the lack of them, and tied in nicely with the present day storyline creating one big, fantastic story that meant I could not wipe the smile off my face (something that I did not think I would be saying when I was half way through this story). This is a story of how it's ok, and sometimes smart, to not follow the crowd. How beauty and charm can lead us down dark paths. How easy it is to be influenced into doing the wrong things because everyone else is doing it or because the person leading them knows the right things to say and do. "The Evil We Love" is such and appropriate title for this story and it is definitely a must-read.
Pale Kings and Princes
This was an OK story but not brilliant. I loved the concept and the idea but wasn't overly keen on the way it was written. The message had such potential and I feel it was wasted slightly. It's not that the story was badly written, it was just dull and I feel like so much more could have been done with this tale to make it more exciting.
I wanted to badly to like this story as, like I've said, I loved the premise and the message it tried to give. Unfortunately, for me, the way it was presented just didn't grab my attention.
Bitter of Tongue
An utterly heartbreaking, brilliant story. I read this tale while on a train and had to desperately stop myself from crying like a baby and humiliating myself. I have read "City of Heavenly Fire" and "Lady Midnight" and so know the story of the Blackthorn family but it's never seemed so real and so harsh to me as it did in this story from Simon's point of view.
The adventure side of the story is fun, exciting and full of suspense. This story is the embodiment of everything I love about Clare's writing and I wish all of her stories lately were like this one.
The Fiery Trial
A good story. This tale was a little bit slow in places and at times seemed to take a long way to get to where it wanted to go, but overall an enjoyable read.
I think that maybe the reason I didn't love this story is because I already knew most of the big revelations as I've already read "Lady Midnight". I think if I hadn't read that and didn't know what I know I would have enjoyed this tale a lot more. I certainly don't think it would have dragged as much as I wouldn't have been able to guess so easily what was going to happen.
A good, well-written story that I didn't love but, like I've said, I think that was mostly down to my own prior knowledge and not the fault of the story or the writers.
Born to Endless Night
An absolutely amazing story. I knew I was going to love this tale as soon as I realised it was Malec-centric but I had no idea just how much I would love it!
Extremely well-written (one of the best written stories of the series) and gripping from start to finish, this is a tale not to be missed. If you only read one of the Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy it should be this one. I couldn't put it down and had a big, stupid grin on my face from start to finish.
A brilliant penultimate story that has left me both eager and sad to read the final tale.
Angels Twice Descending
What an ending! This story certainly goes out with a bang! I was laughing, I was crying, I was smiling with joy, I was smiling through tears. Without being cliche, this tale really was an emotional roller coaster.
I'm going to keep this review short as I'm still so overwhelmed I don't want to accidentally give anything away so I will just say this: these final two tales have reminded me of everything I love about the Shadowhunter series. Extremely well written, emotional and a lot of fun to read. An incredible ending.
I did like this book and I’m glad I read it but it did take me a while. A lot of bits really dragged on. Like I was getting really bored and kept putting it down then dreading picking it back up. Some parts I couldn’t put the book down but a lot of areas could have been reduced.
I know they are teenagers bitching some of the things said in the book were cringeworthy. There’s geeky and then there's just ridiculous. Sometimes Clare made the characters sound about 14. I eyerolled quite a few times.
It’s a good story overall and was gutted at the end. The book did help to fill in some gaps from the previous series and we did get to see the gang after the war. Seeing Simons point of view and what it was like going from knowing practically nothing to becoming a shadow hunter was great. It helped me learn more about their world but as said, lots of it just dragged and dragged. It was nice to have parts of the book dedicated to other characters which helped to break it up a bit and learn more about what happened in the past like with Valentine and the Circle bit it did take me a long time to finish this.
And FYI, I’m Scottish and some of the stuff George said I have never heard of and has never been said. I mean, what a surprise he came from a sheep farming background. Cliche much.
I’m glad I read it but I do t think I’ll be picking it up again anytime soon, if at all.
Please be aware the following contains Spoilers. I loved the story with Matthew and James and I so want to read more about them and know what the deal is with Grace. I also loved the Circle story, I know from the pervious books we have learnt of what the circle did, but I would love a novel with how the circle got started, what Valentine had on everyone, to how Micheal died, To Luke getting bitten and Stephen becoming dad, to Jocelyn discovering the fire. If Cassandra Clare wrote this, even as spilt as 10 stories like the Bane Chronicles and Shadow Academy, I think it would be read.
If for some reason you haven't read the Infernal Devices or city of bones books, then you must have ben living in a cave, because you need to get reading these series, because they are amazing written, entertaining and you can't help but fall in love with the characters.
Happy reading :)
It provides background and context that greatly expands the world these books are set in and, though a spin-off, acts as a valuable continuation of the series.
*Contains heavy spoilers for those who have not read The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices