Thank you to Margaret K. McElderry Books for a copy of Chain of Thorns in exchange for an honest review. 


Cordelia Carstairs has lost everything that matters to her. In only a few short weeks, she has seen her father murdered, her plans to become parabatai with her best friend, Lucie, destroyed and her marriage to James Herondale crumble before her eyes. Even worse, she is now bound to an ancient demon, Lilith, stripping her of her power as a Shadowhunter.

After fleeing to Paris with Matthew Fairchild, Cordelia hopes to forget her sorrows in the city’s glittering nightlife. But reality intrudes when shocking news comes from home: Tatiana Blackthorn has escaped the Adamant Citadel, and London is under new threat by the Prince of Hell, Belial.

Cordelia returns to a London riven by chaos and dissent. The long-kept secret that Belial is James and Lucie’s grandfather has been revealed by an unexpected enemy, and the Herondales find themselves under suspicion of dealings with demons.

Cordelia longs to protect James but is torn between a love for James she has long believed hopeless, and the possibility of a new life with Matthew. Nor can her friends help — ripped apart by their own secrets, they seem destined to face what is coming alone.

For time is short, and Belial’s plan is about to crash into the Shadowhunters of London like a deadly wave, one that will separate Cordelia, Lucie and the Merry Thieves from help of any kind. Left alone in a shadowy London, they must face Belial’s deadly army.

If Cordelia and her friends are going to save their city — and their families — they will have to muster their courage, swallow their pride and trust one another again. For if they fail, they may lose everything — even their souls. — from the publisher. 

Urbane fantasy

“Stories are not lies,” says one character in Chain of Thorns, and I 💯agree. While feelings are not facts, in a dissimilar way, truth isn’t always about facts either. 

Urban fantasy is my jam — I love the idea that maybe there’s just a bit of magic out in the world that we “mundanes” don’t know about. What I’ve always loved about the Shadowhunters world is how author Cassandra Clare mixes in (Jewish) Biblical theology. 

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I especially love The Last Hours, the trilogy Chain of Thorns completes. This trilogy is set in and around the turn of the 20th century in the transition from Victorian to Edwardian England. Of course, Shadowhunters have their own culture (for better or worse), but the human world they live in always informs that culture. 

What that means is Chain of Thorns (or, The Last Hours, really) is the Shadownhunters: The Mortal Instruments, but make it Downton Abbey and set it in London. Yes, please. 

That’s so gay

Okay, so maaaaybe I also love Chain of Thorns because it’s one of the queerest Shadowhunter books. At first glance, it may seem odd that half the main cast is queer. But I like Cassandra Clare’s explanation about LGB issues during this particular place in human history (as well as in Shadowhunter history). There’s a soft examination of Bohemian culture and European sexual politics in The Last Hours that is quite interesting. 

The MLM/WLM solidarity in Chain of Thorns is excellent and, frankly, not something I see enough of in media. Some of The Last Hours queermos don’t get much page time in the first two books — that is not the case here. I was pleased with the page time our Ls, Gs and B get. The combination of what’s “about” their queerness versus not is fabulous; you know, it’s almost as if they’re just human Shadowhunters. 

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Without getting too spoilery, I did notice a discrepancy in on-page physical intimacy between the hetero and homo pairings. While all of Clare’s intimate scenes use flowery and euphemistic writing and the queer couples’ scenes aren’t G-rated, there is a difference. I don’t know where along the production line this choice was made, but it’s worth pointing out. 

Similarly, Chain of Thorns utilizes two very painful queer tropes. Even though they work well narratively, and one provides a chance for the queer male characters to work together, is it worth the ache? That said, queer characters being friends is a significant thing. And honestly, one of the biggest reasons that media needs more than a token two. So, on balance, I love the gay here. 

“Love is … a sort of holy text … “

The characters in this book spend a lot of time running around talking at one another about how they don’t deserve someone else’s love. These reasons vary from problems with alcohol abuse to self-loathing for poor childhood behavior to formerly being controlled by a demon. 

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When one character tells another that love is like a holy text to be interpreted by each “reader,” that feels like a thesis statement. Sure, there are life-and-fight-to-the-death stakes here, but this book is at least as much, if not more, about the smooching. And making amends — that too.

If you do not like 🐓-blocking demons or instapermalove, you probably won’t vibe with Chain of Thorns (or The Last Hours, Shadowhunters or 95 percent of romantic media). But that’s part of why the setting works so well for this series. It’s much easier for me to believe that young adults from over 100 years ago would be ready to settle down.

Should you read it?

Chances are, if you’ve read Chain of Gold or Chain of Iron (the first two books in this trilogy), you are already planning to read Chain of Thorns. To those of you for whom that’s true, you won’t be disappointed — I wasn’t! I once read someone semi-facetiously refer to the villain of this series as the lack of communication. Chain of Thorns finally vanquishes that demon. 

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To those who have yet to read a Shadowhunters series, The Last Hours is my favorite. You don’t need to have read the other Shadowhunters series to follow along. However, you should read Chain of Gold and Chain of Iron to understand Chain of Thorns. I highly recommend you go and do that. 

Chain of Thorns is out now. Pick up a copy at your local indie bookstore or library. 📚🗡️💛

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