The Value of Cassandra Clare

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In my circle of friends and colleagues saying someone is “sort of like Stephanie Meyer” is a dubious honour at best.   But when I say this about Cassandra Clare, I mean it in the best possible way.  I mean that Clare has found a way to use fantasy fiction to tap into the greatest hopes, fears, and passions in the hearts of readers around the world, and many of us love her for it.  Clare’s Mortal Instruments series provides twists and turns of plot, a female main character who (un-like Meyer’s) is a hero, rather than a victim, and the obligatory lovable yet brooding dark romantic male lead.

Unlike many of the themed paranormal series on the market at the moment, Clare’s first series (more aptly described as urban fantasy) blends all the best paranormal creatures together; demons, angels,

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vampires, werewolves, faeries, warlocks, the whole shebang.  What makes the books a cut above the traditional paranormal romance is their presentation of political and civil rights ethics.  In the series a race of humans called Shadowhunters exists to combat demons that threaten humanity.  At first Shadowhunters seem purely heroic and self-sacrificing, but as the series progresses their prejudice against the part-human part-demon paranormal races, referred to as “Downworlders” (vampires, werewolves, warlocks, etc.) is revealed.  We discover that the Shadowhunter home world exists in a sort of caste system, the Downworlders subject to Shadowhunter law and control.  Even some of the characters the reader is really fond of exhibit these prejudices, adding compelling depth to heroism in the novels; Clare seems to be saying that just saving lives

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doesn’t make you a hero, one must also adhere to a set of admirable principles; fairness, equality, justice, mercy.

In Clare’s most recent novels, Clockwork Angel and the newly released Clockwork Prince (books one and two of The Infernal Devices series), the author provides all the features that readers have come to love in the Mortal Instruments books, while also incorporating the historical setting of Victorian London.   While the “huge twists” of Clare’s novels usually fail to surprise, the romantic relationships and complex ethical struggles of the characters continue to draw me back to her work.  And it doesn’t hurt that although Clare’s heroines experience their share of Twilight-esque love drama, they never lose sight of their own value as individuals, nor the importance of the world outside themselves, with its corresponding responsibility to fight for the lives and rights of others.  In this way Cassandra Clare’s work is decidedly not like Stephanie Meyer’s.

Liz Gillett

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