Chain of Thorns
by Cassandra Clare
Published by Walker Books
Book 3 in the Last Hours Trilogy
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.
This review has been a long time coming.
I haven't held off because it was bad. It was good.
I just got really busy.
The wait between this book and the last book was long enough for me to lose some interest, so I didn't immediately pick it up.
I got 25% into this book, and I got a ton of arcs, so I had to put it down.
Then I just wasn't in the mood for young adult, and wanted to read some super smutty adult romance.
I'm a mood reader, after all.
So, as much as I wanted a conclusion, this book spent months on my bedside table.
Then I wondered if I could just jump right in. After all, it had been a few months. Maybe I forgot that 25%.
But I buckled down. I told myself I didn't spend $35 to just read 25%, and say, forget it.
I have already invested time and money and precious brain power to the first two books in the trilogy.
So I sat down and started reading it again.
Then I kicked myself for stopping where I did, because the next chapter was good, and hooked it's talons in me. I knew then I was in it till I finished.
Before I get into the nitty gritty, let's go over the general story. It was good. There were lots of elements I enjoyed, and some I didn't. Some things were too drawn out, and made this book longer than it needed to be. There were way too many villian monologues. One would think that years of readers and movie/tv show enthusiasts making it loud and clear that no one likes a villian monologue, writers would back away from it. Cassandra Clare doesn't do this. She doubles ... no ... triples down on it.
After all, we have two villain's in this story. Tatiana, and Belial. We get a lot of monologues, topped off with evil cackling.
Because of course.
It just made it hard to take them seriously. Tatiana, being unhinged, you can forgive that, I guess. Considering Belial is a price of hell, well, one would think he would do a lot more doing, and less talking.
Putting that aside, the rest of the story was interesting.
As I have gotten older, I have definitely leaned more towards the characters, their personal journeys, and the relationships in these books, over the actual story. They are definitely the most interesting part of these books. And we get a lot of character arcs, and growth in this final installment.
Before I continue, I gotta say, I loved the addition of artwork in the book depicting certain scenes.
Be warned. Spoilers are below.
First, with our two main characters, James and Cordelia. I think it is fair to say that James doesn't have character growth in this series per say. He spent the last two books under Grace's "spell", after all. In truth, we get to know the real James, without the fog of the spell controlling him. Despite no real growth, I enjoy James. He is literally a carbon copy of his father Will, and William will forever be one of my favorite book boyfriends. Getting to see him truly connect with everyone, especially Cordelia and Matthew, for the first time, was wonderful.
Cordelia, though, had lots of growth. She went from a pining teenager, to trying to find a measure of worth in someone else (which is how she got into the pickle with Lilith), to becoming a young woman who knows she is worth more than what she has gotten in these last six months.
I still can't get over these three giant books only cover six months.
Despite her running off with Matthew in the last book, running from James, Lucy, and all of her problems, she comes into her own. She isn't willing to settle for scraps of James. She doesn't fall into Matthew's arms because its easy. She knows she deserves love. She uses her intellect to outsmart Lilith. All in all, I enjoy her arc throughout the books.
Ultimately, I do believe she made the right choice to stay with James, after learning the truth. Do I think Cassandra Clare used ANY excuse she could to keep these two apart as long as she could?
I love tension, and a slow burn, but it became too much when James decided not to tell Cordelia the truth about Grace.
Like, what? Please. Ridiculous.
Did I enjoy when they finally, finally, decided to be with one another and consumated their marriage?
Hell yeah. For being a young adult book, it was surprisingly hot.
It was obvious that Cassandra Clare was trying to replicate some of the tension and pining that made her Infernal Devices trilogy so amazing, but she misses the mark here. After all, the thing that made the Will/Tess/Jem love triangle so perfect, was the love they all have for one another. Will and Tess love each other deeply. Tess and Jem love each other deeply. But ultimately, Jem and Will's bond with one another, and the love they have for each other, transcended any jealousy.
Seriously, I will never come across a love triangle quite like theirs.
Cassandra couldn't replicate that in the Last Hours, because, ultimately, while Cordelia may have felt attraction to Matthew, she didn't love him more than a friend. And frankly, Matthew and James just don't have the bond Will and Jem did. Now, that is explained away because of the spell James was under, but even in this book, while they do get closer, it just doesn't hold a flame to Jem and Will's bond.
Matthew's arc was possibly one of my favorites, because on just how damn realistic it is. Matthew has tortured himself with this secret trauma for years, and has literally almost drank himself to death to numb himself. Alcoholism is a very real, brutal disease, and one hard to escape. I felt like his overall arc throughout these books was exactly how it should be. Hitting rock bottom, admitting he has a problem, and instead of relying on those around him to find happiness, finally admitting the truth to his parents and releasing those demons is exactly how his story should end in this trilogy. I know since he has/had feelings for Cordelia, some people may have wanted a HEA for him with a grand love. But I liked this more. Him, sober, and heading off into the world to travel.
Who knows, maybe he will find the love of his life in his travels?
Matthew is alive - which is not what I was expecting by the end of this book - sober, has his families forgiveness and love, his parabatai bond stronger than ever ... what a great ending for such a good character.
Now for the others, and I will try to keep it brief, because wow, my fingers already hurt.
Lucie and Jesse - I adored these two together. You can feel the love between these two throughout the trilogy grow, despite the very real fact that Jesse was a ghost, and Lucie very much alive. I do love that Lucie managed to bring him back, and Jesse go a second chance to live after what his mother did to him. Lucie and Jesse are a perfect example as to why I don't always enjoy YA books, though. Their relationship is so innocent. Which is fine. I mean, Lucie is 16, so I don't want to read anything sexual in regards to her character, but it did mean that while I loved these two characters and the deep bond between them, I didn't find them all that interesting.
Christopher and Grace - I was not expecting that Christopher twist. Not just because of the family tree (which is explained away in the book as being compiled by a woman who has dementia by the sounds of it), but because Cassandra was setting up something between him and Grace. Looking back, though, it makes sense. Christopher's character wasn't really going anywhere. He had no overall interesting arc, other than some handy inventions. While I am sad, because his death is heartbreaking, and I want all characters to find love and happiness, his was the only character that had nothing ... interesting going on?
That sounds terrible. I know.
But even Grace has an overall arc throughout these books, that leaves you conflicted. I don't really like Grace. I hated her the first two books, for obvious reasons. Do I understand her, though? I do. Cassandra did a good job rounding her out, and by the end, even though I don't really like her, I do respect her.
Which is more than what I was thinking I would ever feel for her character.
But guys. Kit coming back as a ghost for a moment to help Grace get over the inner voice telling her she isn't good or smart enough to do it, and help her solve the problem with the fire messages, and him tucking her hair behind her ear in goodbye before disappearing forever. MY HEART!
Thomas and Alastair: One of my FAVORITE storylines and characters in this trilogy is that of Thomas and Alastair. Not just because of the LGBTQ+ representation. In fact, let's give props to Cassandra Clare for having so much representation in this trilogy. It was the angst of it. For two side characters, I was just as hungry for them to come together as I was for James and Cordelia. Their personal feelings on coming out amongst family and friends, and what that could mean. Alastair fighting his feelings because he didn't feel worthy of Thomas, because of his past actions. It just all came together beautifully. I didn't really feel much in regards to Cordelia and Alastair's mother, but after her interactions with Thomas, and letting it known that no only does she know Alastair is gay, but supports him and Thomas ... I love her so much for that alone. I
Will & Tessa & Jem: I will forever gobble up anything I can get with these three. Their story is soooo bittersweet, considering the future storylines we get. When you read The Infernal Devices, you know Tess is immortal, and that she knows Will, and her children, grandchildren, and so on, will pass on. You get a taste of it in the epilogue, when Tess and Jem are there when Will passes away from old age. In short stories, or small excerpts in future books, you learn of what Tess does to pass the time, to help how she can, but her loneliness and pain. So the moments we get with Will and Tess, and Jem when he is able, hurt my heart even more. I have more thoughts on them, and will continue them in my predictions section below.
Anna and Ariadne: I wanted so much to be excited about their story, but I found myself bored when there parts of the book came up. I feel like Cassandra really dropped the ball when it came to these two. Anna was a great support character. She always had a joke, or some wisdom to share. Her I don't give a fuck attitude to how others react to her was refreshing. Ariadne's journey of coming out to her mother, and staying true to herself was a great arc for her character. But them together was boring. We know they had a love affair before the trilogy began, and we can assume it ended because Ariadne was in the closet, and soon was engaged to Charles. But we don't get any details from that time. Just a few memories from that time could have added so much angst to this relationship. I mean, points to Cassandra for having a lesbian couple in her books, but I didn't feel like they were as strongly written as Thomas and Alastair, or Alec and Magnus.
The Merry Thieves: One of the most heartwarming moments of this book was when Matthew is going through such terrible withdrawals, he starts seizing, and is at risk of dying. Christopher comes up with the idea of weening him off of alcohol with a mixture of water, alcohol, and herbs with sedative properties to ease his body into it. That night, the Merry Thieves stick together, sleeping on the floor with Matthew. It's accompanied by artwork, to really push that image home. It makes what happens later in the book so bittersweet. What I love, is that despite personal issues each of them is going through - the obvious James/Matthew/Cordelia triangle, Matthew's alcoholism, Thomas's secret love for Alastair, and Christopher quietly falling in love with Grace - these guys still love one another and are there for each other no matter what. I love this.
Malcolm: Kind of fun going back back and seeing why he does what he does firsthand. Considering we see his demise in The Dark Artifices, its interesting to go back in time and see when he snapped.
Tatiana and Belial: Meh. I got bored with their theatrics and monologues and couldn't wait for them to die. Tatiana's way out was super satisfying though.
Predictions for the final trilogy The Wicked Powers - and did any of my predictions for this book play out? (this will have spoilers for the other series' in the Shadowhunter chronicles. I haven't read them all, so I'm sur there will be gaps in my knowledge)
Jem & Tessa: We learn in the Dark Artifices (which maybe one day I will review on here. We will see) that Jem (who is no longer a Silent Brother) and Tessa reunite, and are together. Tessa ends up pregnant, which is a bittersweet thing for her, considering she is immortal, and is still not over the pain of losing Will and her children to death. My prediction, my ultimate hope, is that Tessa finds a way to end her immortality. I don't think I can end the Shadowhunter chronicles knowing Tessa will have to endure that pain again. There seems to be an afterlife in this world. Whether its ghosts, or the mysterious plant of existence Lucie was able to go to find souls, I need this series to end with Tessa, Will and Jem together again, and all of their children together. I need that. There can be no other option.
Alec & Magnus: You know, originally, I thought that Magnus would give up his mortality, along with Tess, so he wouldn't have to live on without Alec. That may still happen. But I know Alec and him adopt a warlock child. I mean, that child will be an adult by the time Magnus dies, so whatver choice he makes wouldn't leave the child with no guardian, but it would make his decision harder. Then again, maybe he already came to a decision in the Book of the White books, and I'm talking about of my ass.
Wow, not a crazy amount of predictions there. But I haven't finished the Dark Artifices, or read the Book of the White books ... so I have limited knowledge.
Two of them were so obvious. I said that James and Cordelia would work it out and stay married. Duh. And Jesse would come back to life, but not through necromancy. Which also, duh.
I predicted that either Matthew would die, or he would distance himself from James and Cordelia. In a way, I was right about him distancing himself. I was thinking it was because it would be too painful to see them together, but I think he distances himself to have adventures. To live life. I don't think it's forever, as when he leaves, him, James and Cordelia are in a great spot.
I predicted that Charles and Ari would end up married to cover up their sexuality, freeing them from the pressures of marriage, and discreetly being with who they want. I like that Ari ends up with Anna, and just doesn't care what people think. I feel terrible for Charles though. He can be a douche, but the story ends and he is still in the closet, except for the core group.
Grace got a redemption arc, but she didn't end up with Christopher :(
I predicted that Jem would be the one to help Cordelia break free of Lilith, but I like how Cassandra wrote it. Cordelia outsmarting Lilith.
Will: "I shall amuse you with a tale, then. The tale of my hellride with Balios from London to Cadair Idris, in Wales. Your mother, James, was missing - kidnapped by the miscreant Mortmain. I leaped into Balios's saddle. 'If ever you loved me, Balios', I cried, 'let your feet now be swift, and carry me to my dear Tessa before harms befalls her.' It was a stormy night, though the storm that raged inside my breast was fiercer still -"
Magnus: "I can't believe you haven't heart this story before, James,"
The two of them were sharing one side of the carriage, as it had become quickly apparent on the first day of their journey that Will needed the entire other side for dramatic gesturing.
It was very strange to have heard tales of Magnus all James's life, and now to be travelling in close quarters with him. What he'd learned in their days of travel was that despite his elaborate costumes and theatrical airs, which had alarmed several innkeepers, Magnus was surprisingly calm and practical.
James: "I haven't. Not since last Thursday."
Magnus: "James, you don't need to tell us what you know. But we will put it together, regardless."
He glanced at Will.
Magnus: "Well, I shall; I can't promise anything for your father. He's always been slow."
Will: "But I have never worn a Russian hat with fur earflaps, unlike some individuals currently present."
Magnus: "Mistakes have been made on all sides. James?"
James: "I do not own an earflap hat."
Jesse: "Are you alright?"
Lucie: "I was just dizzy for a moment - probably still a bit wobbly and tired,"
she said disconsolately.
Lucie: "Which is dreadful, because I was enjoying the kissing a great deal."
Jesse inhaled sharply. He looked dazed, as if he'd just been shaken awake.
Jesse: "Don't say things like that. It makes me want to kiss you again. And I probably shouldn't, if you're - wobbly."
Lucie: "Maybe if you just kissed my neck,"
she suggested, looking up at him through her lashes.
He took a shuddering breath, kissed her cheek, and stepped back.
Jesse" I promise you, I would have a difficult time stopping there. Which means I am going to now pick up a poker and respectably tend to the fire."
Lucie: "And if I try to kiss you again, you'll hit me with the poker?"
Jesse: "Not at all. I will do the gentlemanly thing, and hit myself with the poker, and you can explain the resultant carnage to Malcolm when he returns."
Jesse: "What is our plan for the future? We will have to go back to the world."
Lucie thought about it.
Lucie: "I suppose if Malcolm throws us out, we can go on the road and be highwaymen. We will only rob the cruel and unjust, or course."
Jesse smiled reluctantly.
Jesse: "Unfortunately, I hear there has been a tragic reduction in the ability of highwaymen to ply their trade due to the increasing popularity of the automobile."
Lucie: "Then we shall join the circus."
Jesse: "Regrettably, I have a terror of clowns and broad stripes."
Lucie: "Then we shall hop abroad a steamer bound for Europe,"
Lucie said, suddenly quite enthusiastic about the idea.
Lucie: "and become itinerant musicians on the Continent."
Jesse: "I cannot carry a tune."
Magnus: "I am somewhat insulted that you went to Malcolm Fade to seek his advice on what to do about Jesse, and did not come to me. Usually I am the warlock you annoy first, and I consider that a proud tradition."
Thomas: "Are you sure they are attacking you because of the sword?"
Alastair: "Are you suggesting it's my personality?"
Alastair: "I asked you here because I wanted to know why you sent me a note calling me stupid."
Thomas: "I didn't."
Thomas began indignantly, and then recalled, with a moment of freezing horror, what he had written in Henry's laboratory.
Dear Alastair, why are you so stupid and so frustrating, and why do I think about you all the time?
Oh no. But how -?
Alastiar produced a burnt piece of paper from his pocket and handed it to Thomas. Most of the paper had been charred beyond legibility. What was left read:
why are you so stupid
I brush my teeth
don't tell anyone
Alastair: "I don't why you don't want anyone to know you brush your teeth, but I will, of course, keep this news in strictest confidence."
Matthew: "I am not an idiot. I have seen the way Charles looks at your brother, and the way your brother does not look at him. Love, unrequited."
Now he did open his eyes. They were a very light green in the sunlight.
Matthew: "And to be fair, I doubt my brother did anything to deserve the kind of love he clearly felt himself."
Cordelia: "Really? You think Charles felt so much as all that for Alastair? He was the one who wanted it kept secret."
Matthew: "Ah, because of his career, I'm sure."
Matthew bit off the words.
Matthew: "I suppose it depends on your definition of love. Love that will give up nothing, love that one is willing to sacrifice for a more comfortable life, is not love, in my opinion. Love should come above all other things."
Lucie: "We need to talk, before we go downstairs."
James: "Be careful. You sound just like Mother used to before she gave us a scolding about something or other."
Lucie dropped her hand with a little shriek.
Lucie: "I do not. Though, speaking of parents, do you remember when we bought that enormous guinea pig? And then when Mama and Papa found out, we told them it was a special gift from Lima Institute?"
James: "Ah yes, Spots. I remember him well. He bit me."
Lucie: "He bit everyone. I'm sure he intended it as a compliment."
James: "Do you think Cordelia loves him? Matthew, I mean. If she does ..."
Lucie: "I know. If she does, you'll go away quietly and leave them to their happiness. Believe me, I am well acquainted with the self-sacrificing nature of Herondale men. But - if she feels anything for Matthew, she's never given a sign of it to me, or said anything about it. Still ..."
James tried to look politely inquiring.
Lucie: "Still, Paris is a romantic place. I'd get myself over there and tell Cordelia what you really feel, posthaste."
To make her point, she punched him in the shoulder.
Lucie: "Don't dawdle."
James: "You hit me. Must you hit me for emphasis?"
Matthew: "We are not here just to forget, but also to remember that there are good and beautiful things in this world, always. And mistakes do not take them from us; nothing takes them from us. They are eternal."
Matthew: "Is there another Prince of Hell with tentacles threatening the Institute, then? Because I have to say, if so, my instinct is to sit this one out."
Will: "Alas, I am tasked with relaying to you an exciting and drama-filled tale. A terrible responsibility to have fallen upon me."
James: "Please, you are barely concealing your delight. Go on, then. Tell us."
Alastair: "Are you in love with Matthew?"
Cordelia: "I don't know."
Not that she didn't have thoughts on the matter, but she didn't feel like sharing them with Alastair at the moment.
Alastair: "Are you in love with James, then?"
Cordelia: "Well. We are married."
Alastair: "That's not really an answer. I don't really like James, but on the other hand, I also don't like Matthew very much. So you see, I am torn."
Cordelia: "Well, this must be very difficult for you. I cannot imagine how you will find it within yourself to go on."
Alastair: "Charles seems to be healing up, and beyond him surviving, I have no further interest in what happens to him. In fact, there have been a few touch-and-go moments with my caring about whether he survives. He was always demanding that I adjust his pillows. 'And now the foot pillow, Alastair,'"
he said in a squeaky voice that, to be fair, sounded nothing like the actual Charles. Alastair was terrible at impressions.
Cordelia: "I wouldn't mind a foot pillow. It sounds rather nice."
Alastair: "You are clearly in an emotional state, so I will ignore your rambling."
Alastair: "I merely want to know if you're all right."
Cordelia: "No, you want to know if wither of them has done something awful to me, so you can chase them around, shouting."
Alastair: "I could want both."
Alastair: "It is a dreadful chore, being the eldest."
Risa muttered as Alastair lifted the trunk and began heaving it up the stairs.
Alastair: "What did you buy in Paris? A Frenchman?"
Cordelia: "Be quiet, he's asleep. He speaks no English, but he can sing 'Frere Jacques' and he makes excellent crepes suzette."
Thomas: "I don't like girls. Well, I like them. They're lovely people, and Cordelia and Lucie and Anna are excellent friends -"
Thomas: "I am attracted to men. But not like you. Just men."
Matthew smiled at that.
Matthew: "I rather guessed. I wasn't sure. You could have told me earlier, Tom. Why would I ever have minded? It isn't as if I was sitting about, waiting for you to write a handbook entitled How to Seduce Women."
Thomas: "We'll work it out. All our troubles. We're still the Merry Thieves."
Matthew: "That's true."
After a long silence, he said
Matthew: "I probably need to stop drinking so much."
Thomas nodded, staring into the blazing fire.
Thomas: "That, also, is true."
Will: "Well, Cordelia, we all hope you will be back before too long. James is positively pining away without you here. Incomplete without his better half, eh, James?"
He went away up the stairs and down the corridor, whistling.
James: "Well. I thought, when I was ten years old and my father showed everyone the drawings I'd made of myself as Jonathan Shadowhunter, slaying a dragon, that was the most my parents would ever humiliate me. But that is no longer the case. There is a new champion."
Cordelia: "Your father is something of a romantic, that's all."
James: "So you've noticed?"
James: "I want to be honest with you. Very honest, because I think it is the only hope we have to come out of this. And I do still hope, Daisy. I will not bother you about it - about you and me - but I will not give up on us either."
She looked at him in surprise. For all he had joked on the stairway about being humiliated, there was only a quiet determination in his face, his eyes. Even a sort of steely pride. He was not ashamed of anything he felt, that much was clear.
James: "I went after you that night. The night you left. I followed you to Matthew's, and then to the train station. I was on the platform - I saw you board the train. I would have gone after you, but my father had tracked me to Waterloo. Lucie had disappeared, and I had to go after her."
She looked down at the gloves in her hand.
Cordelia: "You were there? On the train station platform?"
He reached out and folded her hand over the gloves. His own was reddened with cold, his fingernails bitten down to the quick.
James: "I wanted you to know. I went after you the moment I knew you'd left. I didn't wait until hurt pride settled in or anything like that. I realized you were leaving and I ran after you, because when someone you love is leaving, all you think about is getting them back."
Lucie: "Yes, a completely selfless act, holding the party you love more than all other parties."
Will: "My dear daughter, I am offended by the insinuation."
Will: "'Half a league, half a league, half a league' -"
Tessa: "Will! What have I said?"
Will looked chastened.
Will: "No 'Charge of the Light Brigade' at the table."
Tessa patted his wrist.
Tess: "That's right."
Lucie: "He needs something new to wear. He can't go on in James's old clothes; they're too short."
This was true; Jesse was taller than James, though thinner as well.
Lucie: "And half of them are fraying, and they all have old lemon drops in the pockets."
Jesse: "I don't mind the lemon drops."
Lucie: "Can I touch you?"
He squeezed his eyes shut.
Jesse: "Yes. Please."
She ran her hands over him, his arms and shoulders, the wiry length of his torso. The heat of him, feverish under her touch. He shivered and kissed her throat, making her gasp like a heroine in a novel. She was beginning to understand why heroines in novels did the things they did. It was all rather worth it for experiences like this.
Jesse: "My turn,"
he said, stilling her hands.
Jesse: "Let me touch you. Tell me to stop" -
he kissed the corner of her mouth
Jesse: -"if you want me to."
His fingers, long and pale and clever, traced the lines of her face, over heer mouth, down her throat, danced along her collarbones, cupped her bare shoulders. The green of his eyes had burned away to black. He shaped her body under his hands, over the slight curves of her breasts, the dip of her waist, until his hands were bunched in the fabric at her hips.
Jesse: "I dreamed of this. Of being able to touch you. Really touch you. I could always only half feel you - and I imagined what it would be like - I tortured myself with it-"
Lucie: "Is it like what you thought?"
Jesse: "I think it might break me,"
he said, and stretched out above her.
Jesse: "You might break me, Lucie."
Lucie: "I am not letting you go. Not now."
Jesse pressed his lips to her hair.
Jesse: "I do not think I could bear to be let go by you, Lucie Herondale."
Cordelia: "I didn't run away to Paris on a lark, you know. I left our house because Grace appeared at our door. And though James didn't know I could see, I found him in the vestibule, holding her close. As in love as ever, by all appearances."
Anna: "Oh, my poor darling. What can I say? That must have ben dreadful. Only - things are not always as they first appear."
Cordelia: "I know what I saw."
Anna: "Perhaps. And perhaps you should ask James what truly happened that night. It may be as you fear. But I am an excellent reader of faces, Daisy. And when I see James looking at Grace, I see nothing at all. But when I see him looking at you, he is transformed. We all carry a light inside ourselves. It burns with the flame of our souls. But there are other people in our lives who add their own flames to ours, creating a brighter conflagration."
She glanced quickly at Ariadne, and then back at Cordelia.
Anna: "James is special. He has always burned bright. But when he looks at you, his light blazes up like a bonfire."
Matthew: "This is torture."
Cordelia: "Then we should stop."
Cordelia said in a low voice, but she did not draw back her hand.
Matthew: "It's a torture I like. The best kind of pain. I felt nothing for so long, held every experience and every passion at arm's length. And then you -"
But he went on, looking not at her but inward, as if at an imagined scene.
Matthew: "They used to make a sort of flat dagger, you know, a narrow thing that could slide through the gaps in armor."
Cordelia: "A misericorde. Meant to deliver the death stroke to a wounded knight."
She looked at him in some alarm.
Cordelia: "Are you saying ...?"
Matthew laughed a little breathlessly.
Matthew: "I am saying that with you, I have no armor. I feel everything. For better or worse."
Matthew: "Most likely? This is why no one likes scientists, Christopher. Too much accuracy, not enough optimism."
Cordelia: "I think that is true about many things. Turning away love because one believes one does not deserve it, for instance."
Alastair looked at her beadily.
Alastair: "You are simply not going to stop bothering me about Thomas, are you?"
Cordelia: "I just don't understand it. Ariadne is living with Anna - surely it would not be the end of the world if you and Thomas were to love each other?"
Alastair: "Ask Maman."
Cordelia had to admit she'd no idea how her mother would react to finding out that Alastair's romantic love was for men.
Alastair: "Our deepest illusions, and the most fragile, are the ones wee hold on to about our friends and families. Thomas believes our families would be happy as long as we were happy; I look at the Bridgestocks and know that is not always the case. Thomas believes his friends would accept me with open arms; I believe they would sooner abandon him. And what a terrible situation that would be for him. I could not allow it."
Cordelia: "That, is beautifully noble. And also very stupid."
James: "I thought - I was afraid -"
Cordelia: "That I wanted to die too?"
It had not occurred to her that he might think that.
Cordelia: "James. I may be foolish, but I am not self-destructive."
James: "And I thought, had I made you as miserable as that? I have made so many mistakes, but none were calculated to hurt you. And then I saw what you were doing, and I thought, yes, she does want to die. She wants to die and this is how she's chosen to do it."
He was breathing hard, almost gasping, and she realized how much of his fury was despair.
Cordelia: "James. It was a foolish thing to do, but at no moment did I want to die -"
He caught her at the shoulders.
James: "You cannot hurt yourself, Daisy. You must not. Hate me, hit me, do anything you want to me. Cut up my suits and set fire to my books. Tear my heart into pieces, scatter them across England. But do not harm yourself -"
He pulled her towards him, suddenly, pressing his lips to her hair, her cheek. She caught him by the arms, her fingers digging into his sleeves, holding him to her.
James: "I swear to the Angel, if you die, I will die, and I will haunt you. I will give you no peace -"
He kissed her mouth. Perhaps it had meant to be a quick kiss, but she could not help herself: she kissed back. And it was like breathing air after being trapped underground for weeks, like coming up into sunlight after darkness.
Jesse: "Are we really going to discuss it? Or are you just going to go ahead and used the mirror?"
James looked at Jesse over his shoulder.
James: "And here you were worried about fitting into the London Enclave."
Despite himself, he felt himself smile.
James: "It's like you've known us for years."
Tessa: "He looks very handsome."
Lucie: "I hope you mean Jesse, and not Papa."
Tessa: "Your father also looks very handsome."
Lucie: "You are allowed to think so. I am allowed to find the idea horrifying."
Thomas: "If you don't go, I won't go either. I will stay home, and mice will nibble on me in my despair."
Alastair: "There's no reason for that. You've got every reason to go -"
Thomas: "But I won't. I will remain at home, despairing, being nibbled upon by mice. It's your choice."
Alastair help up one finger for a moment as though to speak, and then let it drop.
Alastair: "Well. Damn you, Lightwood."
Sona; "Charles never cared for Alastair. Not the way he serves to be cared for. Alastair deserves to have someone in his life who understands how truly wonderful he is. Who suffers when he suffers, and is happy when he is happy."
James: "Rosamund, he's now a part of the London Enclave. You'll meet him again."
said James, as Jesse mimed what James thought was someone being saved from a sinking ship.
Rosamund: "But look at his eyes."
She sighed, as if Jesse were not, un fact, present.
Rosamund: "Couldn't you just die? Isn't he divine?"
James: "Excruciatingly so. Sometimes it pains me just to gaze upon him.
Jesse shot him a dark look.
James: "I know you believe that I only want you now that I cannot have you. But it is not true."
He tapped the pendant with his thumb. There was a faint click and the globe popped open; her eyes widened. From inside he drew a small slip of paper, carefully folded.
James: "Do you remember when I gave ethis to you?"
Cordelia: "Our two-week anniversary, I believe it was."
James: "I didn't tell you then what was inside, not because I did not want you to know, but because I could not face the truth of it myself. I wrote these words down and folded them up and put them where they would be near you. It was selfish. I wanted to speak them to you, but not to face the consequences. But here."
He help out the slip of paper.
James: "Read them now."
As she read, her expression changed. They were familiar, lines from Lord Byron.
There yet are two things in my destiny-
A world to roam through, and a home with thee.
The first were nothing - had I still the last,
It were the haven of my happiness.
Cordelia: "'A world to roam through,' That is why you chose this necklace. The shape of the world."
She fixed her gaze on his.
Cordelia: "It means ..."
Her eyes were deep and wide, and this time he let himself touch her cheek, his palm against her soft skin, his whole body burning at even that little touch.
James: "It means I would rather have a home with you than all the world. If you cannot believe me now, believe the James who gave you that necklace, long before you left for Paris. My God, what other reason could I have for placing those verses there, save that I loved you, but was too much a coward to say it?"
Esme: "I'm sorry to interrupt you, James. but as you know, I'm working on a family tree, and it would be awfully helpful to know: Are you and Cordelia planning to have children, and if so, how many? Two?"
She tilted her head to the side.
Esme: "Six or seven?"
James: "Esme, that family tree is going to be very inaccurate if this is the way you're going about things."
Cordelia: "When I married James, it was only supposed to be for a year. It was all I thought I could have. Everyone thought I was being selfless, but I was not. I told myself if I could just have a year with James, just a year, it would be something I could hold on to for the rest of my life, and treasure, that time with the boy I had loved since I was fourteen years old -"
She could see the words had hurt him, wished she had not had to say them. But he had to see, to understand.
Matthew; "You should never - you are worth more than that. Deserve more than that."
Cordelia: "And so do you. Matthew, what I feel for James hasn't changed. It has nothing to do with you. You ought to be adored above all things, for you are wonderful. You ought to have someone's whole heart. But I do not have a whole heart to give you."
Jesse: "For so long, as a ghost, you were the only one I could touch. And now I am alive, and you are the only one I cannot."
He looked up at the stars in the clear sky above them.
Jesse: "It hardly seems worth the return."
Alastair: "Guilt is one of the most sickening feelings there is. Most people will do anything to avoid feeling it. I know I -"
He took a deep breath.
Alastair: "One can either refuse to accept it, push it away and blame others, or one can take responsibility. One can bear the unbearable weight."
He sounded exhausted.
Thomas: "I have always wanted to bear it with you."
His eyes were bright with cold.
Alastair: "Raziel knows, perhaps that is the reason I have no become like Tatiana myself. You keep me human, Tom."
James: "If it were not for you, my Daisy, I would have belonged to Belial long ago. For there is no one else in this world, my most beautiful, maddening, adorable wife, that I could ever have loved half as much as I have loved you. My heart beats for you. Only ever you."
When she licked his throat, he groaned.
James: "You have no idea how much I have wanted you. very moment of being married to you has been bliss and torture."
He dragged up her skirts, ran his hands up the sides of her legs, his fingertips skating over the silk of her stockings.
James: "The things you did to me - when you came to me wanting help with your corset, on our wedding night -"
Cordelia: "I thought you were embarrassed,"
she said, biting gently at his jaw.
Cordelia: "I thought you wished I would go away."
James: "I did want you to go away,"
he murmured against her neck. His hands were behind her now, cleverly undoing the hooks at the back of her dress.
James: "But only because my self-control was hanging on by the thinnest thread. I pictured myself lunging at you, you absolutely horrified by what I wanted to do to you -"
Cordelia: "I would not have been horrified,"
Cordelia said, looking at him steadily.
Cordelia: "I want you to do things to me. I want to do things to you."
James; "How much do you like this dress? Because I can take it off you slowly, or I can take it off you fast -"
she said, and caught her breath as he took hold of the fabric at her neckline and, with a quick movement, ripped it apart.
Cordelia: "James. Have you ever before - with Grace -?"
He looked puzzled for a moment; his face darkened.
James: "No. We kissed. I never wanted anything beyond that. I suppose the bracelet kept me from noticing how strange that was. I thought perhaps that it was not in my nature to want."
He let his eyes roam over her, making her skin prickle.
James: "That was wildly inaccurate."
Cordelia: "Then this is you first -?"
James: "I never had anything with Grace. Nothing that was real. You are my first, Cordelia. You are all my firsts."
James: "I would do anything to spare Matthew pain. I would cut my own hands off if it would help."
Cordelia: "It would be dramatic, but unhelpful."
James: "You know what I mean."
He reached up to touch her hair.
James: "By all means, let us tell him how important he is to us both. But it would help neither of us to pretend or to lie. We are married, and we will remain married, and in love, until the stars burn out of the sky."
Lucie: "James. Help me make them see sense."
James: "Sense about what?"
Tessa: "About who will look after the Institute while we're gone."
It was James's turn to raise his eyebrows.
Will: You have to promise not to shout when I tell you."
James: "Ah, rather what you said to me when it turned out the puppy you bought me when I was nine was in fact a werewolf, and had to be returned, with apologies, to his family."
Jesse: "A mistake anyone could make."
Will: "Thank you, Jesse. The fact is - it's going to be Charles. Stay strong, James."
Christopher: Just don't abandon her entirely. Jesse - you are the only thing she lives for. The only one who was kind to her. Do not leave her alone in the dark."
Anna said, with a regretful sort of love.
Anna: "Your heart is too soft."
Christopher: "I am not saying these things because I am naïve or foolish. Only because I do see things that are not in beakers and test tubes, you know. I see how hatred poisons the person who hates, not the person who is hated. If we treat Grace with the mercy she did not show James, and that was never shown to her, then what she did will have no power over us."
He looked at James.
Christopher: "You have been terribly strong, enduring this, all alone, for so long. Let us help you leave anger and bitterness in the past. For if we don't do that, if we are consumed by the need to pay Grace back for what she has done, then how are we any different from Tatiana?"
Matthew: "Bloody Kit. When did you get to be so insightful? I thought you were only supposed to be good at putting the contents of one test tube into another test tube and saying, 'Eureka!'"
Christopher: "That is most of it."
James: "Matthew, could I speak to you for a moment?"
Alastair: "Bad idea,"
Alastair muttered under his breath, still staring at his book.
Matthew cast Alastair a look, then threw down his cards.
Matthew: "Well, I have lost all I can here. I suppose I had better see what else there is left for me to lose in this world."
Thomas: "That's a bit dramatic."
After a moment, Alastair nodded.
Alastair: "All right. I won't stand in your way."
Matthew: "Well, thank goodness, as I was waiting desperately for your approval."
Matthew: "Stiffen your spine. So Bridgestock plans to tell everyone you love men. So what? Some will understand; those who don't are not worth your knowing."
Charles: "You don't understand."
Charles put his head in his hands.
Charles: "If I want to do good in this world, if I want to rise to a position of authority in the Clave ... I cannot -"
Charles: "I cannot be like you, Matthew. You've no ambition, and so you can be whomever you want. You can dance with anyone you wish, man, woman, or other, at your salons and your clubs and your orgies."
Thomas: "You attend orgies?"
Matthew: "Don't I wish."
Charles: "Alastair, I ... you know I can't."
Alastair: "You can, Charles. And there are people in the world like us who don't have what you do. A family that will never abandon you. Money. Safety. People who could lose their lives for confessing such a thing. All you will lose is prestige. And still you will not do the right thing."
Lucie: "Daisy, you summoned a demon? All by yourself? How enterprising and brave and - also a terrible idea,"
she added hastily, catching James dark expression.
Lucie: "A very bad idea. But also, enterprising."
James: "It says much of you, that you would think that would tempt me. That you think love is the ability to possess another person, to force them to your side, even if they hate you, even if they can hardly bear it. You offer me what Grace had of me - not a partner, but a prisoner."
He shook his head, noting that Tatiana looked angry, which was good' they were stalling for time, after all.
James: "Belial cannot understand, nor you, Tatiana. I want a Cordelia who can leave me, because then I know that when she stays with me, it is by choice."
Morning was as dark as night. Sona took Cordelia's hand.
Sona: "You are grieving, but you are a warrior. You have always been a warrior."
She looked over to Alastair, who stood by the window, gazing out at the blackened sky.
Sona: "You will help her to do what is necessary."
Alastair: "Yes. I will."
Alastair: "Who would have thought Matthew Fairchild's dog would be so well trained? I assumed Oscar lived a life of dissipated debauchery at the Hell Ruelle."
Matthew: "I won't judge. I admire a pointless heroic quest."
Lucie: "What a wonderfully terrible idea. I am entirely willing to help."
Alastair: "You know, when Cortana chose you as its bearer instead of me, everyone thought I was upset because I had wanted to be the one. The bearer. But - it wasn't that. It was never that."
He rose to his feet, laying Cortana atop the workbench.
Alastair: "When you first picked up the sword .. I realized, in that instant, that being it's weildere would mean you were always the one in danger. You would be the one to take the bigger risks, to fight th harder fights. And I would be the one who would watch you, again and again, walk into danger. And I hated that thought."
Cordelia: "Alastair ..."
He held up his hand.
Alastair: "I should have told you that. A long time ago."
His voice carried the weight of a thousand emotions: resignation, loss, anger - and hope.
Alastair: "I know I cannot fight beside you, Layla. I only make one request. Be careful with your life. Not only for your own sake, but for mine."
Anna: "I told myself not to come to you. You should not have to share the burden of my grief. It is mine to carry."
Ariadne: "It is ours. No one is strong and unyielding all the time, and none of us should be. We all have to let down our guard sometime. We are made up of different parts, sad and happy, strong and weak, solitary and in need of others. And there is nothing shameful about that.
Anna took Ari's hand and looked down at it, as if she were marveling at it's construction.
Anna: "If we are all made up of different parts, then I am quite the chessboard."
Ari turned Anna's hand over in hers, then laid it over her heart.
Ariadne: "Never a chessboard. Nothing so plain. You are a brightly colored parchisi board. You're a backgammon set with triangles of inlaid mother-of-pearl and pieces of gold and silver. You are the queen of hearts."
Anna: "And you, are the lamp that gives light, without which the game cannot be played."
James: "Math. The drinking has not - did not - make you more witty, more charming, more worthy of love. What it did was make you forget. That is all."
Matthew sounded as if he had forgotten to breathe.
Matthew: "Forgotten what?"
James: "Whatever it is you are so angry at yourself about. And no, before you ask - Cordelia has told me nothing. I think you shared your secret with her; I think that is part of what has made you long for her. We so desperately want to be with those who know the truth of us. Our secrets."
Matthew: "You guessed all this?"
James: "When I am not under a spell, I am surprisingly insightful. And you are the other half of my soul, my parabatai; how could I not guess?"
Cordelia: "Edom is just a chessboard, and we are two of their pawns."
Lucie: "But you are very good at chess. James told me so."
She looked out over the blood-tinted landscape of Edom, and there was strength and determination on her face, more like her usual self.
Lucie: "And even a pawn can topple a king."
Lucie: "I haven't felt this trapped since Esme Hardcastle tried to find out how many children I intend to have with Jesse."
Anna: "You've surprised me, you know. I used to think you were an uncaring cad. ANd not in the entertaining, novelish way, but in the selfish, everyday kind of way."
Alastair: "I hope this is the part where you explain you've changed your mind."
Ari hid a smile behind her hand.
Anna: "I started to think better of you when you helped Thomas, after he was arrested. And now, well - there isn't anyone I'd rather be stuck at the end of the world with."
Grace: "I though ghosts could only return if they had unfinished business. Are the fire-messages yours?"
Christopher: "I think that you are my unfinished business."
Christopher: "I knew you could do it."
She heard the smile in his voice.
Christopher: "And you've invented ever-burning vellum. Splendid work, Grace."
Something brushed against her temple, tucking her hair behind her ear. A ghostly touch, a goodbye. A moment later, she knew he was gone.
Cordelia: "It is easy to confuse monstrousness and power. Especially when one is a woman, as one is not supposed to possess either quality. But you, Lucie - you have a great power, but it is not monstrous, because you are not monstrous. You have used your ability for good. To help Jesse, to get us to Edom. When you saved me from the Thames. When you comfort the dead."
Lucie: "Oh, Daisy -"
Cordelia: "Let me finish. People fear power. That is why the Inquisitor is so afraid of your mother that he feels he must drive her from London. Belial counted on it, on the Enclave's prejudices, their fears. But Luce, I will always defend you. I will always stand up for you, and if ghosts decide to attend our parabatai ceremony, I will invite them around for tea afterward."
Lucie: "Oh, Daisy. I've done a dreadful thing."
Cordelia was bewildered.
Cordelia: "What kind of dreadful thing? It can't be that bad."
Lucie: "It is."
Lucie wailed, and reached for her rucksack. As she rummaged in it, she said tearfully,
Lucie: "I stopped writing The Beautiful Cordelia. I was too angry -"
Cordelia: "That's all right -"
Lucie: "No, you don't understand."
Lucie pulled a small notebook out of her pack.
Lucie: "I started writing a new book. The Wicked Queen Cordelia."
Cordelia: "And you brought it with you? To Edom?"
Lucie: "Of course. You can't just leave an unfinished manuscript behind. What if I had an idea?"
Cordelia: "Well. I mean. Clearly."
Cordelia: "I do have to ask something,"
Cordelia said, tapping the page with her finger.
Cordelia: "Why are my, er, the Wicked Queen's bosoms' so enormous?"
Lucie: "Well they are. Not like me. I look like a little boy. I always wanted to have a figure like yours, Daisy."
Cordelia: "And I always wanted to be dainty and delicate like you, Luce."
She started to giggle again.
Cordelia: "The International Council of Sword Experts?"
Lucie: "I'm sure they exist,"
Lucie said, starting to smile.
Lucie: "And if they don't, they ought to."
She held her hand out.
Cordelia: "I suppose you might as well give it back now."
Cordelia whipped the notebook away.
Cordelia: You can't be serious. I am simply dying to find out what happens to Princess Lucie in the dungeon. Should I read aloud? Will there be another mention of my bosoms?"
Lucie admitted, and for the first time in many long centuries, under the harsh glow of three moons, the sound of simple human laughter drifted across the plains of Edom.
Anna: "You know, when I was a child, I thought I would be an Iron Sister."
Ari: "Really? It seems like quite a lot of routine, for you. And a lot of taking orders."
Anna: "Sometime I like taking orders."
Ari: "No flirting in the Silent City."
Thomas: "What you said to me in the library, when we were there with Christopher, it sounded a bit like poetry. What did it mean?"
Alastair's eyes flicked toward the horizon.
Alastair: "'Ey pesar, nik ze hadd mibebari kar-e jamal. Ba conin hosn ze to sabr konam?' It is poetry. Or at least, a son. A Persian ghazel. Boy, your beauty is beyond all description. How can I wait, when you are so beautiful?"
His mouth quirked up in the corner.
Alastair: "I always knew the words. I can't remember when it fully struck me what they meant. It is men who sing ghazals, you know; it occurred to me only then that there were others who felt as I did. Men who wrote freely about how beautiful other men were, and that they loved them."
Thomas tightened his hands in his pockets.
Thomas: "I don't think anyone has ever thought I was beautiful, except for you."
Alastair: "That's not true. You don't see how people look at you. I do. It used to make me grind my teeth - I was so jealous - I thought surely you'd choose anyone in the world who wasn't me."
Thomas: "I thought you were feeling optimistic."
Alastair: "It passed."
She looked at him - covered in blood and dirt and healing runes, with the dust of Edom still caught in his lashes. She thought of all the things she'd wanted to say, about how it was over and they were safe, and she had never thought it was possible to love someone so much as she loved him.
His voice was rough, his eyes shining.
James: "Daisy. You believed in me."
Cordelia: "Of course I did."
she replied, and she realized as she spoke the words that that was all she really needed to say.
Cordelia: "I always will."
Like Ari, he held up a piece of paper, though this one was not slightly charred; rather, it was extremely charred.
Thomas: "I shall burn one of the very earliest attempts at fire messages, in which I may have penned some regrettable things."
Alastair: "I recall that one."
Lucie clapped her hands loudly.
Lucie: "Now that you have a parabatai, you will never need to keep secrets again! At least not from me. You can keep secrets from the rest of these heathens here, if you like."
There was a chorus of cheerful boos.
Anna: "Lucie, dear. Don't give Cordelia terrible advice. We all want to hear what she has to say, no matter how scandalous. In fact, especially if it's scandalous."
Matthew: "Anna, is it not your turn now? What will you be contributing?"
Anna sketched a wave on the air.
Anna: "Nothing. I like everything I have and I approve or everything I've done."
Lucie: "I'm sure you and Mother got up to all sorts of scandalous things when you lived together in the Institute."
Will replied darkly. Tessa had laughed.
Tessa: "Maybe when you're engaged, we can loosen the rules."
Alastair: "I do not see,"
Alastair said as Oscar deposited a stick at his feet.
Alastair: "why this hound here got a medal. None of the rest of us got a medal."
Thomas: "Well, it's not an official medal."
said Thomas, dropping to his knees in the grass to rub Oscar's head and muddle his ears about.
Thomas: "You do know that."
Alastair: "The Consul presented it."
Alastair said, kneeling down as well. He caught at the little medallion attached to Oscar's collar. It was etched with the words OSCAR WILDE, HERO DOG. Charlotte has presented it to Matthew, saying that as far as she was concerned, Oscar had done as much as any human to save London.
Thomas: "Because the Consul is the mother of the dog's owner,"
pointed out Thomas, trying - and failing - to prevent Oscar from licking his face.
Alastair: "Terrible favoritism."
Cordelia: "There is a terrible selfish part of me that wants you to stay here in London, but I suppose we cannot keep you to ourselves when the rest of the world is pining away for you to brighten it up."
Matthew: "Flattery. As you kow, it always works on me."
He held a stack of charred paper in his hand.
James: "I have just received a seventh fire-message from my father."
He shuffled through the pages.
James: "In this one, he says they are running late and they are ten minutes away. In this one, they are nine minutes away. In this one they are eight minutes away. In this one ..."
Matthew: "They are seven minutes away?"
James shook his head.
James: "No, in this one he wants to know if we have enough mustard."
Cordelia: "What would he have done if we didn't?"
James: "The Angel only knows. He certainly won't be happy about all these ducks."
James: "Life is a long chain of events, of decisions and choices. When I fell in love with you, I was changed. Belial could not alter that. Nothing could alter that. And everything that happened after, everything he tried to do through the bracelet, only strengthened what I felt for you and brought us closer to one another. It was because of him and his meddling that we married in the first place. I loved you already, but being married to you only made me fall more inescapably in love; I had never been so happy as I was every moment we were together, and it was that love that led me to shatter the bracelet, and realize that indeed I had a will that could contest Belial's."
He brushed a strand of hair away from her face, his touch gentle, his eyes locked on hers.
James: "So no, I do not feel sorrow, for all I went through brought me to where we are now. To you. We have been in the crucible, and come out as gold."
Cordelia went up on her toes and kissed him quickly on the lips. He raised a brow.
James: "Is that all? I thought that was a very romantic speech. I expected a more passionate response, or perhaps for you to start spelling out my name in daisy chains on the riverbank -"
Cordelia: "It was a very romantic speech, and believe me, I will have much to say about it later."
She smiled at him in the particular way that always made his eyes blaze up like fire.
Cordelia: "But out families have just arrived, so unless you wish to passionately embrace in front of your parents, we will have to save that for later, when we are home."