# of Pages: 656
Time it took me to read: 3 days
# of pages a day to finish in a week: 94
Rating: 5 out of 5
Cordelia Carstairs has loved James Herondale since she was a girl. She should be happy as can be, since she’s due to marry him. But this marriage comes on the aftermath of scandal, and it is a marriage of convenience in order to save Cordelia’s reputation: so not the romantic dream she always imagined. Besides, James loves Grace Blackthorn, he’s made that clear: this will be a marriage in name only, between friends, until they can get divorced in a years time and move on with their lives. All James has to do is resist seeing Grace, and Cordelia must shield her true love from her new husband.
Meanwhile, Lucie Herondale works tirelessly to bring the boy she loves, Jesse Blackthorn, back from the grave. This brings her into an uneasy alliance with Grace, Jesse’s sister, who is the only one who understands that Jesse’s soul hangs between life and death, and that there must be a way to bring him back. But necromancy is powerful magic, forbidden to the Nephilium, which forces Lucie and Grace to the Downworld, where the warlocks may be their only chance at success.
All this while a killer stalks London. Killing Shadowhunter after Shadowhunter, the entire Enclave is on edge, as no one can even catch a glimpse of the killer. Though James and Cordelia believe they have defeated Belial, James’s demon grandfather for now, they cannot help but think that he is somehow behind the mayhem. Along with their friends, Cordelia and James must figure out who is behind the murders and stop them before something even worse is unleashed upon London to threaten everything they hold dear.
Hi all, I’m soooo thrilled to be taking the time to review a Cassandra Clare book on this blog. I’m a huge fan of pretty much everything she’s done (besides the Mortal Instruments, but that’s another story), so this book was such a treat and an easy five.
However, to anyone who HAS read Cassandra Clare before, you know she is the QUEEN of large casts and complex plots. So I’m going to be styling this review / summary pretty differently. The review is going to be short, sweet, and spoiler-free. However, instead of doing the normal cast and summary sections after, I’m going to do sort of a blend. I’m going to hit major plot points, and then I’m going to do short sections on important character pairings and give a brief overview of what happens between them. It’s definitely going to be chaotic, but I think it will be the best way to get everything covered without having to actually write a 10,000 word summary.
Don’t worry I will very clearly mark where the spoiler section begins and ends, and believe me when I say that section will be RIFE with spoilers so please if you haven’t read Chain of Iron yet, skip at least that section if not the whole review, because this book is really worth remaining spoiler-free for.
I just wanted to take a few paragraphs to give a spoiler-free review. Well, really, this is just a chance for me to rant about how much I love Cassandra Clare and why, so if you’re also a fan, so glad you’re here to hang out, or if you’ve been wondering whether or not to give Cassandra Clare a try, hopefully this will be the push you need.
First off I’ll start with the world-building. Truly, nobody out there in YA today has such an expansive, detailed, and vivid urban fantasy world. She has a dozen “main cast” books written already, with more in the works, as well as several side cast stories (most of which I haven’t gotten around to reading yet). But everything she puts out is consistently excellent, and her historical fiction series (The Infernal Devices and The Last Hours), are well researched in their settings of Victorian and then Edwardian England, respectively. They feel so authentic, with everything from the parties to the social standards and even the clothing. It was all so very complex during that period, and though I’m no historian, I think that she really gives it that authentic edge while ridding with some of the rules where it fits her, since the Shadowhunters are a secret society within society, so while she keeps the sexist bits to a certain extend, certainly nobody would ever call her women repressed or powerless, which I love.
Anyway, onto the cast. As I mentioned before, nobody does large cast like Cassie Clare, and I’m truly not sure anyone ever will. Because unlike some large cast stories I’ve read, Clare really takes the time to delve deep into the side stories, so much so that they really read as just as important as the main storyline. Every character feels important, and is developed accordingly across her trilogies. In The Last Hours in particular, it’s such a treat for fans of the Infernal Devices because the main cast of The Last Hours are the children of the main cast of The Infernal Devices, so not only do you have a new generation to get to know and love, there are still plenty of moments from their parents that make true fans melt.
Lastly, as I am trying to keep this somewhat brief, I’ll cover plot. As well as being the queen of large cast, Cassie Clare is also the queen of complex storylines. There is always SO much going on, in every single book, and the chapters jump around from character to character, so you’d think it would be hard to keep track. But no, I’ve never found myself loosing the thread of one plotline as she moves to another. Everything is woven together seemingly effortlessly (though I’m sure it actually takes monumental effort). And her favorite thing to do is to start each book with a ton of seemingly unconnected plotlines but, by the end, many of them end up coming together as interwoven and related the entire time, which is undoubtably genius.
So anyway, I loved everything about this book, there are certainly parts that hurt, but it’s that beautiful hurt of a good story told well. And that last bit is not a spoiler, because you know if you’ve ever read a Cassie Clare book that she is going to hurt you somehow.
Seriously, stop right here if you want to avoid spoilers. And I beg you not to spoil yourself if you ever have any intention of reading this book. Please, rather than spoiling yourself I’d rather you click from this page and pick up this book from the bookstore, online, or your library and start reading it right now.
James and Cordelia: The story starts with James and Cordelia’s wedding. In the first book, Cordelia claims that James was with her all night, unchaperoned, the night he burned down Blackthorn manor at the behest of Grace. In order to save Cordelia’s honor and reputation, James agrees that they will marry. The two of them agree that it will be a marriage for appearances only, and then after a year they can divorce as friends and be with other people. Thus this story begins with the marriage between these two friends. Cordelia loves James desperately, always has, but swears that he will never know it. James, underneath it all, loves Cordelia certainly, but Grace Blackthorn has a bracelet locked around his wrist that makes him have complete devotion and loyalty to her. Their marriage is comfortable, and Cordelia only becomes closer to James, and vice versa. The deeper James’s feelings become, the weaker the bracelet gets, and then one night they end up kissing and the bracelet breaks, freeing James from the spell of Grace Blackthorn. But before they can discuss anything and James can confess his true love to Cordelia, Grace arrives. James confronts her and Grace admits to everything. But all Cordelia saw was their initial embrace and their first words, taken out of context. So Cordelia believes that he truly has chosen Grace over her, even though in her heart she started to believe just a little that James was starting to fall in love with her. Cordelia runs off to Matthew and they end up running to Paris together. James, after realizing what Cordelia saw and heard, flees after her, desperate to make things right. He has almost caught up to Cordelia, but his father intercepts him and says that they need to rescue Lucie, so James must let Cordelia go for now.
Cordelia and Matthew: Cordelia and Matthew become very close in this story. Matthew is often Cordelia’s escort when James cannot attend to her, which is perfectly acceptable because Matthew is James’s parabatai. Cordelia is the first and only person Matthew confesses his greatest secret to: that he bought what was supposed to be a truth potion from the Shadow Market as a boy. He fed it to his pregnant mother in order to know for sure that Henry was his true father. The potion ended up being a poison that nearly killed his mother, and did kill the baby she was carrying. Cordelia trusts Matthew to take her to try and find Waylon the Smith because she believes that there is something either wrong with Cortana or wrong with her. And Cordelia, after believing that James has chosen his loyalty to Grace over her, runs to Matthew. Matthew confesses his love for Cordelia, even though he knows she loves James. He proposes they run away to Paris together for a little while to try and do their healing and keep the whispers away from Cordelia should news of Grace and James get out. Cordelia, heartbroken over James, agrees.
Matthew and James: The relationship between these two loyal parabatai is pushed during this story. Though their love for each other never wavers, Matthew struggles with his secret love for Cordelia, because he both cannot stand to see Cordelia unhappy, as he knows she loves James, but he also cannot bear to watch them be together. James, on the other hand, watches Matthew drink more and more heavily and argue with his mother, Charlotte, about his health. It comes to a head when the two of them argue about Matthew’s drinking, the first time they’ve really ever talked about it. The story ends with James watching Cordelia and Matthew run off together to Paris (as friends, mostly, but still). Matthew thinks that James has fully betrayed Cordelia because of his “love” for Grace Blackthorn.
Cordelia and Lucie: Despite their upcoming parabatai ceremony, Lucie and Cordelia are more distanced than ever during this story. Lucie is keeping her knowledge about Jesse and her alliance with Grace under complete wraps from Cordelia and everyone else. Cordelia has never told Lucie she’s in love with James, and as that is a big secret that Cordelia is keeping, it is rare that the two of them are on the same page. In fact there is a scene where they train together and they are very out of sync. So much so in fact that when they practice their parabatai rites, something unexplained goes wrong.
Lucie and Jesse: Much of their history happens in the first book, but Lucie is totally in love with Jesse Blackthorn, the Shadowhunter boy who died at seventeen from receiving his first rune. In the previous book, he sacrificed his last breath to save James’s life, and now Lucie and Grace Blackthorn are doing everything they can to try and raise Jesse, as he is still trapped somewhere between the life and death. The two of them, after some arguing, finally confess their feelings for each other, and after that Lucie is more determined than ever that Jesse can come back so they can have their happy ending. At the end of the story, once the piece of Belial’s soul is removed from Jesse, Lucie uses her power of commanding the dead to apparently raise Jesse, though the story ends before we understand completely what happens.
Lucie and Grace: This slightly uneasy alliance was made at the end of the previous book, when the two agreed to work together to try and raise Jesse Blackthorn, Grace’s brother and the ghost boy that Lucie loves. The two decide to work with the warlock Malcolm Fade to try and raise the dead without having to perform unspeakable deeds to do it. Grace is a little too unfeeling and willing to push the boundaries, so Lucie always feels as though she has to reign her in, even though the two are equally desperate to bring him back for their own reasons.
Grace and Christopher: When Grace sneaks into the Fairchild home to get some ingredient for her quest to save Jesse, she comes across Christopher working in the lab. Christopher shows Grace around and they talk about science together before discovering the true nature of the false-stele that was found with Lilian Highsmith. The stele can take runes from one Shadowhunter and transfer them to another. This is only a quick scene, but I wanted to note it here. As much as I generally don’t like Grace Blackthorn (opinion), I think that if Grace somehow ends up redeeming herself and not dying, I like the thought of these two together, they had some adorable chemistry.
Thomas and Alistair: Most of the backstory is in the previous book, but Alistair and Thomas had a brief summer friendship a few years back in Paris, while Alistair was still in love with Charles Fairchild. But Thomas had a bit of a crush on Alistair that whole time. But here in London, where Alistair was often the bully of the Merry Thieves back in school, Thomas tries to convince himself that he hates Alistair as his friends do. But when Thomas is charged with the murder of Lilian Highsmith, Alistair comes forward and says he was following Thomas the whole time, and saw that Thomas tried to save Lilian, not kill her. While the two of them are being held together before their trial by the Mortal Sword, they get to talking and then the talking becomes kissing. After the big battle with Leviathan, Alistair says that there can never be anything between them because of what he’s done to Thomas and their friends.
Anna and Ariadne: From the beginning, Ariadne has her heart set on winning back the person she loves, Anna Lightwood. However, Anna makes it clear that while she is happy to dally around with her, there is no love and there can never be. The two of them engage in plenty of covert sexy-time, where Ariadne continues to try and win Anna over. But by the end, the two of them has a conversation that has Ariadne storming off because she finally realizes she’s not going to get what she wants. Anna breaks down over this, because though she’s had the cool exterior this whole time, inside she’s a cinnamon bun who loves Ariadne back.
This section will be composed of short and sweet plot points. I will try and get them mostly in order, but if a few are out of order bear with me. I won’t be able to cover everything, but my hope is that anyone who is about to read Chain of Thorns (book three coming in 2022) can read this summary combined with the characters above and feel refreshed.
- The night before his wedding, James falls into the shadow world, which he thinks shouldn’t happen again after wounding Belial in the previous book, but the shadow realm looks different, so he’s not sure that it belongs to Belial
- Cordelia’s dad Elias comes back just in time for her wedding, giving her a beautiful sheath for Cortana as a gift
- James and Cordelia get married in a ceremony that goes off without a hitch. The reception is nice, but Elias has a little too much to drink and has to be carried off by James and Alistair
- Cordelia and James go to their new home, where they agree to have a this marriage be a partnership where they still talk every night, as friends. James has set up separate bedrooms with an adjoining bathroom for them. Cordelia loves him desperately, but James is still wearing the bracelet given to him by Grace that makes him “love” her
- Lucie and Grace have been trying their own mix of magic and science to raise Jesse, but to no avail. Grace wants to dive right into necromancy, but Lucie will not do great evil to raise Jesse. They decide to try and seek the help of the warlock Malcolm Fade to see if he can help
- A Shadowhunter, Amos Gladstone, is killed on patrol. There is no traces of demon ichor around, but they assume it must have washed away in the snow. The Merry Thieves think that it may not have been a demon, but a Downworlder or a Shadowhunter that killed him
- Lucie and Grace ask Malcolm Fade for his help. At first he refuses, but Grace offers to get information on Annabel Blackthorn, Malcolm’s love, who has been an Iron Sister for nearly a century. He says he’ll see if he can help them after he gets this information
- A second Shadowhunter is killed, Basil Pounceby, and James thinks he may have had a dream about it. He immediately suspects Belial, but Belial cannot inhabit the human world and should have been weakened for at least a century by the wound dealt to him by Cortana. He cannot ask Jem about it though, because he and Magnus Bane are on a mission in the Spiral Labyrinth and unreachable
- Grace asks her mother about Annabel Blackthorn, because Tatiana is being kept as an Iron Sister by the Clave. Tatiana laughs and says that the old Blackthorns killed her for being in love with a warlock, she was never an Iron Sister at all. Grace and Lucie return to Malcolm, where Grace tells him in a pretty cruel manner. Malcolm refuses to help them
- A young Shadowhunter girl, Filomena di Angelo from Rome, is murdered. This time James is sure that he sees it in a dream, and in the back of his mind thinks that he may be going out in his sleep and committing the murders himself
- Lucie is told how to find Filomena’s ghost, so the Merry Thieves, along with Lucie, Cordelia, and Anna, go off to find her. They find Filomena’s ghost, but she simply tells Cordelia in Italian that as the bearer of Cortana she should have saved her. The group is then attacked by a demon, and when Cordelia attempts to draw Cortana, the blade burns her and she is unable to use it. She believes the blade no longer considers her worthy of it
- Elias Carstairs comes to James and Cordelia’s home and demands that James loan him an exorbitant amount of money. James refuses, saying he cannot afford, and Elias leaves angry and drunk. The next morning they are told Elias has been murdered, and James becomes sure that he is somehow the culprit, that he’s being controlled by Belial somehow. Cordelia and her family must grieve the loss of her father
- Cordelia gets Matthew to drive her out to find Waylon the Smith, forger of Cortana, to see if he can help her restore the sword. Cordelia meets with the Smith, who repairs the blade and asks Cordelia to be his paladin and serve him as his warrior. She agrees to do so because she wants to be able to help prevent future murders
- Lucie goes to Malcolm and says that if he helps them with Jesse, she’ll help him find a way to raise Annabel. Malcolm tentatively agrees
- James finally tells the Merry Theives about his theory that he’s the one doing the murders. They all agree to stay with him and watch him while he sleeps. Cordelia ties him mostly up, and they make out a little. Thomas goes out to patrol on his own, like he has been doing
- James once again dreams of the murder, but Cordelia is able to confirm he never left the night before. Thomas, at dawn, hears a scream and finds Lilian Highsmith dying from wounds inflicted by the murderer. The Inquisitor finds Thomas covered in blood next to the body and they arrest him. When the Merry Thieves visit him in holding, Thomas gives to them what appears to be a stele, but isn’t really. Thomas will be tested by the Mortal Sword the next day to prove his innocence, and in the meantime Alistair comes forward as a witness to Thomas not being the murderer. Alistair and Thomas are held together in the Institute to await trial
- The rest of the group goes to the Shadow Market to try to find out what the not-stele is. While they’re there they find Magnus Bane, warlock friend of their families, who was supposed to be away, but is in town for one night. They tell him about James’s dreams and Magnus says that he’ll come help James access the shadow realm again to see if it is indeed Belial who is to blame for the murders and the dreams. Cordelia will watch over with Cortana to make sure nothing goes wrong
- Grace goes to the Fairchild house and runs into Christopher in the lab. After talking for a while, they come to realize that the not-stele is capable of transferring runes from one person to another, and that is how the killer is stealing runes from his victims
- James and Magnus go into Edom, the realm that they believe has been taken away from Lilith by Belial. But when they arrive it is not in Edom. It is in a trap by Belial, who tries once again to get James to willingly let Belial possess him. James refuses, and Belial casts Magnus out and nearly overcomes James, but Cordelia is able to save him and pull him out of the trap. James and Cordelia kiss and the bracelet breaks
- Lucie comes to the realization that Jesse’s body is the one being used to commit the murders. She goes to his coffin and finds the stolen runes all over his body. She’s about to destroy the body when Grace knocks her out. When she comes to Jesse’s body is gone and Lucie runs to try and stop it from committing another murder. Grace makes Lucie promise that she won’t let anything happen to Jesse’s body
- Thomas is found innocent by the Mortal Sword, but as soon as that’s over, the Institute is under attack and everyone who is there, including Thomas, Alistair, Anna, Ariadne, Christopher, etc.
- Magnus runs off after being ejected from the trap and Matthew comes over and they discover that the symbol that is being drawn by the murders is that of Leviathan, sea demon and brother of Belial. The three of them run to where the last murder would have to take place to find Charles, Matthew’s brother, clinging to life. Matthew works on healing him, because if he lives Leviathan won’t be able to fully enter the world and kill everyone.
- Belial arrives in Jesse’s body, covered in the runes that he’s stolen from the murdered Shadowhunters. He is convinced that he has built a super warrior that will be able to defeat Cordelia and Cortana in battle. Belial says that he is giving James this last chance to join with him, or else Leviathan will kill everyone at the Institute and he’ll kill Cordelia for good measure. James refuses, and Cordelia locks into battle with Belial/Jesse, her powers as a Paladin giving her the edge she needs to keep up with Belial/Jesse.
- At this point, a new player arrives. Lilith, mother of demons, reveals that she has tricked Cordelia into becoming HER paladin, who she controls. She had disguised herself as Waylon the Smith after putting the curse on Cortana herself to force Cordelia’s hand. She also disguised herself as Magnus to try and get back into Edom herself that way, but Belial had foiled her. She tells Belial that she will have Cordelia kill him unless he surrenders Edom back to her. Belial refuses
- Lilith forces Cordelia and Belial back into battle, and just when Cordelia is about to strike a killing blow Lucie arrives and throws herself in front of Jesse/Belial. Cordelia must use all of her strength in order to avoid killing Lucie, even though Lilith is telling her to do so.
- James ends up shooting and wounding Lilith with his special revolver, because it was blessed with the names of the three angels that are Lilith’s mortal enemies, so Lilith is temporarily out of the game, though Cordelia is still her paladin. Lucie is able to sort of force Belial out of Jesse’s body and Cordelia uses Cortana to deal a second mortal wound to Belial without harming Jesse. Belial disappears, leaving Jesse apparently completely lifeless on the ground.
- Malcolm Fade arrives just as Matthew is able to save Charles and Leviathan is banished from the Institute. Everyone is caught up on the situation and they all head back to the Institute
- End of Story: Lucie and Malcolm bring Jesse’s body back to the Institute to be looked over by the Silent Brothers so they can prove to the Clave that a demon possessing it was doing the murders. Malcolm and Lucy agree to go to Cornwall, Malcolm’s home, to work on Jesse and also look for where Annabel is buried. When everyone is gone, Lucie commands Jesse to wake, and he appears to do so, but the effort causes Lucie to pass out, and it seems that she’s being carried off by Malcolm and Jesse as she slips into unconsciousness
- End of Story: Cordelia and James go home together. James is about to confess his love for Cordelia when there is a knock on the door. Grace arrives and embraces James, saying she’s going to leave Charles to be with him. James takes her into the other room and confronts her about the bracelet and the control she’s had over him. Grace admits to it all, her power to control men, everything. James says that he’s going to turn her into the Clave and she should stay here. Grace agrees, because she’s broken from under her mother’s influence and the only way to stay safe is for the Clave to know everything, despite how she will likely be punished. James goes to Cordelia to tell her about the development, when he finds out she saw Grace wrapped in his embrace and heard him say “Thank god” when she said she’d leave Charles, even though what he said right after was scathing. James runs after Cordelia, tracking her to Matthew’s, where he finds out the two of them are going to Paris. He runs to the train station to try and stop them, but Will catches up and says they need to go save Lucie, as she’s gone missing. James has to turn his back on Cordelia for now to get his sister back
- End of Story: The epilogue shows Belial breaking Tatiana Blackthorn from the Adament Citadel. That defs won’t be problematic later.
Okay, yeah, I probably missed some stuff, but hopefully not anything super important.
!!!END of SPOILERS!!!
Anyway, just here trying not to freak out waiting for the final installment not coming until probably next summer. But for all of you that’s a good thing, because that gives you time to read both book 1 and 2 of The Last Hours.
If you liked Chain of Iron, try:
The Black Witch by Laurie Forest
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
And I Darken by Kristin White
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo