Queen of Air and Darkness: The Stunning Conclusion to Cassandra Clare’s Dark Artifices Trilogy

Queen of Air and Darkness may be a high fantasy novel, but it highlights many issues in today’s society and demonstrates how division generates negative consequences.


Image courtesy of shadowhunters.com

Nidhi Chilukuri, Staff Writer

*Major spoilers for Queen of Air and Darkness*

Queen of Air and Darkness is the third and final installment in the Dark Artifices trilogy. The main characters, Emma and Julian, face their toughest challenges yet as they try to hold their family together while fighting a new type of villain: hatred.

The tale of the Shadowhunters began in 2007 when ordinary teenager Clary Fray was thrust into the dark, magical world of Nephilim, Demons, and Downworlders. From Clarys’ adventures came new characters and new stories to tell, including that of Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn. Emma and Julian are parabatai, meaning that they share a special bond that makes them both stronger Shadowhunters, the angel-blood Nephilim warriors who banish Demons, moderate Downworlders, and protect the human world. Their adventures take place in the Dark Artifices. Queen of Air and Darkness is the final installment in this thrilling series, and every single one of its 880 pages is worth reading.

In Lady Midnight, the first book of The Dark Artifices, 17-year-old Emma is on the hunt for her parents’ killers. Meanwhile, Julian struggles to hold his family together when his older half-brother Mark returns after being a captive in Faerie for five years. As they become further ensnared in an intricate web of death and forbidden love, both Julian and Emma realize that breaking the Shadowhunter Law could prove to be very dangerous. In the second book, Lord of Shadows, Emma struggles to make Julian fall out of love with her, in hopes of saving them both from the harsh law. They take a trip to the Unseelie Faerie Court, but they know they have greater dangers to face than the scheming faeries. A powerful, hate-based group of Nephilim called the Cohort wants to restrict the rights of all Downworlders. Downworlders, which consist of vampires, warlocks, faeries, and werewolves, are perceived as below the Nephilim, and if the Cohort is able to take control of the Shadowhunter government, then relations between Nephilim and Downworlders could be forever destroyed.

When I began to read Queen of Air and Darkness, I was still reeling from the heartbreaking death of Livia, or Livvy, Blackthorn. Clare portrayed the grief of the Blackthorns believably, although I was significantly surprised by her twin brother Ty’s unwillingness to accept his sister’s death. In fact, one of the distinctive parts of the book was the growth of Kit Herondale and Ty Blackthorn’s friendship. Because he grew up not knowing about his Shadowhunter family, Kit knows more about “Mundane”, or ordinary human culture than most Nephilim. Thus, he is able to understand how Ty processes things differently, and knows exactly how to support Ty through Livvy’s death. With Livvy gone, Ty made multiple bad decisions to try to bring her back to life. Kit chose to help Ty instead of stopping him, which was interesting because it showed how important Ty was to Kit. However, I was surprised, and disappointed, when Kit left the Blackthorns at the end without even saying goodbye. It felt like a shattering end to an important friendship, and I feel like Kit shouldn’t have left.

With regard to the Cohort, I absolutely despised the hatred and bigotry of the group and its leaders, Horace Dearborn and his daughter, Zara. However, I admired Clare’s ability to make me feel so angry towards a non-existent group of people. The Cohort was also able to successfully represent hatred present in many nations today, and I thought that was interesting to see from a high fantasy novel. The Cohort’s insistence that Shadowhunters are better than Downworlders is similar to how many people today believe that their race, gender, religion, or ethnicity is the highest, and therefore entitles them to more rights than others. Anyone who reads Queen of Air and Darkness can see how ridiculous the Cohort’s views are. They want to restrict the magic of warlocks because of the destructive actions of Malcolm Fade, but other warlocks such as Magnus Bane work to promote unity and peace amongst Shadowhunters and  Downworlders. This illustrates that just because a few warlocks are evil doesn’t mean all warlocks should be punished for these select few. Similarly, people today shouldn’t generalize a whole population due to the actions of a few members, they should recognize that the true defining qualities of people have to do with personality, moral compass, and tolerance of differences in society.

Emma and Julian’s efforts to be parabatai, and nothing more, was also an interesting part of Queen of Air and Darkness. Clare’s writing made it possible to understand their pain, and she brought a variety of unexpected twists in the plot. I was astonished when Emma discovered that Julian had asked Magnus to use a spell to remove his feelings for Emma. One twist I never expected was that the parabatai curse would actually come to fruition. Throughout the series, I believed that Emma and Julian would find a way to remove the parabatai rune without giving in to the curse, but I was shocked when they fell victim and became tall, enormous true Nephilim. This scene was filled with a great deal of imagery and I was able to visualize Emma and Julian killing the Riders of Mannan and looking down on the Cohort with disdain.

Overall, Queen of Air and Darkness was an excellent read, and I highly recommend it. Clare’s writing is clear and captivating, and there is a steady balance of humor, action, and deep emotion. Most importantly, the characters face a wide spectrum of problems that people can find in their own lives. Characters are diverse and represent people of all characteristics. In addition, Queen of Air and Darkness was different from most of Clare’s books because of its efforts to mirror significant issues in today’s world. This made the book more powerful and a must-read. The entire world of Shadowhunters is immensely thrilling and suspenseful, and once you dive into it, there is no coming back.