Review: ‘The Shadowhunter’s Codex’ by Cassandra Clare and Joshua Lewis

After my somewhat lacklustre reaction to Cassandra Clare’s final instalment of The Mortal Instruments- ‘City of Heavenly Fire’- I approached the Shadowhunter’s Codex– a spin off ‘how to’ manual for budding Shadowhunters-with trepidation. But I was pleasantly surprised- all in all, it was an enjoyable, easy read, studded with jewel-like artwork seemingly inspired by anime cartoons and fairytales- and even featuring the work of one of my favourite modern illustrators, Charles Vess, who I stumbled on when recently researching the fairytale-inspired stories of Ellen Datlow and Terri Wilding. (Click here, for more examples of the Codex’s artwork.) The Codex, somewhat ironically, decodes and demystifies a lot of the somewhat hefty biblical and mythological references which had me stumped initially- i.e. the story of Jonathan Shadowhunter, founder of the Shadowhunters who slay demons with seraphic-powered steles, or ethereal blades that apparently look a teensy bit like lethal icicles. I even FINALLY found out how to pronounce ‘stele’- ‘steh-lay’- rather than how I was mumbling it as just ‘steel.’  Hardcore fans can also give themselves a Shadowhunter ‘name’ (with the novels littered with surnames such as Pangborn, Herondale, Fairchild and Morgenstern, Smith or Jones just won’t do.  

I also very much liked the little notes and annotations ‘made’ by Jace, Clary and Simon (some of the main characters in the Mortal Instruments series, and following movie.) I felt as though they captured a lot of the characters’ individual traits-for instance, Jace’s witty, acerbic one-liners. It reminded me a lot of JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them, styled as one of Harry Potter’s textbooks, with notes from Harry, Ron and Hermione all the way through, which she produced for Comic Releif. Although at points in the Codex the notes did grate at me just a teensy bit, because it seemed a little style over substance. Particularly when you think that this is an addition to a multi-part series, there is certainly enough substance that could have been expanded on. However, I did like the little ‘in’ references to the prequel series, The Infernal Devices, and a separate chapter written by my own favourite character, Magnus Bane. Plus, the colour pull-out artwork at the back was lovely, as was the sketches of Izzy, Luke and Jace at the back, all done in black and white and very striking. Overall, I think it’s a fun addition, enjoyable, easy to read, well-paced and  ideal for any MI fan or anyone who has an interest in art- although at times it felt a little bit predictable.

Overall rating: 7 out of 10

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