Title: Chain of Iron
Series: The Last Hours #2
Author: Cassandra Clare
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: March 2nd, 2021 (Margaret K. McElderry Books)
Synopsis: Cordelia Carstairs seems to have everything she ever wanted. She’s engaged to marry James Herondale, the boy she has loved since childhood. She has a new life in London with her best friend Lucie Herondale and James’s charming companions, the Merry Thieves. She is about to be reunited with her beloved father. And she bears the sword Cortana, a legendary hero’s blade.
But the truth is far grimmer. James and Cordelia’s marriage is a lie, arranged to save Cordelia’s reputation. James is in love with the mysterious Grace Blackthorn whose brother, Jesse, died years ago in a terrible accident. Cortana burns Cordelia’s hand when she touches it, while her father has grown bitter and angry. And a serial murderer is targeting the Shadowhunters of London, killing under cover of darkness, then vanishing without a trace.
Together with the Merry Thieves, Cordelia, James, and Lucie must follow the trail of the knife-wielding killer through the city’s most dangerous streets. All the while, each is keeping a shocking secret: Lucie, that she plans to raise Jesse from the dead; Cordelia, that she has sworn a dangerous oath of loyalty to a mysterious power; and James, that he is being drawn further each night into the dark web of his grandfather, the arch-demon Belial. And that he himself may be the killer they seek.
It’s time for James and Cordelia’s wedding, but only a few know the truth of the matter. This marriage is a ruse, contrived to protect Cordelia’s reputation, for James is in love with Grace Blackthorn. On top of that, her father, Elias Carstairs has returned home a very different man and Cortana inexplicably burns Cordelia’s hand when she tries to wield it. Meanwhile, Lucie is set upon bringing Jesse back to life by any means possible, and James begins to realize that he is far from free of Belial’s influence. When a murderer begins to target London’s Shadowhunters, the Merry Thieves, Cordelia and Lucie begin to follow the clues and must find the killer before it is too late.
This review is spoiler-free. Chain of Iron continues to be much more sedately paced compared to the series set in the present day timeline, which leaves more time for character development and plot advancement. If you actually think about it, there was very little action, just really amazing build up with some truly explosive reveals at the end. So much happened in this book that I don’t even know where to start. There were essentially four major plot lines: James and Cordelia’s fake marriage, the mysterious murderer targeting Shadowhunters, Lucie’s attempts to resurrect Jesse Blackthorn with Grace’s help, and of course, Belial’s plan – we definitely haven’t seen the last of him. But even better than the plot were the characters – they’re all so realistically portrayed and well fleshed out that it’s easy to get completely invested in their stories and this cast is arguably my favourite of all. If you’ve been trying to puzzle out that huge Shadowhunter family tree, it’s still quite confusing, but a few pieces are starting to make sense with knowledge of the events of this book.
“You may fear what will happen if you speak your heart. You may wish to hide things because you fear hurting others. But secrets have a way of eating at relationships, Jamie. At love, at friendship—they undermine and destroy them until in the end you find you are bitterly alone with the secrets you kept.”
James and Cordelia – the wedding was so beautiful, but the angst is real. James has been bewitched to think that he is in love with Grace because of the bracelet, and his actions can’t be helped. But from a reader’s perspective, it was practically torturous because it’s so obvious he is fighting it without even understanding that he is. He’s a wonderful character, but there were so many moments when I just closed the book out of sheer frustration because he had done something so monumentally stupid. To think, a little straightforward communication would have resolved so much of what happened. And I can’t say anything about Matthew without spoilers, but the poor boy is undoubtedly headed for heartbreak yet again. Honestly, haven’t these characters been through enough already? 😢 On the other hand, this book reestablished Cordelia as one of my favourite heroines of all time and one of the best parts of this book is that she has an independent story as well, and is not just relegated to the hurt love interest.
“Love is not always a lightning bolt. Sometimes it is a creeping vine. It grows slowly until suddenly it is all that there is in the world.”
Jesse and Lucie’s plotline was what I was most excited for in this book, and it certainly lived up to my expectations. My guess about what Jesse’s part was in the deal Belial offered Tatiana was right, so that part wasn’t a huge surprise, but Lucie’s power, the extent of what she is capable of was quite the shock! Lucie has grown so much as a character, into a strong and independent young woman even as her arc heads in a rather unexpected direction. It was definitely an extremely interesting storyline, and with how things were left for Jesse and Lucie at the end of this book, I’m very curious to see what happens next – a move like that has to come with some consequences. I’m finding it hard to ship this pairing so far though – Jesse is a ghost and sort of dead which is just weird. Also, Lucie was hiding such important information from her family and friends, especially Cordelia, who is going to be her parabatai, which was both wrong and unnecessary. If the group had known about what Lucie was up to, they probably wouldn’t have approved but they might have figured things out earlier – including the truth of that bracelet.
Grace’s motive and the truth of her ability is revealed in this book, and it wasn’t surprising to find out that Tatiana Blackthorn is the one really pulling the strings, but while I can understand her character and actions much better, especially given her POVs, I find that I still rather dislike her.
“You cannot save people who do not want to be saved,” said Magnus. “You can only stand by their side and hope that when they wake and realize they need saving, you will be there to help them.”
The ending…well, we weren’t left on a cliffhanger, which I appreciate more than I can say (I couldn’t have taken another Lord of Shadows-esque ending), but whatever Cassie has planned for Chain of Thorns is probably even worse – and I can’t wait for it! Overall, this was an intriguing second installment to this series and I’ll undoubtedly be going back for a reread soon enough. This was one of my most anticipated books for 2021, and I was not disappointed. 5 stars for a phenomenal read, one I’d highly, highly recommend!
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
Other reviews in this series: