My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy is a collection of short stories or novellas that delve deeper into the Shadow World. It follows Simon’s time at Shadowhunter Academy but is rife with additional fascinating information. Overall, it is a highly entertaining installment in the Shadowhunter Chronicles and I would definitely recommend that you read it prior to the Dark Artifices series. Please do not read this review if you have not yet read the Infernal Devices or the Mortal Instruments series as there will be plot points mentioned.
The first novella is Welcome to Shadowhunter Academy, where Simon decides that he wants to become a Shadowhunter. After losing his memories, Simon must decide who he wants to be – a mundane that does not remember the Shadow World or a future Shadowhunter that may regain some of his memories. He meets a collection of students, both Shadowhunter and mundane that will be with him for the next two years as they train to become proper Shadowhunters. Although we know these characters for less time than those we’ve grown to love in the other series, they are still likable and well-developed. Over the course of the two years that the novellas take place, each character learns what it means to be a Shadowhunter, to be loyal to their friends, and to not always take the Law at face value (thanks to Simon’s incessant dialogues that Downworlders are not lesser people.) Of course, we’ve loved Simon since we met him in the Mortal Instruments but this was a great series of stories that allowed us to get to know him better (even though he was missing his memories).
The second is The Lost Herondale, in which we learn more about the beliefs of the Shadowhunters. Deserting your fellow Shadowhunters is considered the worst thing that you can do – so the punishment is severe. This novella tells us the story of Tobias Herondale and shows Simon that not every story is as black and white as it may be presented. We also learn that Catarina Loss, Magnus’ friend and current teacher at Shadowhunter Academy, saved Tobias’ child – which means that there may be a lost Herondale in the world. This plot line is mentioned first in the Mortal Instruments and pursued more in the Dark Artifices, so that is one reason why I believe this series of novellas should be read prior to beginning Lady Midnight.
The third is the Whitechapel Fiend, in which Tessa comes to Shadowhunter Academy to teach a lesson. It was lovely to see more of our favourite characters from the Infernal Devices, especially because this was a later period in time than the books so we got a glimpse into their future lives. The fourth is Nothing but Shadows, which chronicles James Herondale’s time at the Academy. It made me miss the Infernal Devices and impatient for the next series that Cassandra Clare will be writing featuring the children we got glimpses of.
The fifth is The Evil We Love and a tale from the time of Valentine’s Circle. The Circle’s history is considered a dark time and infrequently talked about in the series. Most Shadowhunters who were involved are either ashamed of their actions and largely refuse to talk about it, or dead. It’s always fascinating to see what the power and influence of a charismatic leader can get people to do. Simon learns that he knows better than to just go along with the crowd and speaks out against ideas that he doesn’t agree with. It makes him even more likable as a character because I’m sure we all have experienced times when we disagreed with someone we cared about and how difficult it might be not to just follow their lead.
The sixth is Pale Kings and Princes, which creates some foundation for the world we will experience in the Dark Artifices. We learn how Mark and Helen Blackthorn came to be, with their half-faerie lineage. It is a heart-wrenching tale and makes you question the harshness of the Cold Peace. Helen is no longer trusted, and essentially banished, because of her heritage and that action fractures her entire family – as the Blackthorn parents were murdered during the War. Helen was willing to take care of her family, but she was torn away and those kinds of wounds will certainly affect the characters of the Dark Artifices in the future.
The seventh is Bitter of Tongue essentially just reiterates the point that Downworlders are not lesser beings than mundanes or Shadowhunters. We get to see more of the Blackthorn clan, the utterly repulsive treatment of the half-fae children Mark and Helen, and a lovely wedding.
The eighth is The Fiery Trial, in which Simon and Clary are asked to serve at witnesses for Julian and Emma’s parabatai ceremony. The story focuses more on the relationship between Simon and Clary than Julian and Emma but it was nice to see the ceremony. Jace and Alec became parabatai prior to the Mortal Instruments, so until now, we had not seen the ceremony performed. It also made Simon and Clary evaluation their own friendship and the depth of their connection.
The ninth is Born to Endless Night and revolves around the beloved Malec, as well as Magnus Banes short tenure at Shadowhunter Academy. The character development shown in this novella was a culmination of Alec’s experiences throughout the Mortal Instruments and how he grew as a person. While not confident and cocky like Jace, he had become secure in his own skin and learned to love (romantically). It was the most normal of the novellas, showing a behind-the-scenes type look into the lives of our favourite Mortal Instruments characters.
The final novella in the collection is Angels Twice Descending in which Simon and the other mundanes of the Academy have their Ascension. Simon must decide whether he is ready to face the risks, to give up his mundane life and embrace the dangers and responsibility of being a Shadowhunter. It was a beautiful wrap up to the series, allowing Simon the time to explore the life he was leaving behind and the family that he was gaining. As I mentioned before, I would highly recommend reading this series of novellas as it only enhances the Shadowhunter experience (and deepens the world).