So, let me just begin by prefacing that this is one of those books where I can’t be expected to be objective, I already loved the characters too much before I began and there’s nothing that can make me not like this book. And as I thought, this book entertained me and made me very very happy, so let me try to gush less and maybe write some coherent sentences below. Also, there might be spoilers for all the previous Shadowhunters books, so please read at your own risk.
I thought I knew all about these two dearest characters of mine, but Cassie and Wesley managed to surprise me, so that was wonderful. Magnus has been the one fixture in every book in this universe but the beauty of him being a warlock is that we get to know new things about him all the time. And this book gives us a different Magnus – slightly insecure and uncertain, scared of loving another mortal again, regretting a lot of his past actions and unsure how Alec will react on knowing about them, and particularly terrified about telling Alec about his father. He has always been the one who is helping everyone and trying to make light of serious situations, but he is challenged and surprised every step of the way by Alec.
And wow was Alec a revelation. From a shy shadowhunter boy growing up in a homophobic society, he has grown into this wonderful person who is ready to live his truth and find his happiness despite the obstacles that threaten him. He may sometimes feel intimidated by Magnus’s unknown past or immortality and find himself not worthy of his dearest warlock, but one thing he is sure of is his love for Magnus. His whole character arc of deciding that he won’t follow a law that won’t protect Magnus and others like him, and deciding that he will work to change the laws is just so admirable and I was in awe of him many times in this book. And knowing that he will become Consul of the Clave in the future, it shows just how much he has worked towards this goal of his to change the world for the better.
Their relationship is also so adorable. To tell the truth, I don’t remember anything that happened in TMI except what’s happening in the TV show and the glimpses we got of them in TDA and the short story collections. So, reading about them in their initial days of dating, trying to get to know each other, wanting to have a fun vacation and just navigating the road of new love was very sweet. Every time Alec tried to protect Magnus during an attack and Magnus was surprised by it, I just couldn’t stop smiling. They are just too perfect for each other and I’m so glad we have a book featuring them as the main couple because they are my favorite in this universe. And it was especially beautiful to read the beginning of their story considering their wedding scene in Queen of Air and Darkness was one of my absolute favorite parts of that book.
The other amazing part of this book were the numerous cameos. All the little ones from Johnny Rook, Lily Chen, Hypatia Vex, Malcom Fade, Raphael Santiago etc were fun and nostalgic to read, especially because we already know what happens to most of them in the future. It’s always fun to see Tessa and Magnus reminisce about their past and I loved seeing her again. But the best part was the introduction of Aline and Helen – to each other. It’s the most adorable and true Shadowhunter style initial meeting and attempt at flirtation. And they made me sad too because I know the trials and tribulations they have to face in the coming days. Most of these characters are also unapologetically queer and it’s nice to see that all of them who have been mostly side characters in the previous books get to be the prominent ones in this book.
This world is obviously very familiar because it’s been a long journey, but it’s always fun to get to know about more types of demons. However, the highlight of this book was the European vacation itself. Magnus and Alec embark on a journey through Paris, Venice, Florence and Rome, and every single description of the Eiffel Tower or the canals of Venice or Boboli Gardens or the Colosseum completely blew me away. All I wanted to do was jump through a portal myself and join them. All the action sequences are also very thrillingly written and I could completely feel the emotions going through the minds of the characters while trying to save each other.
The themes in Cassie’s books are always special because she manages to write great parallels to our real world. We see the bigotry even more now because Alec and Magnus are dating, which is unimaginable for so many in their society. The mistrust with which Magnus’s friends treat him makes Alec realize how Downworlders have been mistreated till date and he really wants to do a better job. But he also knows he can’t do it by being defiant but by trying to change the system from within. And his trying to show solidarity to Aline and Helen and encouraging them to also do the same felt very touching.
The other major theme here was about not judging oneself or others based only on their past actions. Through Magnus and Shinyun’s stories, we realize that everyone has done bad things in their past due to circumstances or foolishness but one should always get the chance to redeem themselves and work to be a better person, and maybe even try to undo the consequences of the past actions. And Alec plays such a crucial role in trying to make Magnus forgive himself and show him that he has always been a kind and amazing person. Everyone deserves a second chance and Alec embodying this message made my heart warm.
Well, what can I say… if you are already a fan of the Shadowhunter universe, then you should read this book. If you are a Malec fan, then please go pick this up right now and be ready for the thrilling ride. This book should work fine if you have just read TMI, but if you have also read TDA, you’ll definitely appreciate the cameos more. This is a fun, entertaining adventure novel with the most adorable couple ever, the best European vacation spots and some fantastic fight sequences. I promise you will not be disappointed.