Cassandra Clare

Lady Midnight

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Lady Midnight Summary

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Lady Midnight is a young adult fantasy novel published in 2016 by Cassandra Clare. The first installment of a series called Dark Artifices, it is part of a larger franchise called the Shadowhunter Chronicles, which spans a mixture of literary and visual forms. The book follows the Blackthorn family, particularly Julian Blackthorn and Emma Carstairs, who live in an alternative institute for special youth in Los Angeles. Carstairs enlists Julian’s help to find who killed her parents, leading them to revelations about the past actions and intentions of various family and friends.

The book begins at the Los Angeles Institute, some time after Carstairs and Julian were psychically tied in a magical ceremony. This tie renders them parabatai, meaning that they are ordained partners in battle and life. They reside at the institute with their tutor, Diana, and their mysterious and estranged uncle, Arthur. It is five years after the War that devastated the earth’s magical population and its political institutions, and they are still recovering from the destruction. An armistice called the Cold Peace prohibits interaction with Faeries, and the number of Shadowhunters remains very low. So far, no solution has been found for replenishing the Shadowhunter ranks, and the armistice with the Faeries stands on the edge of collapse.

Soon it is revealed that Arthur, the institute’s head, is often unable to perform his duties, as he is ailing from a disease that resembles dementia. Julian runs the institute in his place despite being a teenager. He juggles this new duty with raising his siblings, Dru, Tavvy, and twins called Ty and Livvy. Carstairs and Diana help out with the kids, but Julian believes it is his sole responsibility to provide for them.

Meanwhile, Carstairs struggles with problems of her own. Five years after the War and her parents’ death from an unknown cause, she hasn’t found any evidence or explanation for the loss. The government of the Shadowhunters, called the Clave, has been unresponsive to her pleas for assistance. Carstairs resolves to look for their killer herself and to determine why they were murdered so brutally. As their investigation begins, the gruesomely murdered bodies of both Faeries and humans begin showing up around the city. The humans and Faeries realize that they must be allies again in order to determine who is behind these deaths.

The narrative grows even more complicated when Mark, Julian’s brother, reappears in Los Angeles. Captured five years before, near the end of the War, he has been returned as part of a transaction between the Faeries, who have grown desperate to find out who keeps killing their kind. The Faeries leverage the return of Mark to enlist the Shadowhunters’ help. Initially elated to see Mark, Julian realizes that due to the different nature of time in the Faerie world, he has not aged, and no longer recognizes his family.

Carstairs and Julian continue to search Los Angeles for clues about her parents. They patrol the streets, encountering vampires who party on Sunset Boulevard and Faeries who are still openly hostile to Shadowhunters. Because they are parabatai, they are bound together but strictly prohibited from falling in love, forced to reject the romantic valences of their psychic connection. They helplessly begin to fall in love, drawn together by their shared pursuit of Carstairs’s lost family. Soon, Carstairs discovers that the law is in place because parabatai who fall in love become extremely powerful.

Mark, initially feral and confused, begins to build connections with Julian, Ty, Dru, Livvy, and Tavvy. The Faeries tell the humans that Mark can choose whether to stay in the human world once the murders are solved. They are prevented from getting the Clave’s help because of its law that prevents humans from working alongside Faeries. After following the trail of murders, Carstairs and Julian discover that the Faeries have partnered with Malcolm, Los Angeles’ high wizard, who is not as good as he seems. Malcolm has been fixated on trying to use necromancy to resurrect Annabel, his lost lover. He has been murdering Blackthorns to try to complete the spell, and now plans to sacrifice Tavvy. Carstairs and Julian stop him from committing the murder, believing they have ended the strings of murders and caught their parents’ killer. However, as the novel closes, Annabel wakes up in her grave.

Lady Midnight is centered on the mystery of the loss of one’s parents and an attempt to piece that seemingly impossible and fragmented past together. Its characters manage to end the turmoil in Los Angeles only through recognizing their loyalty and friendship, a power that overcomes the antagonist’s desperate magic. In the process, many of the broken relationships and lost memories that plague the book’s characters are reforged, inaugurating a brighter future and reconciliation with their historical opponents, the Faeries.