I’m sure most people who are reading this article have heard of Cassandra Clare, “The New Queen of Fantasy” according to the Wall Street Journal. The Shadowhunter Chronicles follow a demon-hunting race called Shadowhunters who help maintain order in a world full of supernatural creatures secretly living alongside humans.
The series is full of high-octane battles, political turbulence, romance, magic, and everything else you’d expect to find in a Young Adult urban fantasy.
I’ve been a huge fan of Cassandra Clare’s books ever since a friend introduced me to City of Bones back in 2011, the first book in The Mortal Instruments.
Years have passed since I picked up my very first Cassandra Clare story and, as of now, she has released eleven books, two collections of short stories, and other works within the world of the Shadowhunters with more to come. For nearly seven years now, these books have played an essential role in my growing love of reading.
Clare has crafted a complex world that utilizes supernatural creatures both familiar and new and has constructed a plethora of intricate and captivating characters for readers to fall in love with—my beloved Jem Carstairs, for example.
The Mortal Instruments (abbreviated TMI) is comprised of six books and is the first series written about this world. It is set in New York City around 2006-2007. The Infernal Devices (TID) is the second series written as a prequel to TMI and is set in Victorian London starring ancestors of characters we know from the first series.
The Dark Artifices (TDA) is set in Los Angeles several years after the events of TMI and will be followed by the soon-to-be-released The Last Hours trilogy which will act as a sequel to TID set in the Edwardian Era. The Shadowhunter Chronicles is the umbrella title used to encompass all of the presently published and soon-to-be-published books in this world.
You may already be confused by all of these titles, abbreviations, dates, settings, etc. and that is understandable. But don't be overwhelmed. What Clare is trying to do is build a world with a rich history that gives the reader an idea of how extensive and complex the Shadowhunter world is.
The reading order of these books can be confusing and is somewhat up to preference. I personally like to read the books in publication order; Cassandra Clare plotted each series so that they complimented each other and in my opinion, the way to earn the best reading experience is by reading them according to publication dates.
I’ve heard people complain that the reason they aren’t picking these books up is due to how “confusing” the order can be and how they don't want to dedicate themselves to such a long series. Well, the cool thing about The Shadowhunter Chronicles is that order doesn’t necessarily matter.
If you don’t think City of Bones is right for you, you can start with Clockwork Angel in the prequel trilogy to give you a foothold in the world. One series is not necessarily reliant on the other in this case. However, once you get into The Dark Artifices, TMI is heavily referenced and a prior knowledge is recommended.
One of the big reasons I think these books are so great is because we can read about ancestors of characters from other series and see references and Easter Eggs dropped into each book that connects them all together.
Of course, a New York Times Bestselling series like The Mortal Instruments has led to the birth of a movie and T.V. series. The 2013 movie, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones was a flop in the box office and not true to the source material. The T.V. show titled Shadowhunters is more “inspired" by its original source material than actually “true” to it, and I think that is a great injustice. I found the show to be a mess of bad acting, poor CGI, and sloppy story arcs.
I have friends who love both the show and the books because they are able to define them as two entirely separate stories in their heads, but I simply cannot do that. I wanted a show that was true to the books, but that is not what I got. I wish I could separate them into my head and enjoy the show for what it is because I think it could be a fun visual experience.
Just because I don’t like the show doesn’t mean I think people should not try it because obviously, some find the program entertaining. It is purely based off of taste.
Below is my preferred order of reading and is the order in which each book was released.
1. City of Bones (Book 1 in The Mortal Instruments)
2. City of Ashes (Book 2 in The Mortal Instruments)
3. City of Glass (Book 3 in The Mortal Instruments)
4. Clockwork Angel (Book 1 in The Infernal Devices)
5. City of Fallen Angels (Book 4 in The Mortal Instruments)
6. Clockwork Prince (Book 2 in The Infernal Devices)
7. City of Lost Souls (Book 5 in The Mortal Instruments)
8. Clockwork Princess (Book 3 in The Infernal Devices)
9. City of Heavenly Fire (Book 6 in The Mortal Instruments)
10. Lady Midnight (Book 1 in The Dark Artifices)
11. Lord of Shadows (Book 2 in The Dark Artifices)
*The Bane Chronicles and Tales from Shadowhunter Academy are collections of short stories. I personally think they can be read at any point and aren’t as necessary to read in publication order as the core novels.