Lord of Shadows

It’s a special day here at Knight Reader. Today, I celebrate my 827th post and my 9th year as a blogger. That’s right. Today is Knight Reader’s 9th blogoversary. That may not mean much to most people, but it’s kind of a big deal to me, especially considering that I think about hanging it up at least once a week.

Knight Reader has seen me through good times and bad: the births of my nieces, health scares, loss of friends and family, and the transition from a high school to an elementary school librarian. It’s been a constant, and, despite my sometimes conflicted feelings on keeping it going, it will likely remain a constant in my life. As long as people keep reading what I care to write, I’ll do my best to keep this blog around.


So…9 years. It seems fitting that my post today focuses on one of my absolute favorite authors/worlds. The second post I ever wrote was about how awesome Cassandra Clare was, and today’s post, my 827th, focuses on Clare’s Lord of Shadows, the second book of The Dark Artifices. As you may know, this series continues to explore the world of Shadowhunters, fierce warriors with angelic blood. There are many, many stories that precede this one, and I’ve listed those below (with available reviews) if you’d care to catch up. (Note: Feel free to completely ignore the movie and TV adaptations of these books. They are crap.)

Now, let’s move onto Lord of Shadows. If you’re not caught up, the rest of this post may be a bit spoilery, so be prepared.

Life is never exactly easy for Shadowhunters, but it appears to be especially difficult right now for those who live in the Los Angeles Institute. They thought they knew Malcolm Fade, warlock extraordinaire. They though they could trust him. They counted him as a friend. And he betrayed them. All this time, he was working against them, killing to further his own agenda. Now, Malcolm is dead, and this tight-knit group of Shadowhunters is dealing with the fallout.

Emma Carstairs is the fierce Shadowhunter who killed Malcolm Fade. She did what she had to do, and she’d do it again to protect those she loves, particularly the Blackthorn family. This family, especially her parabatai Julian, means everything to her, and she’ll do whatever is necessary to keep them safe…even if it means sacrificing her wants, her needs, her very life. At present, it means driving a wedge between herself and Julian. She knows that romantic love between parabatai is cursed, and she simply can’t put Julian, the backbone of his family, through something so horrific, no matter how much they might love each other.

As for Julian, he is tormented by his feelings for Emma, the distance she’s putting between them, as well as the all-consuming need to keep his family safe. Safe from the increasing number of sea demons around them, safe from the Centurions who’ve all but invaded the Institute, safe from the knowledge that their Uncle Arthur, the official head of the Institute, is going mad and Julian’s been running things since he was a boy of twelve. It’s a lot for Julian to take in, but he’ll do anything for his family…even something like journey into Faerieland, something expressly forbidden by the Clave (Shadowhunters’ governing body).

Mark Blackthorn, Julian’s half-faerie brother, has received news that his former lover, Kieran, is about to be killed by the Unseelie King (who also happens to be Kieran’s father). Mark is determined to rescue Kieran, but he will not make the journey alone. Julian, Emma, and Christina, a trusted friend, accompany him, and the quest is just as fraught with danger as they feared it would be. With the help of the Seelie Court, they make it out alive, but they’ve made a dangerous enemy in the Unseelie King…and a dangerous ally in the Seelie Queen.

Back home at the Los Angeles Institute, those remaining are dealing with their own fight. Certain members of the Centurion force are poised to take over the Institute in an effort to further their own hateful agenda. This band of zealots wants to exert power over all Downworlders, and they think taking down the Blackthorn family is the way to do it. While this extremist group, known as the Cohort, is plotting, the Institute residents are also dealing with the unexpected return of a figure they thought was gone…Malcolm Fade himself.

As it turns out, it’s pretty difficult to kill a warlock, and Malcolm isn’t as dead as they had hoped. He’s returned, bringing an army of demons with him, and he remains determined to complete what he was trying to do before his untimely demise. With the help of the Black Volume, he plans to raise Annabell Blackthorn from the dead, and he won’t let anything get in his way. Annabell, however, may have other ideas.

Forced to flee the LA Institute, the younger Blackthorn siblings, Kit Herondale, and their tutor portal to the London Institute. There, they eventually join up with Emma, Julian, Mark, Christina, and Kieran (along with a couple of other familiar faces). They’re dealing with enemies on many sides, but they know they must prevail. They may have to make deals that are untenable, fight those who seem to be unbeatable, and put aside their own complicated feelings. The important thing is that they stay alive, put an end to the dangerous sentiments against Downworlders, and avoid war with the Unseelie King. Unfortunately, all of those things are easier said that done.


I’m going to stop there before I give too much more away. I’ve probably spoiled a lot here, but there is so much more to this book than I could have possibly touched on in one blog post (unless I wanted to spend the rest of the day writing…which I don’t). Lord of Shadows is a 700-page whopper, and every page is packed with something important, exciting, mysterious, infuriating, revealing, and, at points, tragic. The stuff I’ve touched on above is only a fraction of the wonderfully twisted story contained within this book.

Anyone who reads Lord of Shadows (or any of the Shadowhunter books, really) will find parallels to the world we live in today. No, we’re not dealing with demons, warlocks, faeries, or anything like that–that I know of–but we are dealing with discrimination and hatred of anything seen as different or “other.” In this book, a small but vocal group of extremists want warlocks to register, werewolves to be rounded up and put in camps, vampires to have their blood supply monitored, and faeries, for the most part, to be completely wiped out. The Shadowhunters who sympathize with Downworlders are viewed as traitors. Sound familiar? Once again, fantasy shines a light on the horrific reality we’re facing today and gives a glimpse of the destruction we could see if we allow such hatred to flourish. It’s sobering, to say the least.

So…where do we go from Lord of Shadows? The third book of The Dark Artifices, The Queen of Air and Darkness, isn’t expected to be released until sometime in 2019. Given how Lord of Shadows ended, the wait for book three may very well drive me insane.

On a positive note, there is another Shadowhunter series being introduced a bit sooner. Chain of Gold, the first book of The Last Hours, should be out in 2018. This series is set in 1903, and it centers around the generation following the events of The Infernal Devices series. There’s also an adult series focusing on Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood, The Eldest Curses, on the horizon, as well as another YA series, The Wicked Powers, that will pick up at the end of The Dark Artifices. I know it’s a lot to take in, but this is nothing but good news if you’re a superfan of the Shadowhunter books.

For more information on Lord of Shadows and all things Shadowhunter, visit Cassie Clare’s website, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook. If you’re not a fan already, I hope you come to love this world as much as I do!

Midnight Hour

Warning: Read the entire Shadow Falls and Shadow Falls After Dark series (including the novellas) before continuing with this post. Midnight Hour (which will be released on October 25th) is the final novel in this saga, and you need to know what happens in previous books for this one to make sense.

Your extensive Shadow Falls reading list:

The novellas in Almost Midnight take place at different points in the series, so take a look at my post on that collection to see in which order you should read those stories.

Now, let’s move on to Midnight Hour

For those who are caught up with these series–or who’ve read any of the books–Miranda Kane is a familiar figure. (She got a taste of her own story in Spellbinder, a Shadow Falls novella.) This young witch counts Kylie Galen (chameleon) and Della Tsang (vampire) as her best friends, but she’s always felt that she doesn’t measure up to her super-powerful roommates. In Midnight Hour, Miranda begins to understand just how powerful she really is.

It should have been a simple visit to a fortune teller. Miranda goes along with her sister, Tabitha, to get a peek at her future, and her whole world–almost literally–explodes.

When Miranda wakes up after a strange explosion, she’s got a weird tattoo that comes and goes, and she and her sister are being investigated for drug trafficking. What have they gotten themselves into, and is there any way to clear their names and figure out what exactly is going on? With the help of their friends and the FRU (Fallen Research Unit), the hunt for answers is on, but Miranda not like where all of them lead, especially when her beloved sister goes missing.

While Miranda attempts to make sense of her new, unwanted body art, the explosion that knocked her out, her missing sister, and so much more, she’s also trying to come to terms with her own love life. She’s currently dating Shawn, a warlock and FRU agent, who is perfect for her on paper. But she’s still hung up on Perry, a shapeshifter and her ex-boyfriend…and the guy who’s already broken her heart twice. She knows Perry had his reasons, but they don’t make things any easier. And when he walks back into her life, her emotions go into yet another tailspin. She can’t deny her feelings for Perry, but what’s to stop him from walking away from her yet again?

As for Perry, he is determined to earn his place in Miranda’s life. There are just a few things he needs to take care of first. The investigation that took him away from her is heating up, and it may have connections to the explosion that landed Miranda in the hospital. It also involves the family that abandoned him long ago. Perry wants to put all of this to rest, for both himself and Miranda. But this whole situation is more convoluted than he could have guessed, and it seems Miranda is at the center of it all.

Miranda doesn’t understand why she’s in the middle of this madness, but she better figure it out quickly. What does this strange tattoo have to do with her powers? Why does she suddenly have an odd connection to the trees around her? What does this mean for her future, and can she use her new abilities to find her sister and put an end to the danger surrounding them?

Find out how Miranda takes charge of her own power when you read Midnight Hour, the final installment in the Shadow Falls world by C.C. Hunter.


I hope I’ve given you enough highlights here to whet your appetite without giving too much away. There’s a lot going on in this book, and I didn’t touch on most of it. Midnight Hour is as rich and entertaining as its predecessors, and it provides a satisfying ending to a series that I’ve loved since the first book.

If you’re interested in purchasing Midnight Hour, I’m happy to pass along an added incentive from the publisher. If you preorder Midnight Hour before October 24th (tomorrow) and send your e-receipt to St. Martin’s Press at this link, you’ll receive a free short story, Fighting Back, in your email on October 25th.

And that’s not all, folks! I’m also pleased to offer a chance at a sweepstakes giving away Midnight Hour swag. Enter here for your chance to win a signed set of the Shadow Falls books and a lot of other cool stuff.

If you’d like to know even more about the Shadow Falls books and C.C. Hunter, be sure to visit the author’s website. You may also want to check out the Midnight Hour book trailer below.

Happy reading!

Serafina and the Twisted Staff

Warning: Read Serafina and the Black Cloak before proceeding. Spoilers ahead.

Late last night, I finished reading Serafina and the Twisted Staff, the sequel to Robert Beatty’s acclaimed Serafina and the Black Cloak. I kind of knew what to expect going into this second book, but I don’t think I was prepared for exactly how terrifying it would be. If the first book was dark, this one was pitch black. I read the bulk of this book at night, and I was jumping at every little sound I heard. (If you know me at all, this is not surprising. I’m a wuss.) At any rate, Serafina and the Twisted Staff definitely delivers if you’re looking for a good story and a good scare.

Our tale begins almost immediately following the events of the first book. The year is 1899, and the Biltmore Estate is beginning preparations for Christmas.

Serafina, now known to all who inhabit the Biltmore, is searching for her place in the world, but she doesn’t know exactly where she belongs. Is it with Braeden Vanderbilt and her pa at Biltmore? Or is it with her mother and the catamounts in the surrounding forest? And how can she possibly find a measure of peace when her home is once again in danger?

While patrolling the forest surrounding Biltmore one night, Serafina notices that animals are fleeing the area. What could possibly make so many animals behave so oddly? Serafina isn’t sure, but she thinks it has something to do with the strange man and his vicious wolfhounds who attempt to kill her. She’s saved by her mother and a new ally, but it’s clear that the forest is no longer safe…for anyone or anything.

Serafina knows the old man in the forest is not working alone. He comes onto the scene at the same time that a mysterious carriage arrives at Biltmore. But who is in the carriage, and what danger could this person be bringing to Biltmore?

As odd things begin happening at the palatial estate–and Serafina is blamed–she grows more convinced that danger is afoot, but she doesn’t know how she can help. Someone is trying to drive Serafina out and tear her from her one and only friend. But who? And why?

Serafina leaves Biltmore and tries to find some solace in the forest, but danger surrounds her on all fronts. She soon realizes that there’s no way to escape the horror unfolding, and she will have to do everything in her power to save both Biltmore and everything and everyone around it.

Who will join her in the fight to come? Who will betray her? And will Serafina finally be able to unleash her true self before the evil forces targeting Biltmore succeed in their ghastly mission? Read Serafina and the Twisted Staff to find out!


I’ve left a ton out of this post, but it would take forever to cover everything. I don’t have that kind of time (and I’m ready for my Sunday afternoon nap). Read the book for yourself. You can also check out the official book trailer below. It’s a little spoilery, but it covers a lot of what I’ve left out.

Given how this second book ended, I’m confident that we’ll see more of Serafina in the future. At this time, however, there’s no word yet on a third book.

For more Serafina fun, visit author Robert Beatty’s website or connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

Lady Midnight

Unless you are brand new to this blog, you know that I have a mild obsession with Cassandra Clare’s writing. Despite the current controversy (which I won’t go into here) and the less-than-spectacular movie and TV adaptations of her work, I remain a loyal fan. My enjoyment of her writing has only increased with her latest novel, Lady Midnight, the first book in the new Dark Artifices trilogy.

But before we move on to Lady Midnight, if you’re not already familiar with Clare’s Shadowhunter novels, you’ve got a bit of catching up to do. Read these books first:

For whatever reason, I neglected to write posts on City of Ashes or The Bane Chronicles. Trust me, they’re just as awesome as the other books. In the case of The Bane Chronicles, probably more awesome. (It’s no secret that the High Warlock of Brooklyn is my favorite character.)


Now, let’s turn our attention to Lady Midnight. Some may be a little shocked that I’m just now getting around to posting on this book, especially considering my love of Clare’s books. I promise I have very good reasons.

  1. I pre-ordered the book through Barnes & Noble, and it didn’t arrive at my house until March 11th, three days after the release date. (I can’t complain too much, though. I did get an autographed copy.)
  2. My school book fair kicked off on March 10th and didn’t wrap up until yesterday. If you’ve ever run an elementary school book fair, you know how exhausting it is. I barely had enough energy to read more than a couple of chapters before passing out each night.
  3. My Battle of the Books team has been preparing for competition. Our regionals were this past Tuesday, and I’m pleased to report that we’re moving on to finals next week.

Even with all of that going on, I did manage to finish Lady Midnight last night, and, like I expected, it made me want to weep, rage, and throw things. I mean that in the best possible way.

Lady Midnight takes place in Los Angeles and focuses primarily on Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn. These parabatai live at the LA Institute with the younger Blackthorn children–Ty, Livvy, Dru, and Tavvy–their mostly absent uncle Arthur, and Cristina, a Shadowhunter visiting from Mexico (and possibly escaping her own past).

It’s been five years since the Dark War that took so many Shadowhunters from them, including Emma’s parents and Julian’s father, and time has molded both Emma and Julian into much more than the children they once were. Emma is bent on finding out what really happened to her parents, and Julian is doing everything he can to keep his family together while hiding his wealth of feelings from everyone around him.

When strange murders with possible demonic ties begin occurring in LA, Emma and Julian know they must investigate…but there’s a problem. Some of the victims are Faeries, and the Cold Peace prevents Shadowhunters from investigating crimes involving Faeries. That doesn’t exactly stop Emma and Julian, and the waters get even more muddied when a Faerie convoy arrives at the Institute with an incentive for the young Shadowhunters to provide assistance. In return for their help in capturing the killer and handing him/her over to the Fey, they’ll return Mark Blackthorn–half-Fey, half-Shadowhunter, member of the Wild Hunt, and Julian’s older brother–back to his family.

Mark’s sudden return to his family is an adjustment for everyone…most especially Mark. He struggles with what it means to be part of the human world once more. Part of him longs to return to the Wild Hunt…and what he left behind. Another part of him wants to contribute to his family, but so much has changed since he left. Where exactly does he fit?

As Mark is dealing with his own turmoil, so are Emma and Julian. Emma is certain that the odd murders in LA are somehow tied to her parents. She recklessly follows every lead she can, leading herself and others into more danger than they expected.

As for Julian, he’s finding it harder and harder to hold everything and everyone together. So much has been placed on his young shoulders, and he’s not sure how much more he can handle. Throw in the fact that he’s in love with Emma, his parabatai, and things get even more complicated.

Even as Emma and Julian grow closer together, closer than is allowed by Shadowhunter law, danger and betrayal are making their way toward the Los Angeles Institute and its inhabitants. Who will be left standing when all is said and done? What will be unleashed should these young Shadowhunters fail to stop the maniacal killer? What could it all mean for the Blackthorns and their closest allies?

Read Lady Midnight, the first book of The Dark Artifices, to learn the answers to these questions and many more…


Oh, I have left out sooooo much here. I didn’t even really touch on Cristina’s issues, Ty and how the Clave views those who are “different,” or the appearance of the “Lost Herondale.” I couldn’t possibly cover everything in one blog post, so I’m not even going to try. Suffice it to say that a LOT happens in the nearly 700 pages of this book, and everything is important.

If you’re also a Shadowhunter fan, you’ll be pleased to know that we do see some old favorites in Lady Midnight. Tessa, Jem, Magnus, Jace, Clary, and Church all make appearances, and I’m confident we’ll see more of them as the series progresses.

Speaking of the rest of the series, the next book, Lord of Shadows, is set to be released in May of 2017, and book three, The Queen of Air and Darkness will be out sometime in 2018. Long waits ahead, people.

If you’d like more information on Lady Midnight and all things Shadowhunter, visit Cassie Clare’s website, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and Mundie Moms. You may also want to check out the video below from Cassie herself.

That’s all from me for now. I hope you enjoy Lady Midnight as much as I did!

Famous Last Words

Today, I bring you one of next year’s nominees for the South Carolina Junior Book Award, Famous Last Words by Katie Alender. The SCJBA nominee list is primarily intended for middle grade readers, but I think Famous Last Words–and probably several others on the list–is a great read for older readers as well. It is an engrossing murder mystery with a supernatural twist that many tween, teen, and adult readers will enjoy.

Willa, a girl struggling with her past, has just moved from Connecticut to sunny Los Angeles. Her mother recently married a movie producer, and now Willa must adjust to an entirely new life. It doesn’t help matters that there’s a serial killer on the prowl in LA, a killer recreating scenes from famous movies. But surely Willa is safe from harm, right? (You can probably guess the answer to that question.)

It doesn’t take long for Willa to realize that something isn’t quite right in her new home. A strange presence tries to drown her in the pool. She sees words and numbers on the walls, and dead bodies and rose petals appear in the bathtub. No one else sees these terrifying images, and even Willa is starting to think she’s crazy. That feeling only increases when she begins to get visions of the Hollywood Killer and his victims. Who is haunting Willa, and what is this being trying to tell her?

As a newcomer in this strange city, there are few people that Willa can go to for help. Her mom and her new husband would never believe her. They’d probably think she was crazy and send her to a mental hospital. Her new “friend” Marnie is a pathological liar and can’t exactly be trusted with something like this. Maybe her stepdad’s cute assistant, Reed? Possibly. What about Wyatt, her sullen lab partner who has a strange obsession with the Hollywood Killer case?

Who can Willa trust to believe her and help her deal with the horrors she’s facing? And can she discover what the ghost in her house is trying to tell her before she’s a deranged killer’s next victim?


I’m going to stop before I give too much away. The fun of a murder mystery is discovering all this stuff for yourself, am I right?!

If I had one problem with this book, it would be the somewhat forced love story. It just didn’t make a ton of sense to me, and, honestly, I’d love to see the occasional book with a strong platonic relationship between a girl and a boy. No mention of lovey-dovey stuff. (Wouldn’t that be a refreshing change?) For me, this book would have been more believable–even with the ghost story elements–without the romance. Maybe I’m alone in that. Then again, maybe not.

All in all, Famous Last Words is a a quick, easy, entertaining read that will definitely appeal to anyone looking for a good mystery. It kept me hooked from the first page, and I couldn’t wait to figure out if I was right about “whodunit.” (I called it early on. Let me know if you do, too!)

For more information on Famous Last Words and Katie Alender, visit the author’s website, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

Happy reading!

Almost Midnight

If you haven’t read C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls and Shadow Falls: After Dark series, proceed with caution.

This post is going to look a bit different than others. Today, I’ll be focusing on Almost Midnight, the Shadow Falls novella collection, which will be released in print on February 2nd. There are five stories in this book, and, prior to being approved to read the compilation via NetGalley, I’d already read four of them–and written blog posts for two.

The novellas in this book are:

  • Turned at Dark
  • Saved at Sunrise
  • Unbreakable
  • Spellbinder
  • Fierce (This is the brand new story.)

Now, I’m going to take things in chronological order–not the order the stories were published but when they occur in the Shadow Falls world. I’ll write a bit on the stories I haven’t posted on yet and provide links to the stories–both novellas and full-length novels–I’ve already written. Let’s begin…


Turned at Dark (Shadow Falls, #0.5)

This short story is essentially Della Tsang’s origin story. Readers get a brief glimpse into what life is like for her before she is turned into a vampire. Della is loyal to her family and her boyfriend, Lee. Everything changes, though, when she thinks she sees her cousin one night–a cousin who’s supposedly been dead for a year.

This leads Della into a terrifying confrontation with some werewolves. Her cousin, Chan, saves her, but he also activates the dormant vampirism virus within Della. After that, Della begins to turn, and, though she wants nothing more than to go back to her old life, she must reconcile herself to these new circumstances. She’s now a vampire, and nothing will ever be the same.

Born at Midnight (Shadow Falls, #1)

Awake at Dawn (Shadow Falls, #2)

Taken at Dusk (Shadow Falls, #3)

Whispers at Moonrise (Shadow Falls, #4)

Saved at Sunrise (Shadow Falls, #4.5)

Della Tsang returns for more fun in this novella. In this story, Della is being given her first mission from her mentor, Burnett. She’s eager to prove herself, and she’s not entirely thrilled that she’ll have company on this mission. Steve, a shapeshifter, is accompanying her for her own protection, something Della swears she doesn’t need.

Before their assignment gets underway, however, Della sneaks away for a glimpse of the life she left behind. She sees her family happy without her, and she runs into her ex-boyfriend–enjoying a night out with his new fiancée. Della is at a loss for words when she comes face-to-face with Lee. Luckily, Steve–the back-up she swore she didn’t need–steps in to save the day.

As it turns out, Della needs Steve for more than just a way to save face with Lee. When she and Steve finally get to their mission, they realize that it’s more dangerous than either of them–or Burnett–could have possible predicted.

But what if a rogue vampire den isn’t what’s really dangerous here? What about the danger that Steve poses to Della’s heart?

Chosen at Nightfall (Shadow Falls, #5)

Unbreakable (Shadow Falls: After Dark, #0.5)

Reborn (Shadow Falls: After Dark, #1)

Eternal (Shadow Falls: After Dark, #2)

Spellbinder (Shadow Falls: After Dark, #2.5)

Unspoken (Shadow Falls: After Dark, #3)

Fierce (Shadow Falls: After Dark, #???)*

*I’m not entirely sure where this one fits in the Shadow Falls chronology. Some of the action in the story seems familiar, so it may take place within one of the Shadow Falls: After Dark novels. If you can enlighten me, send me a quick note in the comments. For now, though, I’m putting Fierce at the end of the series because it’s the latest story to be released.

Fierce takes a look at Fredericka Lakota, a werewolf new to Shadow Falls. The daughter of a rogue were, Fredericka got off to a rough start among the other supernaturals here, but she wants to show them that there’s more to her than they know. She finds joy in making beautiful jewelry, and she’s trying to make a go of a relationship with Cary, another were at Shadow Falls.

As so often happens, though, things begin to change in Fredericka’s life. She realizes that Cary may not be the guy she needs in her life. He doesn’t really see her, and she decides to end things. He does not take it well.

Fredericka also lands a coveted spot selling her jewelry in a nearby gallery, and she’s oddly drawn to the gallery’s owner, Brandon. What is it about this guy? Why does she feel so connected to him so quickly? And what is his connection to the supernatural world?

While all of this is going on, Fredericka also feels the presence of a ghost who needs her help. She’s not exactly prepared for this…or much of anything else that’s happening around her. Can Fredericka somehow make sense of everything–and learn to trust those around her–before the life she’s trying so desperately to build crumbles before her eyes?


So that’s it. That’s all of the Shadow Falls and Shadow Falls: After Dark stories…so far. I probably don’t have to tell you that I really like these series. I mean, I’ve read every single story, and I still come back for more. Sadly, “more” is about to come to and end.

There is one final book in the Shadow Falls world, Midnight Hour. I have no idea what this book will be about or who the primary characters will be, but I do know that it’s scheduled to be out this October. You can be sure that I will get my hands on it as soon as humanly possible.

If, after all this, I still haven’t given you enough information on the Shadow Falls series, check out C.C. Hunter’s website for more.

I’ll close this post with just two little words…

GO BRONCOS!!!

Serafina and the Black Cloak

My latest read, Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty, was recommended by several of my students (and one teacher). It takes place at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. Now, given that I live roughly 80 miles from the historic home, you’d think that I would have visited it more than twice in my life. You would be wrong. (Tickets are kind of expensive, and I hate driving.) If my memory serves me, the last time I toured the Biltmore Estate was on a field trip when I was in the third grade. (Yeah…it’s been a while.) Now that I’ve read Serafina and the Black Cloak, though, I may have to remedy that situation. It would be nice to rely on fresh memories when envisioning the events of this book.

The year is 1899. Serafina lives at the famous Biltmore Estate. The only person who knows of her existence is her pa, one of the home’s maintenance men, and no one realizes that the two of them secretly live in the basement of the Biltmore. Serafina’s pa cautions her to remain out of sight. Should her presence be discovered, it could mean the loss of her father’s job and their home.

When children begin disappearing from the estate, however, Serafina may need to make herself known. She witnesses a strange figure in a black cloak take a child, and she knows she must tell someone what she saw. But who would believe her? And can she confide in someone without losing the only home she’s ever known?

Serafina finds an unlikely ally in the form of Braeden Vanderbilt, the nephew of the Biltmore’s owner. He vows to keep her secret and somehow help her discover who–or what–is taking children from the house and grounds. The two look all over the estate for clues as to the identity of the mysterious figure in the black cloak, but children continue to disappear without a trace.

Serafina’s search for answers leads her to the forest surrounding the Biltmore. Her pa always taught her to fear the darkness of the forest, but Serafina feels oddly at home here. Yes, there are strange things happening in the forest, but it may just hold the key to the mystery of the black cloak…and Serafina’s past.

What will Serafina discover about herself during the course of her investigation? And can she and Braeden uncover the terrifying truth…before they are the next victims of the Man in the Black Cloak?


It’s easy for me to see why Serafina and the Black Cloak is so popular with my students. It’s an enthralling, multi-layered mystery–with some spooky supernatural elements–set in a fairly familiar place. Many of the kids requesting this book do so after they’ve visited the Biltmore Estate. This book might also make a good class read-aloud or novel study before a field trip to the estate.

Local connection aside, this book is a great fit for those who devour the works of Mary Downing Hahn. If you have upper elementary or middle grade readers looking for a good scare, point them to Serafina.

There is at least one more Serafina book to look forward to. Serafina and the Twisted Staff, which also takes place in and around the Biltmore Estate, will be released on August 6th. I’ll definitely need this sequel on hand when we start back to school in the fall.

To learn more about Serafina and the Black Cloak, visit author Robert Beatty’s website or connect with him on Facebook and Twitter. You may also want to take a look at the book trailer below. While the video totally captures the mood of the book, I think it gives a little too much away. Proceed with caution.

If you’re intrigued by Serafina and the Black Cloak and would like to visit the home that inspired the book, click here. I have a feeling I’ll be paying the Biltmore Estate a visit myself in the not-too-distant future.

 

Angels Twice Descending

If you are not totally caught up with all things Shadowhunter, go no further. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, that should tell you something. Stop right now, go to your nearest library or bookstore, and read everything Cassandra Clare has ever written. Start with City of Bones.)

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s proceed, shall we?

Last night, I read Angels Twice Descending, the tenth and final installment in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, a collection of short stories centered on Simon Lewis, his struggle to restore his memories, and his journey toward becoming a Shadowhunter. This last novella focuses on Simon’s Ascension, and, while I was expecting something big to happen, I wasn’t totally prepared for how hard it would hit me. (After reading so many of these stories, one would think I’d know better. One would be wrong.)

Simon and his fellow Academy students are getting ready to finally enter the world of the Nephilim. For mundanes like Simon, this means going through the Ascension ceremony and drinking from the Mortal Cup. After two years of grueling work, it should be a no-brainer on whether or not to go through with this final step…except for the whole “drinking from the cup could kill you” thing.

After one of the mundane students decides not to Ascend, Simon is forced to reflect on his own feelings. Does he truly want to become a Shadowhunter? Who is he doing all this for? Will he get his memories back once he Ascends? If he does, what could that mean for the person he is now? How will he deal with never seeing his mom or sister again? And what if the worst happens? What if he doesn’t have what it takes to be a Shadowhunter and drinking from the Mortal Cup destroys him?

In the end, Simon follows his heart and decides to become a Shadowhunter. But the Ascension ceremony is not without its heartbreak. One of the Academy students does not survive the process, and Simon is once again faced with the question, “Is it worth it?”

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I can’t go any further here without some major spoilers. (I already feel like I’ve written too much.) It’s enough to say that I cried…a lot.

Now that we have all ten of the Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy stories, we also have the full picture formed by the covers. Check it out:

shadowhunter academy

As for when the entire volume of stories will be released in print, I’m not sure. From what I’ve heard, it will be sometime in 2016.

So, where do we go from here?

The next Shadowhunter story is the full-length novel Lady Midnight, due out on March 8th. This begins the Dark Artifices storyline and centers on Julian Blackthorn and Emma Carstairs at the Los Angeles Institute. We also have the new TV series to look forward to, and that starts on Freeform (aka ABC Family) on January 12th.

If you, like me, still want more Shadowhunter goodness, click here for the official TV series website and here for the novels’ website.

Enjoy!

Unspoken

Spoilers ahead! This post focuses on Unspoken, book 3 in C.C. Hunter’s Shadow Falls After Dark series. If you haven’t read the entire Shadow Falls and Shadow Falls After Dark series, you might want to take care of that before proceeding. Here’s a list of books you need to read posthaste:

Now that we’ve taken care of that, let’s move on to Unspoken, the third and final (?) book in the Shadow Falls After Dark series…

Unspoken, which will be released to the masses tomorrow, continues the story of Della Tsang, a young vampire who is struggling with more than anyone should have to bear. Her father, who barely speaks to her, is about to go on trial for murdering his sister many years ago. Della knows he didn’t do it, but gathering the evidence to prove his innocence is difficult. She’s convinced that her uncle, long thought to be dead, knows something–or is guilty of the crime himself–but she can’t find him and get answers to her questions. And why is her uncle so elusive? Well, Chase Tallman may be partly to blame for that.

Chase wants to do everything he possibly can to help Della, but, just like Della is convinced of her father’s innocence, Chase is certain that Eddie, Della’s uncle, didn’t commit this horrible crime. But if neither of the brothers killed their sister, who did? And how can two vampires with their own issues work together to find a killer who’s been on the run for decades?

Part of Della wants to trust Chase, but another part feels like she’s being forced to rely on him. Yes, they are bonded, but is that the only reason they are so drawn to each other? Does Della really have any choice in her mixed-up feelings for Chase? She’s spinning out of control, and Chase isn’t exactly helping. He’s trying to be honest with Della, but his omissions are just as bad (in Della’s eyes) as outright lies. What exactly is he hiding? Is he trying to shield Della from the truth, or is he protecting someone else?

As Della, Chase, and an assortment of other friends at Shadow Falls work to reveal what really happened in Della’s father’s case, another heinous act is also demanding their attention. And, as they begin to examine evidence (and as Della gets information from a couple of ghosts), it seems that the two crimes are somehow linked. How is this possible? And can they find the real culprit before time runs out?

Are Della and Chase ready for what lies ahead? Read Unspoken by C.C. Hunter to find out.

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I thought Unspoken was a rather satisfying end to Della’s story in the world of Shadow Falls. I liked how things worked out for the main characters, and the story made me feel okay about how they’ll move forward. (I’m trying really hard here not to spoil anything for anyone. Can you tell?)

One thing that I didn’t really touch on in the recap above was Della’s relationship with her father. If you’ve read any of the previous books, you know it’s strained. Well, it definitely gets worse in Unspoken. By the end of the book, I sort of understood why her father acted the way he did, but that did not help my urge to give him a good smack. He was horrible to Della, and here she was, busting her tail to keep him out of prison–something he wasn’t even aware of. She could have turned her back on him–just like he did to her–but her love and loyalty were more powerful than anything, including what her father believed she was capable of. (You’ll have to read the book to figure out what I’m talking about here.)

I’m hoping we’ll see more of Della and the gang in future books. Although things are cool now with Della–and with Kylie from the Shadow Falls series–Miranda’s future is still up in the air. We saw a bit of her story in Spellbinder, but I’m thinking there’s a lot more to come–hopefully in a full-length novel or even an entire series.

Speaking of more to come, all of the e-novellas in the series are finally coming out in print. All four of them will be released in one volume, Almost Midnight, which will be out on February 2nd. According to C.C. Hunter’s website, this collection will also feature a new story from another Shadow Falls character. No idea who at this point.

For those considering adding Unspoken or any of the other books in the series to your libraries, I would recommend these stories to libraries that serve teen readers. It’s not that I don’t think some middle school students can handle it. Some likely can, but the books do have some mature situations that are more suited to young adults. Just my two cents.

In closing, I’d like to thank NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read Unspoken and the rest of Della’s story. I truly appreciate it!

 

Born to Endless Night

This post revolves around the ninth story in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy. At this point, if you haven’t read everything Cassandra Clare has written about Shadowhunters, I don’t know what to tell you.

As you’ve likely gathered, I recently finished reading Born to Endless Night, story #9 in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy. I don’t know that this is my favorite story in the bunch…but it’s definitely in the running.

What’s so great about it, you ask? In a word: Malec. (For those who aren’t familiar with this series, this is the “couple name” for Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood.) Yes, Simon continues to play a big role in this story (as he should), but the focus this time is on Magnus, Alec, and the little newcomer who is going to change everything…

Magnus Bane, the High Warlock of Brooklyn, thought this was going to be a fairly uneventful trip…even for him. He’d give a few lectures at the Shadowhunter Academy, spend some time with Alec, and go on his merry way. He couldn’t know that something is about to happen that will throw his entire world into a tailspin…

Shortly after Magnus arrives at the Academy, several young Shadowhunters-in-training, including Simon, discover a small bundle at the Academy entrance. Everyone is shocked to discover that this bundle is a baby with navy blue skin. A warlock child. The baby has been abandoned by his mother, and Simon immediately thinks to go to Magnus about this situation. Surely, he’ll know what to do.

As it turns out, it’s not Magnus that jumps in and takes charge. It’s Alec. Alec cares for this blue-skinned child as if he were born to do so. And the entire Lightwood family jumps in to help. While Alec seems totally sure of what needs to happen with the warlock child, Magnus is the one who is uncertain. In all of his centuries on earth, he’s never encountered a situation like this one. What is he supposed to do, and how will all of this change his relationship with Alec?

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I’m going to stop here before I give away every single thing that happens in this story. I will say, though, that I loved seeing more of Alec. I think he’s often overlooked–especially when either Magnus or Jace are around–so it was wonderful to see him get his chance to truly shine…and he did. And even though I didn’t mention it in my little recap above, I also liked how both Alec and Magnus reassured Simon about his actions–both past and present–and his place in the larger Shadowhunter world.

With that, I guess we move on to story #10 in the Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy collection. This final installment, Angels Twice Descending, will focus on Simon’s Ascension ceremony, and it will be out on November 17th. I don’t know what to expect at this point, but I’m fairly certain that it will be a story to remember…and should be a great lead-in to Lady Midnight (out on March 8th).

Speaking of Lady Midnight…have you all seen that absolutely gorgeous cover? If not, check it out below.

Pretty, pretty, pretty. I eagerly await what is sure to be another fantastic book in Cassie Clare’s Shadowhunter saga. (I’m also pretty stoked about the TV series which premieres on ABC Family–soon to be FreeForm–on January 12th at 9/8c. I’m not a huge fan of the time slot–that’s when I watch Agents of SHIELD–but I’ll still be tuning in.)

For more Shadowhunter fun, click here for the official TV series website and here for the novels’ website.