After mixed feelings about previous Cassandra Clare books, I started Chain of Iron without high expectations. I enjoyed it more than expected, however, and found the plot had more momentum than previously due to focusing on more than unrequited love triangles. I’m sharing my full Chain of Iron review below.
Publisher: Walker Books | Date: 2021 | Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Plot: Cordelia Carstairs seems to have everything she ever wanted. She’s engaged to marry James Herondale, the boy she has loved since childhood. She has a new life in London with her best friend Lucie Herondale and James’s charming companions, the Merry Thieves. She is about to be reunited with her beloved father. And she bears the sword Cortana, a legendary hero’s blade.
But the truth is far grimmer. James and Cordelia’s marriage is a lie, arranged to save Cordelia’s reputation. James is in love with the mysterious Grace Blackthorn whose brother, Jesse, died years ago in a terrible accident. Cortana burns Cordelia’s hand when she touches it, while her father has grown bitter and angry. And a serial murderer is targeting the Shadowhunters of London, killing under cover of darkness, then vanishing without a trace.
Together with the Merry Thieves, Cordelia, James, and Lucie must follow the trail of the knife-wielding killer through the city’s most dangerous streets. All the while, each is keeping a shocking secret: Lucie, that she plans to raise Jesse from the dead; Cordelia, that she has sworn a dangerous oath of loyalty to a mysterious power; and James, that he is being drawn further each night into the dark web of his grandfather, the arch-demon Belial. And that he himself may be the killer they seek.
Chain of Iron Review
Despite set in a world full of demons, the focus on unrequited or forbidden love in all of Clare’s books means I’ve found them repetitive. While the romance played a part, it wasn’t always central to the plot. It helped build tension and pace, resulting in a more enjoyable read.
Returning to our favourite characters was fun. I really like all of the Merry Thieves and their distinct personalities. It felt we got to know them a little more, especially Thomas and Matthew. Cordelia and James’ marriage worked better than I was anticipating: I was expecting chapters full of unrequited longing, but they made the best of the situation they were in.
I enjoyed the story-arcs of all the different characters. Lucie has become my favourite: she’s got the Herondale stubbornness when it comes to not letting something go if she can help. I feel you see her develop into a young woman this time around, although I wish we got more of her and Cordelia together.
There was also no big reset button that infuriated me in Chain of Gold. The characters all felt like they developed: from revealing a past secret to being true to one’s heart, something changed. This helped drive the story on because you were getting somewhere rather than caught in a circle.
Thomas pushed back, swift and hard, before any of a number of secrets could come spilling out of his mouth – secrets about his friends, secrets about James’s heritage. Anything at all about Alastair.Chain of Iron by Cassandra Clare
One element I’ve struggled with lately is the amount of padding that seems to be in Clare’s books. Characters moping around pining for what they can’t have, rather than the whole battling demons side of this world. Chain of Iron felt stronger in that sense: those elements were still present, but they didn’t take up the majority of the plot.
The plot was enjoyable. In a way, it felt straightforward: demon trying to come through to Earth to take over. That simplicity worked: the characters’ growth added depth without the reader getting confused what was going on. I also liked the way the sub-plot – raising Jesse from the dead – tied in so seamlessly with the main plot. Events felt connected, which – again – I think I sometimes miss with Clare’s work.
There is nothing surprising about the themes in this one. Good and evil – and whether that line is blurred under any circumstances. Love: the pain, the joy and the complications when more than one person is involved. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before from Clare, but it seemed to work this time.
All in all, far more satisfying than I was anticipating. The plot has sustenance and I thought the pacing worked well. It felt more focused than previously, which I enjoyed. I invested in the characters this time and was drawn into the story. It’s made me want to read on.
Are you a Cassandra Clare fan? Are you reading The Last Hours series?
Also in the series:
- Book One: Chain of Gold
9 thoughts on “Chain of Iron Review | Cassandra Clare”
I have not read any books by this author, but I’m glad that you enjoyed this one more than you have some of her earlier books. Great review! Thanks for sharing.
It was refreshing not having high expectations and then being pleasantly surprised for sure. Thank you!
I liked this onebetter than someof her others too. I get sick of reused villains, so I’m hoping for more creativity than some of her others (trying not to give spoilers for the Dark Artifices).
I hated The Dark Artifices!! It frustrated me so much the entire way through, so I was pleasantly surprised that I actually enjoyed this one. It wasn’t as formulaic as some of her other recent ones seem to be.
Yes, I agree!
Great review! We’re so glad you enjoyed Chain of Iron. We can’t wait for Chain of Thorns, but don’t want to wait so long!
I was pleasantly surprised by it for sure! Aha, hopefully it will go quick but that is always the worst part.
Great review! I agree, I liked the way Jesse’s plot was worked into the story so naturally too.
It felt less formulaic than some of her other books have been recently which was really nice!