Book Review: Nothing but Shadows – Cassandra Clare & Sarah Rees Brennan

Title: Nothing but Shadows
Series: Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy #4
Author: Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan
Publication Date: May 19th, 2015
Shelves: Fantasy; Novella
Format: Kindle (74 pages)
Rating: 6.5/10

nbsGoodreads Synopsis:

Simon challenges the setup of the Shadowhunter Academy and in doing so learns the story of James Herondale and Matthew Fairchild and the unusual way that they became friends and parabatai.

Contains spoilers from The Infernal Devices series


“Finding a parabatai seemed to James the key to everything, the essential first step to a life where he could be as happy as his father was, be as brilliant a Shadowhunter as his father was, find a love as great as the love his father had found.
He wanted a parabatai, and that made the Academy a thousand times more terrifying.”

The fourth instalment in the Shadowhunter Academy series follows the story of James Herondale, as he leaves the London Institute for the academy to begin his Shadowhunter training. Not wanting to go against his parent’s wishes, James agrees to attend the school, but fears his crippling shyness with hinder his chances of making friends. Noticing that his cousins Thomas and Christopher Lightwood are also attending the school, James is hopeful that he can become friends with them… until Matthew Fairchild ruins his plans. James instantly hates Matthew – but when a close call with death reveals James’ unusual powers to his classmates, James becomes a social outcast, and Matthew becomes James’ unlikely ally.

I have no idea why I waited so long to read this. I read the previous novel, The Whitechapel Fiend, the day it came out, and I guess I completely forgot about this series? But while cleaning out my Goodreads TBR recently, I stumbled across this novella and, reading the synopsis, I wanted to read it immediately! The Infernal Devices is my favourite book trilogy, and knowing that this novella is related to that series made me pick it up as soon as I (re)discovered it.

So I have to be honest here, I really don’t care for Simon’s story in these novellas. This series follows Simon as he attends the Shadowhunter Academy in the hopes to one day become a Shadowhunter like his friends Clary, Jace, Isabelle, and Alec. I have read all The Mortal Instruments books, but I’m no longer interested in the series, so, sorry Simon! I skimmed through his narrative, though he appears very briefly in the beginning and end of this novella – Simon fans are sure to be mad about that!

James on the other hand, is the reason why I picked this up. I adore everything TID and TID related, and James falls into that category. I was surprised to find how adorable he was. He’s so cute and quiet, though this characterisation does make sense to me as he is Will Herondale and Tessa Gray’s eldest child. Being Will’s son is sure to be daunting for James, as he feels the pressure to live up to his father’s legacy as a strong, respected Shadowhunter. And having Tessa as a mother comes with setbacks for James, as her unique powers as a result of her ancestry have led to Shadowhunters shutting her out of their world. Being such a TID fan, I loved seeing both Will and Tessa’s characteristics in James – his love for literature, and his compassion towards others, whether they’re human or warlocks or vampires. It hurt to see him get bullied by the other students because he’s such a shy cutie and all he wanted was to be left alone so he could read  😦

Matthew Fairchild on the other hand, is the complete opposite of James. He’s loud and entertaining, and adored by everyone he meets – except James, that is. Matthew is so fun, and added a lightness to the novella. While James is determined to remain at the academy to please his parents, Matthew is desperate to get expelled, and since the two characters are so dissimilar, they clashed a lot. But when James gets shunned by the entire school, Matthew stuck up for him which made me so happy. They make a great pair and I’m excited to see more of them in The Last Hours!

And of course, it made me so happy to see Will and Jem again. Will as a dad is way too much cuteness! And “Uncle Jem” consoling a sobbing James was so sweet and sad and I’m way too emo over these characters! Tessa doesn’t actually feature in this novella (I’m assuming it’s partly because she was in the previous instalment), but she is mentioned a lot which I loved. James, Will and Jem are all so loving and protective of her and I need to calm down…

And of course the writing was beautiful in parts – I’m dropping in this quote by Jem:

“You love, and tremble, and burn. Do not let any of them tell you who you are. You are the flame that cannot be put out. You are the star that cannot be lost. You are who you have always been, and that is enough and more than enough. Anyone who looks at you and sees darkness is blind.”

As I said earlier, some people will probably be disappointed in the novella’s plot, as Simon barely features in it, despite this series’ supposed focus on him post-TMI. But lack of Simon meant more James for me and I’m so interested in the next generation after TID so I was pretty happy with this novella. There’s not much in the way of plot except for James’ stint at the academy, and his enemies to friends relationship with Matthew. Some readers may find this boring but I enjoyed it since I’m so into TID.


So fun to read! And I’m so excited for The Last Hours to come out!


Would you read this novella again? Yes!
Who would I recommend this novella to? Fans of all things Herondale and The Infernal Devices

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: Nothing but Shadows – Cassandra Clare & Sarah Rees Brennan

    • Clare is a very love/hate author for many reasons.. If you were to read her works though I’d say to just read The Infernal Devices series (which is my favourite by far!) – especially if you love novels set in Victorian England


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