Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy is a collection of ten short stories set around Simon, Clary’s best friend, training to become a Shadowhunter. It connects the timelines between the first six Mortal Instruments books and the Dark Artifacts series, fleshing out some of the background and helping develop (and explain) some of the backstory for Lady Midnight. To create this collection, Cassandra Clare has enlisted the assistance of some other writers: Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson and Robin Wasserman. The stories are fun, kind of tongue-in-cheek, but do feel somewhat like official fan-fiction.
This review will contain some spoilers from the Mortal Instruments series. If you haven’t read it but intend to, I suggest you continue no further.
Simon Lewis was first introduced as Clary’s best friend, spent some time as a vampire before his humanity was restored, but his memories fragmented in the process, so that he is no longer the hero his friends remember. This, as you may guess, leads to feelings of inadequacy and confusion. Thus, Simon decides to train as a Shadowhunter, drink from the mortal cup and, hopefully, ascend. Along with a number of Shadowhunter teenagers (the “elites”) and Shadowhunter-hopeful humans (the mundanes or “dregs”), Simon travels to Idris to attend the newly restored Shadowhunter Academy. It has fallen into an almost comedic state of disrepair, the meals are disturbingly unpleasant and random rodents occupy the walls. Not only that, but there is a distinct line in the sand drawn between the so-called Elites and the mundanes. Simon quickly makes friends, specifically with his Scottish room-mate George Lovelace (Shadowhunter in name, but mundane by birth) and the two experience a rather delightful bromance, filled with hearty banter and wit.
As the tales were released individually, there is a small amount of re-capping and reminding at the beginning of each “episode”, and the different authors lead to variation in the writing styles. Alongside the various experiences of Simon, George and the other Shadowhunter students, there are intermingled tales from “guest stars”, explaining in further detail select events from that character’s past: we get to read about Clara’s mission to track down Jack the Ripper; are delivered some insight into Valentine’s past, through the eyes of Robert Lightwood; and learn more about the Blackthorns, such as the half-fae older children, Helen and Mark.
The concept of writing short stories, further exploring the background of characters and helping to develop the backstories of side characters is a crafty idea. Not only does it help the author to get a stronger grasp on their characters (albeit with the assistance of other authors), but it provides additional information on the characters that are beloved to the readers but do not get a great deal of “screen-time”. Whilst it is not compulsory to read Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, it is an enjoyable read, written with enthusiasm and affection, and should provide enlightenment for the dedicated fans, giving us something to read whilst we await the sequel to Lady Midnight.
Reviewed by Angela Oliver
Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy
by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson and Robin Wasserman
Published by Walker Books