The importance of setting and voice: Shadowhunters Part 2


Books and a cup of tea… nice

Last week I talked about Cassandra Clare‘s characters, and why they appeal. If you missed it, here it is. Today is Part 2 of a Shadowhunting Deconstruction, looking at the other two areas that work really well. The books I reviewed were:

We’ve talked about Clare’s strong female characters and romantic angst. It’s time to think about the world and the narrative voice.

In this post I’ll be looking at:

  • An easily accessible world
  • Subtle voice


A world, which is our world, but is totally NOT our world at the same time

Clare set her world of Shadowhunters, Night Children, and the fey within ours. It’s sitting there, just below the surface, where mundane humans don’t see it. Both main characters, Tessa and Clary, exist within the mundane world until a stimulus or event brings them into the Downworld.

Why does this work so well?

  • It could happen to anyone. You can read these books and dream about suddenly discovering you’re a long-lost Shadowhunter.
  • It’s a funky world, there is fun and danger and friendship and excitement. Talk about living vicariously through books.
  • It feels accessible.


I think it adds that little bit of extra zing to read a book where you can believe that at any moment you, too, might start seeing warlocks with cat’s eyes walking down the street.


Made using Pablo

Clare doesn’t ram it down our throat, she lets us learn it ourselves

I am definitely able to make my writing better with this one.

Last post, I talked about the importance of Clarity over Cleverness, and I know this sounds a little like I’m contradicting myself. I’m not.

There’s clarity, and then there’s plain old boring telling.

There’s being clever, and then there’s being so damn clever your reader needs to read the book seven times and get a PhD before they admit they don’t know what you’re talking about.

In City of Bones, we learn that Clary has the hots for Jace. Not because we’re told outright, but through the little things that Clary sees. Clare sprinkles these through the text, eg p168:

His arm was lightly muscled and downed with golden hairs fine as pollen.

And then…? That’s it. She doesn’t give in to the temptation to tell us how Clary reacts to seeing that arm, she just quietly lets us know that Clary is noticing these things about Jace. And then continues with the story.

In my first manuscript I had to show that my main character, Merrie, had a thing for fellow inmate Baden even though she had no idea herself. The subtlety was hard for me to achieve.

I like how Clare does it.

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