I have a confession to make - I haven’t read Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series. I know; it’s blasphemy. I read the first book. It was ok. I liked the pretty boys of the TV series but I wasn’t super compelled to continue reading the books. (I’ll get around to them sometime… most likely… probably, maybe). Consequently, I was a bit nervous making my way into Sword Catcher. The synopsis sounded intriguing, though; so, I gave it a chance. I am super glad that I did.
The world that Clare has started to build in this novel is superb; it feels alive with history, politics, religions, cultures, and a subtle but intriguing magic system. Castellane, the city in which this book takes place, feels concrete and alive, rooted somehow in real-world places but still fantastical in it’s own way. It feels like a character in itself.
Speaking of characters, Sword Catcher contains some of my favorite new characters. (I may have fallen in love with Kel, one of our protagonists, and I’m definitely not mad about it.) Clare has done an excellent job letting us dive into the psyches, histories, and lives of our two protagonists - Kel and Lin. I was happy to see each of these characters develop in their own ways as they face rapidly changing, tumultuous circumstances and come to realize a world that is bigger and more intertwined than either really considered before. Beyond Kel and Lin, Castellane is filled with a cast of vividly realized, intriguing ancillary characters who I want to see fleshed out in later books or side stories.
While Sword Catcher is marketed as Clare’s first adult novel, I’m a bit conflicted about classifying it this way after reading the book. The deeper worldbuilding, the slower pace, and the subtler machinations of the characters definitely fit more firmly into adult fantasy, at least based on my reading experience. The age of the main characters, their approach to problem solving, and the straightforward writing on the other hand still feel very rooted in young adult writing. The author has sprinkled in some ‘big words’ here and there but, contrasted against the surrounding writing, they feel a bit out of place. While I’ve never really understood what the new adult designation is, maybe this mix of elements from adult and young adult literature encapsulates it? Let me know when you figure it out.
Overall, the world of Sword Catcher has gripped me in a way that the world of the Shadowhunters did not. I’m invested in the future of these characters and this world. I cannot wait for the next installment.
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