The Shadowhunters must catch a killer in Edwardian London…
We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from Cassandra Clare’s Chain of Iron, sequel to Chain of Gold—available March 2nd with Margaret K. McElderry Books. Join the author for a virtual book tour in March!
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.
Once upon a time, she had been someone else, she remembers that much. A different girl, though she had the same skinny wrists and white-blond hair. When she was still small, her parents sat her down and explained that she and they and everyone they knew were not ordinary people, but the descendants of angels. Nephilim, sworn to protect the world from the monsters that threatened it. The girl had a drawing of an eye on the back of her hand, from before remembering. Her parents put it there, and it marked her as one of the Shadowhunters and allowed her to see the monsters that were invisible to others.
By all rights, she should be able to remember the details of her parents’ faces, the house they lived in. She had been seven years old—she should be able to remember how she felt in the stone room in Alicante, when a crowd of adults who were strangers to her came and told her that her parents were dead.
Instead that moment was the end of feeling. The girl who had existed before she went into the stone room—that girl was gone.
At first the girl thought she would be sent to live with other members of her family, though her parents had been distant from them and they were strangers. Instead she was sent to live with an entirely different stranger. All at once she was a Blackthorn. A carriage of ebony as black and shiny as a pianoforte came to fetch her; it brought her across the summer fields of Idris, to the edge of Brocelind Forest, and through elaborately filigreed iron gates. To Blackthorn Manor, her new home.
It must have been a shock for the girl, going from a modest house in the lower part of Alicante to the ancestral house of one of the oldest Shadowhunter families. But that shock, and indeed most of her memories of the house in Alicante, were gone like so much else.
Her new mother was strange. At first she was kind, almost too kind. She would grasp the girl, suddenly, around the waist, and hold her tightly. “I never thought I would have a daughter,” she would murmur, in a tone of wonder, as though she were telling someone in the room who the girl could not see. “And one that came with such a pretty name, too. Grace.”
There were other, more frightening ways that Tatiana Blackthorn was strange. She took no action to keep up the house in Idris or prevent it from falling into decay; her only servant was a sour-faced and silent maid who Grace rarely saw. Sometimes Tatiana was pleasant; other times she harshly ground out an unending litany of her grievances—against her brothers, against other Shadowhunter families, against Shadowhunters in general. They were responsible for the death of her husband, and the whole bunch of them, Grace came to understand, could go to the devil.
Grace was grateful for having been taken in, and she was glad to have a family and a place to belong. But it was a strange place, her mother never really knowable, always busying herself with odd magics in unlit back corners of the manor. It would have been a very lonely life, if not for Jesse.
He was seven years her elder, and pleased to have a sister. He was quiet, and kind, and he read to her and helped her make flower crowns in the garden. She noticed that his face was a blank when their mother went on about her enemies and the vengeance she craved against them.
If there was anything in the world that Tatiana Blackthorn loved, it was Jesse. With Grace she could be critical, and liberal with the slaps and pinches, but she would never lift a hand to Jesse. Was it because he was a boy, Grace wondered, or was it because he was Tatiana’s child by blood, while Grace was only a ward she had taken in?
The answer mattered little. Grace didn’t need her mother’s adoration, as long as she had Jesse. He was a companion when she needed one most, and so much older that he seemed almost grown to her.
It was a good thing they had each other for companionship, since they rarely left the grounds of the manor, save when they went with their mother on her brief trips to Chiswick House, a vast stone estate in England that Tatiana had wrested from her brothers twenty-five years ago and now jealously guarded. Though Chiswick House was near London, and thus a valuable piece of property, Tatiana seemed determined to watch it rot away too.
Grace was always relieved to return to Idris. Being close to London did not quite remind her of her old life—that had turned to shadows and dreams—but it did recall to her that she had a past, a time before she had belonged to Jesse, to Tatiana, and to Blackthorn Manor. And what was the point of that?
One day Grace heard a queer thumping noise coming from the room above hers. She went to investigate, more curious than worried, and discovered that the source of the noise was, shockingly, Jesse, who had set up a makeshift knife-throwing gallery with some straw bales and a hessian sheet in one of the high-ceilinged, airy rooms on the manor’s top floor. They must have been used as training rooms by the house’s earlier inhabitants, but her mother only ever referred to them as “the ballrooms.”
“What are you doing?” asked Grace, scandalized. “You know that we aren’t meant to pretend to be Shadowhunters.”
Jesse went to retrieve a thrown knife from a straw bale. Grace couldn’t help but notice he’d very accurately hit his target. “It’s not pretending, Grace. We are Shadowhunters.”
“By birth, says Mama,” she said cautiously. “But not by choice. Shadowhunters are brutes and killers, she says. And we’re not allowed to train.”
Her brother prepared to throw the knife again. “And yet we live in Idris, a secret nation built for and known only by Shadowhunters. You bear a Mark. I—ought to.”
“Jesse,” Grace said slowly. “Do you really care so much about being a Shadowhunter? About fighting demons with sticks, and all that?”
“It’s what I was born to do,” he said, his brow dark. “I have taught myself, since I was eight years old—the attic of this house is full of old weapons and training manuals. It’s what you were born to as well.” Grace hesitated, and a rare memory surfaced in her mind—her parents throwing knives into a board hung on the wall of their small house in Alicante. They had fought demons. It was how they had lived and how they had died. Surely that was not all foolishness, as Tatiana claimed. Surely it was not a meaningless life.
Jesse noticed her odd expression but didn’t press her to tell him what she was thinking. Instead he went on making his point. “What if one day we were attacked by demons? Someone would have to protect our family.”
“Will you train me, too?” Grace said, in a rush, and her brother broke into a smile that made her burst into tears, overwhelmed by the sudden feeling of being cared for. Of being cared about. Of belonging to something larger than herself.
They started with the knives. They didn’t dare train during the day, but when their mother was asleep, she was far enough away not to hear the thunks of the blades into the backstop. And Grace, to her own surprise, did well at the training, learning fast. After a few weeks, Jesse gave her a hunting bow and a quiver of beautiful red cured leather—he apologized that they were not new, but she knew he had scrounged them from the attic and spent weeks cleaning and repairing them for her, and that meant more than would have any expensive gift.
They began archery lessons. This was an altogether more dangerous prospect, involving sneaking out of doors in the middle of the night to practice at the old range behind the house, almost to the walls. Grace would get into bed in all her clothes, wait until the moon was visible through her window, and descend the house’s unlit gloomy stairs to join her brother. Jesse was a patient teacher, gentle and encouraging. She had never thought of having a brother, but now she was grateful every day to have one—and not only grateful in the dutiful way she was grateful to her mother.
Before she came to live with Tatiana, Grace had never understood how potent a poison loneliness could be. As the months passed, she realized that loneliness had driven her adoptive mother mad. Grace wanted to love Tatiana, but her mother would not allow such love to grow. Her loneliness had become so twisted up on itself that she had grown afraid of love, and rejected the affections of anyone besides Jesse. Slowly Grace came to understand that Tatiana did not want Grace’s love. She wanted only her loyalty.
But that love had to go somewhere, or Grace might explode, like a river bursting a dam. So she poured all her love into Jesse. Jesse, who taught her to climb trees, to speak and read French, who finished every evening by her bedside, reading to her from works as diverse as the Aeneid of Virgil and Treasure Island.
When their mother was distracted by other matters, they would meet in the disused study at the end of the hall, where there were bookshelves floor-to-ceiling on all sides and several large decaying armchairs. This, too, was part of their training, Jesse told her, and they would read together. Grace never knew just why Jesse was so kind to her. She thought perhaps that he understood from the start that he and Grace were each other’s only true allies, and that their survival depended on one another. Apart they might fall into the same pit that had claimed their mother; together they might even thrive.
When Grace was ten, Jesse convinced his mother to allow him, at long last, to take a rune. It was unfair, he said, to live in Idris without even so much as a Voyance rune for the Sight. It was understood that anyone who lived in Idris was Sighted, and it might even be dangerous for him not to be. Their mother scowled, but she gave in. Two Silent Brothers came. Grace barely recalled her own rune ceremony, and the sight of the scarred, drifting figures in the dark halls of Blackthorn Manor made her skin crawl. But she summoned her courage and was with Jesse when a Silent Brother inscribed the Voyance rune on the back of Jesse’s right hand. She was there to see him hold up his hand, to regard it in wonder, to thank the Brothers profusely.
And she was there that night to see him die.
Excerpted from Chain of Iron, copyright © 2021 by Cassandra Clare.