It should come as no surprise to anyone that I love Shadowhunters. It should, honestly, also come as no surprise that I love Clary Fray. Not only have I already written something of a love letter to Clary, I’ve talked about why the term guilty pleasures bothers me so much, which is something many people have dubbed Shadowhunters, listed Clary among my favorite woman characters, talked again about how taste is subjective because people just continue to give me shit for loving this series, and even shouted about Clary one last time! And, really, this isn’t even half of it, because when you look at my Shadowhunters tag, there are so many other posts littered throughout there that my notifications would go nuts trying to approve all the linked posts.

I won’t lie to you and say that, post-The Mortal Instruments, Shadowhunters continued to be unique. That original series was unlike anything I’d ever read before, and it’s one of the biggest reasons for why I love urban fantasy so much. Heck, though I list a dozen other books for inspiration for my writing, Shadowhunters is probably, in truth, one of the first, and core, ones. But I can 100% admit that the storylines are pretty much identical between series. The Infernal Devices and The Dark Artifices copy a lot of elements from TMI, and I understand why that can be frustrating for some people. For me, though, I loved TMI. I still love it, I don’t know why I put it in past tense. There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll read the entire series for a third time somewhere in the future. That original series worked so well that I totally get why Cassandra Clare capitalized on its success and continued to write in the world. They’re incredible characters with a really fun and unique plot, and I’ll keep reading Shadowhunters books until they’re building my entire coffin out of them.

And so, because today is my birthday, I thought the most appropriate way to celebrate would be with an ode to one of my all-time favorite characters. It’s definitely an unpopular opinion, and I’m sure this won’t get a ton of views, but I don’t really care! Clary Fray means so much to me, and there’s nothing more I’d rather do than wax poetic about why for several paragraphs.

Art by gatovtina

It would be foolish of me to start this post any other way than with my favorite reason why I love Clary–her response to Jace. Given that fantasy is one of the most read genres in the world, I’m pretty confident when I say that I feel like about half the population currently in existence would do just about anything for magic to be real. You can’t tell me that, if you’re reading this right now, you wouldn’t absolutely die to find out that magic was a legit thing. If someone handed me a wand and said, congrats you’re a witch, I would probably burst into tears. Like damn. That would be single-handedly the best thing to ever happen to me.

And I don’t think I’m alone in that, by even the smallest margin. There are so many of us reading fantasy books that there’s got to be just millions of people that would also burst into tears if they found out magic was real. All that said, though, I want you to actually consider what you would do if you suddenly saw a teenager, covered in strange tattoos, running through a night club with a sword. I’m pretty sure you can’t convince anyone that you’d run after them. Clary’s response to Jace is actually insane. Ya girl sees a clearly violent person running with a sword that apparently no one else can see, and instead of doing what all of us would do, which is definitely do an about face and pretend we hadn’t seen anything, she runs after him.

And then, because that isn’t badass enough, when Clary keeps seeing Jace, to the point where she demands to know who he is and why no one else around her can see him, and Jace tells her that surprise! Magic is real! Clary panics, sure, but only for a second before she’s all in. I really, truly believe that if the guy I’d seen running through a club with a sword kept showing up randomly around my life, I’d end up calling the cops to say someone was stalking me. And when that inevitably didn’t work, and I somehow miraculously got up the nerve to confront him and he told me magic was real and I was part of an ancient family of demon hunters, I’d a) laugh hysterically at him and b) get the fuck out of dodge.

Yes, I want magic to be real. Yes, I would weep with joy if a single one of my spells worked. Yes, I would be utterly terrified if any of it actually came true. And I love, so damn much, that Clary sees her wildest dream come true and jumps headlong into the Shadow World.

Imagine Clary, too, suddenly thrust into this chaotic world. Everyone around her is tall, hella strong, basically dripping in muscles while they practice mastering dozens of different weapons and fighting styles, well-versed in the world of magic, and most of them fairly mean to her purely because she’s not one of them. Alec alone would have made me turn right around and walk back into my normal life. The amount of times that Jace makes fun of Clary for how short she is, or how Isabelle just treats her like gum on her shoe because she’s weaker than them. Or even how they all collectively sneer at her for not immediately knowing everything. Those at the New York Institute are downright cruel to Clary in those first few weeks, and it’s amazing to me that she stays.

Not only that, she thrives! And she doesn’t let them push her around at all. When they tell her she has to drop her entire mundane life, Clary laughs in their faces and continues to hang out with Simon anyway. When they call her small and weak, she gives them one hell of a fierce glare and dares them to come at her again. She falls down and gets hurt so many times in those first few weeks, but she keeps getting back up. Even when everyone is pitted against her, Clary is confident enough in herself to keep fighting.

And yet, she’s very relatable, too. I know that one of the big things people complain about when they say they don’t like Clary is that she whines a lot. I hear it all the time. It’s the same reason no one likes Alina Starkhov or Frodo Baggins–they “whine too much”. But like? Duh? Same? It’s bizarre to me when people get on Frodo’s case about whining to much. Y’all, he literally carried around the most evil thing for months simply because it was the right thing to do. He gave his entire life to saving Middle-earth. I’d cry the whole damn way to Mount Doom! Same with Alina, too. I recently reread Shadow & Bone, and when Alina was scared and angry and just wanted to go home, I felt that so strongly. She’s in such a similar position to Clary, where she’s thought one thing for her whole life only to have it upended, and then almost everyone is mean to her. The fact that Alina continues to persevere, despite all the odds stacked up against her and the enormous pressure she’s under, is incredible.

Does Clary whine a lot? Yeah, and it’s one of the reasons that I love her. Honest to Satan, if I found out that my mom had lied about my entire damn life, up to and including the fact that a) magic is real, b) my dad massacred thousands of people, and c) then had the audacity to get herself kidnapped, I’d be PISSED. Even when I finally got my mom back, I’d still be pissed. Heck nah, I’m not going to light and love that shit. The fact that Clary cries, that she’s angry, that she gets so frustrated that she ends up crying, that she laughs and yells and sometimes has a tantrum or wants to just be a couch potato for no good reason–YES THANK YOU! She is so relatable! I feel all of that down to my very bones. I’m so angry at myself every time I end up crying because I’ve gotten so mad that that’s how it’s coming out, and to see another character do that? Holy hell, I love it.

Clary Drawing
Art by taratjah

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Clary literally saves the entire world. And not only that, but she gets a happy ending, too. How often do you see a character do the incredible thing and reap some amazing benefits? Almost never. There’s always some kind of trauma or awfulness that they have to deal with, and their happy ending is fraught with all sorts of conditions on their happiness. And one of the best parts about Clary’s happy ending is that we continue to see it playing out. All of my books have LOTR-similar endings, in which there’s about eight endings in total, and I will not be stopped. And honestly? I prefer that over all else. I’d rather read a long, winding ending rather than see the characters finally achieve happiness and then BAM WE DONE. The fact that Clary keeps showing up in Lord of Shadows, which I’m currently reading while I draft this post, is part of the reason I’m loving it so much. Give me more Clary! All the damn time!

Her appearance in TDA is a big reason why I love her, too–because she’s there for Emma, because Clary is so in love with her friends that she’s always there to support her, and that those friends are women. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of Clary’s friendships, but the fact that she is constantly uplifting other women, that she supports her women friends, that she would stop at nothing to make sure they were happy, safe, and loved–that gets me. One of the most common tropes in books is pitting women against each other, and I really don’t understand how it’s still a thing, but it is, and it drives me bonkers. LET WOMEN SUPPORT OTHER WOMEN! One of the best things Cassandra Clare has ever done is just made her women friendships so powerful and so unbreakable. There is nothing better than Clary squaring up with Isabelle, Maia, and Emma on either side of her.

I think part of the reason that people don’t like Clary is because she’s us, but leveled up. Beneath all the surface reasons, people are envious of the fact that Clary did what we all wish we could do, and she did it in the most human way possible. If only we could be as cool as Clary.

It may not be Clary’s birthday, but it is mine, and you can bet your ass I’m going to be reading some Shadowhunters today.

Posted by:Mary Drover

she/her | yoga teacher | Tibetan Buddhism | part-time witch | full-time author | astronaut in a previous life

6 replies on “A Love Letter to Clary Fray

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