This post is so dumb, and you truly don’t need a guide on how to read Shadowhunters because it’s a NYT bestsellers, and so many people have already read it, but it’s one of my favorite series, and I have Opinions on the order, so here we go! (Also, my notes for this just say how to read, and I had to do a double take like bro?? Are you trying to tell people there’s a right way to read? Calm tf down!)

There are going to be minor spoilers in this, but really nothing that you probably don’t already know.

First of all, because it feels relevant, here’s the order I read them in:

  1. The Mortal Instruments
  2. The Infernal Devices
  3. The Bane Chronicles
  4. Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy
  5. The Dark Artifices
  6. The Eldest Curses
  7. Ghosts of the Shadow Market
  8. The Last Hours

This is partially due to the fact that I was a teenager when TMI started releasing, and so, I’ve mostly grown up on these. When City of Bones first released, I was 15, and it was a golden year. 2007 was easily one of my favorite years for the music alone, but it was also just a great year for being emo, and as a Goth teen, I was living. I was also an asshole, though, so when one of my best friends gifted me the book, I refused to read it because it had a shirtless man on the cover, and I was not about to carry that around. (Jfc, I mean, I read Twilight seven times, how much worse can it really get?) Anyway, fast forward to 2013, and Jamie Campbell Bower was set to play Jace in the upcoming film adaptation, and ya girl got over her idiot ways and binge read the first five books in just under two months. By that time, TID was nearly finished releasing with The Clockwork Princess, so I bought the first two and decided this was definitely going to be a series that I followed.

That lasted until about 100 pages into Clockwork Angel? I was just not yet a person who wanted to read historical fantasy, and it bored me to tears, so though I finished TMI, I never really got into TID, and that was about the end of my love for the series for several years. It wouldn’t be until 2018, when I was a few seasons into absolutely adoring the TV adaptation–I still love it, and I’m reviewing it soon, fight me–that I finally decided I wanted to tackle the rest of the universe. First up would be rereading TMI in its entirety, which I will 100% do again someday because I just wholeheartedly love those books, and then, because I am now a historical fantasy nerd, I devoured TID so fast, and it was just full steam ahead from there. (Well, I say that, but it’s taken me almost three years to complete this journey. The books are always 500+ pages, it’s ridiculous!) And though I greatly enjoyed the order in which I read them, I definitely would not do it that way again.

I am very aware that a lot of people don’t like the main series, and I know a huge part of that is because y’all are too afraid to like Clary because you see so much of yourself in her. She’s a very relatable character, and that’s a hard thing to swallow sometimes, but she’s also amazing, and that’s where this third love letter to Clary Fray ends because I’ve harped on this so many times before. But I will stand by the belief that reading The Mortal Instruments first is the way to go. Because it was the first one published, Cassandra Clare takes her time unraveling the world, peeling apart all the many, many layers that make up the Shadowhunters universe. It’s not the first one chronologically, and so, it should make more sense to read TID first, but hear me out.

TMI introduces everything. By the time we get into the other series, while Clare does take time to work through exposition and explain everything, it’s much less than it is in TMI. She spares no expense in exploring the world and its lore, each of the mythical creatures involved and the very many important characters in each of those myths, and how incredibly involved the history of this universe is. And, truthfully, I think it’s more fun to meet Jem Carstairs when he’s Brother Zachariah because it gives you a different level of knowledge and respect for when you meet Jem in his human years.

The Mortal Instruments is such a good introduction to the world, and it’s so badass that it’ll hook you and make you want more, which is where we take a break for things that may make you want to read less?

Look, I won’t lie, I hate the writing in Clare’s first two short story collections. I can’t remember if I’ve only said this in passing or to my friends, so here we are officially: I don’t think she really wrote any of it. There are a lot of co-authors on both The Bane Chronicles and Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, and the writing in those compared to literally anything else Clare has touched is so far removed that I just don’t believe she wrote them. I do believe that she read everything that was going into it, and she probably supplied a lot of notes and ideas for how she wanted each story to go, or what information she wanted it to provide to the universe, but I do genuinely think that her name on these books is more just an approved by Cassie kind of vibe. And heck, maybe I’m wrong, and she did write these, and this is all just a prelude to tell you that they kind of suck.

The Bane Chronicles isn’t horrible, but the thing that holds it up is definitely Magnus, which would be concerning if it wasn’t considering this series is entirely about him. Though, chronologically, this short story collection can be split up and read woven through the other series, I think it stands really well immediately post-TMI. We know Magnus well now, we all love him, and we want to know more about him. This gives us his background, and it brings us current with TMI, and though it’s not great, it’s a lot of fun. I’m gonna need you to hold onto your hats, though, because Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy is neither of those things. For a brief moment, I even thought about saying just nah, don’t read this, it isn’t worth it, and I’m still kind of feeling that? I gave it three stars, and that was probably generous because this book is a hot mess, and I guess you could just breeze through a quick summary of it to understand what’s what. A whole lot of nothing happens in this collection other than Simon has bleh adventures at the Academy, and it’s all just filler putting characters where they need to be so we can have cameos in TDA, but the tl;dr of it is that Simon, after losing his memory in TMI, gets it back and becomes a Shadowhunter, and by the time we next read something in current day with The Dark Artifices, he’s now Clary’s parabatai, and he’s mostly the same as before.

And next up is another one that’s also not great, The Eldest Curses. This is not a short story collection, and it is held up entirely by the fact that Magnus & Alec are in it, but, unlike Tales, this one is pretty necessary because it’s setting the stage for background things that are happening in TDA that end up being pretty big plot points. Also, it’s cute. Magnus & Alec just go on romantic trips that turn into chaotic adventures. This one has a co-author, so the writing is a lot less than we’re going to be used to for the rest of the series, and it does feel a little like shooting myself in the foot to say that you should read these three subpar books in the middle, but they fit so well here.

TEC is post-TMI, but pre-TDA, and it’s basically the fanfiction we’re all reading anyway. Getting to see Magnus & Alec together, and usually alone, is so rewarding, and though the writing isn’t that great, and we’re reading it after two also not great short story collections, this one is really going to build a bridge from TMI to the rest of the universe.

And we’re back to full series! At this point in the reading, Jem is a pretty well-established character. In my own books, I’m doing something similar where we see Andrew Levi over and over, enough that, eventually, I’m hoping my readers will want to know more about him, and I’ll just quietly slide the insanely massive tome of his 2000 year history toward my future literary agent as a gift to all of you. Clare didn’t quite do the same thing with Jem since The Infernal Devices was published shortly after TMI wrapped, but, with this reading order, we’re building up enough interest that TID is going to be even more amazing than it already is by reading it now.

TID is also the first of the series to go back in time, so we’re traveling to the late 1800s when Brother Zachariah was just a Shadowhunter trying to survive an illness that would, ultimately, force him into becoming a Silent Brother. This is also where we meet Jace’s ancestor, Will Herondale, that Magnus has sighed about enough to make Alec insecure, and where we finally get the origins of Tessa Gray. Each of these three characters are ones that have been littered throughout the first four series/collections that we’ve read, and now it’s finally time! The Infernal Devices is a lot of people’s favorite series, too, so I feel like this is a good placement to really reinvigorate your budding love for the Shadowhunters universe.

And it would only be right to tack on Ghosts of the Shadow Market right after. I will admit that, at the time of drafting this (back in August, let’s all pray that this is not true when this publishes in October), I haven’t yet read The Last Hours, but given the knowledge that it’s set in the early 1900s and features Will & Tessa’s children, I am going to place it next, as well. First, though, I think Ghosts makes sense for two reasons.

One: we’re all heartbroken by the end of TID, especially with that epilogue, and we all want to know how Jem went from beloved Shadowhunter to strange Silent Brother to human again. I think, in order to truly enjoy Will & Tessa together, you have to first fall in love with Jem & Tessa together. Thus, though Ghosts jumps through time and lands us in the future where TDA is happening, I think it makes a lot of sense here. And yes, reading this collection before TDA means that Kit’s entire character arc is spoiled, but honestly? Even if you haven’t been paying attention, you probably know that Kit is a Herondale, or just that there’s buzz about him enough to piece some of the clues together, and I also think I would have liked to go into TDA knowing who Kit is beforehand, which is reason two.

The last two up are The Last Hours and The Dark Artifices. Sadly, Chain of Thorns is not publishing until 2022, but you’ve got 16 books to read anyway before we get to that, and I don’t think bingeing these is an entirely smart idea since you’ll probably start to hate it pretty fast because it sounds impossible to not hate anything with that many in a row, so we’ll be fine. There won’t even be a wait to get to TDA by the time we’re coming around to Chain of Thorns, the finale in The Last Hours, because it’ll already be out. And, as I said above, I haven’t yet read TLH, but I think it makes sense to read it before TDA. Not because it comes before it chronologically, but for two other reasons.

One: I really like the idea of getting to know Cordelia Carstairs before falling in love with Emma Carstairs. And two: I like the idea of staying in Will & Tessa’s world before we move onto their ancestors. Cordelia is only briefly mentioned here or there in TDA, but Cortana is mentioned constantly since it’s Emma’s beloved sword, and the whole the Carstairs owe the Herondales vibe that’s threaded throughout TDA makes me want to linger in this world before we move on because I actually want to see that!

Thus, I think The Last Hours makes the most sense next followed by The Dark Artifices. This is going to keep us with Carstairs characters for a while, which will be a good bridge when we leave Herondales behind and are introduced to one of my absolute favorite families, the Blackthorns. Also, like, 10/10 think it’s heartbreaking to end with Julian Blackthorn’s character arc because he wrecks me, and we all deserve to be destroyed by his sad boy angst.

However, I also like putting TDA last because the end of it is going to set us up perfectly for where Clare is going next. As I’m typing this, I am realizing that the last two stories in Ghosts of the Shadow Market contain HUGE spoilers for TDA, and they won’t make sense, so although you should read Ghosts before TLH, you should also not read the last two short stories until you’ve read the entirety of TDA. I know that there are TLH characters in Ghosts, too, but I’m standing by this, I like breaking up Will & Tessa’s story with Jem (that sounded awful), and I think it’s more appealing to go into TDA with more Jem knowledge ahead of time. Anyway! The ending of TDA sets up whatever series Clare has planned next, and though I have some not great feelings about that direction (why are we just rehashing TMI, it’s so stupid), that’s where we’re going, and this’ll get us ready.

And if you’ve scrolled all the way to the bottom in the hopes of just seeing a list of the order, here it is:

  1. The Mortal Instruments
  2. The Bane Chronicles
  3. Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy
  4. The Eldest Curses
  5. The Infernal Devices
  6. Ghosts of the Shadow Market (stories 1-8)
  7. The Last Hours
  8. The Dark Artifices
  9. Ghosts of the Shadow Market (stories 9-10)

I really tried not to break up the short story collections, but Jem’s story spans over a century and involves a lot of characters, so it was unavoidable with his. (Lol, or you could just ignore me and read Ghosts last, whatever.) I had a lot of fun putting this together, and I’m so curious if those of you who have read the whole universe agree or disagree!

Did I convince any of you to maybe give the universe
a go now that you’ve got an order to follow?

Posted by:Mary Drover

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

One thought on “How to Read Shadowhunters

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