Welcome to Shadowhunter Academy (Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy #1) by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan (4.3 Stars)

The Book

This is the story of Simon’s arrival at the Shadowhunter Academy. It continues several months after City of Heavenly Fire. Simon knows that half of his memories are not his own, but were planted in his head, and he has glimpses of memories that tell him of his friendship with Clary, relationship with Isabelle, and his time as a vampire. Most importantly, he remembers his mother’s reaction to finding out his being a vampire, and he realizes the hurt in his friends that he cannot remember them. Consequently, he feels the need to leave.

The Academy offers him a place to become closer to the person he used to be. It will give him an education to become a Shadowhunter. However, arriving in Idris and at the Academy, is very different from what could be expected. Not only is the building nearly uninhabitable, and the school not yet fit for educating children with Shadowhunter blood and mundanes, but the class system in which the Shadowhunters think has not changed much since the Dark War.

Simon has to find his own way at the Academy, which he enters as a mundane, but with the reputation of a former vampire and hero.

Why I Read The Book

I immensely enjoyed The Mortal Instruments, and towards the end, the idea of Simon having to be reintroduced into the world, had me curious. Also, the idea of a Shadowhunter Academy was new, giving mundanes the opportunity to become Shadowhunters. But is that race of half-angels ready for outsiders? Plus, I was really curious how Simon’s fame, which he himself had forgot, would come into play.

The Idea

Thinking so far that an Institute must be the best place to educate new Shadowhunters, I didn’t know what to expect of the Academy. This novella gives a deeper look into the world of the Shadowhunters, combat training and history lessons, through the eyes of an outsider, who is also an insider. The novella, and hopefully the entire series of novellas, focuses on the rift between Shadowhunters and mundanes, and that the Academy is reopened with the same ideas and prejudices as before.

Characters

“I don’t want things to go on as they were. I want things to change.”

Simon makes an excellent leading character. He is fully developed, even though he is such a different character from the Mortal Instruments series. I was especially fond of his nerdy references; the Weeping Angels and Doctor Who made my day!
While he was utterly determined to make his own way by going to the Academy, once he is there, he allows himself to be led by the more forward students, who come from Shadowhunter families. It is already clear that he doesn’t feel comfortable with the way he is treated because of things he has forgot, but it is only in that moment when he starts standing up for himself and what he believes in, that he becomes the real hero of the novella.
Of course, at the same time, that also means he is demoted. I will admit, however, that I think he fits much better into the mundane branch of the Academy, and that he his only chance to shine is from there.

George is the overly fantastic roommate of Simon. He is close to being described as Jace, too perfect for his own good. It is a real shocker when it comes out that he is actually a mundane. However, I think that sometimes his physical appearance, way of speech, and mental abilities seem too far apart to be believable. Still, he is a lovable character, and Simon has made a true friend in him.

Jon and Julie are from Shadowhunter families, and are probably worst inscribed with the dogma of Shadowhunter superiority. From the first moment either of them speaks, it becomes clear that they don’t support the Academy opening to mundanes, and are frustrated that it is allowed that some of the teachers are Downworlders.
It is interesting, how quickly they were able to make an exception for former vampire and currently mundane Simon, and add them into their group, because of his hero-reputation – of course, only as long as he didn’t speak against them.

Realization and Writing Style

It was surprisingly easy to find my way back into the story, since it had been a while that I finished The Mortal Instruments. I must admit that I didn’t quite like the writing style at first glance, feeling it was a bit too easy and sounded naïve, but I got quickly used to it, and it bothered me no more.

After I finished reading City of Heavenly Fire, I felt that Simon’s reintroduction into the group sounded a bit too smooth. I no longer think that, after learning of Simon’s thoughts on the matter in this little novella. The depth of Simon’s thoughts, which appeared long at times, was, on the other hand, really interesting and, most importantly, convincing beyond doubt. His post-demonic influence development was thought through and articulated in such great detail that it actually burst the limits of a novella, making it appear too short and quickly dealt with towards the end.

On a general note to the world of Shadowhunters and their community, they obviously can’t be all that much in favour of re-opening the Academy, with the building’s condition and the resources it is left to. Personally, I thought the condition of the school was displayed a bit over-dramatic for effect. I’m not really a do-it-yourself person, but even I couldn’t have lived in a dump like that for long, especially since it appears to be utterly unhealthy for a school which demands athletic high performances. Just cleaning slime of the wall and serving soup doesn’t do it! I can’t imagine the students coming there to be that desperate! It makes me understand why some of the staff left already. However, in the time from when the Dean arrived, and until Simon came, but especially until the end of the novella, things should have changed drastically – that is not something that only magically, quickly, and sufficiently happens in movies, to say it in Simon-nerd-speak, but which can also be made happen in real life.

The gap between members of Shadowhunter families and those without angelic blood, the thoughts and opinions of the former towards the latter, is portrayed more plainly than ever. In this regard, Jon and Julie were unbearable to listen to. The Shadowhunters’ completely undivine way of thinking was already shocking in the original series, but the first hand remarks of this novella shatter the last thought that brotherly love could ever exist between Shadowhunters and mundanes. The worst is that they have half-reasonable explanations for their actions.
I do have the greatest hope in Simon that he will achieve change, and that things won’t continue has they used to be at the academy, before it closed, and now that it has re-opened.

A lovely little extra was the attendance of the group at Simon’s farewell, which was entirely too short, and as awkward as awkward can come. However, not from mine but from Simon’s perspective, it was much too long. I so enjoyed seeing that little group together again.

In another little extra, Isabelle appeared at the Academy. This scene was a complete delight, and as surprising as surprises can ever come. Unfortunately, I did, though I didn’t want to, understand Simon’s reaction.

Lastly, I need to mention George’s speech of encouragement towards the end. While I loved everything he had to say, I just couldn’t picture it. The guy was always so flippant, and described as pure muscle, plus his references as being part of a family of quitters, his insight in this situation didn’t fit the character, as I understood him. However, it gives an entirely new perspective on Simon and each of the students, and was consequently an important message the novella had to convey.

“We all want to be heroes, but you know you can be one.”

After Reading

Delighted. I knew I had missed the Shadowhunter world, but I wasn’t aware at how fond I had been of the characters until I saw them again. The length (or shortness) of the story was just right to enjoy another little bit of this world; to dive in, but not get completely enveloped.

Rating

Idea: 5 Stars
Characters: 5 Stars
Realization: 4 Stars
Writing Style: 4 Stars
General Rating: 4 Stars
Personal Rating: 4 Stars

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