The Red Scrolls of Magic (The Eldest Curses #1) by Cassandra Clare & Wesley Chu
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I have a mixed relationship with Cassandra Clare and her writing, there are books I love like The Infernal Devices and the first two of the Dark Artifices series and then there are those I have struggled with such as Queen of Air & Darkness. Throughout all the books, however, there is one constant that keeps me reading and that is the engaging, quirky and incredible character that is Magnus Bane. He's like a thread that pulls all the books together and is the sun around which our Shadowhunter world rotates so when I heard there was going to be a series focused upon Magnus and his love Alec's adventures together I was in wholeheartedly.
The first thing that struck me about The Red Scrolls of Magic is that it's not a hugely long book, often with Cassandra Clare we've become used to epic 800 plus paged novels. The Red Scrolls of Magic comes in at under 400 pages so it means you can fly through it reasonably quickly. The second thing I needed to get sorted out was the timing of this book as it takes us back retrospectively to the point in The Mortal Instruments where we are in City of Fallen Angels and Magnus and Alec take a vacation. This really helped me once I figured this out as there were some contextual things that I was confused about where I was thinking this book was set after The Mortal Instruments and so couldn't understand why things mentioned didn't make sense. I think if you have this straight before you go into it and maybe refresh what happened around that book then it will help.
Now, Magnus and Alec are really just the cutest couple ever and the start of this book finds them vacationing in Paris with them trying to get to know each other and build their relationship. Then Tessa Grey shows up and informs Magnus that a cult he founded is causing all sorts of trouble and Magnus needs to sort it out, only problem is Magnus cannot remember ever setting up the cult nor why he would have done so. This means that we have lots of great Magnus moments as he goes back through his history reminding himself of how it might have come about.
We travel across Europe as Alec and Magnus try desperately to put an end to this cult before Magnus is reported to the Clave and punished for causing mayhem. We go from Paris to Venice to Rome with them and meet some familiar faces along the way that we've fallen in love with throughout the Shadowhunters series such as Helen Blackthorn, Ragnor Fell and Raphael Santiago. It therefore assumes that you will have read the Cassandra Clare books pretty much in publication order so that you will understand the connections and all the insider jokes that exist. I would probably recommend that to get the most from this book you pretty much have read at least The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices.
I really liked this story overall, it never really got too in-depth though and it was a much lighter read than her latest series The Dark Artifices has been. It felt more humorous and whilst we introduced the story that will form the arc of this trilogy it was much more about setting it all up than getting into the bones of the story. Not until the very last pages do we begin to understand that there is going to be much more to come and that we have a cliffhanger to tide us over until book 2.
I didn't love this as much as I though I would, it was a joy to spend so much time in the company of Magnus Bane and there were moments where Magnus goes back in his history to his childhood and broke my heart explaining his relationship with his stepfather and I was absolutely engaged 100% but then we'd drift back to the more fast-paced lighthearted stuff and I'd still be crying out for more of Magnus' origin story and lots of the emotional stuff so we could really really get inside the head of Magnus. At times it gave me glimpses of brilliance but they didn't appear as often as I'd have liked.
For me then a 4 star read and yes I will be picking up book 2 in the series because of that cliffhanger and I will always take any excuse to spend time with my very favourite Warlock but next time I am hoping for more old school Magnus.