During this time, I made a feast of the Shadowhunters universe. I saw Harald Swart’s 2013 film, watched all seasons of the TV series (2016–2019), and read the first book, “City of Bones”, beautifully written by Cassandra Clare in 2007. If Clare’s books are beautiful and detailed, the film is pleasant, while the TV series does not shine — since it focuses more on the physical appearance of the protagonists than on their acting skills — even if you end up becoming fond of the characters anyway.
Shadowhunters collects and mixes all the myths of modern urban fantasy: the good vampires and werewolves — borrowed from the immortal saga of Stephanie Meyer — the sorcerers, and, finally, the angels and demons in the style of “Fallen” (2009).
Shadowhunters are demon hunters tattooed with magical runes. In their mission they are assisted, or hindered, by the creatures of the hidden world. The most famous of the shadowhunters, Valentine Morgenstern (Morningstar as in “Lucifer!”) has become the lord of evil, a sort of Voldemort or Sauron, to return to his literary origins. Like Dart Vader in “Star Wars”, he crosses his fate with that of his lost children.
Inside each of us there is a dark and disturbing part, the famous “dark side of the force”. Experiments conducted by Valentine before birth resulted in some shadowhunters having demon blood, others angel blood. And during the three seasons of the saga everyone experiences, in a somewhat repetitive and predictable way, moments in which they pass over to the side of evil.
Simon, the best friend, briefly engaged to the protagonist Clary Fray, vampirized to be saved, is the sunniest of the characters, a symbol of this is his being a “daylighter”, a diurnal, the only vampire capable of circulating in the sunlight without incinerating. By contrast, Jace Erondale, with his high lineage and pure angelic blood, appears somber, gloomy and therefore attractive. Clary falls in love with him and here the catch is triggered because, for a considerable number of episodes, it is believed that the two are siblings, prey to an incestuous passion. But they are not, fortunately, and what could have been a forbidden love becomes an adolescent push and pull in the down world of fairy creatures. Jace is blond, beautiful as the sun, but dark and haunted by a painful past and by a father who raised him with violence, trying to stifle any weakness in him. Clary is the daughter of the villain but she is brave, compassionate and determined to follow the impulses of the heart more than those of reason.
Of all the characters, the least characterized, and perhaps the least likeable, are Clary and Jace, probably due to the not excessive skill of the actors who play them, at least in the TV series. The ending of their love story is unexpected and heartbreaking. It certainly triggers a few tears, although it leaves the door open to hope.
The incest motif is taken up from the perverse attraction that Jonathan Morgenstern, Clary’s actual brother, feels for his beautiful sister. Shadowhunters is a very inclusive story, with male and female homosexuality, differences in color and nationality, interconnections between worldly (i.e. humans) and creatures of the night, love between vampires and werewolves, between elves and demon hunters , between sorcerers and humans, between humans and vampires and so on and so forth.
A special bond is created between Rafael, the leader of the vampires, and Isabel. Their sick relationship has all the appearance of an addiction. He doesn’t have sex with her but drinks her blood. She needs his poison like a drug, complete with withdrawal symptoms.
As in all series starting with “Beverly Hills 90210”, the dating game is endless and no one knows who is with whom. Simon has an affair with Clary, then with Maia, the werewolf, and finally with Isabel. To stand out are Alec, homosexual in love with the sorcerer Magnus — their story, also complicated by the immortality of one of the two — and, in fact, Simon, the most lovable, extroverted and altruistic of vampires.
It is interesting to understand how, over the years, the myth stratifies. For today’s teenagers, the modern vampires of “Twilight” (2005) are already a thing of the past. No one would think of the blood sucker as the only diabolical creature of Polidori or Stoker anymore. The humanization of the vampire began in 1976 with Anne Rice and her Louis and Lestat. In short, the myth is created from a mixture, a syncretism of everything that has been said, written and filmed in the past.
In conclusion, someone like me, who for sixty years has been nourishing herself with fantastic thinking, likes the shadowhunters very much — although they are not the best saga ever.