A Guide Through ‘Chain of Iron’


Margaret Szpakowski

Chain of Iron is the second book of The Last Hours series, part of The Shadowhunters Chronicles by Cassandra Clare.

Margaret Szpakowski, Editor in Chief

According to the back of any recently published Cassandra Clare book, “fifty million readers can’t be wrong” about this author, dubbed “the new queen of fantasy” by Wall Street Journal. Although there have been trends in the YA world that have later been mocked (Twilight) or regretted (as someone living in a pandemic, I’m still waiting for my love triangle, dystopian YA authors!), the Shadowhunters chronicles seem unlikely to be one of them. Chain of Iron is the sixteenth novel in the saga, which also includes three short story collections, to be published. Chronically, it comes fifth: you need only read Clockwork Angel, Clockwork Prince, and Clockwork Princess (which make up The Infernal Devices series) and Chain of Gold (the first in the current series, The Last Hours) before you dive into this read. If you haven’t read The Infernal Devices, go read that and come back. You will cry during Clockwork Princess (especially the epilogue), but you will love the series and have the necessary information to understand what’s going on in The Last Hours.

And yes, you should dive into this read. At 656 pages, it’s a long read, but it’s definitely worth it. Summarizing the plot is difficult without spoiling Chain of Gold, but suffice to say it involves a serial killer, demon hunting, a fake marriage, necromancy, and very colorful waistcoats. Everyone’s favorite recurring character Magnus Bane as well as practically the entire (surviving) cast of The Infernal Devices do make appearances, although they are kept from too much involvement in the plot by being away from London for most of the book.

The romantic subplots are a key feature of any Cassandra Clare book, and readers, your favorite pairing will make an appearance. Depending on who it is, you will probably smile a lot and possibly throw the book across the room. Unfamiliar with the Last Hours couples/love triangles/squares/pentagons? Have no fear, a guide is here! I’ll introduce the main “ships” (colloquial term for characters who readers hope to see in a relationSHIP) without spoilers for the book or its prequel. There are spoilers for some of the short stories including The Last Hours characters which were published before Chain of Gold‘s release and a major spoiler for the Infernal Devices trilogy. Note: James, Cordelia, and Lucie are the main characters, so most page time is devoted to their relationships, but most of the ships listed here have important scenes together in either or both Chain of Gold and Chain of Iron.

  • Cordelia Carstairs and James Herondale: childhood friends who share a common interest in reading in between killing demons; lots of page time means lots of time to cry your eyes out
  • James Herondale and Grace Blackthorn: their families are enemies, but they’re in love and James has promised to save her from her mother’s control
  • Cordelia Carstairs and Matthew Fairchild: legend (Cordelia) meets disaster (Matthew); Cordelia is probably the only character strong enough to withstand a relationship with Matthew
  • Matthew Fairchild and James Herondale: anyone familiar with the parabatai curse will know that this ship is highly problematic to any chance of the plot getting resolved successfully, but if you like doomed love and friends-to-lovers I guess it’s for you?
  • Lucie Herondale and Matthew Fairchild: he loves his best friend’s little sister
  • Christopher Lightwood and Grace Blackthorn: arguably misunderstood science nerds unite
  • Jesse Blackthorn and Lucie Herondale: this ship is hard to explain without spoilers but if you love paranormal romance pick this one as Jesse is a ghost; sort of doomed love?
  • Alastair Carstairs and Charles Fairchild: two older brothers of the main characters: they’ve been dating in secret for an extended period of time at the beginning of the series, but Charles is engaged to Ariadne Bridgestock for political reasons… will he ever love Alastair more than his career?
  • Charles Fairchild and Ariadne Bridgestock: they swing in opposite ways but since they’re engaged I feel obligated to put them on this list; if you ship them I will heavily judge you
  • Ariadne Bridgestock and Anna Lightwood: Anna fell hard for Ariadne a few years before the series opened, but Ariadne got engaged to Charles for political reasons, so Anna has been slowly seducing every other woman attracted to women in London without giving any of them her heart in fear of it being broken again
  • Alastair Carstairs and Thomas Lightwood: Alastair was very rude to Thomas’s family and friends while in school together, to an extent which Thomas is not aware of, but they recently spent a lot of time together in Paris while Alastair was visiting Charles and Thomas was on vacation alone; this ship is painful to watch but perfect for those who like slow burn or enemies to lovers
  • Anna Lightwood and Hypatia Vex: Shadowhunters and warlocks are definitely not supposed to get into relationships, but sometimes it’s fun and sometimes it’s a good way to steal plot-necessary artifacts from a warlock
  • Tessa Gray and Will Herondale: self-sacrificing book nerds unite, this couple is already married with two children at the beginning of the series so there’s no angst and also very little page time

That may seem like a lot to keep track of, but the size of the books means that there’s plenty of time to get to know each of the many POV characters. The hardest part is probably remembering who’s related to each other because James and Lucie refer to a bunch of people who they’re not actually related to as relatives since The Infernal Devices had major found-family dynamics. Sensing another handy guide coming? This also has The Infernal Devices spoilers. Maiden names are used for the married women to clarify who their siblings are, but they all use their husbands’ names in the story.

  • William Herondale and Tessa Gray have two children, James and Lucie Herondale.
  • James and Lucie have two cousins, Anna and Christopher Lightwood. Their parents are Gabriel Lightwood and Cecily Herondale.
  • Anna and Christopher have three cousins, Eugenia, Barbara, and Thomas Lightwood. Their parents are Gideon Lightwood and Sophie Collins.
  • Charles and Matthew Fairchild are brothers. They are not related to any of the other families, but the above characters may see their parents, Charlotte Fairchild and Henry Branwell, as aunt and uncle since they raised Will and Cecily Herondale.
  • Alastair and Cordelia Carstairs are siblings. Their parents are Elias and Sona Carstairs. Their cousin, James Carstairs (also known as Jem or Brother Zachariah), is close friends with Will and Tessa. James and Lucie refer to him as Uncle Jem, but they do not extend this relationship to Alastair and Cordelia.
  • Jesse Blackthorn is the (ghost) son of Rupert Blackthorn (deceased) and Tatiana Lightwood. This makes him the cousin of Anna, Christopher, Eugenia, Barbara, and Thomas, but their families do not get along. Grace Blackthorn, born Grace Cartwright, is his adopted sister.

The best part of these complicated families is that there are so many different sibling dynamics, from I ignore you because I love you (Alastair to Cordelia) to I won’t leave you alone because I love you (Cordelia to Alastair, James to Lucie) to I hate your guts but I still love you (Matthew and Charles).

If you’re confused, feel free to keep this page open as you read, but I promise you it will mostly make sense to you once you get reading. Wondering what the one thing that won’t make sense is?

How are we going to wait a whole YEAR for Chain of Thorns, the final book in the series, to release in March 2022?