I thought it was great! My comments are on the back of the book. twitter.com/01red_gomez/status…
The next book will be out next September...? twitter.com/connorfrango/statu…
Beats me. I'll ask. twitter.com/TIDForever/status/…
It will be livestreamed on Twitch. twitter.com/grouchy03/status/6…
Hello Cassie! First of all, I enjoy immensely The Shadowhunter Chronicles and look forward to the next series with keen interest. These books more than most have saved me from many evenings of boredom :) And then second, my inquiry. After a while of wandering about and seeing some discussion among the fans of the series, it got me wondering whether Alec and Magnus could truly be equals in their relationship despite their huge age difference. I’m sure there are many perspectives and thoughts to regard the subject, none of which are more or less valid than others no doubt, and some of which are not necessarily always brought forward to discussion - or what I am not mentioning myself now to save this message from endless rambling! However, as the creator and writer of these characters (and even if you wouldn’t wish your thoughts to be held as the absolute truth and only possible interpretation), I was hoping to ask you, especially since this is the only romantic relationship Alec has been in (and will ever be I hope!!!), how do you consider the relationship between him and Magnus in terms of parity? — coraldrops
Well, let’s begin at the beginning. The romance of a young human and an ancient mythological or folkloric creature has been something that has fascinated humans for thousands of years. Greek mythology is full of stories of gods who fell in love with mortals: the mortals were almost always young, in part because ancient gods yearn for that which they cannot have (lack of cynicism) and in part because the Greeks (and all other cultures) view aspects of youth as a power, not a lack of power. The mortals’ youth actually provided parity, not the lack thereof.
Magnus and Alec’s relationship is inspired by Greek myth — in part because the Greeks told stories of same-sex love the same way they told them about heterosexual love. There is a reason that in the Shadowhunter books, Magnus reads Lucian’s Dialogues of the Gods, and the story of Hyacinthus is referenced: Apollo fell in love with a young man; the god Zephyr loved him too, and because he was jealous, killed him; in grief, Apollo caused hyacinths to bloom where he had died. In the Dialogues, another God counsels Apollo: You fell in love with a mortal, you knew he was mortal, grieve not then his mortality.
These stories fascinate us and have always fascinated us because they hold within them the tension of deep human questions and interests, and because we are interested in love stories that provide conflict and contrast and illuminate the human condition. Also, the Greeks were wise enough to know that all love stories are always about an exchange of power: when you are writing romance, you must always been aware of where the power lies and know that it can turn and change on a dime. Unrequited love, the love of someone for someone they’ve wronged, love that breaks class barriers, all of these are about power and exchanges of power. That is a natural part of the human condition: love means opening yourself up to the possibility that someone might hurt you, in essence because you have given them some measure of power over your emotions.
One thing I have come to realize over the years is that learning to read and interpret fantasy is something of a learning curve. Fantasy acts as allegory, and fantasy offers parallels to real life, however, as I’ve said before, it is still fantasy and you must take it on its own terms as fantasy or flounder around the outsides of the story forever. Magnus and Alec are not the story of a young man and an old man. They are the story of a young Shadowhunter and a warlock. Neither are precisely and exactly human, but Magnus is something that absolutely stands outside our reality. One does not read the stories of Greek gods and the humans they loved as stories about old people loving young people, because gods are not old people. They are Gods. And Magnus is not an old person. He is a warlock. He is a magical creature in his essence. Not acknowledging that is like reading Lord of the Rings and thinking hobbits are just short people.
We do not know what it would be like to be a four hundred year old magical creature. We do not have four hundred year old people and we do not have warlocks. All fantasy acknowledges that there is a point in depicting long life at which the character passes out of the realm of human experience and becomes magic. And magic has its own plasticity and rules.
I certainly knew going into writing Magnus and Alec that I was engaging with a very old trope: one that fantasy readers are intimately familiar with, something that goes back to Shakespeare, to Chinese mythology, to the story of Thomas the Rhymer: the love of an ageless magical creature for a young human person. I wished to engage with that trope, explore it, illuminate aspects of it, and turn parts of it upside-down. For instance, Magnus and Alec talk extensively about what their age difference means, but they also talk about other aspects of parity in their relationship that I often see ignored. You can read Magnus being older than Alec as something that gives him more power: certainly he is more experienced. While creating the relationship, this is something I considered, and therefore loaded down Alec with an enormous amount of power and the markers of power that would make things more equal.
Magnus belong to a race of creatures of who are traditionally oppressed in the Shadowhunter world. They are traditionally even rejected by their own parents. Alec belongs to the group that exists at the top of the food chain of the supernatural world. Alec’s parents belonged to a hate group that murdered people like Magnus. Alec’s people make the laws, Magnus’ people are subject to them. Magnus is alone; Alec belongs to a powerful family. Alec isn’t just part of a dominant culture, he’s practically a prince in that culture.
I think people often identify with Alec — and that is lovely in itself because Alec is himself a good person — but also in ways that cause a certain forgetfulness of just how privileged he is. Malec also begin their relationship in a place where Magnus is drawn to Alec, is falling in love with him — and Alec is keeping Magnus a secret, not just because Alec isn’t ready to come out, which is one thing, but also because Alec is not willing to admit he is dating Alec in front of Jace, the guy he still thinks he “really” likes. And this is painful to Magnus, explicitly, on the page, though rarely do I see that acknowledged.
Some of this stuff is more serious than other stuff, but all of it puts Magnus into a position where he is “one down”, so to speak. Negotiating their age difference is not more significant than negotiating the fact that Alec could pretty much kill Magnus and suffer no consequences, or have him imprisoned for life if Magnus peeved him. He wouldn’t — and neither would Magnus abuse their age difference — but all of that stuff is part of the plot and the negotiation of power, often power neither of them wants but has to deal with, that forms their relationship as I hoped to portray it: not perfect, but complicated and loving and real in its emotionality, even if the circumstances around it are as fantastical as they could be.
You’re right, I’ve no interest in telling people what to think: people can like or not like Alec and Magnus as a couple as they choose. But I do always think discussions of how we think and why we think the way we do are interesting and valuable, and that’s what I’ve tried to address here. I will also say that often I see people lodge this complaint about Magnus and Alec while celebrating Damon/Elena, Hook/Emma, Buffy/Angel, and the million other human/ancient magic creature relationships we see out there where the human is a girl and the relationship is heterosexual. We live in a society that deliberately normalizes the idea that in relationships that are heterosexual, it’s just fine if the man is much older than the woman. We also live in a society that normalizes heterosexual relationships, period. When I see people bending over backward to explain why the above relationships have parity, I cannot help but think it would be nice to see that same charity extended to a non-heterosexual interracial relationship as well.
TLH and TDA edit requests project- Emma Carstairs/ Zoe Levin as Emma
*requested by an anon
The Shadowhunter Chronicles’ CHARACTERS + MINIMALIST
Who will fall in love, and who will find their relationship torn apart?
Who will betray everything they ever believed in?
Love. Blood. Betrayal. Revenge.
In the heart-pounding fourth installment of the Mortal Instruments series, the stakes are higher than ever.