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The Last Hours

Here are snippets from Cassandra Clare’s The Last Hours trilogy:

#1

Matthew held out his hands. “Pax,” he said, wheedlingly. “Let it be peace between us. You can pour the rest of the port on my head.”

James’ mouth curved up into a smile. It was impossible to stay angry with Matthew. It was almost impossible to get angry at Matthew.

#2

James could see his mother moving like an anxious pale star among the guests in her lilac dress, greeting each of them warmly, welcoming them to her home. She had not glamoured herself to look her husband’s age for the evening, and she appeared enormously young, though her hair was done up like a gracious older woman’s, not a girl’s. When Will materialized out of the crowd and came to put his arm around Tessa, smiling down at her, the gray at his temples flashed like silver. James looked away; he loved his parents for being extraordinary, but sometimes he also hated them for the same thing.

#3

“Cordelia Carstairs,” Will said, after greeting her mother. “How pretty you’ve become.”

Cordelia beamed. If Will thought she was pretty, perhaps his son thought so, too. Of course Will was entirely prejudiced toward all things Carstairs. He even thought Alastair was perfect (and, possibly, also pretty.)

#4

Cordelia glanced over her shoulder. “Is it — I mean, I wish to chat alone with you, too, but are we being dreadfully rude asking your brother to walk behind us?”

“Not a bit,” Lucie assured her. “Look at him. He’s quite distracted, reading.”

And he was. James had a book out and was calmly reading while he walked. Though he seemed entirely caught up in whatever he was perusing, he nevertheless skirted oncoming passers-by, the occasional rock or fallen branch, and once even a small boy holding a hoop, with admirable grace. Cordelia suspected that if she had tried such a stunt, she would have crashed into a tree.

“You’re so lucky,” Cordelia said, wistfully, still looking over her shoulder at James.

“Goodness me, why?” Lucie looked at her with wide eyes. Where James’ eyes were amber, Lucie’s were a pretty pale blue, a shade lighter than her father’s. The famous dark blue Herondale eyes had gone to Will’s sister’s children.

Cordelia’s head snapped back around. “Oh, because —“ Because you get to spend time with James every day? She doubted Lucie thought that was any special gift; one didn’t, when it was one’s family. “He’s such a good older brother. If I’d asked Alastair to walk ten paces behind me in a park he would have made sure to stick by my side the entire time just to be annoying.”

“Pfft!” Lucie exhaled. “Of course I adore Jamie but he’s been dreadful lately, ever since he fell in love.”

She might as well have dropped an incendiary device on Cordelia’s head. Everything seemed to fly apart around her. “He’s what?”

“Fallen in love,” Lucie repeated, with the look of someone enjoying imparting a bit of gossip. “Oh, he won’t say with who, of course, because it’s Jamie and he never tells us anything. But Father’s diagnosed him and he says it’s definitely love.”

“You make it sound like consumption.” Cordelia’s head was whirling with dismay. James in love? With who? The look he had given her when she stepped down from the carriage, perhaps she had imagined that?

“Well, it is a bit, isn’t it? He gets all pale and moody and stares off out of windows like Keats.”

“Did Keats stare out of windows? I don’t recall hearing that.”

Lucie plowed on, undeterred by the question of whether England’s foremost romantic poet did or did not stare out of windows. “He won’t say anything to anyone but Matthew, and Matthew is a tomb where James is concerned. I heard a bit of their conversation once by accident, though —“

“Accident?” Cordelia raised an eyebrow.

“I may have been hiding beneath a table,” said Lucie, with dignity. “But it was only because I had lost an earring and was looking for it.”

Cordelia suppressed a smile. “Go on.”

“He is definitely in love, and Matthew definitely thinks he is being foolish. He does not like her.”

#5

“Who’s the boy tripping over his own feet?” Cordelia asked as the boy in question, a slender, ink-stained young man with spectacles and tousled brown curls, nearly careened into Lucie and Matthew.

“That’s Christopher Lightwood. My cousin. Alas, Christopher is far more at home with beakers and test tubes than he is with female company. Let’s just hope he doesn’t pitch poor Rosamund Townsend into the refreshment table.”

“Is he in love with her?”

“Lord, no, barely knows her,” said James. “Charles and Daphne are engaged, and  Barbara Lightwood has an understanding with George Hayward. Beyond that, I’m not sure I can think of any romances brewing in our set. Though having you and Alastair here might bring us some excitement, Daisy.”

Her heart leaped. “I didn’t realize you remembered that old nickname.”

“What, Daisy?” He was holding her close as they danced: she could feel the heat of him all up and down her front, making her prickle all over. “Of course I remember it. I gave it to you. I hope you don’t intend me to stop using it.”

“Of course not. I like it.” She forced herself not to move her gaze from his. Goodness, his eyes were startling up close. They were the color of golden syrup, almost shocking against the black of his pupils. She had heard the whispers, knew people found his eyes odd and alien, a sign of his difference. She thought they were lovely: the color of fire and gold, the way she imagined the heart of the sun. “Though I don’t think it suits me. Daisy sounds like a pretty little girl in hair ribbons.”

“Well,” he said. “You are at least –”

He broke off. She heard the click as he swallowed: he was looking past her, at someone who had just come into the room. Cordelia followed his glance, and saw a tall woman, thin as a scarecrow and dressed in the black of mourning, with gray-streaked auburn hair done in the style of decades ago piled on her head. Tessa was hurrying toward her, a concerned look on her face. Will was following, and goodness, what did they both look so worried about?

As Tessa reached her, the woman stepped aside, revealing the girl who had been standing behind her. A girl, dressed all in ivory, with a soft waterfall of white-gold curls gathered back from her face. The girl moved forward gracefully to greet Tessa and Will, and as she did so, James dropped Cordelia’s hands.

They were no longer dancing. Cordelia stood, frozen in confusion, as James turned away from her without a word and strode across the room toward the girl.

#6

Anna raised her eyebrow at James as he turned away, but James ignored it. Anna had been raising her eyebrows at him all his life.

#7

“Please recall that I am the pale neurasthenic one and you are the dark brooding one.It is tedious when you mix up our roles.” (Matthew to James)

#8

James and Matthew separated, Matthew to dance with Lucie, and James to speak to his parents. Cordelia saw them glance over toward her and looked away quickly; still, she was not at all surprised when James appeared a moment later in front of her, flashing a smile at his aunt and uncle.

“Miss Carstairs,” he said, with a slight bow in Cordelia’s direction. “Would you favor me with this dance?”

“It’s a waltz,” said Cordelia’s mother, before Cordelia could speak. “My daughter does not know how to waltz.”

Cordelia bit her lip. She certainly knew how to dance: her mother had engaged an expert instructor to teach her the quadrille and the lancer, the stately minuet and the cotilion. But the waltz was a seductive dance, one where you could feel your partner’s body against yours, scandalous when it had first become popular.

She very much wanted to waltz with James.

#9

“Matthew told me what happened at the park,” Will muttered in a voice no one but James could hear. James shot a betrayed look at Matthew, who shrugged and gave him a half-smile. Matthew could be relied on to tattle on James if he thought it was for his own good. “Thank the Angel for Matthew and Thomas and Christopher.” He touched James’ face. “I regret ever having said that your generation was wasting its time with parties and boating and dancing. All I wish for you is to be able to amuse yourself in a pointless fashion during peace and never, ever be in danger.”

#10

James cried out. Lightning seemed to fork behind his vision, and suddenly he was back in Regent’s Park, kneeling on the grass. There was a firm grip on his shoulders. “Jamie, Jamie, Jamie,” said an urgent voice, and James — his breath tearing in and out of his chest — tried to focus on what was in front of him.

Matthew.

Everything was blurred in that moment but Matthew’s face, his green eyes wide and dark and steady. Behind him moved other figures; they seemed in that moment like the shapes James had been finding in the clouds — inchoate and untouchable.

“Jamie, breathe,” Matthew said, and his voice was the only steady thing in a world turning upside down. It had been years since this had happened. Years. The horror of it happening in front of a crowd of people —

“Did they see me?” he said in a cracked voice. “Did they see me turn?”

“You didn’t,” Matthew said, “or at least, only a very little bit — perhaps just a bit fuzzy round the edges —“

“It’s not funny,” James said through his teeth, but Matthew’s humor acted like a slap of cold water; he opened his eyes fully, saw Thomas and Christopher looking down at him. They had positioned themselves so as to block him from the crowd at the lake’s edge.

“Get up,” Thomas said. “It’s the best thing you can do, James, we’ll tell them you tripped or fell.” His hazel eyes were anxious but his tone was reassuring. “Honestly all the attention was on Ariadne — “

Matthew’s hands on James’ shoulders turned into a grip on his arms, and James was hauled upright by his three best friends. Christopher produced a handkerchief from somewhere and began to dust his lapels.

Chris,” said Matthew. He was the only person who ever used that nickname for Christopher besides Anna. “Stop. Who cares if he’s dusty? He was just invisible.”

“But he isn’t any more,” Christopher pointed out.

“We need to get you back to the Institute,” said Matthew to James in a low voice. “If you’re going to start suddenly going all — shadowy — for no reason, then the Silent Brothers —“

“Not the Silent Brothers,” said Thomas. “Just Zachariah.”

#11

He really did have a most arresting face, Lucie thought. She firmly believed it was all right to stare at people when you were a writer. Writers needed to gather material. That was all there was to it.

#12

Cordelia clutched Lucie’s hand as they jolted through the streets in the Carstairs’ carriage, surrounded by the blurred traffic of omnibuses, motorcars, and pedestrians. Advertisements whirled past. THE HORSESHOE HOTEL. THREE GUINEA STOUT. NEW PALACE STEAMERS. Signs advertising tailors and fishmongers, hair tonic and cheap printing.

Matthew, sitting across from them on the upholstered carriage seat, was muttering and swearing to himself, his hair sticking out madly.

“Hidebound,” he muttered. “Weasels.”

“What?” said Lucie.

“I think he said hidebound weasels,” said Cordelia. “But who do you mean, Matthew? Are you angry at us?”

Matthew flung himself sideways so his long legs were pulled up on the bench seat in front of him, and his profile was presented to Lucie and Cordelia. It was a fine profile: he was much more delicate-featured than his brother, who had a broad, strong face. Matthew had a face that looked as if it had been meant to be painted on china.

“Of course not,” he said. “It’s just appalling how they all treat James.” He glanced at Cordelia, and then at Lucie. “She knows, doesn’t she?”

#13

From where they were, they had a perfect view of James, standing straight and polite as Tatiana Blackthorn, wearing a faded fuschia dresses stained with dark spots, advanced on him, a witchlight torch in her hand.

“How dare you come here, Will Herondale,” she said, a savage tone to her voice. “What is left for you to destroy? You murdered my husband and my father —“

Lucie made a small whimpering noise. Cordelia clutched at her cold hand, squeezing it for comfort.

“That’s James.” It was Grace, dressed all in a long white nightgown with a white dressing-gown over it. White slippers covered her feet and her blonde hair was loose, falling over her shoulders. “It isn’t Mr. Herondale, Mama. It’s his son.”

#14 (illustrated snippet)

Anna: “Best to let people believe what they want to believe, in my experience.”

Anna Lightwood lived on Percy Street, a small byway near Tottenham Court Road. It was made up of long rows of houses of red brick that all looked very much the same. Each had sash windows, white-painted doors, brick chimneys, a shallow set of steps and a fence about the servants’ entrance made of black wrought iron.

On the stairs in front of No. 30, a girl sat crying. She was a very fashionable girl, in a walking-dress of blue foulard with lace trimmings and acres of flounces about the skirt. She wore a head-band trimmed with silk roses, and they wobbled as she cried.

Cordelia checked the address she had written down again, hoping it would have changed. No, definitely Number 30. She sighed, squared her shoulders, and approached.

“Pardon me,” she said, as she reached the steps. The girl was blocking them completely; there was no way to politely edge past. “I’m here to see Anna Lightwood?”

The girl’s head jerked up. She was very pretty: blond and rosy-cheeked, though she’d been crying. She gave Cordelia a deeply wary look. “Who are you, then?”

“I, ah…” Cordelia peered more closely at the girl. Definitely a mundane: no marks, no glamour. “I’m her cousin?”

“Oh.” Some of the suspicion went out of the girl’s face. “I — I am here because —“ She went off in a fresh spate of tears.

“Might I enquire as to the problem? Is there something I can do?” Cordelia asked, though she rather dreaded finding out why as it seemed the sort of thing where she might have to come up with a solution.

“Anna,” the girl wept. “I loved her — I love her still! I would have given it all up for her, all of it, polite society and all its rules, just to be with her, but she has thrown me out like a dog on the street!”

“Now, Emmeline,” drawled a voice, and Cordelia looked up to see Anna leaning out of an upstairs window. She was wearing a man’s dressing gown in rich purple and gold brocade, and her hair was a cap of loose, short waves. “You can’t say you’ve been thrown out like a dog when you’ve got your mama, two butlers, and a footman coming for you.” She waved. “Hello, Cordelia.”

“Oh, dear,” said Cordelia, and patted Emmeline gently on the shoulder.

“Besides, Emmeline,” said Anna. “You’re to be married Wednesday. To a baronet.”

“I don’t want him!” Emmeline sprang to her feet. “I want you!”

“No,” said Anna. “You want a baronet.”

#15

Jem, a whisper: There are only four points of brightness,in the whole world, which burn fiercely enough for me to feel as the person I was

#16

“Preferably not boys,” said Anna, without looking up. “Then I have to pretend to be interested.”

 

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