The Bane Chronicles

I am typing this on the day I fly to visit family in India, which means my obsession with all things audio has intensified over the past week or so. I love audiobooks. I love that I don’t have to strain my eyes on a plane and I love the performance aspect of it all. Now, as I understand it, not everyone shares my enthusiasm of spoken literature but you really don’t have to love audiobooks to understand my affection for this particular series of short stories because The Bane Chronicles are also available in an all eBook formats, and once the entire series is done I am sure that someone will want to collect them into a neat hardcover, perhaps even with illustrations if I’m we’re lucky. (Phew. Run-on sentence. Sorry.)

SOURCE: http://www.cassandraclare.com/my-writing/novels/the-bane-chronicles/ [Animated by the Manila Institute.]

Nine of the ten stories are already available to read, and eight of the ten are ready for listening. Naturally, instead of waiting to listen to them over the first leg of my journey, I caved and listened to all of the available eight as I packed, cleaned, and panicked. I am here to talk about my favourite ones.

Before I begin, I would like to be upfront about my knowledge of Cassandra Clare’s compelling world of shadowhunters and downworlders:

  • I don’t actually know much.
  • I’m working my way through The Infernal Devices series, and I don’t know if I want to read The Mortal Instruments. Yet.
  • However, I did watch The City of Bones movie and I enjoyed it (despite the cheesy scriptwriting and the odd casting issues*). Up until the movie, Magnus Bane was just that guy who was in love with a vampire, was betrayed, and then drugged** and kissed an unconscious guy to make aforementioned vampire jealous. He came off as pitiful and unclassy (to me).
  • But I love the fact that Bane tries so hard to be above it all. From what I can tell, he is probably a lot more powerful than he lets on (calling him a “warlock” implies it, I think). It is pretty lovely that despite holding all this power, he chooses to be civil (if a little boisterous) and often kind, even though the people around him treat him with suspicion and distaste while simultaneously requesting favours of him. And no, that was not a euphemism. He’s a warlock. They need him for warlock-y things. Usually.

See, whatever reservations I may have toward the rest of the characters (WHY DO THE GIRLS ALWAYS FALL FOR THE BROODY MAN-CHILD?! WHY IS JEM- THE ONLY POC SHADOWHUNTER- DYING?! WHAT IS UP WITH THE HERONDALE BLOOD-LINE?!) they do not extend to Bane. He is so nicely fleshed out in these chronicles that he hangs around in your head – well-dressed, charming, and polite as ever- long after you’ve put your iPod down. Plus, as YA fantasy characters go, he’s pretty unique:

  • He’s immortal but not a vampire- so minimal brooding involved. (Comparatively.)
  • While I was kind of hoping that he had at some point gone through a Dorian Gray-esque phase of debauchery (I hear immortality can do that sometimes), I was also kind of dreading it. In the end, I think I’m glad I didn’t have to see Bane in any True Blood type situations. (So far.) I feel like it would have happened in the hands of other authors? Maybe? Okay, maybe this point is less of “Why Magnus is Unique” and more of “Why Magnus is Unique to Yash”.
  • I think he is part-Chinese. (Though he is described as “brown” sometimes and I think they just mean a tan? Or is Bane actually from Malaysia? Or North East India? We just don’t know.) EDIT! Apparently, he is half Indonesian and half Dutch!
  • And he’s bisexual … but he comes off as a kind of Captain Jack Harkness figure to me, so I want to say he’s pansexual (and I mean, both Harkness and Bane, here!) and the writers (of both) have not shown evidence of it/just don’t know it yet!

Surprisingly, my favourite stories had very little to do with the readers involved, though clearly, it was the selection of talented narrators that really drove me to buy these. Unsurprisingly, because I do not love the protagonists of TID and TMI series, I tended to enjoy Magnus-centric stories. I guess all of The Bane Chronicles are Magnus-centric, but I like the ones where he doesn’t have to interact with shadowhunters. I guess I just like watching downworlders interact. Maybe it’s the fact that they are more, erm, colourful.

Without further prattling, here are my three favourites:

Book 1: “What Really Happened in Peru” written by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan, read by Jesse Williams

There are good reasons Peru is off-limits to Magnus Bane. Follow Magnus’s Peruvian escapades as he drags his fellow warlocks Ragnor Fell and Catarina Loss into trouble, learns several instruments (which he plays shockingly), dances (which he does shockingly), and disgraces his host nation by doing something unspeakable to the Nazca Lines.

Book 5: “The Rise of The Hotel Dumort” written by Cassandra Clare and Maureen Johnson, read by Stephen Lunsford.

The immortal Magnus Bane is making the most of his time in the Roaring Twenties: He’s settled into New York society and is thriving among the fashionable jazz set. And there is nowhere better to see and be seen than the glamorous Hotel Dumort, a glittering new addition to the Manhattan landscape. But a different type of glamour may be at play …

Book 6: “Saving Raphael Santiago” written by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan, read by Michael Trevino.

In 1950s New York City, a distraught mother hires Magnus Bane to find her missing son, Raphael. But even if he can be found, is Raphael beyond saving?

And a bonus recommendation:

Book 4: “The Midnight Heir” by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan, read by David OyelowoI know I just said I don’t like the Herondales very much, but I really loved the discomforting story of Tatiana Blackthorn. So creepy. So awesome. And the narrator is quite brilliant to match.

Magnus thought he would never return to London, but he is lured by a handsome offer from Tatiana Blackthorn, whose plans—involving her beautiful young ward—are far more sinister than Magnus even suspects. In London at the turn of the century, Magnus finds old friends, and meets a very surprising young man … the sixteen-year-old James Herondale.

I really enjoyed the different voices involved in this endeavour. The stories are the combined efforts of Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan (who I really need to read now- she is hilarious), and Maureen Johnson. Additionally, each narrator brings something new to Magnus’ story. That is to say, in every audiobook Magnus is ever-so-slightly different while retaining a quintessentially Magnus-like feel to him. Which makes sense because each story is set at a different time in his long, unending life. It’s all quite artistically done, and has become one of my new favourite audiobook series.

Of course, this means that I need more to listen to on my way back to Vancouver! Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments!

*Unlike most big YA fantasy/sci-fi movies, The City of Bones had a few POCs in the movie, and two of them had lines. Unfortunately, one of them is a warlock (half of whose awesome backstory didn’t make the cut) and the other one was a witch/demon/thing, so that’s a bit sad. The shadowhunters are all white, I think, and their perspective is the one we mostly follow.

**I must add that he did not drug the guy for the sole purpose of kissing him. Wait, no. That sounds worse. Um. Will came to Magnus for a healing that took its toll on poor Will. Magnus saw an opportunity and … well … took it? Nope. There is just no redeeming this situation.