Life is good for Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood. They’re living together in a fabulous loft, their warlock son, Max, has started learning to walk, and the streets of New York are peaceful and quiet—as peaceful and quiet as they ever are, anyway.
Until the night that two old acquaintances break into Magnus’s apartment and steal the powerful Book of the White. Now Magnus and Alec will have to drop everything to get it back. They need to follow the thieves to Shanghai, they need to call some backup to accompany them, and they need a babysitter. Also, someone has stabbed Magnus with a strange magical weapon that is changing the very nature of his powers.
Fortunately, their backup consists of Clary, Jace, Isabelle, and newly minted Shadowhunter Simon. In Shanghai, they learn that a much darker threat awaits them. Magnus’s magic is growing unstable, and if they can’t stop the demons flooding into the city, they might have to follow them all the way back to the source—to the very realm of the dead.
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|Publisher:||Margaret K. McElderry Books|
|Series:||Eldest Curses Series , #2|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.10(d)|
|Lexile:||HL810L (what's this?)|
|Age Range:||14 - 18 Years|
About the Author
Wesley Chu won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. His debut novel, The Lives of Tao, earned him a Young Adult Library Services Association Alex Award and a Science Fiction Goodreads Choice Award Top 10 slot. He is also the coauthor of the Eldest Curses series with Cassandra Clare, the first book of which debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.
Read an Excerpt
Chapter One: The Sleep Thorn
IT WAS LATE, AND UNTIL a moment ago, all had been quiet. Magnus Bane, High Warlock of Brooklyn, sat in his living room on his favorite chair, open book facedown in his lap, and watched the latch of his top-story window jiggle. For the last week, somebody had been prodding and testing the magical wards protecting his apartment. Now it seemed they had decided to prod more directly.
Magnus thought this a foolish decision on their part. Warlocks kept late hours, for one thing. For another, he lived with a Shadowhunter—who was currently out on patrol, true, but Magnus was fully capable of defending himself, even in his pajamas. He cinched the belt of his black silk robe tighter and wiggled his fingers in front of him, feeling magic gather in them.
He reflected that years ago he would have been much more casual about this kind of break-in, letting it play out naturally and trusting his instincts to lead him through. Now he sat pointing literal finger-guns at the window. Now his infant son was asleep just down the hall.
At just over a year old, Max was sleeping through the night most of the time now. This was a relief, but also an inconvenience, because both of Max’s parents kept nocturnal hours. Max, on the other hand, kept military hours, waking every morning at five thirty with a cheerful shriek that Magnus both adored and dreaded.
The window slid upward. Fire woke in both of Magnus’s palms, and magic blazed in the dark, sapphire-blue.
A figure pulled its torso through the window and then froze. Framed in the opening was a Shadowhunter in full demon-hunting gear, bow looped over one shoulder. He looked surprised.
“Uh, hi,” said Alec Lightwood. “I’m home. Please don’t shoot me with magical rays.”
Magnus waved with both hands, blue lights paling, then winking out, leaving faint traces of smoke curling around his fingers. “You usually use the door.”
“Sometime I like the change of pace.” Alec pulled himself the rest of the way in and closed the window behind him. Magnus gave him a look. “Okay. Truth. A demon ate my keys.”
“We go through so many keys.” Magnus got up to embrace his boyfriend.
“Wait, no. I smell.”
“There’s nothing wrong,” proclaimed Magnus, moving his head toward Alec’s neck, “with the smell of the sweat of a hard night’s work—you do smell. What is that?”
“That,” said Alec, “is the musk of the common subway tunnel smoke demon.”
“Oh, honey.” Magnus kissed Alec’s neck anyway. He breathed through his mouth.
“Hang on, it’s mostly on the gear,” said Alec. Magnus gave him a little space and he began taking it off: the bow, the quiver, his stele, some seraph blades, his leather jacket, his boots, his shirt.
“Let me help you with the rest of that,” Magnus murmured as Alec finished unbuttoning the shirt, and Alec gave him a real smile, his blue eyes warm, and Magnus felt a wave of love thrum through him. Three years in, he still felt as strongly as ever for Alec. More so every day. Still. He marveled at it.
Alec’s mouth quirked, and he shifted his gaze to the hallway past Magnus.
“He’s asleep,” Magnus said, and kissed Alec’s mouth. “Been asleep for hours.” He moved to pull Alec toward the couch. Only a quick wiggle of his fingers, and the candles on the end table lit and the lamps dimmed.
Alec laughed, low in his chest. “We have a perfectly good bed, you know.”
“Bed’s closer to the kid’s room. Quieter to stay here,” Magnus murmured. “Also, we would have to kick Chairman Meow off the bed.”
“Aw,” said Alec, dipping his head to kiss the hollow of Magnus’s throat. Magnus let his head fall back and allowed himself a little pleased moan. “He hates that.”
“Hang on,” said Magnus, stepping back. With a flourish, he divested himself of the robe, letting it fall into a pool of black silk around his feet. Underneath, he wore navy pajamas covered in small white anchors. Alec’s eyes narrowed.
“Well, I didn’t know this was happening, obviously,” Magnus said. “Or I would have worn something sexier than my fuzzy sailor pajamas.”
“They are plenty sexy,” said Alec, and then both of them froze, because a sudden scream rent the air. Alec closed his eyes and exhaled slowly, and Magnus could tell he was mentally counting to ten.
“I’ll go,” said Alec.
“I’ll go,” said Magnus. “You just got home.”
“No, no, I’ll go. I want to see him anyway.” Still only in his trousers, Alec padded toward the hall to Max’s room. He looked over his shoulder at Magnus, shaking his head and smiling. “Never fails, huh.”
“Kid’s got a sixth sense,” Magnus agreed. “Rain check?”
Magnus opened a little Portal to Max’s room to watch Alec pick up their son and rock him. Alec looked over at the Portal from his end and said, “Sure, that seems much easier than just walking down the hall.”
“I was told to stay here.”
Alec pointed at the Portal and said to Max, “Is that bapak? Do you see bapak?”
Magnus had wanted to be called something that felt true to his own childhood, but it always felt strange. His own father, the human one, had been bapak, and when he said it to Max, he felt a little twinge, as though he were walking on his father’s grave.
Max quickly calmed—these days a scream was more likely to be a nightmare than anything requiring more than soothing—and blinked sleepy eyes at Magnus, who smiled and wiggled little glittery sparks from the ends of his fingers at his child. A smile broke on Max’s face as his eyes drifted shut. He was already almost asleep again, one chubby blue arm flopping out to the side. Max’s skin was deep blue—that was his warlock mark, along with adorable stubs that Magnus suspected would grow into horns. Alec returned him to his crib. Magnus watched, marveling at the strange happiness of his life now, as a beautiful, extremely fit man with no shirt and startlingly blue eyes cared for the baby they had together. He cursed his own sentimentality and tried to think sexy thoughts.
Alec looked up at him, and in the dim light Magnus could suddenly see how weary he looked. “I,” Alec declared, “am going to go take a shower. Then I will return to you in the living room.”
“Then probably another shower,” said Magnus. “Hurry back.” He closed the Portal and returned to his book, a study of Scandinavian mythological artifacts and their owners and locations through history. He planned to begin thinking sexy thoughts again when Alec got back.
Two minutes into Alec’s shower, which, based on Alec’s usual showers, was likely to last around twenty minutes, Max gave a sudden cry in his sleep. Magnus was immediately alert, and then, when no further sound came, relaxed again and returned to his reading.
A few minutes later, he heard footsteps in the hallway. Magnus turned around fast. He wasn’t crazy; someone had been testing his wards and planning to break in.
When he saw who appeared in the doorway, his heart sank. No matter what she was here for, nobody was going to be having any romantic times tonight.
“Shinyun Jung,” he said, affecting a blasé tone. “Are you here to try to kill me again?”
Shinyun Jung’s warlock mark was a supernaturally still face, her expression blank and secret no matter what she was feeling. The last time Magnus had seen her, she had been tied to a marble pillar to restrain her, her plot to bring the Prince of Hell Asmodeus to power ruined. Magnus had sympathy for her—she had rage and pain inside her that he could understand all too well. And he had not been upset when she “somehow escaped” Alec’s custody and they had not had to turn her over to the Clave.
Now she stood before Magnus, impassive as ever. “It took a great deal of time to break through your wards. They were very impressive.”
“Not impressive enough,” Magnus said.
Shinyun shrugged. “I needed to talk to you.”
“We have a telephone,” Magnus said. “You could have just called. It’s not a great time, actually.”
“I have some very, very good news,” Shinyun said, which was not what Magnus had been expecting. “Also, I need the Book of the White. You will give it to me.”
That was more what he had been expecting.
Magnus considered whether to go into an explanation of why, despite his wishing Shinyun all the best in her life, nevertheless he was wary of giving her one of the most powerful spell books in existence, because of everything he knew about her and all the things she had done. Instead he said, “I don’t have it anymore. I gave it to the Spiral Labyrinth. But what is this good news?”
Before she could speak, a second figure stepped into the room from the hallway.
Ragnor, who had disappeared three years ago. Who had reassured Magnus he would be in touch soon. Magnus had waited, and then taken up an active search, and in the end he had concluded that Ragnor had been caught after all, that his ruse had failed, that he was dead in truth. Ragnor, who he had mourned for, and said good-bye to in his head, if not in his heart.
Ragnor, holding Max.
Magnus was rendered speechless. Under normal circumstances, he would have gone for his seventh-ever hug with Ragnor. But these weren’t normal circumstances. Shinyun was here, and there was something very odd about the way Ragnor was looking at Magnus.
And the way he was holding Max. He held him indifferently, like a sack of flour. Max didn’t seem to mind, actually. He was still mostly asleep and blinking very slowly.
“So,” said Ragnor, more sharply than Magnus would have expected, “I see this happened. I always assumed you’d end up with one of these somehow, Magnus. But is it wise?”
“His name is Max,” Magnus said. He was just going to take this one moment at a time. “Someone had to take him in. So we did. He’s ours. How did you get in, anyway?”
Ragnor chuckled, a familiar sound made eerie by its unexpected reappearance. “Magnus Bane. So great in power, so soft in heart. Always taking in the helpless and needy. You’ve got a whole little shelter here, between the Shadowhunter and this little blueberry.”
Magnus was not sure that, given Ragnor’s attitude, he had the right to call Max a blueberry. “It’s not like that,” he said. He looked over at Shinyun, who watched the exchange with silent interest. “We’re a family.”
“Of course you are,” said Ragnor. His eyes glittered.
“So,” Magnus said, “are you still fake dead? Or is this officially your return to life? Also, how do you know Shinyun? Also also, I think you should give me the baby.”
Shinyun spoke up. “Ragnor and I are collaborating together on a project.”
Alec was still in the shower. Magnus considered making a sudden loud noise, although he really wanted to get Max back from Ragnor before that. He decided to stall. “I hope you won’t mind,” he said, “if I ask you about the nature of that project. Last time I saw you, Shinyun, my boyfriend was releasing you from imprisonment, in the hope that you’d learned an important lesson about working with Greater Demons, Princes of Hell, and the like. Specifically, we hoped that you’d learned not to work with them in future.” The category of Greater Demons was broad—it included many types of intelligent fiends. Princes of Hell were far more powerful—they were former angels who had fallen when they fought on the side of Lucifer in the rebellion.
“Obviously,” said Shinyun with a haughty air, “I no longer serve a Greater Demon.”
Magnus let out a slow breath of relief.
“I serve,” said Shinyun, “the Greatest Demon!”
There was a pause.
“Capitalism?” hazarded Magnus. “You and Ragnor have started a small business and you’re looking for investors.”
“I serve the greatest of the Nine now,” said Shinyun in a gloating, triumphant tone that Magnus remembered well and hadn’t liked the first time around either. “The Maker of the Way! The Eater of Worlds! The Reaper of Souls!”
“The Wonder from Down Under?” suggested Magnus. “And Ragnor? Old buddy? Where are you on world-eating?”
“I’ve come around to being in favor of it,” Ragnor said.
“I should have mentioned earlier,” said Shinyun. “Ragnor is entirely under the thrall of my master. And my master has given him the gift of the Svefnthorn.” From a scabbard at her side she drew a long, ugly iron spike, barbed along its blade and ending in a sharp point that was wickedly twisted like a corkscrew. It looked like a very goth fireplace poker.
Magnus’s self-control snapped.
“Give me the baby, Ragnor,” Magnus said. He got up and made for his friend.
“It’s very simple, Magnus,” said Ragnor, shielding Max from Magnus’s grasp. “Sammael, ruler of Greater Demons, the greatest of the Princes of Hell, is inevitably guaranteed to finish the job he started a thousand years ago, briefly interrupted by the nuisance of the Shadowhunters, and rule this realm, as he has ruled others. The inevitability of his victory,” he went on conversationally, “has—how should I put it—twisted my will with its nigh-infinite strength? Yes, that describes it quite well, I think.”
“So faking your own death was basically pointless,” said Magnus.
“Shinyun found me,” Ragnor admitted. “She was very highly motivated.”
Magnus had almost reached Ragnor, but Shinyun closed the distance shockingly quickly and held Magnus at Svefnthorn-point. Magnus stopped short and held up his hands in the classic pose of nonthreatening surrender. His heart was pounding. It was hard to concentrate while Ragnor had his hands on Max.
“You don’t understand,” Shinyun said. “We’re not stealing the Book of the White from you. We’re giving you something in exchange. Something even more valuable.”
And with a jolt she jabbed the Svefnthorn into Magnus’s chest.
It sank into his chest without any resistance from bone or muscle. Magnus felt no pain at all, nor any desire to move, even as the thorn pierced his heart. There was only a sort of terrible lassitude. He could sense his heart beating around the thorn. He didn’t want to look down, didn’t want to see it sticking out of his chest.
Part of him couldn’t believe Ragnor was here, watching this. Watching, and not doing anything about it.
Shinyun leaned forward and gave Magnus a kiss on the cheek. She twisted the thorn a half-turn, like the dial on a safe, then withdrew it. It exited as painlessly as it had entered, leaving a trail of cold red flames emerging from his chest in its wake. Magnus touched the flames, which passed through his fingers harmlessly. The wound didn’t hurt.
The lassitude was beginning to clear. “What have you done?” Magnus said.
“As I said,” Shinyun said, “I’ve given you a great gift. The first part of it, anyway. And in exchange... we’ll be taking the Book of the White.”
“I told you—” Magnus began.
“Yes, but I knew you were lying,” said Shinyun, “because I already have the Book. I retrieved it from your child’s bedroom before I made myself known to you. As one would. If one were not stupid.”
“Don’t take it to heart, Magnus,” Ragnor said sympathetically. “Sammael’s very will is bound up with the Book of the White, and his servants feel a constant pull toward its presence.”
Magnus had not known that, in fact, and would probably have left the Book of the White somewhere safer than among a pile of his son’s picture books if he had. “I could do things to stop you leaving with the Book,” he said, and saw Ragnor’s eyes narrow. “And also, Alec is here. But you put me at a disadvantage. Ragnor, give me Max, and you can leave with the Book.”
“We would leave with the Book regardless,” Shinyun said, but Ragnor, who had never had much of an appetite for a physical fight, nodded.
“No funny business,” he said to Magnus.
“Of course not,” said Magnus.
Ragnor came closer and handed the baby to Magnus, who carefully curled Max into the crook of his left arm. Then, in a sudden outburst of motion, he violently stabbed all five fingers of his right hand into Ragnor’s chest, in the general vicinity of his heart. Instantly, through the flow of magic within Ragnor’s body and into Magnus’s hand, he could sense the presence of Sammael’s control: a void, a place where the light of Ragnor’s life-essence fell away into blackness. With an effort, trying not to disturb Max, he attempted to draw it out from Ragnor.
“That’s funny business, Magnus!” yelled Shinyun. She was pointing the Svefnthorn at Ragnor, manipulating it in subtle movements.
Ragnor made a guttural noise deep in his chest as he struggled against Magnus. Then he tensed, and with a sudden strength cast Magnus away. Magnus was thrown back, lost his footing, and managed to fall onto the sofa behind him, cradling Max. The landing was soft, all things considered, but the fall was certainly surprising enough for Max to wake and immediately burst into tears.
All the adults in the room stopped short where they were. Very quietly Ragnor said, “Don’t feel bad, Magnus. The power granted to me by my fealty to Sammael is more than you, or any warlock, could overcome.”
“Ragnor!” Shinyun hissed. “Quiet! The baby—”
She shrieked. And fell suddenly to the ground, the shaft of an arrow jutting from her calf. It was so surprising that Max fell silent again.
“Stay where you are!” Alec yelled from the end of the hallway. Ragnor turned to gaze down the hallway with an expression of genuine, curious surprise.
Magnus ought to involve himself in the melee, he knew, but he was sprawled on his couch underneath his infant son. With some effort he began the elaborate movements necessary to stand up and not drop Max. He considered, not for the first time, teleporting his child, and rejected the idea as not safe. He didn’t have time to get a Portal open. Maybe if he floated Max to the ceiling...
His thoughts were interrupted by the telltale sound and shimmer of Shinyun opening a Portal of her own. Magnus had foolishly assumed she was out of the fight, and Ragnor was already making a beeline for the Portal. There was no way Magnus could catch him in time.
But then Magnus beheld a truly glorious sight. Like a Greek god, Alec stepped into view, his hair wildly out of sorts from the shower, still dripping with water. He had a white towel wrapped around his waist, a leather cord around his neck with a Lightwood ring hanging from it, a huge Sure-Strike rune on his chest, absolutely nothing else on, and an arrow fully nocked in the beautifully polished oak recurve bow that normally hung decoratively on the bedroom wall. It was like something from a Renaissance painting.
Magnus knew that Alec often worried that he was too ordinary for Magnus, that compared to the wonders Magnus had seen in hundreds of years, he must seem comparatively mundane. Magnus did not think Alec understood what it was like to behold, up close, a Shadowhunter in full warrior mode.
It was a lot.
Snapping back to the situation at hand, Magnus noted that Shinyun was already gone through the Portal and Ragnor was now entering it. Magnus, meanwhile, had gotten to his feet and was holding Max in front of him. He needed his hands free to do magic, but he didn’t want to let go of his child.
An arrow flew. It missed Ragnor by a hair, but tore a scrap from the back of the warlock’s cloak as the Portal closed around him.
There was a sudden silence. Alec turned to Magnus, who was holding and rocking Max. Max had gone quiet.
“Was that Ragnor Fell?” Alec looked stunned. “With Shinyun Jung?” Alec had never met Ragnor, but there were plenty of photos, sketches, and even one large oil painting of the warlock among Magnus’s belongings.
“That’s exactly who it was,” Magnus said into the silence.
Alec crossed the room and crouched down to retrieve the arrow and the scrap of cloth it had pinned to the floor. When he looked up at Magnus, his expression was somber. “But Ragnor Fell is dead.”
“No,” said Magnus. He shook his head, suddenly exhausted. “Ragnor lives.”