James Carstairs

Note: Major spoilers for The Infernal Devices trilogy (2010-2013).

Ok, I just want to point out first that this series was brilliant and I really enjoyed it. Good plot, great characters and story arcs, beautiful writing & setting. I had a few issues with certain things but the main problem I had was of the death of Jem, or rather what happens after the faux death.

I feel as though I should back track. Jem Carstairs is an extraordinary, philosophical character with extreme depth. His health is always teetering on the edge because of his terminal illness. He has an addiction to Yin Fen every since he was poisoned by a demon. It debilitates his long term health yet if he stops taking it he will die, so it is keeping him alive also. Jem has come to terms with his short life expectancy and is very mature for his age (17). He has had to think a lot about death and the beyond because of his illness.

Jem’s story arc in this series is intense and great. He has an extraordinary friendship with Will and his love for Tessa is short but strong. There love is brilliant and fragile and it’s powerful. It’s a joy to read because Jem loves intensely and he sees the world from a certain perspective.

Jem himself is from Shanghai and he’s obviously influenced by eastern philosophies and religions. These sensibilities are brought up throughout the series and are discussed between the characters. Jem has a Buddhist perspective on life and death. Jem loves Tessa and they get married. In Clockwork Prince (2011), he says that “they will stay together on the Wheel” and that he “will love [Tessa] in the next life, and the one after that” (492). Clearly he’s referring to reincarnation. He believes that their souls will meet again and again in the next lives. This is one of the ideas that I really love and it’s explored in my favourite book by David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas (2004). Now, at the time I had massive admiration for Jem’s character. He was dying but he really believed that they’d meet again in the next life. It took a lot of belief and maturity to do that and I respected him immensely for that.

In Clockwork Princess (2013), Jem is on his death bed and he is at peace with departing this world. We are all sad to see him on his way out, as are the characters.

Will reflects on Jem’s ideology after Jem dies. He says of Jem, “you say we are born and born again.” He then reflects on his own Western sensibilities:

“I say there is a river that divides the dead and the living. What I do know is that if we are born again, I will meet you in another life, and if there is a river, you will wait on the shores for me to come to you, so that we can cross together” (325-326).

Clearly, with the story arc, this provides the reader with a departure. I know his death is painful and the readers and characters mourn his death. It is a great loss but we must remember the Jem who lived his life to the fullest. He was an intense person and a great character. He is a powerful character who was unafraid of dying, as by his philosophical beliefs. The characters mourn and the story seems to move forward naturally. This is all presented quite beautifully. I know it’s morbid to say that about death but with the reflection of his life over the past 3 books, it feels like a relief to see him not suffer any more. It feels like a natural conclusion to his arc.

My problem is that… he comes back. He’s turned into a Silent Brother. I hated that decision by Cassandra Clare, the author. I don’t think Jem would have done that. I think it’s selfish and it’s character defamation. She always does this, she can never let go of a character. It’s so cowardly. Jems story arc was beautiful and his death really rounded it off, but bringing him back to life… ugh no. It just contradicted all of his beliefs and everything he’d been saying the past 3 books. So what, that was all bullshit? Did those endless philosophical paragraphs mean nothing? Should I just forget about all of that? Jem was content with going off to the great unknown, to the next life and yet he goes back on his beliefs. No Cassandra Clare, just no. He wouldn’t have done that. I know being that close to death would put things into perspective and change your mind but come on, it was a beautiful way to put a character to rest, especially with all that he had being saying.

And when he came back as Brother Zachariah, I hated him. He wasn’t Jem any more. He was this unemotional, cold being. Not even human, Just so unfeeling and almost zombie-like. I didn’t like it at all and she ruined his character for me. What frustrates me is that she only did it so Tessa could have someone to be with for another few decades. Seriously pissed me off.

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