Skip to Main Content

The Shadowhunters must catch a killer in Edwardian London in this dangerous and romantic sequel to the #1 New York Times bestselling novel Chain of Gold, from New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Cassandra Clare. Chain of Iron is a Shadowhunters novel.

Cordelia Carstairs seems to have everything she ever wanted. She’s engaged to marry James Herondale, the boy she has loved since childhood. She has a new life in London with her best friend Lucie Herondale and James’s charming companions, the Merry Thieves. She is about to be reunited with her beloved father. And she bears the sword Cortana, a legendary hero’s blade.

But the truth is far grimmer. James and Cordelia’s marriage is a lie, arranged to save Cordelia’s reputation. James is in love with the mysterious Grace Blackthorn whose brother, Jesse, died years ago in a terrible accident. Cortana burns Cordelia’s hand when she touches it, while her father has grown bitter and angry. And a serial murderer is targeting the Shadowhunters of London, killing under cover of darkness, then vanishing without a trace.

Together with the Merry Thieves, Cordelia, James, and Lucie must follow the trail of the knife-wielding killer through the city’s most dangerous streets. All the while, each is keeping a shocking secret: Lucie, that she plans to raise Jesse from the dead; Cordelia, that she has sworn a dangerous oath of loyalty to a mysterious power; and James, that he is being drawn further each night into the dark web of his grandfather, the arch-demon Belial. And that he himself may be the killer they seek.

Reading Group Guide for

Chain of Iron

By Cassandra Clare

About the Book

After being dealt a horrible blow, Belial has slunk away to try to recover his strength, a process Jem thinks will take at least one hundred years. Belial’s absence means James no longer falls into the shadow realm, and the daytime demon attacks that were plaguing the Clave have ended. Now Cordelia and James can focus on their upcoming wedding and on making the most of their agreed-upon one year of marriage. And yet, things are far from quiet. Shadowhunters are being killed in the wee hours of the morning. There are no signs of demonic activity at any of the crime scenes, which makes the killings all the more ominous. And things are not right among the Merry Thieves, either. James is horrified to discover that he is seeing the recent murders in his dreams, and he fears that he may actually be committing the crimes. Lucie is about to pass the point of no return in her quest to bring Jesse back from the dead, and she’s not sure she wants to stop. And everyone is worried about Matthew, whose appetite for drink—and self-destruction—appears to be growing. This group of friends who have always been there for one another seems to be splintering apart. Will they be able to come together when they truly need one another? Can the Merry Thieves bring a killer to justice without losing one of their own?

Discussion Questions

1. Part one begins with a quote from Jack the Ripper. Why do you think Cassandra Clare chose this particular quote? Do you think the killer in this story is playing “funny little games”? Are there similarities between Jack the Ripper and the person killing Shadowhunters? Explain your answers using examples from the story.

2. How is Grace shaped by her past and her relationship with Tatiana? How does her unusual upbringing affect her interactions with others? Does learning that Tatiana essentially bought Grace change your opinion of her?

3. Grace tells Lucie, “‘It is time to decide whether you care more about the precious sanctity of your own life than you care about giving my brother back his.’” What is Lucie’s priority? Do you think there are lines she will not cross to help Jesse? How does Lucie’s quest affect those around her?

4. While getting ready for the sledding party, Cordelia muses that “the nature of the corset . . . was to make a woman aware of every minute way that her shape differed from society’s impossible ideal.” Are there other, nonphysical ways that Cordelia differs from society’s ideals? Do you think any of her actions or attributes would be more widely accepted if she were a man? How does this make you feel?

5. How do the different members of Elias’s family feel about him being home? Does his return make them feel any differently about one another or themselves? How does Elias’s behavior doom him in the end?

6. James decides that he will not betray his wedding vows “by word or deed.” Does he succeed? Are extenuating circumstances enough to excuse any lapses? Explain your answers.

7. Can Matthew’s excessive drinking be traced to a single cause? Why don’t his friends talk to him about it? How does Matthew’s relationship to James change over the course of this book, and how does it stay the same?

8. Loneliness and isolation are prominent for several characters. Who deals with these feelings over the course of the story? Is their isolation self-imposed or caused by others? Does anyone find a way to overcome their loneliness and forge connections with others?

9. Grace thinks of James’s love as “chains—iron chains that bound him to her.” Is this the only kind of love she experiences? Do you think these chains bear any relation to the book’s title?

10. James tells Cordelia, “‘I believe in forgiveness, you know, in grace. Even for the worst things we do.’” Who does he need to forgive? Do you think there are actions that James cannot forgive? Are others able to extend this same forgiveness to him? Are any of the characters able to forgive themselves, even for the worst things they have done?

11. What is the significance of Grace and Lucie’s offer to Malcolm Fade in return for his help with Jesse? Where do these actions lead? Do you think Jesse’s life is worth all the trouble they cause?

12. Why is Jesse so upset after reading The Beautiful Cordelia? Does Lucie understand his reaction? Do you think Jesse would have learned about Lucie’s feelings eventually, even without reading her book? Explain your answers.

13. What does Christopher do to his gun in his attempt to make it usable for Shadowhunters? Why is James the only one who is able to successfully wield it? Is the gun helpful to James?

14. The author begins chapter ten with a quote from Edgar Allan Poe’s “Lenore,” which includes the lines, “To friends above, from fiends below, the indignant ghost is riven— / From Hell unto a high estate far up within the Heaven— / From grief and groan, to a golden throne, beside the King of Heaven.” Why do you think she chose this quote? Does it accurately describe what happens to Filomena’s ghost? In this case, who are the “fiends below”?

15. Why does Cordelia so readily pledge her fealty to Wayland the Smith? What advantages does being his paladin afford her? What disadvantages arise from being Lilith’s paladin? How does Lilith feel about Cordelia and the pledge of fealty she extracted from her?

16. There are numerous times throughout the book when characters either tell the truth despite wariness about how others may react, or seek the truth in order to achieve closure. Name some of these times when a character faces the truth in spite of the possible repercussions. Are there times when characters avoid telling the truth to others? Could some of their difficulties have been avoided either by telling the truth instead of hiding it or by keeping the truth from others? Explain your answers.

17. What does James believe about love? Where does he get his definitions of what love is and how it feels? How do these beliefs affect how he treats both Cordelia and Grace?

18. When Lilith is disguised as Magnus, she says, “‘The great powers, the archangels and the Princes of Hell, are playing their own game of chess.’” What does she mean by this? What evidence of this “chess game” do you see in the story? Do you think this power struggle will continue to affect Cordelia, James, and the others?

19. How was Belial able to put the anchor in Jesse’s soul? Why is he using Jesse’s body to commit these murders? How do the Shadowhunters remove the anchor from Jesse? What do you think Belial will do now?

20. James is understandably furious when he realizes Grace used the bracelet to control him. What are his specific grievances? What does he feel Grace has taken from him? Does he blame her for what happened?

21. Do any of the Merry Thieves change their opinions of Alastair throughout the course of the book? Why does he treat them so badly in the first place? Is their resentment of him more understandable now that we know more about what his actions have caused? Explain your answers.

Extension Activities

1. Chess is mentioned often in this book. It’s what James and Cordelia play in the evenings; Lilith also likens the power struggle between the archangels and Princes of Hell to a game of chess. If you do not already know how to play chess, now is the perfect time to learn. Regardless of your current skill level, think about creating or joining a chess club. It’s a great way to sharpen your skills and learn about strategy! As you play, think about how your experience with the game impacts your understanding of the analogy used in the book.

2. The wedding vows that Cordelia and James recite are quite different from what you would find at a more traditional “mundane” wedding. Create a chart which illuminates the similarities and differences between the two sets of traditional vows. Write your own vows that combine the best of both cultures.

3. During Cordelia’s pre-wedding celebration, the Hell Ruelle appears to be decorated for Christmas, but it is actually for the Festum Lamia, a celebration of Lilith. Many Christian holidays have their roots in pagan celebrations. Choose a holiday and research its pre-Christian roots. What are you most surprised to learn? Why do you think the histories of holidays are often overlooked?

4. The author includes quotes from Persian poetry, including the works of Rumi, and the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. Read more from either of these poets, or find another Persian poet to explore. Share some of the poetry you discover with your friends and classmates.

5. Lucie uses The Beautiful Cordelia to entertain her friends, but also to work through her feelings about her family and loved ones. Try your hand at writing a story about your friends and family. You can make it as melodramatic or as idealized as you would like. How does it make you feel to be in control of other people’s destinies, even if only on paper? Is there anything unexpected that you discover about yourself or your feelings?

Guide written by Cory Grimminck, Director of the Portland District Library in Michigan.

This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes. For more Simon & Schuster guides and classroom materials, please visit simonandschuster.net or simonandschuster.net/thebookpantry.
Photo by Kelly Campbell copyright © Simon & Schuster, inc.

Cassandra Clare is the author of the #1 New York TimesUSA TODAY, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly bestselling Shadowhunter Chronicles. She is also the coauthor of the bestselling fantasy series Magisterium with Holly Black. The Shadowhunter Chronicles have been adapted as both a major motion picture and a television series. Her books have more than fifty million copies in print worldwide and have been translated into more than thirty-five languages. Cassandra lives in western Massachusetts with her husband and three fearsome cats. Visit her at CassandraClare.com. Learn more about the world of the Shadowhunters at Shadowhunters.com.

More books from this author: Cassandra Clare

More books from this reader: Finty Williams

More books in this series: The Last Hours