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Who Did It Better? 5 Comparisons Between the ‘Shadowhunters’ Script and Manuscript

When The Mortal Instruments’ big screen adaptation in 2013 proved to be a flop, many fans gave up hope of ever seeing their favorite characters onscreen again. Then, in 2015, Freeform (formerly ABC Family) declared that it would take a crack at a Shadowhunters television adaptation. Fans held their breath in fear and anticipation. This adaptation promised to do the series justice, but would it follow through?

From the beginning, Cassandra Clare, author of The Mortal Instruments series, made it clear that she did not have any control or say in what changes they made in the show. A few days before the release date, she made this statement on her Tumblr page:

“I can’t speak to the changes that have been made for this show, their extent or their repercussions, because I was not at all involved in the creation of this show. That is not because I did not want to have any input. I offered to be involved, tried to be and would have loved to be, but unfortunately that wasn’t on the table, and eventually I stopped looking at the scripts because there seemed no reason to if I could not comment on them in a meaningful way or effect any change.”

As an avid reader of the series, I was quick to see the changes between the script and the book that Cassandra hinted at, but were some of the changes for better or for worse? Compiled here are five comparisons between the script and the novel for you to decide.

Clary and Isabelle’s Relationship
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In the book City of Bones, Clary and Isabelle have sort of a rocky start. Clary often compares herself to Isabelle physically, and both seem to have negative experiences bonding with other females; on several occasions both comment on how other girls don’t like them. This can often be viewed as a form of internalized sexism and unnecessary competition between female characters — an interesting aspect when you consider how many ways Cassandra Clare has broken other literary stereotypes in her work. The Clary and Isabelle from the show seem to have no problem with this and bond early on.

Camille and Raphael
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The moment Camille stepped onscreen, I was taken off guard. In the books she is only mentioned briefly as the head of the New York vampire coven, and she doesn’t physically show up until well into the series. Raphael, her second-in-command, maintains total control over the coven and has no interest in pursuing the mortal cup or Clary. In fact, his personality is very different from that of Camille’s, and with a different leader there is no telling what the vampires will do.

Clary and Her Mother

Jocelyn Fray is a very mysterious character in the beginning of the book series. Captured by Valentine and placed in a voluntary coma, the only thing we definitively know about her is that she had Clary’s memories taken from her. In comparison, the Jocelyn from the television show seems much kinder, presenting Clary with a stele (a Shadowhunter tool) on her birthday and declaring that they need to talk. The audience can only assume that Jocelyn is intending to come clean and tell Clary about her Shadowhunter roots.

Downworlders and the Mortal Cup

The Mortal Cup is a chalice that creates new Shadowhunters and, in the wrong hands, can control demons. In the hands of anyone but a Shadowhunter, it is a nice cup. The show has created a Downworlder obsession with the cup and with Clary. Since the start of the show, she has been kidnapped by werewolves and attacked by vampires. In doing so Clary becomes a target, the “chosen one,” and ultimately a giant cliché. I hope the show moves out of its kidnap and rescue plot.

Dot or Dorthea?

In the first episode, Clary receives a birthday present from the family friend and big-sister role model Dot. Dot is a trendy and friendly warlock who has been with Clary and Jocelyn from the beginning, helping to shield Clary from the Shadowhunter world. In the book, you take an elderly reclusive witch and you have Dorthea. Dot might have made a difference to the plot if she had lived long enough to see it. But they killed her off quickly, leaving me to wonder why they changed her in the first place. In some ways Madame Dorthea plays an important role in the first book. How is Simon going to save the day now?


All in all, Shadowhunters promises to be a show full of action, magic, and the mundane. I just hope they introduce the most important character soon. Us Church fans wait in anticipation.