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The Shadowhunters' Wiki
SPOILER WARNING: Plot details for Chain of Iron follow. Caution is advised!

Because I wanted you to have a childhood, a thing I never had. I wanted you to be able to love and respect your father as I never could. Every time he made a mess, who do you think had to clean it up? Who told you Father was ill or sleeping when he was drunk? Who went out and fetched him when he passed out in a gin palace and smuggled him through the back door? Who learned at ten years old to refill the brandy bottles with water each morning so no one would notice the levels had sunk-

–Alastair to Cordelia, Chain of Gold

Alastair Carstairs is the son of Elias and Sona Carstairs, and the brother of Cordelia.



Alastair and Cordelia were very close as children, since their family was always moving and never stayed in one place long enough to make friends. At a young age Alastair became aware of his father's alcoholism and took on the responsibility of cleaning up after him and fetching him when he passed out in a tavern. Alastair and his mother agreed to hide this from his sister so that she could have a childhood and respect her father as he never could. When Elias was hung over or particularly inebriated, he would tell her Elias was ill and then direct her attention elsewhere.

Academy days

At the Shadowhunter Academy, Alastair found himself the victim of bullying; the other kids often mocked him for countless reasons including his family's constant moving. Eventually he came to the decision that the best way not to be bullied was to become the bully; though he later confided to his sister that he hated it.[1]

So when James Herondale came to the Academy in 1899,[5] during his last year at the Academy,[6] Alastair and his friends immediately began terrorizing him and other family friends that were also new students: Matthew Fairchild, Christopher and Thomas Lightwood. Alastair mostly bullied James, pointing out his odd, yellow eyes and giving him the nickname "Goatface Herondale" that stuck with the boy for weeks.

After James's ability to Change into a shadow was revealed to the whole school, Alastair and his friends decided to play a prank on him. During one of the training missions in the Brocelind Forest, they placed a bigger rogue Vetis demon into the Pyxis that was only supposed to contain a small, harmless demon. The prank went horribly wrong, however, when his friend Clive Cartwright was killed by the demon. Alastair and their other friend freaked out and hid but was pursued by James in his shadow form, who then threatened Alastair with a sword. James then scared the pair enough to make them flee.

Afterwards, James was expelled for their misdoing. Alastair approached James as he was about to leave the Academy and begrudgingly apologized.[5] His father did not arrive at the Academy after the incident, whereas most of the students' parents came in concern. Matthew Fairchild, James's friend who had been with him when they saw Clive's corpse, found him with Thomas later that day. In his frustration, Alastair sent Thomas away so he could taunt Matthew with a disgusting rumor he'd apparently heard: that Matthew was Gideon Lightwood's bastard with Charlotte.[6] Matthew enacted his revenge—for James and for himself—by placing all of Alastair's belongings in the south wing, which he and Christopher had just rigged with explosives.[5]


At one point, Brother Zachariah, a former Carstairs reached out to him. Alastair rejected him,[7] making it clear that he should stay detached even from them and stick to his life as a Silent Brother.[6]

For his travel year, Alastair chose to go to Paris because he remembered the city as somewhere he and Cordelia had been happy growing up.[7] There he met Charles Fairchild, who was managing the Paris Institute at the time, and fell in love with him. The two had agreed to keep their relationship secret, as Charles wanted to secure his political career. Shortly before he was set to leave, Alastair ran into Thomas Lightwood who was taking a small break in his travel year. The two spent some time together and seemed to enjoy each other's company, parting on fairly friendly terms.

Move to London

In 1903, Elias Carstairs was arrested and awaiting trial in Idris. In order to save the family from disgrace, Sona moved the family to London to make powerful relationships with the influential families there. While Cordelia busied herself with attempts to try to prove her father's innocence, Alastair scoffed at her—believing them to be useless and their father guilty—and focused his efforts on politics; attending all of the local Enclave's meetings.

He also spent his time with Charles. Alastair began to grow frustrated with keeping their relationship secret and upset that Charles seemed to plan to follow through with a marriage to Ariadne Bridgestock. Though he still believed Charles—even after ending his engagement to Ariadne while she was unconscious and engaging himself to Grace Blackthorn—that he was doing it all for them to be together.

Luckily he was at Charles's estate when Thomas arrived asking to use the laboratory. Charles had initially denied him entry but Alastair insisted he be let in. He stayed behind from the Enclave meeting and helped Thomas make the antidote to the Mandikhor poisoning. Upon their arrival at Highgate Cemetery, he found Cordelia badly injured with a broken leg. As others began to arrive, Alastair picked up his sister and carried her to the carriage to return home.

At some point Alastair informed the Clave of Sona's pregnancy. Given Cordelia's status as a hero as well as an expectant baby, they decided to resolve Elias's charges. Following Cordelia's announcement that she was engaged to James, Alastair decided to end things with Charles and wrote him a letter. At the engagement party, when confronted by Charles, Alastair explained that he did not want to hide anymore and he realized Charles would never love him more than his career. Later at the party he tried to befriend Matthew and the others but Matthew would not hear of it, ignoring Thomas's protests. Matthew informed the others of the rumors Alastair had spread about him being Gideon's bastard and Thomas told him never to speak to him again. Alastair fled the ballroom crying.[1]


Alastair has an abrasive personality. During his time at the Academy, he turned into a bully, rather than allow himself to be picked on; which took him a while to come back from, though he is trying. Still quick to anger and often aloof, Alastair does not have many friends and keeps mostly to himself.

However, he is also fiercely protective of the people he cares about; as shown by his attempts to cover up their father's alcoholism for Cordelia and his attempts to dissuade her from becoming romantically involved with James.

Physical description

Alastair has brown skin, black eyes, and black hair that he typically dyes blond. By the end of summer of 1903, he had decided to dye it back to black.

Skills and abilities

  • Nephilim physiology: Being Nephilim, Alastair possesses a myriad of enhanced physical and mental abilities granted to him by the blood of Raziel in his veins and also by the angelic Marks of the Gray Book. This includes enhanced strength, agility, stamina, coordination, and many others which improve over time and practice.
    • Runic magic: Due to the angel Raziel's blood in their veins, all Shadowhunters are able to apply runes on their skin without any real danger. These Marks, in turn, give varied effects that serve to benefit the wearer.
    • The Sight: As a Shadowhunter, Alastair is able to easily see through most magical illusions and layers of glamour over reality.
    • Use of heavenly weapons: As a Nephilim, Alastair is also able to handle heavenly weapons with effect, since this would normally not work for other species. In particular, these are weapons made of adamas and forged by Iron Sisters, such as seraph blades.


  • Daggers: Alastair collects daggers. According to Cordelia, they are the only beautiful thing she recalls him paying special attention to. Most are inlaid with stones or designs.
    • Pisgqabz: This particular dagger he has on display above his washstand and is carved from a single piece of ivory.
    • Khanjar: He also has a khanjar dagger that has an inscription in Persian which reads: "I wanted so much to have a gleaming dagger, that each of my ribs became a dagger." This blade passed to him from his mother's family.
  • Spears: Aside from daggers, Alastair’s other primary weapon are spears. His collection of spears contains some that can be folded up and easily kept inside one’s pockets or coat lining. He claims to never leave home without one.
  • Other basic Shadowhunter gear, including: steles, seraph blades, and a witchlight.



And you can have whatever you wish, Charles. You just cannot also have me. I wish to live my life, not hide in the shadows as you engage yourself to a series of women in an attempt to conceal who you really are. If you choose that for yourself, it is your choice, but you cannot choose for me.

–Alastair to Charles when ending their romantic relationship., Chain of Gold

Alastair and Charles met some time before 1901. They truly fell in love in Paris, although they flirted prior to that. They agreed to keep their relationship a secret in order to protect Charles's political career. When Charles became engaged to Ariadne Bridgestock, Alastair stayed with him; believing him when he said it was a temporary political alliance and that it would not actually lead to marriage. However, as time passed and Alastair realize Ariadne expected the marriage to follow through, Alastair began to doubt Charles's insistent claims that it was all so they could be together. When Charles became engaged once again to Grace Blackthorn, knowing how much it would hurt him, Alastair realized that Charles only cared about his political career and broke up with him. He avoided him when he came by the house and at his sister's engagement party, he told him off for good.

Charles tried to approach Alastair at Rosamund Wentworth's engagement party but Cordelia intervened when she noticed her brother's unwillingness. A few weeks later, after Charles narrowly escaped getting killed by Belial, he requested to see Alastair in the infirmary, and after some persuasion from Matthew, Alastair agreed.

Alastair and Thomas in the Sanctuary

I didn't see you—you were this boy, following me around at school, and then I met you in Paris and you'd grown up and turned into Michelangelo's David. I thought you were beautiful.

–Alastair to Thomas, Chain of Iron

Alastair and Thomas first met at the Shadowhunter Academy; Thomas looked up to Alastair and followed him around, much to Alastair's annoyance. Years later, they met again in Paris during their travel years. They spent several days together seeing the sights and chatting over meals. They parted ways on decent terms.

The following year, during the investigation of the Mandikhor demon attack, Thomas and Alastair worked together and grew even closer. However, during James and Cordelia's engagement party, Matthew told everyone about the rumors Alastair had spread involving Thomas's father and Charlotte Fairchild, as well as a few unsavory comments about his mother. Though Alastair tried to apologize, Thomas threatened to throw Alastair into the Thames if he ever spoke to him again. Hurt, Alastair ran away crying.

After keeping his distance for months, he approached Thomas at Cordelia's wedding reception, but was rudely brushed off. He tried to be surreptitious about his attraction for Thomas, though it did not go unnoticed by Cordelia.

For the next few weeks, Alastair trailed Thomas—who was patrolling unofficially to find the serial killer of London— without letting the latter know. When Thomas was arrested as a suspect, Alastair immediately rushed to the Institute and declared that he had been following Thomas all along, and that he was not the murderer. The pair was kept in the Sanctuary overnight, where Thomas confronted him about his behavior. They had an elaborate discussion about Alastair's time at the Academy—his getting bullied by the seniors, and turning into a bully to avoid being targeted again, envying the Merry Thieves for their friendship and subsequently carrying forward rumors. While talking about Charles, Alastair indirectly confessed about his attraction towards Thomas and the pair shared a kiss.

Next morning, after being proven innocent, they fought Leviathan together. Post the battle, Alastair went to see Charles, on the latter's request, but not before telling Thomas that the illusion they had created would be shattered sooner or later and that he would not force Thomas to choose between his friends and Alastair.


CJ Alastair & Cordelia 01.jpg
You have no idea what I've done for my sister.

–Alastair to James Herondale, Chain of Gold

Growing up, Alastair and Cordelia were very close, since they traveled a lot and had few friends. Alastair looks out for his sister and attempted to shield Cordelia from the truth about their father's alcoholism, wanting her to have a more carefree childhood and a better respect for Elias.

When Cordelia learned about his sexuality and relationship with Charles, Cordelia accepted him. She stood by his side during their break-up and supported him when he stood up to Charles at her engagement party.

Their bond developed as they secretly began talking about the new Carstairs baby and Elias's return. At her wedding, Alastair told her to reach out to him if James hurt her in any way. He comforted Cordelia several times, after Elias's death, and refused to take her sword when she offered it, suggesting instead that she get it checked by the Silent Brothers.

Alastair has a tense relationship with his father. He views him as weak for his alcoholism and does not respect him. He resents him for having put such responsibility on himself at a young age such as fetching him when he passed out in a gutter and cleaning up his messes.

Still Alastair did his best to hide this from his younger sister, wanting her to have a chance at a good childhood and the opportunity to love her father since he couldn't.

At Elias's return on the day of Cordelia's wedding, he was disgruntled and made no move to hide it. He was embarrassed when Elias had a drunken episode at her reception party but steered him away before he could ruin the atmosphere. At the Carstairs dinner, he rudely pointed out how Elias's past achievements were no longer valued because of his behavior.

Elias's death aggrieved him, though not as much as it tormented Sona and Cordelia. Alastair felt a little remorse but it increased his protectiveness towards their unborn sibling.

Alastair and his mother are fairly close, at least compared to his relationship with his father. The pair are often conspiring on what to do about Elias and how best to protect Cordelia. Sona confides in her son and shares more with him than she does with her daughter, despite her viewing them both as children. She relies on Alastair to act as the man of the house and go to Enclave meetings and the like.

After Elias's death, he supported and comforted her, and took all of Elias's responsibilities.



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  • Alastair reads mundane newspapers to find hints of demonic activity.[5]
  • His favorite book is The Prince by Machiavelli.[4]
  • During his childhood, Alastair and Cordelia shared a common interest in architecture. Inspired by their last name, the two collaborated to build castles out of wooden blocks.[3]
  • Cordelia loved scaring him when they were younger, specifically by grabbing his ankle while hidden under his bed, resulting in an ongoing habit of Alastair's to look under beds before getting within an arm's length of them.[3]
  • Alastair's middle name, Esfandiyār, is a hero in the Persian mythology book Shāhnāmeh. Interestingly, his sister's middle name is the name of this character's mother.
    • His father calls him by his middle name as Alastair used to love hearing Elias read him stories from this book as a child.[8]
  • His favorite animal is a hedgehog.[4]
  • Alastair, like Jem, has a love of music;[7] growing up he sung and played piano.[1]
  • When he is lying, he can no longer look someone in the eye.[1]

  • Alastair is regarded differently at the Academy and in London for being half Persian.[9][10]
  • "Alastair and Cordelia share a love for Persian culture and stories and songs, via their mother Sona, though Alastair is now distancing himself from that because of how he was treated at Shadowhunter Academy due to his heritage, and the way he is now regarded in London. Alastair tells Cordelia not to speak to him in public in their mother’s language."[10]

  • According to a found family tree, Alastair died in 1928 at the age of 43 or 44. Also according to the family tree, he is the direct ancestor of John and Emma Carstairs. His name on the tree was spelled "Alistair".[11]
  • Alastair shares a name with Alastair Hunt, a character from Cassandra Clare's The Magisterium series.

  • References