- Elias: "So you want to be a hero?"
- Cordelia: "I want to be a merciful hero."
- ―Cordelia explaining why she wanted Cortana, Chain of Gold
Growing up, Cordelia never knew her father was an alcoholic; her mother and brother wanted her to have the childhood and respect for Elias that her brother never had, and convinced Cordelia that Elias was merely unwell. His questionable health is what kept them constantly on the move from country to country, and so Cordelia never had many friends.
That is until she met Lucie Herondale, when Lucie and her mother took a trip to France. After spending two weeks together, she and Lucie became very close. Even when they parted ways, the two remained in contact, sending letters to each other every week. In 1897, the pair decided to become parabatai. However their ceremony was put off for a few years as the Clave wanted to make sure they were grown enough to know their own minds.
Cordelia also befriended James Herondale through Lucie and soon fell in love with him.
At 13, she gained ownership of the legendary sword Cortana. Her and her brother argued their cases for their father as to why they should each get to be its bearer, but in the end the blade chose for itself. Cordelia, having grown up wishing for the sword and even talking to it through its case, was ecstatic and has since never left home without it.
Moving to London
In 1903, Elias was arrested by the Clave for jeopardizing the Accords when a mission he led resulted in a battle with a vampire clan who believed them to have teamed up with Werewolves against them. Cordelia and her family then moved to London in hopes of making powerful allies within the Clave to save them from possible disgrace. Though Cordelia took this as trying to prove her father's innocence, her mother wanted to find Cordelia a suitable partner to marry her off to before shame befell them.
Upon their arrival, the Herondale family hosted a ball in the London Institute to welcome them to the London Enclave. There, Cordelia tried and failed to make friends with some of the girls before James asked her to dance. During the dance, he pointed out who everyone was, and who she was best likely to get along with, before Grace Blackthorn arrived, and James abruptly left. Matthew Fairchild then came to her rescue and continued dancing with her like nothing happened. They chatted well enough and he ended up inviting her to a picnic the next day. She later made an impression on Anna Lightwood when she helped a fallen Barbara Lightwood regain consciousness.
At the picnic in Regent's Park, Cordelia befriended Thomas and Christopher Lightwood and tried to get better acquainted with the others from the previous night. However they were soon interrupted by a demon attack in broad daylight. Cordelia rushed to protect her brother but, after only a few moments, the demons vanished.
She went with the others back to the Institute and did her best to assist in the infirmary. Lucie soon pulled her away and to Chiswick house to look for a ghost that may have information on these daylight demons. Cordelia was left to distract Grace and Tatiana Blackthorn while Lucie snuck in to speak with the ghost. Cordelia then ventured into their greenhouse where she was attacked by a Cerberus demon until James unexpectedly showed up and came to her rescue.
The following day, Cordelia joined Anna Lightwood for tea, which then turned into a trip to the Hell Ruelle with Matthew. They planned to ask for information on the attacks, hoping the Downworlders there may know something. Thankfully, after Cordelia saved them from being poisoned by Arabella, Hypatia Vex and Malcolm Fade were able to help and told them of the rumors they had heard about a powerful individual being involved in the lack of demons recently. Hypatia then sent a message to Ragnor Fell to further assist them and he led them to Emmanuel Gast, a fellow warlock who specialized in dimensional magic. Though they found him dead, they were able to get a good deal of information from his spirit and the drawing and remains of a Pyxis box.
The group was then able to discern that the demon responsible was a Mandikhor that was capable of producing an unlimited number of smaller demons, also known as Khora demons, which were the shadowy beings doing the attacks. After stealing a Pyxis box from Hypatia, the group went to Tower Bridge to try to fight and capture it. During their fight against the Mandikhor, Cordelia was knocked into the river. Luckily, she was saved by Lucie.
The next day, after Christopher was attacked by the Khora demons, she went with James and Matthew to the Silent City. In the infirmary there, Christopher ominously told James that it was about him as the wounded began chanting James's name. After fleeing the City, James realized that the person behind the attacks had to be his demonic grandfather. He then entered the shadow realm to confront and stop Belial once and for all. After some time, Cordelia used Cortana to cut through the Portal to help him. They battled the Mandikhor, but were gravely outmatched until James used his connection to Belial's realm to kill it. Belial then approached James to proposition him once again, to which Cordelia ran him through with Cortana. With Belial being severely wounded, the realm collapsed, James and Cordelia returned to their own realm.
For helping stop the attacks, Cordelia was celebrated as a hero. Considering her status, and the announcement that Sona was pregnant, Elias's charges were dropped— deeming the whole ordeal an accident. Though she was happy he would not be imprisoned, knowing now that he was an alcoholic, Cordelia wrote to him to ask that he seek treatment for his drunkenness in the Basilias rather than return home right away.
During the following Enclave meeting, Tatiana accused James of burning down Blackthorn Manor. Wanting to give him an alibi, Cordelia claimed they had been together the whole night, tarnishing her reputation in the process. James, not wanting to see her ruined, proposed a marriage blanc; the two of them would get married for a year and then divorce. Cordelia accepted, deciding she would rather a year of fake love with James than a lifetime never knowing what it would be like.
Having never settled down in one place for long due to her father's health, Cordelia never made any real friends before she met Lucie and James, as such she sometimes has trouble at social events.
Despite the sheltered life, Cordelia is an adventurous individual and is open to new experiences. She hopes to someday rise as a hero of her own merit.
Cordelia has light brown skin, dark red hair, and black eyes.
Skills and abilities
- Nephilim physiology: Being Nephilim, Cordelia possesses a variety of enhanced physical and mental abilities granted to her by the angel blood of Raziel in her veins and also by the angelic Marks of the Gray Book. This includes enhanced strength, agility, stamina, and coordination, which only improved over time and practice.
- Use of heavenly weapons: As a Nephilim, Cordelia 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.
- Runic magic: Due to the Angel Raziel's blood in their veins, all Shadowhunters are all 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, Cordelia is able to easily see through most magical illusions and layers of glamour over reality.
- Basic Shadowhunter gear, including: a stele and seraph blades.
- Cortana: The legendary sword that has been passed down through the Carstairs family for generations. Cordelia had yearned to inherit and use the sword as a child, and the blade has chosen her over her brother as its bearer. Cordelia never leaves home without it.
- A witchlight given to her by Alastair for her 13th birthday.
- A golden globe necklace given to her by James for their two week wedding anniversary. It has some kind of secret to it.
- A steel scabbard for Cortana, said to be made by Melusine, that is imbued with protective spells and decorated with designs of birds, leaves, vines, and runes. It was given to her by her father as a wedding present.
|“||But she would never hurt James. She loved him. She had loved him all her life.||”|
Cordelia has been in love with James since she was a child.
When he contracted scalding fever—a Shadowhunter illness—Cordelia was one of the only people allowed in his sickroom, having had it already herself. She sat by his bed while he drifted in between consciousness, offering him water when he awoke or to read to him. At one point, he turned into a shadow, and Cordelia crawled into bed with him and held him tightly.
Years later she moved to London and, upon her arrival, let Lucie convince her that James was in love with her. Having long-feared that her feelings were one-sided, she was happy to hear her feelings may be returned and prepared to tell him how she felt. However, she saw the way he looked at Grace Blackthorn and believed her love, once again, to be unrequited.
Over the following weeks, she tried to gain his favor and after a time thought she had; but he later expressed he was back to an understanding with Grace.
At an Enclave meeting, when James stood accused of burning down Blackthorn Manor, Cordelia chose to lie and give him an alibi, ruining her reputation in the process. To save her, James proposed they have a marriage blanc and divorce after a year so that she would not be sullied. She agreed, desperate to have at least one year of happiness with James, however fake it may be.
A few months later, they got married and shifted to a house on Curzon street. James had spent the past few months furnishing it according to Cordelia's taste and incorporated several components from her Persian culture. He included a chessboard in the library and they made an arrangement to play games every night. That night, not wanting Risa to know about their sham, James helped her out of her wedding dress, which left them both embarrassed.
They spent the next few weeks falling into sync with each other and getting used to a domestic life. At Rosamund's engagement party James danced with Cordelia, challenging the tradition of wives not dancing the first set with their husbands.
When James confessed that he had kissed Grace during Cordelia's absence, she told him to kiss her so she could practice for her future husband. They shared a heated moment after which Cordelia left him unsatisfied.James visited Belial's realm, and nearly got killed when Cordelia saved him and brought him back. They shared another kiss, but this time the bracelet broke, freeing James from Grace's influence, though Cordelia did not know of it. Some time later, he comforted Cordelia about being Lilith's paladin and she believed that he had romantic intentions towards her. However, a misunderstanding caused her to feel as if James still adored Grace and she left the house, not wishing to trap him with her.
Lucie is Cordelia's future parabatai.
The pair met when they were young and Lucie and her mother were visiting France. They became extremely close and exchanged letters constantly over the years. Around the time she turned 12, she saved Lucie's life when she fell off a cliff—holding on to her as she dangled till help could arrive. They decided on the spot to become parabatai.
Though it was not an easy process. Many members of the Clave pushed off finalizing the idea as they believed the girls too young to know for sure and that they needed to be trained together. When Cordelia moved to London, part of the reason was to allow them to train so they could complete their ceremony. They began training a little, especially after Cordelia and James's marriage. However, they were unable to get attuned to one another's moves and nearly electrocuted themself while a training session gone awry. Cordelia realized that Lucie was up to something, and while she was disappointed, did not push her friend to reveal the details.
Cordelia first met Anna when she moved to London. Anna was intrigued by her, and invited her to afternoon tea at her apartment. Tea soon turned into a mission at a Downworld salon as Anna revealed her true motives of inviting her to tea: to investigate recent demon attacks.
Over time the two bonded through conversations and came to like one another. In an attempt to help Cordelia gain James's attention, Anna bought her new dresses that more suited her dark complexion.
Matthew is James's parabatai and Cordelia's friend.
When her family settled in London, Cordelia and Matthew started to bond. After James rudely left Cordelia standing alone on the dance floor, Matthew cut in to save her dignity. Eventually, Matthew found himself falling for her, but refrained from telling her in fear of ruining his friendship with James. Matthew and her friendship grew over the months, and they started sharing gossip. Matthew went on to confess about his sin and how he had killed his unborn sister, unknowingly. Cordelia sympathized with him and asked him to accompany her to meet Wayland the Smith. While traveling with him, she felt a rush of freedom and found that she enjoyed it. A few days later, when she misunderstood a conversation between James and Grace and believed that her husband still loved Grace, she rushed to Matthew's apartment. He comforted her and went on to inform her about how he too fancied her but had not revealed it. Surprised as she was, Cordelia told him that she only thought of him as a friend. However, she accepted his offer of traveling to Paris together to heal.
|“||Alastair, I don't want anyone to be cruel to you. I want you to be with someone who will make you happy.||”|
– Cordelia to Alastair, Chain of Gold
Alastair is Cordelia's older brother.
They share a complicated relationship. As they traveled a lot growing up, they really only had each other to spend time with and be close to. Though they still fought and were occasionally distant, they are extremely protective of one another.
After their move to London, Cordelia learned that Alastair had done his best to shelter her from the truth of her father's drunkenness—bringing her attention elsewhere and telling her he was merely ill. Learning this, and of his romantic relationship with Charles Fairchild, brought them even closer together. After her engagement, Alastair spent most of his time hanging out with his sister and keeping her mind off things. When being forced to confront his now ex-partner, he requested she stay by his side for support.
Cordelia began trusting her brother more, and he supported her during her marriage, assuring her that he would always protect her if James ever hurt her. She became more protective of him too, and defended him each time the Merry Thieves accidentally insulted him in front of her. At Rosamund's engagement she rescued him from Charles, who was trying to confront Alastair.When Cordelia was aggrieved due to Elias's death and vented her frustration at James, Alastair comforted her, and went on to tell how Elias had lied about being under debt due to investing in their house in Cirenworth. Cordelia told him to keep Cortana, believing that it malfunctioned as she was no longer worthy of it, but Alastair refused and advised her to get it checked by the Silent Brothers.
Elias is Cordelia's father. Growing up, she was close with her father. Often when he fell ill, it was her who he wanted by his side.
When Elias was arrested for leading a team to a failed mission, Cordelia wanted to prove his innocence. It was during her attempts to find allies that Alastair finally told her the truth of her father; that he was not ill and was in fact a drunk and most likely guilty. After the Clave decided to drop the charges against him, Cordelia wrote him a letter asking that he go to the Basilias for treatment rather than return home right away.
She had mixed emotions when he returned home, on the day of her marriage. His presence made her feel glad however she was embarrassed when he had another one of his episodes during the reception party.While she learned to dismiss his behavior, she was stunned when he visited her house and left after a discussion with James, livid. The next day, the news of his death broke her and when James told her about how he had turned down his demand of five thousand pounds, she lashed out at him, blaming James for Elias's death.
Sona is Cordelia's mother. Having been taught to be proud of her heritage since childhood, she did the same during Cordelia and Alastair's upbringing.
Though Sona did her best to keep her daughter clothed in the height of fashion, this left Cordelia at odds with her peers and often uncomfortable in her dresses as most of the current fashion trends were meant for lighter skin tones. Eventually Sona realized this after Anna Lightwood order Cordelia a number of better suited colored dresses and apologized.
When they moved to London, Sona had hoped to marry Cordelia off to a good match in order to save her from any family embarrassment based on Elias's arrest. She was particularly fond of James Herondale as possible prospect.The pair became each other's support after Elias's death. Sona offered her daughter advice each time she visited the house, telling her to not feel restricted to them just because Sona was pregnant, and told her to live her dreams.
- Nothing but Shadows (first mention)
- Cast Long Shadows (mentioned only)
- Every Exquisite Thing (mentioned only)
- Chain of Gold (first appearance)
- Chain of Iron
- The Land I Lost (mentioned only)
- Lord of Shadows (alluded to)
- Queen of Air and Darkness (mentioned only)
- Forever Fallen (mentioned only)
- Secrets of Blackthorn Hall (alluded to)
- See more here
- In her childhood, she loved scaring her brother Alastair Carstairs. Her favorite method was hiding under his bed and grabbing his ankle when he gets close enough to reach. They also shared a common interest in architecture and together built castles out of wood blocks, inspired by their last name.
- Cordelia's favorite book is Layla and Majnun by Nizami Ganjavi. It is also one of her mother's favorites and is where her nickname "Layla" comes from.
- The name Cordelia means heart.
- Cordelia's middle name, Katāyoun, is a reference to a figure in the Persian mythology book Shāhnāmeh. Interestingly, this character is the mother of a hero in this book whom her brother's middle name references.
- Her mother once hired an expert instructor to teach her how to dance properly.
- Cordelia's favorite treat is the ghotab (or qottab) — a deep-fried Iranian pastry filled with almonds.
- Her favorite animal is the Persian cat.
- Cordelia speaks Farsi.
- Cordelia loves reading, specifically Persian literature and mythology.
- According to the "found" family tree, Cordelia will apparently go on to marry James, have a son named Owen, and die in 1962 at the age of 76 or 77.
- Cordelia is afraid of snakes.
- She thinks that her hair is her best feature.
- Cordelia has always wished to be able to play the cello.
- She, like her cousin Jem, is parabatai with a Herondale. (She is set to become Lucie's parabatai in The Last Hours.)
- "She's fascinated with plants, perfumes and fragrances. A bit of that is about her mother, who loves perfume, and some is about an interest in aspects of her heritage as "Iranians are regarded as the first manufacturers of perfume… The equipment and installations for obtaining rosewater and perfumes were abundant in many towns and villages, and their sweet smelling products were exported to remote corners of the world." Cordelia is fascinated not just with creating delicious smells that she can wear and give as gifts, but also with the meaning of plants and with their uses in healing."
- Cordelia character card — Simon & Schuster on Instagram
- "Her kids are biracial and were born in what was then Persia." Cassandra Clare on Tumblr
- "17" [when TLH starts] — Cassandra Clare on Twitter
- Found family tree, a Clockwork Princess extra (which states that she would turn 18 in 1903)
- An Illustrated History of Notable Shadowhunters & Denizens of Downworld
- Chain of Gold
- Nothing but Shadows
- Days Past: Lucie and Cordelia, a Chain of Gold extra
- Cast Long Shadows
- "She has light brown skin, dark red hair, and black eyes." Cassandra Clare on Twitter
- Chain of Iron
- "Why does Alastair call Cordelia as Layla?" — answered by Cassandra Clare on Tumblr
- The Whispering Room, a Chain of Gold extra, released with Cassandra Clare's March 2021 newsletter
- Shadowhunter Army January 2020 newsletter
- "Yes, they are best friends and become parabatai in the Last Hours." Cassandra Clare on Tumblr
- Q&A Cordelia Cassandra Clare on Tumblr
- Information on Cordelia — Cassandra Clare on Tumblr
- "Cordelia Carstairs has ties to Emma Carstairs." Cassandra Clare on Tumblr