|“||Maybe you're right that Shadowhunters are more limited, that we don't get the full range of possibilities Mundanes get, but- we get to make the mundanes' lives possible. That's what we're born to. It is a privilege. I'm not going to run away from the Academy. I'm not running away from anything. I can bear marks, and that makes me a Shadowhunter, and that's what I will be whether the Nephilim want me or not.||”|
James was born in 1886. His conception came as a surprise to his parents who were both unsure if Tessa could conceive children or not. Jem Carstairs gave the news to Tessa, and it was quickly decided that the child would be named James, after Jem, Tessa's former fiancé and Will's parabatai.
James was raised in the London Institute. With few children around, he grew to be a shy boy who, like his parents, developed a love for reading and spent most of his time doing so. When he was thirteen years old, his parents decided to send him to Idris to attend the Shadowhunter Academy, and the prospect of finally making friends made him both nervous and excited.
At the Academy, James discovered his ability to turn into a shadow—an ability born out of his mother's demonic lineage. This earned him the nickname "Demon Eyes" among the students in the Academy and he became regularly bullied, particularly because he was feared as part-demon. Despite this, James decided to stay, not wanting to make his mother feel bad for his fate. Eventually, he became good friends with Matthew Fairchild, Thomas, and their cousin Christopher Lightwood.
At one point, during a training exercise in the forest near the Academy, a group of three students, led by his tormentor Alastair Carstairs, decided to play a prank on James. They intended to let loose a Vetis demon upon James in an attempt to scare him away and out of the Academy. The plan backfired when the demon escaped and the boy holding the Pyxis was killed. Blamed for the accident, James was promptly expelled from the Academy. Matthew staged an explosion in the Academy to get himself expelled and begged James's father to take him to London with them, declaring that he and James were to be parabatai and thus should not be separated, a suggestion the pair took to heart and decided that they would make true.
The closeness of their families made it possible for the four of them to continue being friends. Matthew, Thomas, and Christopher all lived close together in London, and they trained together at the Institute. At one point, the boys decided to rent out a room at the Devil Tavern.
After being expelled from the Academy, James was sent to Cirenworth to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. While there he contracted scalding fever—a Shadowhunter illness. Everyone in the house who had not had it already was forced to evacuate, leaving him alone with Cordelia Carstairs and her mother. Cordelia stayed by his bedside while he drifted in and out of consciousness, offering him water when he awoke or to read to him. At one point, he found himself turning into a shadow. Scared, he reached for Cordelia who, rather than run away, climbed into bed with him and held him till he came back to himself.
He was considered cured a few days later and was able to join his family at their manor house in Idris. There he met up with Grace Blackthorn—whom he had met and befriended the previous summer while trimming her house's briars—and found himself not able to stop talking about Cordelia. Eventually, Grace laughed off his rambling, saying it was because he was in love with Cordelia.
At one of their next meetings, she asked him to use his newly-found shadow ability to retrieve her birth-mother's bracelet from where Tatiana Blackthorn had it locked up. After doing so, she asked him to wear it for her, as a sign of their friendship. Not knowing it was enchanted to make her siren-like abilities work on him, he agreed and from then on believed he was in love with Grace.
Over the following years, the two constantly exchanged letters and spent their summers together in Idris. They developed an understanding that one day James would save her from her mother's clutches and marry her.
At one point Grace tried to break it off with him, driving him to despair. That evening, James had gotten drunk and was making dangerous bets with Ragnor Fell, the High Warlock of London. The same evening, he encountered and was promptly followed by Magnus Bane, his father's warlock friend, who, before seeing his gold eyes, mistook him for Will. Magnus brought him back to the London Institute, but only after James completed some of his bets with Ragnor. Concerned for him, in addition to wanting to see Jem, Will had Brother Zachariah called to look at James. Magnus privately tried to ask James what his problem was; James refused, insisting that he was beyond saving. The following day, Grace wrote back to him apologizing, claiming she was only afraid, and the two resumed their relationship.
In August 1903, the London Institute threw a ball to welcome the Carstairs family, along with Grace and Tatiana Blackthorn, to the London Enclave. At the ball, James briefly passed into his shadow realm. There he saw dark tree-like shapes in the ballroom that grabbed Barbara Lightwood's ankle and dragged her down. A few minutes after returning to himself, Barbara collapsed. Though she claimed it was a dizzy spell from lack of eating, James was visibly shaken. Having never had his trips into the shadow realm prove prophetic before, and this having been the second time in a matter of days after a year of no slips, he contacted Jem.
At the picnic in Regent's Park the next day, James heard screams coming from down by the lake. Before he could see what was going on, Barbara rushed up to him spouting about demons and asking if he had seen them the previous night as she had. James, surprised that she had seen what he saw, didn't respond as more appeared on the embankment. Soon he and the others were attacked by these demons in broad daylight. However, just as quickly as they arrived, the demons vanished, leaving the Shadowhunters confused and a few, including Barbara, gravely wounded.
After returning to the Institute, while the injured were being treated, Jem confronted James about the message he had sent the night before. While speaking to Jem, James came up with the idea of purposefully going into the shadow realm, in an attempt to get some answers about these daylight demons, as well as why he seemed to be getting warnings. With the Merry Thieves help, he was able to enter the shadow realm fully and found it resembled a blasted landscape of London. After collecting some sand to bring back with him, he noticed a light in the distance. Following it, he found himself in the greenhouse of Chiswick house where Cordelia was struggling against a Cerberus demon. James quickly dispatched the demon, saving Cordelia.
The following day, he received a letter from Grace, asking him to meet her at Battersea Bridge. There, she asked him to run away with her, become mundanes, and get married. James, unwilling to abandon his family and friends, tried to convince her that she could come stay at the Institute but she was insistent that it would not free her from Tatiana. She then accused him of having forgotten her when he did not come to Idris that summer, but when he tried to assure her that he did still love her, they were interrupted by more Cerberus demons. Luckily Lucie, Cordelia, Alastair, and the rest of the Merry Thieves arrived and were able to fend off the demons until the leader agreed to leave to show their loyalty to James's grandfather, calling him a Prince of Hell.
When they returned home that night, they learned of Barbara's death. Upset, the group decided to use their energy into tracking down the demon responsible and finding a cure to save the others.
Based on a lead given to them by Ragnor Fell, they went to the flat of Emmanuel Gast. Though they found him dead, Lucie was able to get a great deal of information from his ghost: Emmanuel had been hired by someone to raise a demon in between worlds in order to make it impervious to sunlight. On their way out, James collected some broken pieces of wood and a drawing, which James was later able to discern was of a Pyxis box.
Back at the Institute, Grace arrived with her mother who was the latest victim of these attacks. While trying to comfort her, Grace told him that she was engaged to Charles Fairchild. James tried to fight her on it but she did not change her mind. At last, she asked for her bracelet back and once she removed it he ran out. He later fainted, as a result of the spells of the bracelet being taken off, though everyone believed it to be from alcohol.
The next day, the group was able to decipher the name of the demon written on Gast's image: the Mandikhor. With some research they discovered the Mandikhor could produce an unlimited amount of smaller demons known as Khora demons; the shadowy figures that had been attacking them. They also learned that it was difficult to kill and so they would have to capture the Mandikhor in a Pyxis. Stealing one from Hypatia Vex, they went to face the demon on Tower Bridge. Unfortunately, it was too strong for the Pyxis, breaking out and vanishing, leaving them to battle its remaining Khora demons.
After Christopher was poisoned and brought to the Silent City, James received a note requesting his presence at the infirmary there. While waiting for Jem, Christopher called out for James and issued him a warning that it was about him and he must leave. The others then began chanting his name and a possessed Ariadne Bridgestock told him he was being summoned and must face the Prince if he wanted the attacks to stop. So, after fleeing the Silent City, James opened a Portal into the shadow realm to face his grandfather, Belial.
Once in the realm, Belial said he would get rid of the Mandikhor and cure those who were ill if James allowed him to co-inhabit his body so he could once again walk the earth. He attempted to persuade him with all the power he could have, but James refused. Angered, Belial commanded the Mandikhor to attack James. James was surprised when Cordelia arrived to aid him in battle but still the Mandikhor was too strong for them. James realized he was able to reach into the realm itself through his connection to Belial. He used these powers to destroy the Mandikhor. Belial tried once again to convince him but was cut off when Cordelia stabbed him with Cortana. With Belial severely wounded, the realm began to collapse and James and Cordelia were returned to their world.
Having been poisoned and depleted his strength when reaching into the realm, James was dying when they came back. Matthew tried iratzes but they were not strong enough to save him. Thankfully, unbeknownst to him, the ghost of Jesse Blackthorn gave James his last breath—which had been preserved in his locket to one day resurrect himself—saving his life.
Days later, while still recovering from his ordeal, James was visited by Grace. Grace pleaded for his understanding of her actions and then told him of her mother's involvement in necromancy and her plans against Nephilim. She forced her bracelet back on his wrist and asked that he go to Blackthorn Manor to destroy an automaton there. With the bracelet's control strengthened, James agreed and in the process of destroying it, burned down the manor. At the following council meeting, Tatiana accused James of having orchestrated the Mandikhor attacks and then burning her house down to destroy her evidence. In an effort to protect him, Cordelia provided him with an alibi, claiming he had been with her the night before. While Tatiana was being arrested for the dark magic items found in the rubble of her home, James proposed to Cordelia in order to save her reputation, with the plan to divorce in a year. Cordelia agreed.
Years later, in 1937, James was present at his father's deathbed, where he spoke about Will's fear of ducks and his continual battle to keep them out of the pond at the family home in Yorkshire.
James is a quiet and studious boy who prefers reading or having fun with friends rather than partying. He is also kind, loving, and good-hearted, as well as responsible, able to keep himself and his parabatai Matthew out of trouble. Upon getting his heart broken by Grace, however, James became suicidal and troublesome, generally not caring about future consequences or what might happen to him, making it a habit to disgrace himself in public and put his life in danger, thinking himself damned. He refused to listen to the advice of others and became difficult to reason with.
James greatly resembles Will, save for his radiant golden eyes. He is said to be beautiful and lovely, his pale white skin luminous and clear, his long, curling black hair normally disheveled. According to Cordelia, James has a lethal dimple.
James, being Will's first and only son, became the first to inherit the Herondale birthmark — a star-shaped scar on the skin over his shoulder.
Skills and abilities
- Nephilim physiology: Being Nephilim, James is expected to possess a variety of enhanced physical and mental abilities granted to him by the angel blood of Raziel in his veins and also by the angelic Marks of the Gray Book. This includes enhanced strength, agility, stamina, and coordination, which would improve over time and practice.
- Runic magic: Due to the angel blood in their veins, all Shadowhunters are all able to apply runes of the Gray Book 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, James can easily see through most magical illusions and layers of glamour over reality.
- Use of heavenly weapons: As a Nephilim, James 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.
- Parabatai bond: Due to his parabatai bond with Matthew Fairchild, James is able to call on more strength in battle. The runes drawn on him by Matthew also give a considerably stronger effect.
- Demonic magic: James has special "talents", such as the ability to inhabit other realms, due to inheriting some demon blood from his mother. While doing this, he is often described as having turned into a shadow.
- Marksmanship: James's primary weapon is the throwing knife. He perfected the skill, most likely, from his father. He is even able to throw multiple knives at a time and land them directly in their target.
- Grace's bracelet: When they were children, Grace asked James to wear her mother’s bracelet as a sign of their friendship and he hasn’t taken it off since. Unbeknownst to James, the bracelet is enchanted to allow Grace’s siren-like abilities to work on him. As such, with the bracelet on, he believes himself in love with Grace and complacent to all her wishes. The bracelet also clouds his memories of and feelings for Cordelia and, in general, makes his thoughts less than clear.
- Mundane occult books: James collects occult books which he keeps in the Devil Tavern. James is fascinated by the idea of mundanes who have no connection to that which is magical yet yearn for it so.
- Summoning matchbook: After their lessons, Brother Zachariah gave James a matchbook that could be used to summon him; specifically if he went into the shadow realm. The box has a sketch of Hermes on it.
- Daggers and throwing knives: James’s weapons of choice are daggers and throwing knives. Particularly those made by his cousin Christopher Lightwood which are built to be stronger than normal runed blades.
- Other basic Shadowhunter gear, including: steles, seraph blades, and a witchlight.
- Herondale family ring: Like many Shadowhunters, James owns a copy of a ring symbolizing his family name. After his death, it was saved by his mother and given to his descendant Jace Herondale.
|“||You are one of the best friends I've ever had. I will not leave you in trouble alone.||”|
–James to Cordelia, Chain of Gold
Cordelia is Lucie's best friend and future parabatai. Because of this, she and James have known each other a long time and became close friends.
At a young age, James fell in love with Cordelia, though unaware of his feelings or that she returned them. Before James was even able to admit these feelings to himself, Grace Blackthorn had given him a bracelet that allowed her siren-like abilities to work on him, and that masked his feelings for Cordelia.
After Cordelia moved to London, the bracelet began weakening and eventually was taken off. He began to come out of his fog and started to realize he was in love with Cordelia. After battling the Mandikhor demon, he made plans to read together with her, as she once had to him when he was ill as a child, as a romantic gesture. However, when she was healed enough to do so, Grace had returned her bracelet to him, its power strengthened, and once again believed himself in love with Grace.Days later, he proposed to Cordelia after she provided him with an alibi, tarnishing her reputation in the process. He hoped to save her from humiliation with a marriage blanc—they would marry for a year and then divorce.
The cold adoptive daughter of Tatiana Blackthorn, whom he believes himself in love with. James first met her in Idris in 1899. They began a friendship while he trimmed her mother's briars. The following year, they did much of the same until she asked him to steal her birth-mother's bracelet for her from Tatiana. After he did, she asked him to wear it as her only true friend. James obliged, not knowing that the bracelet was enchanted. From then on he believed he loved Grace. The two exchanged letters constantly and spent their summers together in Idris. They developed an understanding that one day, James would save her from Tatiana and they would get married. When Grace moved to London, James was excited. However, the powers of the bracelet began to fade. One night, she asked him to run away with her, become mundanes, and get married as a test. She later took her bracelet back and told him that she was engaged to Charles Fairchild instead. Some days later she returned the bracelet, now stronger, to him and reestablished an understanding. Following his engagement to Cordelia, Grace told him that she could make her engagement to Charles a long one so that they could marry after he divorced Cordelia. James however did not respond after having told her they shouldn't talk or be friends for the time being.
James's parabatai. They first met at Shadowhunter Academy and hated each other's company. As they got to know each other, they became closer and ultimately became parabatai.
Matthew's family soon moved back to London so they could be close together and they became inseparable along with their other friends Christopher and Thomas Lightwood. After much insistence from Matthew that they needed a private clubhouse, James found them one at the Devil Tavern. There they spend most of their time together.One year, for Matthew's birthday, James gave him a puppy he had found in the streets.
Lucie is James's younger sister, and the two are very close. They often talk to one another about their problems and relationships and rarely fight. When they were little, they would read books aloud by the fire every night. As they grew up, they began to bicker, but remain relatively close as siblings. James is very supportive of Lucie's writing. For her eighth birthday, James bought Lucie a thick blank book, and it became one of her most prized possessions. She keeps it next to her bed and copied her favorite pieces of her own work into it.
Along with Matthew, Thomas and Christopher make up the other members of the Merry Thieves. These four boys are a tight-knit group of friends. Whether it be demon hunting, investigating, or just hanging out; they are almost always together.
Jem Carstairs, formally known as Brother Zachariah, was James's father's parabatai whom James considered as an uncle. After James discovered his shadow ability, James initially wanted to avoid it. However, soon Jem was called to help ease his mind and convinced him the best way to deal with it is to understand and master it. Over the course of a year, Jem taught James how to resist the pull that drew him into this shadow realm and control the feelings that triggered it. Eventually, James felt the influence of the realm lessen and even went a full year without it happening. Still, Jem gave him a matchbox that could be used to send a message to Jem when he slipped back into it. Jem remains James's main confidant on matters involving his power and the shadow realm.
Despite being good friends with his sister, James does not get along with Alastair Carstairs. During his time at the Academy, Alastair bullied James relentlessly. Making fun of his eyes and later his demonic ability. At one point, he and his friends planned to prank James when releasing demons into the woods for a training exercise. The trick ended up killing Alastair's friend and James was expelled. Years later, when Alastair moved to London with his family, James still hadn't forgiven Alastair for his tormenting him. Alastair even accused him of trying to get close to his sister in an attempt to get back at him. However, James remains civil with him in public, especially following his engagement to Cordelia.
Though James does not know it, Tatiana has plotted to hurt James in a way to get revenge with his parents. She allied herself with his grandfather Belial in this effort. He created an enchantment on a bracelet so that her daughter's abilities would work on him and then instructed her to convince him to steal it for her and have him wear it. She then used Grace to manipulate him into believing he loved her and torturing him through that love. All of this was also meant to prepare him for Belial to be able to possess so that he could walk the earth again.
- Augustus Pounceby is one of the people James hates. In the summer of 1900, Augustus had come to London on his travel year. Once he and James were alone, he made a series of slurs against his mother's good name. To which James threw him in the river.
- Lavinia Whitelaw: during tea with the Consul, Lavinia insulted his sister, claiming no one would want to marry her because of her "disadvantages". At another point, she made rude remarks concerning James and his friends, calling them hooligans. For these reasons, James hates her.
- See more here
- James Herondale was named after Jem Carstairs, Will's parabatai and Tessa's former fiancé.
- Unlike their father and many of their descendants, both James and Lucie are not afraid of ducks, a fact that James flaunts in front of his father to annoy him. However, he doesn't fancy them after being bitten by one at Hyde Park as a child.
- James's favorite treat is Yorkshire shortbread.
- James's favorite book is Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.
- Like his descendant Jace, James played piano for a few years before abandoning it.
- James is one of the two Herondale boys known to have gold eyes, the other being his descendant Jace Herondale. While James has gold eyes because of his demonic heritage, Jace was born with excess angel blood; possibly because of this difference, the gold of their eyes are of different degrees—while James's eyes were bright gold, Jace's was pale, almost yellow.
- According to a found family tree, James and Cordelia would have a son named Owen. Also according to the family tree, James died in 1963, at the age of 76 or 77.
- Upon his death, his mother kept his family ring for decades. In 2008, she gave it to his descendant Jace, and in 2012, it was given to a Herondale from another line, Kit.
- His favorite animal is a wolf.
- He is also fond of parsnips.
- Despite being 6 feet tall, James wishes he was taller.
- James has always wanted to visit Constantinople.
- Because of James's unique abilities, he is the only Shadowhunter to be able to use a gun that can kill demons.
- James's Character Card — Cassandra Clare on Instagram
- Wessa comic by Cassandra Jean and Cassandra Clare
- Clockwork Princess
- Nothing but Shadows
- Cast Long Shadows
- Chain of Gold
- The Midnight Heir
- "They talk about their problems and relationships...They rarely fight." Cassandra Clare on Tumblr
- TMI Source's 10 year anniversary chat with Cassandra Clare
- "are James and Lucie also afraid of ducks?" "Nope." Cassandra Clare on Twitter
- "James is trying to annoy his father by being a duck fan." Cassandra Clare on Twitter
- January 2020 Shadowhunter Army Newsletter
- City of Heavenly Fire
- Lord of Shadows
- Chain of Iron
- "James is an exception" Cassandra Clare on Tumblr
- Art and Shadowhunters: "James writes poetry," Cassandra Clare on Tumblr
- Nicknames, Cassandra Clare on Twitter