SPOILER WARNING: Plot details for Chain of Gold follow. Caution is advised!
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 to Matthew, Nothing but Shadows

James Herondale is the first child and only son of Tessa Gray and Will Herondale, and the older brother of Lucie Herondale.


Early life

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.[2]

When James was a child and was about to have the runes that will protect him placed on him at the Silent City, Will demanded that only Brother Zachariah could do it.[3]

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. At one point, he met and befriended Grace Blackthorn, who lived at the Lightwood manor with her adoptive mother, Tatiana. 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.[4]


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.[4]

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.[5]


By 1903, James had already fallen in love with Grace. Raised and showered in love, James was not prepared for the pain that heartbreak dealt him, causing him to have suicidal thoughts and tendencies, very much unlike his typically responsible behavior.

One 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, but Magnus later figured out the reason during a conversation with Grace herself during a trip to Tatiana's manor.[6]

Later life

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.[3]


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.[6]

Physical description

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.

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.
  • Demonic magic: James has special "talents", such as the ability to turn into a shadow, due to inheriting some demon blood from his mother. When he turned into a shadow, his surroundings turned gray and dark.


  • Lucie Herondale: James's younger sister, with whom he is very close.[7] They often talk to one another about their problems and rarely fight.[8] As they grew up, they began to bicker, but remain relatively close as siblings.
  • Matthew Fairchild: 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.
  • Christopher and Thomas Lightwood: Along with Matthew, these four boys are a tight-knit group of friends and are almost always together.[5][9]
  • Cordelia Carstairs: Lucie's best friend and a close friend of James's. They have known each other since childhood. James is unaware of the fact that Cordelia harbors romantic feelings for him.
  • Grace Blackthorn: The cold adoptive daughter of Tatiana Blackthorn, whom he is in love with. James first met her in Idris in 1900. Their friendship built over the years as they spent every summer together in Idris. In 1903, Grace and Tatiana moved to London.
  • James hates Augustus Pounceby (for saying slurs about his mother), Lavinia Whitelaw (for insulting his sister and her rude remarks about him and his friends), and Alastair Carstairs (for all he had done to bully him at the Academy).[5]



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  • 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,[10] a fact that James flaunts in front of his father to annoy him.[6][11]
  • James's favorite treat is Yorkshire shortbread.[12]
  • James's favorite book is Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.[1]
  • His weapon of choice is throwing knives.[13][1]
  • 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,[14] and in 2012, it was given to a Herondale from another line, Kit.[15]
  • His favorite animal is a wolf.[1]

  • James is a poet.[16]
  • James "has nicknames for everyone."[17]
  • James will set something on fire.[18]
  • In Chain of Gold, we are set to find out the weird, yet reasonable, reason why James and Cordelia eventually get married.[19][20][21][22]
  • Because of James's unique abilities, he is the only Shadowhunter to be able use a gun that can kill demons.[23]


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