Release Date: March 25, 2008
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what's normal when you're a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who's becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn't ready to let her go — especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary's only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil — and also her father.
To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings — and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father? (courtesy of Goodreads.)
The Mortal Instruments stands up to re-reading. This was my second time of reading City of Ashes (my third for City of Bones) and I loved it just as much if not more than the first time. The funny thing about this book and the whole series is that you can fit it into a bunch of stereotypes but then Ms. Clare goes beyond the typical each time to make the book her own.
A few typical second book features present in City of Ashes: The great lovers are separated...and here's where the unique part comes in...because it turns out they're siblings! It makes all the readers uncomfortable, because you want Jace and Clary to be together and their chemistry is palpable, but the idea of a brother and sister being in romantic love is unthinkable. A seemingly impossible juxtaposition. Definitely ups the tension.
Then there's the overplayed love triangle - Clary and Jace; Clary and Simon. For the most part, this doesn't go beyond stereotype. But there's a reason that love triangles are used over and over again despite reader fatigue. It adds a level of emotional tension that, when done well, sucks readers in no matter how much they hate love triangles. Simon does some really stupid things in the name of love - well, jealously actually - in this book (and in City of Bones) and suffers the consequences. I was glad for it, because it gave Simon a purpose in the series. Before the big twist, Simon was a hanger-on, a mostly useless mundane, who seemed to be there only to be a lovesick puppy staring at Clary.
Luke is probably my favorite character in the book. He is Clary's father in every way but blood and takes care of everyone around him. He's gentle and wise, but as a former Shadowhunter and the leader of a wolf pack, he's a skilled fighter and capable of being vicious when the situation calls for it. It seems like all the other adults in this series are either dead, comatose, or enemies. It's nice to have a strong adult presence.
The action never ceases in this book. You could argue that the plot is jumpy, because so many vastly different things are going on, but it's the perfect way to keep you interested. The plot is far more than simply a battle between the Shadowhunters and Valentine. The relationship drama is crucial to the series and plays out amongst multiple characters.
Let's play Harry Potter character match-up!
Ms. Clare got her start as a HP fanfic writer and the series has clear parallels. To her credit though, the series stands solidly on its own and none of the characters are straight HP copies. Clary is Harry. It even rhymes! Luke is like a cross between Lupin, Arthur Weasley, and a little Dumbledore. Hodge in City of Bones was a much closer version of Dumbledore, but obviously he diverged from the good leader. The Inquisitor is a cross between Barty Crouch and Delores Umbridge. Valentine equals Voldemort. We see more of Valentine's charisma in addition to his evilness than we did with Voldemort. Who else?
City of Ashes is told from multiple points of view. City of Bones was mostly from Clary's perspective, making the occasional viewpoint shift feel more like a mistake. City of Ashes changes viewpoint fairly frequently. The shifts were random and too abrupt at times, but I liked seeing through other character's eyes. It was especially wonderful to read Jace's point of view. We see his vulnerability, which only makes me love him more.
Another frustration about City of Ashes is the timeframe. I don't think much time has passed between City of Bones and City of Ashes, but the characters often talk as if it's been years. And Clary and Jace act as if they've known each other for years, when it's only been a brief period of time. Also, Clary sometimes seems to be a skilled fighter as though she's had tons of training and at other times her inexperience is emphasized.
City of Ashes, as with the entire Mortal Instruments series, is a flawed book in many ways. But the action, the paranormal/mythological world, the romance, the characters are all so detailed and well scripted that I can't help but be sucked in. Ms. Clare knows just how to pull your heartstrings and keep you reading. And for that reason, I love the series.
Rating: 4 / 5
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