Series: The Mortal Instruments #2
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Published on March 25 2008
Genres: Action & Adventure, Demons, Fiction, Romance, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
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?
In this breathtaking sequel to City of Bones, Cassandra Clare lures her readers back into the dark grip of New York City's Downworld, where love is never safe and power becomes the deadliest temptation.
World Building- 9.5/10
Quickie Review- SPOILER ALERT!!!
Oh my god. Oh my frigging god.
My feelings toward City of Bones were mixed. I thought there were many good elements, but also many flaws that detracted from my enjoyment of the reading experience. So clearly, I am astounded to be giving City of Ashes 5 stars (4.5 rounded up), as it is extremely rare that a series that started ok gets better that quickly. Anyway, City of Ashes was so much better in so many ways than its predecessor, and I’m very excited to be doing this review.
The plot was much better in City of Ashes than it was in City of Bones. The pacing was more even, the suspense ramped up to another level, the climax explosive and actually quite lengthy (which isn’t a bad thing), and the epilogue meaningful and revealing. I breezed through this book in 3 school days, which, considering I’m a pretty slow reader, is not bad at all. I was constantly surprised by the twists that Clare hid in the story; seemingly every chapter there was some kind of reveal that took me by surprise. The action scenes (especially near the end) were done very well- exciting, intense, and heart-pounding. Clare also introduced different perspectives in this book- some parts were in the perspective of characters like Simon, Jace, and Alec, which helped to keep the suspense going, and also aided in telling the reader exactly what was going on to each individual character amid chaos and turmoil. I really hope that the next book in the series is plotted as well and as evenly as this one was.
Cassandra Clare put a real emphasis on characters in City of Ashes, and the characters of Jace and Simon and their relationships with Clary in particular were really developed in a great way. I’ll first talk a bit about Clary- I complained in my review of the first book that I found her to be a bit bitchy and annoying- in this installment she came off as a bit less rude and a bit more likable. She’s still not my favourite lead character, and she will never be, but I’m glad to see that she’s making progress in becoming a better, more mature human being. My newfound level of tolerance could also stem from the possibility that perhaps Clary did not have enough time to be whiny and complaining all throughout the book. There was one little snippet at the end though, that kind of put a damper on all of the progress that she as making.
She’d cried loudly enough that the man sitting across from her had offered her a tissue, and she’d screamed, “What do you think you’re looking at, jerk?” at him, because that was what you did in New York. After that she felt a little better.
…The hell? So her explanation for bitching off to the guy who was trying to help her out was because “it was the New York thing to do”? Oh, gimme a break.
Aaaaaaaanyway, I was able to tolerate her for most of the book, so you know, baby steps.
I thought Jace in City of Bones was all right. I thought that while he was charismatic, he was a bit stereotypical, and I especially did not like how he treated Simon. All that changed in City of Ashes. A real focus was put on the evolution of Jace’s character, and the result was a very surprised and happy reader. First, believe it or not, Jace was actually the source of the brunt of the comic relief. Here are some of his best lines.
“Well, I’m not kissing the mundane,” said Jace. “I’d rather stay down here and rot.”
“Forever?” said Simon. “Forever’s an awfully long time.”
Jace raised his eyebrows. “I knew it,” he said. “You want to kiss me, don’t you?”
“That does it,” said Jace. “I’m going to get you a dictionary for Christmas this year.”
“Why?” Isabelle said.
“So you can look up ‘fun.’ I’m not sure you know what it means.”
“We need to talk. All of us About what we’re going to do now.”
“I was going to watch Project Runway.”
But aside from that, we get a sense of how much he cares for Clary, and we see him make a few sacrifices and a few sudden changes in character to make her happy. Jace has some of the most meaningful lines in the book, so I’ll let the quotes talk.
“You could have fooled me. Everytime I called you, Luke said you were sick. I figured you were avoiding me. Again.”
“I wasn’t. I did want to talk to you. I’ve been thinking about you all the time.”
“I’ve been thinking about you, too.”
“I really was sick. I swear. I almost died back there on the ship, you know.”
“I know. Everytime you almost die, I almost die myself.”
And the below quote emphasizes the obvious problem that now stands between them now that they know they are siblings.
“I don’t hate you, Jace.”
“I don’t hate you, either.”
She looked up at him, relieved. “I’m glad to hear that—”
“I wish I could hate you,” he said. His voice was light, his mouth curved in an unconcerned half smile, his eyes sick with misery. “I want to hate you. I try to hate you. It would be so much easier if I did hate you. Sometimes I think I do hate you and then I see you and I—”
Her hands had grown numb with their grip on the blanket. “And you what?”
“What do you think?” Jace shook his head. “Why should I tell you everything about how I feel when you never tell me anything? It’s like banging my head on a wall, except at least if I were banging my head on a wall, I’d be able to make myself stop.”
The next one is just part of an exchange that signifies a change in attitude towards Simon for the benefit of Clary. I found this entire chapter remarkably well written and surprisingly touching.
“You killed the Demon of Fear, but you won’t kill a single vampire, not even at my order?”
Jace stood watching Valentine without expression. “He’s a vampire, that’s true,” he said. “But his name is Simon.”
And the last one? Pure gold.
We don’t live or love in a vacuum. There are people around us who care about us who would be hurt, maybe destroyed, if we let ourselves feel what we might want to teel. To be that selfish, it would mean- it would mean being like Valentine. […] I’ll just be your brother from now on. That’s what you wanted, isn’t it?
If you read my review of the first book, you’ll know Simon was by far my favourite character in the book. Witty, caring, brave, and surprisingly charismatic, I believed he was the saving grace of the book. And in City of Ashes, Cassandra Clare gave his character a spotlight, which was very much appreciated. I’m really coming to appreciate his cute innocent-nerd moments, like these ones.
“Lawful good to lawful evil!” said Simon, pleased.
“He’s quoting Dungeons and Dragons,” said Clary. “Ignore him.”
Isabelle looked dubious. “Mom and Dad won’t be pleased if they find out.”
“That you freed a possible criminal by trading away your brother to a warlock who looks like a gay Sonic the Hedgehog and dresses like the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?” Simon inquired. “No, probably not.”
And it’s also apparent how much he cares for Clary. He may not be Jace in terms of looks or attractiveness, but his love and affection for Clary burns just as bright, and this is even apparent to other characters in the book.
“Look,” Luke went on, “In all the years I’ve known him, there’s always been exactly one place Simon wanted to be, and he’s always fought like hell to make sure he got there and stayed there.”
“Wherever you were.”
And I think this next excerpt shows you who Simon is and what he values and represents in a nutshell.
“Maybe I could love you someday.”
If you ever do,” he said, “come and let me know. You know where to find me.”
Her teeth were chattering harder. “I can’t lose you, Simon. I can’t.”
You never will. I’m not leaving you. But I’d rather have what we have, which is real and true and important, than have you pretend anything else. When I’m with you, I want to know I’m with the real you, the real Clary.”
She leaned her head against his, closing her eyes. He still felt like Simon, despite everything; still smelled like him, like his laundry soap. “Maybe I don’t know who that is.”
But I do.”
The amount of consideration and patience this guy has is amazing. His personality is lovable and I find myself rooting for him. He loves Clary so much that he is willing to go through physical and emotional hardships to remain in her life. Even after he’s been turned into a vampire, he still remains the same person (for the most part), and I was glad to see this. If I could say one little thing, it would be that I thought the whole “Simon can withstand daylight” was a bit of a cop-out to make things more convenient. I hope that this is explained in a more logical way in the next installment. Oh, and another little thing. Are Simon and Maia a thing now? I like Maia, but if Simon won’t go out with Clary, I’d rather he not get involved with anyone else. It just doesn’t feel right. Anyway, I’ll have to see it for myself before making a decision about them.
The other secondary characters were strong- Luke was great, and so was Magnus (who was hilarious and headstrong himself.) I would STILL like to see Alec and Isabelle be a bit more prominent in the overarching storyline- I still felt that sometimes, they were just there, and were not integral to the storyline.
The writing was great- greatly improved from City of Bones. Of course, the fact that I used so many quotes here kind of implies that the writing had some very stellar moments. Cassandra Clare was much more concise and less wordy- the pages were not filled to the brim with boring, endless descriptions. The scenes were still described very well, but the pace was not affected in a bad way. Clare did a good job of developing her characters but still putting a heavy emphasis on plot and pace. The world building was also superb- I thought Clare did a good job of answering some questions and revealing some secrets, but also left the possibilities open and the mystery of what’s going to happen next intact.
In all, City of Ashes was, in almost every way, infinitely better than City of Bones. The plotting, the characters, and the writing was all much better. I am now fully invested in the story and characters, and I cannot wait to get my hands on the third book. I will definitely enter City of Glass with very high expectations, and I can only hope that Clare will step up to the challenge and present another engrossing book.
Until then, readers!
P.S. I think readers will get bored if I keep reviewing only the Mortal Instruments series, so if you guys want me to switch it up for next week, sound off in the comments!