Tuesday, July 20, 2010

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

Published: March 25th 2008 by Margaret K. McElderry
Word Count: 120,608
Series: The Mortal Instruments, book two
Source: paperback

My Grade: A

[WARNING: IF YOU HAVE NOT READ BOOK ONE OF THIS SERIES, CITY OF BONES, THEN THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS]

Synopsis from GoodReads: 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.


The second book widens the scope greatly, moving point of views often. No one character gets the majority of the story this time, not even Clary. We are told bits of the plot in Third Person Limited POV from Jace, Alec, Simon, Luke, and Maia, along with Clary.

I won’t go into much more detail about the story except to say that the plot, action, characters and supernatural elements all progress well from the previous book. We learn more about this alternate-reality world of Downworlders and race of people called Shadowhunters. The story doesn’t drag of a moment and the last large action sequence is particularly thrilling. And this is coming from me, who isn’t a big fan of long drawn-out action sequences.

Interestingly, there are a lot of elements similar to the Harry Potter series in here. There is a central big baddie called Valentine Morgenstern (Lord Voldemort), the Shadow World (the Wizarding World) is hidden from the regular world and Shadowhunters (Wizards and Witches) have a name for ordinary humans, which is “mundanes” or “mundies” (muggles). Also, there is an elaborate back-story involving the parents of the central teenagers in the story, which still effect the current situations in the books and causes the main characters to have to deal with issues from the past, just like in the Harry Potter books. Related to this plot point is how the big baddie rallied his peers around him and created an exclusive type of club called The Circle (Voldemort’s Death Eaters). The difference here is that while Harry and his friend’s parents were part of a group called The Order of the Phoenix which was formed in response to Voldemort’s following, Clary’s and her friend’s parents were the bad guys. The Circle was disbanded and certain members were punished by the Clave, just as the Death Eaters were caught and punished by the Ministry of Magic. Also, as Voldemort was assumed to be overthrown and dead, so too was Valentine thought to be dead after the uprising he initiated. Like Voldemort who believed in the supremacy of pureblood witches and wizards and sought to extinguish those with muggle blood from the wizarding community, so Valentine believes in the purity of the human race, having no tolerance for half-human half-demon Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, fairies and warlocks. He calls them revenants, and doesn’t believe in the Accords, which is a type of treaty between Shadowhunters and Downworlders to keep peace between them. Valentine believes the Downworlders should be hunted and extinguished along with the rest of the demons the Shadowhunters are charged to fight. Similar philosophy to Voldemort’s, no?

Some big themes start to enter the series at this point. Heavy themes such as the nature of love and the sins of the father are prevalent throughout this second book in the series. Here are just a few examples:

The nature of love:

“But you never cared about anyone. Not even my mother. Not even Jace. They were just things that belonged to you.” [said Clary] “But isn’t that was love is, Clarissa? Ownership? ‘I am my beloveds and my beloved is mine,’ as the Song of Songs goes.” [said Valentine]” (p 387)

Valentine’s view of the nature of love is distinct and alternate from the popularly accepted view, which I think is partly what makes his character intriguing. We as the reader are empathetic to Jace’s struggle because, like him, we want to understand his father. Another example of Valentine’s particular brand of love is from the first book, when Jace recalls to Clary how his father killed his falcon after he taught it to love him, and in doing so Jace learned that to love is to feel pain and experience weakness.

The sins of the father:

 “”You and I, we’re alike,” said Valentine [to Jace]. “As you said to me before, you are what I made you to be, and I made you as a copy of myself. You have my arrogance. You have my courage. And you have that quality that causes others to give their lives for you without question.”… (p 409-410)

“”There were only ever two kinds of people in the world for Valentine.” [Maryse Lightwood] said. “Those who were for the Circle and those who were against it. The latter were enemies, the former were weapons in his arsenal. I saw him try to turn each of his friends, even his own wife, into a weapon for the Cause – and you want me to believe he wouldn’t have done the same with his own son?...I knew him better than that….You are an arrow shot directly into the heart of the Clave, Jace. You are Valentine’s arrow. Whether you know it or not.”” (p 23)

Jace cannot be his own person. His views and sympathies are assumed skewed because of who brought him up. He is tainted by his parent’s legacy. He cannot be his own person measured by his own weight. This is a perfect theme for a young adult novel, as teenagers are always striving to carve out their own identities, free from binding associations.


Visit the author’s website: www.cassandraclare.com

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  • Magyk, Book One of the Septimus Heap Series by Angie Sage
  • The Alchemyst: Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott
  • The Bartimaeus Trilogy: The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud