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Satisfying Ending Plagued by Same Problems
on June 23, 2014
I was captivated by "City of Bones" and really disliked "City of Glass." At the conclusion of the previous book, I felt as thought that book was comprised mostly of filler and set up, but was hopeful that the next book would get back on track and be as impressive as the first book in the series. "City of Glass" ended up being better than its predecessor, but never quite managed to get back up to the standard that "City Bones" set. Spoilers follow.
The story starts very shortly after the second book ends. Following a lead on how to wake her mother, Clary plans to go to Idris with Jace and the Lightwoods. Things don't go exactly as planned, but they all end up in the City of Glass just in time for Valentine's attack to begin. Clary and Jace wrestle with their feelings for one another as they uncover the secrets of their pasts and fight to put an end of Valentine and his plans.
Frankly, the story is a lot better than that of "City of Ashes." There's a lot going on, and it actually seems to be (mostly) the focus. It almost feels as though the characters woke up from the haze they were in during the previous book and remembered that they're supposed to be doing something. That's not to say that there isn't any of the relationship drama that made the last book drag. It's still present, just not as much as in the previous book. It doesn't completely dominate the story this time, but it gets very repetitive; how many times do Jace and Clary really need to lament over how they can't be together? At least this time around, the characters appeared to realize that the events taking place were slightly more important than the dating dilemma.
That's not to say there aren't some problems with the book. To start with, Valentine's end is really anticlimactic. I was pleased to see that Clary and her talents actually had a huge role in bringing about his demise, but the concept of him ultimately being killed as a result his overconfidence and cruelty was really cliché. Given how much of a threat he was made out to be, I was hoping for something a little more impressive. Speaking of deaths, there are two other big deaths in this book...and neither one is handled particularly well. Max's just comes across like a lazy attempt to pluck at our heartstrings. He never got much characterization, which made it difficult to really care about him. The second death is Jace's at the end of the book. Since there are three other books in this series, I doubt anyone will be shocked to hear that he's resurrected. Clare seems to not really want to risk her characters. Having Jace die would have brought a powerful message of sacrifice for the greater good; the gravity of the story would have been justified. In short, it would have accomplished what killing Max was supposed to: a heart-wrenching loss that deeply affected both the characters and the readers. Clary's happy ending is more important, however, so Jace's death isn't permanent and ends up coming across as very unnecessary.
Also, if there were a theme for this novel, it would be characters saying or doing inappropriate things during important moments. When Clary's mother is brought out of her coma, Clary yells at her for hiding the Shadowhunters and her brother from her. Given how concerned Clary claimed to be for her mother's safe recovery, she sure doesn't waste any time in chewing her out for essentially ruining Clary's relationship with Jace. When Alec finds Magnus during the battle, he doesn't focus on important matters or how pleased he is that Magnus isn't dead. Instead, he demands to know why Magnus hasn't returned his calls...in the middle of a fight. The most egregious example of this takes place after Jace's previously mentioned death and Valentine's defeat. Clary is given one wish by Raziel. She can wish for anything. What does she wish for? World peace or an end to world hunger? Crosses her mind, but no. Max or the other dozens of Shadowhunters who lost their lives fighting being brought back? She doesn't even think about it. Instead, she asks for Jace to be revived, which benefits mostly herself and a couple other people. Again, she needs her happy ending, after all.
On a random story related note, I very much enjoyed the concept of certain characters having angel or demon blood. Sure, it wasn't the biggest surprise out there, but it was somewhat unique and was a nice addition to the story.
"City of Glass" has a distinctly different feel from the first two books, largely because it isn't set in New York City, but rather in Idris. Though Clare does excel at capturing the city's atmosphere, I was pleased at the change in scenery. The story in New York had, I believe, run its course. And while Clare has demonstrated a knack for describing city scenery, it was, if you'll pardon the expression, a breath of fresh air to be in a different environment.
Unfortunately, Clare is still plagued by the same problem that haunted her in the first two books: being too predictable when it comes to big twists. Clary and Jace aren't really siblings, but this shouldn't be a surprise to anyone; so many hints were dropped in "City of Ashes" and this book that I doubt anyone except for the characters themselves didn't see this coming. I had hoped after the first book that perhaps the author would take a risk and leave them as siblings, forcing them to abandon their romantic interest in one another and establish a different bond. But no, the predicted path was followed...and why else would Clare have pushed an incestuous relationship if it weren't going to turn out the way it did? Clary's real brother being Sebastian is also given away really early by Clary constantly thinking that she feels like she knows him even though she's never met him. Both of these are big revelations, but their shock factor is removed when they're made obvious early in the story.
Clary is a little more independent and active in this book. I was initially dismayed when her first big action was merely the result of her stubbornly wanting to plunge into Idris because she was angry at being left behind. However, after Luke, Jace, and others finally point out to her that making stupid decisions that endanger herself and others isn't really an attractive character quality, she seems to buckle down and think things through a little more. She manages to take control of the situation, using her unique abilities to devise a plan. This is where the character finally shined; I feel like we've been waiting for Clary to do something like this, taking charge instead of being passive. I was, however, a little saddened to see that a lot of her motivation to push on in the face of fear or danger still came from worrying about what Jace would think of her if she failed. At this point, I had hoped she'd care a bit more about the fate of humanity, of the Downworlders, and of this Shadowhunter world that has become so important to her and would be driven by that, not solely by whether a boy she likes would approve of her actions. Overall, though, her character took a turn in the right direction; it's great to see Clary being an active participant in the story rather than passively reacting to what's being thrown at her.
Oddly, while Clary's character leaps forward, Jace takes a step back. In the first two books, he's arrogant, overconfident, and reactionary. He's also brooding and emotional with a hint of snark. Here, he's mostly brooding and overly dramatic with a couple sarcastic comments thrown around. A majority of Jace's scenes consist of him whining and angsting, first because he can't be with Clary and later because he thinks he has demon blood running through his veins. The cocky charm he once held is gone, leaving a character prone to melodrama and putting himself in danger for over the top reasons.
Speaking of these two, they definitely work better apart in this book than they do together. As I said above, they aren't actually siblings, and therefore end up as a couple by the end of "City of Glass." Perhaps it's just because the incestuous overtone of their relationship tainted the coupling for me, but they aren't most compelling pairing ever. In fact, when they're together, they spend most of their time rehashing how much they want to be together, but can't or are declaring their love for one another. If they aren't partaking in either discussion, they're kissing or thinking about physical contact. It significantly slows the story down. At least when they're apart, they do things to move the plot forward. Together, they stall.
Simon surprised me. I didn't like him in the first two installments and felt that he was embarrassingly unnecessary with only a shoddy attempt made to flesh him out. He has a much clearer voice in this novel. This is possibly because he isn't pining over Clary anymore, but whatever the reason, it was great to see him make some difficult decisions despite not wanting anything to do with the situation. I actually found myself looking forward to Simon's side of the story because he actually moved himself forward without pages of introspection/whining about relationships. So, bravo Clare, you took a character that I didn't care for and made him the one I looked forward to the most.
Most of the other characters don't really stand out...aside from Magnus; he's too quirky and interesting to be ignored. We don't see a whole lot of Valentine this time around, but what we do see is pretty convincing; he still thinks that what he's doing is best and doesn't enjoy the bloodshed, he simply sees it as an unfortunate necessity. The other "bad" characters are too obvious to be convincing. All of the books in the series so far have had this problem: antagonists being so unabashedly evil and questionable that you're left wondering why no one ever figured it out before now.
All in all, despite my complaints, "City of Glass" is a satisfying conclusion to what was supposed to be a trilogy. The story ties up loose ends and is exciting enough to end the Valentine plot with a bang, even if the villain's demise itself was a bit of a let down. Really, the one thing that would have made this book better would have been to cut down on the relationship drama...and to have never have had Clary and Jace think they were siblings, as it cast a creepy feeling over the pairing, but that's more of a series related complaint than one specific to "City of Glass." As I finished this, I found myself questioning where the story can really go next? Jace and Clary are together, Valentine is dead, Alec and Magnus have come out about their relationship, Simon is friends with everyone, and Clary's mother has recovered. What else is there? Since Sebastian's body was never found, I'm going to assume he'll appear in the next book, but I guess we'll see. "City of Glass" gets three and a half stars from me. It's not quite as captivating as "City of Bones" but is a satisfying conclusion to the initially planned trilogy. Its frustrating, reoccurring problems, however, make me round it down to three.