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City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments, Book 2) Paperback – March 24, 2009
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From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up—In this sequel to City of Bones (S & S, 2007), the nonstop action continues. The Shadowhunters are battling a world of demons that few people can see. Guided by the laws of the Clave, these hunters balance fighting with the other more mundane aspects of life—love, betrayal, and confusion. Jace, the fiercest teenage Shadowhunter, seems determined to make everyone around him angry, and is looked upon with suspicion because his father, Valentine, is out to rule the world. Meanwhile, love triangles abound, vampires are reborn, and general teenage angst blossoms among a group of friends and siblings. Set in an alternative present-day Manhattan, the story comes complete with Britney Spears references and even, ironically, refers to the scientific CSI. Well written in both style and language, it compares favorably to others in this genre. The human characters are well developed and quite believable. The whole book is like watching a particularly good vampire/werewolf movie, and it leaves readers waiting for the next in the series. Watch this one fly off the shelves.—Jennifer-Lynn Draper, Children's Literature Consultant, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"A gorgeous fantasty that's so good, it's dangerous." (Holly Black)
"Prepare to be hooked." (Entertainment Weekly)
"The whole book is like watching a particularly good vampire/werewolf movie, and it leaves readers waiting for the next in the series. Watch this one fly off the shelves." (School Library Journal)
"Readers of urban fantasy will devour this delicious...adventure." (Kirkus Reviews)
"[A] smart, funny, romantic read." (Seventeen)
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Top Customer Reviews
"City of Ashes" takes place a week or so after the events of "City of Bones." Having secured the Cup of Mortals, Valentine has set out to do 2 things: summon a demon army enslaved to him by the Cup and steal the Soul-Sword, another of the Mortal Instruments. When the bodies of murdered Downworlder children begin to appear, Clary, Jace, and friends believe that Valentine is attempting to perform a ritual to change the nature of the Sword from angelic to demonic...a prospect that spells doom for the Shadowhunters. Still reeling from the revelations of the last book, Clary and Jace must put aside their individual problems and stop Valentine before he destroys the Clave.
While the previous book lacked originality, the story presented here is actually fairly unique and makes for an exciting, interesting plot...or rather, it would if the book was actually primarily focused on this. Clare had such a great idea with this premise, but the story is largely ruined by the amount of teen melodrama that's heaped on top of the main plot. For every big event that happens, there's at least as much drama, if not more, to fill out the pages. Honestly, a lot of the problems with the drama overtaking the story would be solved if Clary and Simon were removed from the novel. Yes, I am actually suggesting that the book would be better without two of the three main characters. All these two bring to the story is drama; every emotional hang up is in some way connected to Clary and Simon does very little beyond perpetuating the angst. The Shadowhunters, though sometimes whiney enough themselves, actually do things to advance the plot while the human (and I'm counting Clary under this category because, aside from using runes, her actions are closer to those of the mundane characters) side of story just stagnates and bogs down the rest of the plot.
This leads to some pacing issues. The beginning of the book starts off with a bang with Valentine summoning a greater demon to do his bidding, killing a young warlock in the process. It's exciting and sets the right tone for the novel. Immediately afterward we get a scene with Clary and Simon struggling with their feelings for one another, and it goes downhill from there. The next 6 chapters or so seem to drag. Sure, a few things happen with Jace and the Inquisitor and the Seelie Court (more on that later), but a larger-then-necessary portion of the book is spent on Clary, Jace, and Simon lamenting over their relationships. Further more, it seems like every time they come close to talking it out, something happens to drag the conversation out even farther. The last hundred pages or so are great with the characters taking action and using their abilities to stop Valentine. Getting there, however, is a slow, frustrating process of slogging through the main characters moping about their emotions. Sadly, if the gratuitous amounts of angst weren't present, the story would be pretty solid.
Clare's writing continues to be enjoyable, if occasionally a little too prosy. She has a certain knack for capturing the setting of New York in all its gritty glory. The writing moves the story along while having a certain attitude to it. That's not to say it's perfect; Clare tends to overuse certain phrases and add just a few too many unnecessary words. Overall, though, her prose is better than that in many other YA novels. She also shifts the point of view throughout the chapters. Since all Clary seems to do is angst and complain, I enjoyed seeing things from other characters' perspectives. Also, since Clary can't realistically be everywhere, the point of view shifts make the story more interesting simply because we get to see big events that we otherwise wouldn't if the focus was still strictly on Clary.
Unfortunately, Clare still suffers from a huge problem that plagued her in the first novel: revealing her twists too soon. She tries to hold out the suspense a little too long and ends up dropping so many hints that the reader can figure out what's going to happen way before it does. In "City of Ashes," we get a whole chapter devoted to the group going to the Seelie Court, which, given how little of the faeries we see during the big showdown, seems to hold no purpose beyond causing Clary and Jace to question whether or not they're truly related (I'm going to go out on a limb and say they aren't). Simon's big transformation, Clary's special ability, the Inquisitor's secret...all are unintentionally given away before their big reveals, which can be a little disappointing.
I was pleased that "City of Bones" contained very little romance with only bare traces of the dreaded love triangle. This staple of much YA lit is in full-force in "City of Ashes." Despite being siblings, Clary and Jace are still head over heels for one another. Initially, I was pleased that the author didn't immediately dismiss their relationship; it would have been unrealistic for the pair to simply get over their romantic feelings for one another in a matter of days. I had hoped this book would have them coming to terms with their new relationship as brother and sister and have them bond in that manner. Instead, they continue their relationship as if nothing has changed. They never stop to consider the ramifications of what they're doing (beyond saying they don't care) and just blaze on. When written well, an incestuous relationship in an adult novel can add something to a story; here...well...it just comes off as creepy. Although they'll probably find out in the next book that they aren't siblings, that doesn't make their actions in this book ok since as far as they know, they're brother and sister. On the other side of the triangle, Clary and Simon are a pathetic joke. I couldn't help but feel bad for the nerdy best friend, as he seems to be genuinely in love with Clary, but she dismisses him for her hotter, brooding, more talented brother. I knew that by the end of the novel, this part of the love triangle would have to be resolved; Simon never stood a chance next to Jace. So we end up the romantic conflict being the protagonist trying to choose between her brother and her awkward best friend, which, when you add the copious amounts of angst it brings to the story, is hardly satisfying or suspenseful on any level.
There's a third relationship present, though it's much more in the background compared to Clary and her suitors. Alec and Magnus have something going on, but Alec refuses to spill the beans to his friends and family. I couldn't help but wish the book had been about these two and their relationship; both are more interesting as individual characters and have a more intriguing dynamic than Clary, Jace, and Simon. Clare should be applauded for taking a risk and including a gay couple...I only wish they had been more prominent.
I liked Clary in the first book. Though she contained some of the annoying traits of other YA protagonists, I found her focus on saving her mother over finding a boyfriend to be refreshing and admirable. That character is gone in "City of Ashes." She barely thinks about her comatose mother and doesn't seem too concerned with waking her up. Instead, she spends most of the book lamenting over Jace and pondering where she stands with Simon. She's also still passively reacting to events rather than actively making decisions. I could forgive this in the first book, as Clary had a lot thrown at her: a new world, her father being alive and evil, a brother she never knew about, and her mother's past...it would be a lot for anyone to take in. However, the passivity isn't cute anymore. I had hoped she would be a more active participant in this book as the reality of her life set in, but instead, all she does is anguish over who she should date, come up with solutions that the adults and more experienced Shadowhunters should have thought of long ago, and draw a few runes. She discovers that she has the unique ability to draw new runes, but even this doesn't seem to really take her anywhere. I had high hopes for Clary. I wanted her to take control of her situation, to continue focusing on what is important while trying to come to terms with everything that's been thrown at her...but it seems like she's devolved into a whiney girl that thinks solely of how difficult her life is because she doesn't know who she should romance.
Jace is still much the same as he was in the previous book. Like I said in that review, I like Jace, and I still mostly like him. He's haughty, skilled, and overconfident. He's also moody and reactionary, which routinely cause problems for him. I really liked that Clare had people react appropriately to Jace in this novel. In the first book, other characters seemed to swoon or were regularly impressed with his attitude, but here, other characters routinely call him out for his behaviour. It's always nice to see characters react realistically to a snarky attitude. Like Clary, Jace angsts a little too much over his feelings for his sibling. Unlike the protagonist, however, he's still able to do things while being upset. That's not to say that his actions are always smart (he makes a few really stupid decisions), but I appreciate that he actually does things for himself and faces the consequences of his actions rather than simply moping throughout the entire book.
On a random note regarding Jace and Clary, I cringed a little at the end of the book when Jace apologizes to Clary for being a jerk to her. It was refreshing to see a haughty character realize that his actions can hurt others. It was a step in the right direction for Jace to see this and to admit that maybe, just maybe, thinking about your sister romantically is a little weird. Rather than accept the apology, however, Clary insists that she was in the wrong for not accepting Jace's advances and reacting negatively to his attitude. Why? Why does Clary have to be such a doormat in this book? Why is it that when her snarky brother finally realizes that he's been a jerk to her, she insists that it's all her fault for not going along with it? It's hardly a main event, but this exchange really bothered me.
Simon, as I mentioned earlier, is almost painfully pathetic. He's so out of place in this world and doesn't do much until his change that I found myself wondering why he was even included. After becoming a vampire, he seems to become a bigger player in the story and begins to break out of his character mold, but until then he's just the typical nerdy best friend that doesn't serve a purpose beyond being a romantic interest. I was a little disappointed that we didn't get to see his encounter with the vampires or much of his changing and adapting to being dead. At the end of the book, he seems to be doing things more for himself, but until then, he's embarrassingly awkward and unnecessary.
Valentine has definitely improved. He's no longer the single minded, simple bad guy that he was in "City of Bones." Here, he clearly thinks that what he's doing is genuinely the right thing for the Clave. This makes him a more interesting antagonist that has questionable means for achieving his equally questionable goal. We also see that, despite his often-ruthless behaviour, he seems to care at least a little bit about Jace and Clary...not enough to rethink his plans, but at least enough to not want them immediately dead. While Valentine is the main threat of the series, the "villain" of the book is the Inquisitor. She's a lot like Valentine from the first book: unnecessarily nasty for no reason other than the story needs a bad guy. She's just too over the top with her actions to be a believable threat.
The other characters vary in their portrayal. Luke is more prominent in this book and fills the role of tired, yet knowledgeable and levelheaded parental figure for almost everyone. I actually felt kind of bad for him because he kept trying to get Clary to be rational about her actions, and she just brushed him off so she could alternate between crying about Jace and mindlessly jumping into things. We also see more of Alec and Magnus, and they both prove to be interesting for their own reasons (though it does get tiresome that Magnus's clothing is always described...we get it, he has some eccentric attire). I still haven't quite figured out what Isabelle's character really is or what role in the plot she plays. She seems to jump around a lot in characterization and it feels like she's around just to provide us with another female character. Maia has potential, but we don't see a whole lot of her to really get a feel for who she is. The same is true for Isabelle and Alec's parents; Maryse is shown to be tough, yet loving, but beyond that, they aren't present all that much. Max is obviously just the token annoying little brother who wants to be just like his older siblings, but is always dismissed because he is too young. Some of Clare's side characters are great and others are either stereotypical or under characterized.
Overall, "City of Ashes" is a huge disappointment. I realize that the tone of this review has been mostly negative, and that's simply because there aren't a lot of good things to say about this book. The story is more original than in the previous novel, the point of view shifts give us a more complete story, Alec and Magnus have an interesting dynamic, and a couple of the characters are well done. That's pretty much all the book has going for it. In contrast, the negatives are many: the angst in the story bogs down the pacing to the point of frustration, the twists are unintentionally revealed too soon, the love triangle is terrible, the incestuous relationship that Clary and Jace pursue is creepy, Clary has not grown as a character and has instead regressed, and many of the characters are under characterized or stereotypical. I'd say this feels like the middle book, but really, it feels more like filler with a few important things being surrounded by a lot of romance drama. At the end of the book, a new character tells Clary that she knows how to wake Clary's mother, so I'm hopeful that the next book will up to the standard of the first book. "City of Ashes" gets 2 stars: one for having a more unique story and the point of view shifts and another for Alec and Magnus.
This one picks up shortly after the end of book one. It is well paced and doesn't do what a lot of authors do. It doesn't rehash everything that you just read in book one. It gives you the information you need when you need it and that's it. Clary and Jace are both finding out what they can do and who they really are. And everyone else is along for the ride.
I really love these books since it really gives you just hints about Magnus and Alec. Whom I love both dearly. I am not one for LGBT books, but I could read about Magnus and Alec till the world ends. I can't wait to dive into the Bane Chronicles as well as Magnus's own series which is coming out soon.
This one also gives us some of Jace's relatives even if he doesn't know it. I had to look it up since the name Herondale sounded familiar but, for the life of me, I couldn't place it. Of course, it was in relation to Will from TID. Which made me feel awful since I love that series even more than this one.
This was an excellent book two with no issues what so ever!! And I am off to dive into book three City of Glass!