Mortal Instruments: City of Ashes: Review

Anyone who read my review on City of Bones will probably have worked out that it was not my favourite book in the whole world. Good news is that City of Ashes is an improvement. Bad news is, it still has it’s problems.

On the upside, the story was better balanced in book two. It flowed easier and made me much less aware of the up-and-down quality of the prose.

At this point I normally give a brief outline of the plot. Instead I shall turn to a quote from the book’s illustrious heroine.

“I’ve screwed everything up royally.”

Well, yes dear, yes you have. I apologise in advance as what follows will involve SPOILERS. This entire book (and I’m not overly exaggerating) hinges on Clary being an idiot. Nearly every plot point starts with her doing something stupid and Jace having to come and undo said stupidness. She actually graduates for me from being mildly dislikeable in the first book to positively loathsome by the end of book two. From her pure idiocy with the fairies falling for a trick that I wouldn’t even class as mildly clever – my mum always told me don’t touch stuff you don’t understand. Jocelyn could have done with teaching Clary that valuable lesson. To her mishandling of Simon, resulting in her best friend being nearly killed only to be saved by Jace (again) after being turned into a vampire. Oh yeah, this is a hell of a book for poor old Simon. I almost feel sorry that I called him dull. Clare really gives him a hard time, though funnily enough this makes him more likeable. He makes a much better vampire. Oh and there is also a sequence in Luke’s kitchen between her and Luke that made me want to kill her (happening incidentally while two other characters are being merrily captured) – she comes out as a whiney teenager.

SPOILERS END

The other thing I really don’t understand is the thinking behind is the brother-sister thing. Either Clare has shot her own story in the head by having her lead romantic characters be related, or it’s a ruse/trick/temporary situation to be resolved later at which point she’s kinda letting the cat out of the bag with that one. Or of course, she’s promoting incest. Then again, Twlight’s prominent message is “Sex before marriage = BAD. Abusive-turned-stalker boyfriend = Not a Problem”, it does fit in with the wholesome messages of YA fiction these days… excuse my sarcasm. It’s also such a roll-eyes relationship. They’ve known each other two weeks and we are already at the ‘I’d die for you – you are my life – you are all I think about’ stage. It gets a bit… well nauseating. Jace, I forgive. He has had a hell of a ride these two books so you can forgive him for being a bit all over the place emotionally and just looking for anyone to be a shoulder to lean on but Clary I just want to tell to get over it. Or just tone it down. She can still have feelings, fine, just a bit less Mills-And-Boon would be refreshing. I think the other thing that gets me is their world is literally coming apart at the seams. They are in deep trouble here. Valentine is winning… and all Clary thinks about is Jace. Perspective, I think, would prove refreshing.

Don’t get me wrong, this book also has some good elements. Despite what many reviewers say, I thought the fight sequence at the end was well handled. It was built up to with a decent amount of suspense, and credit where credit is due, at least she bothered to have the fight she’d been building up to. Maia as a person I love. She’s a much needed female addition because she has a bit of well… spunk. Unfortunately, she is regularly used badly. Again, reference to the kitchen sequence after Luke gets attacked, where she reacts completely out of character. (Oh and just another note on Clary, she literally does not meet a female character her age without getting jealous that they might be more beautiful than her. Whohoo for shallowness). Raphael is brilliant and I look forward to him when he appears. Simon, like I say, has taken a massive step forward in this book. Alec proves once again that he is the only intelligent member of the Shadowhunters clan (I also adore Max as a sidenote) and Magnus regularly raises a smile.

I’ve read a lot of reviews that question the role of adults in this book. There is no sense of leadership, support or even advice. Maryse is written (mostly) to be loathed until the very end. Jocelyn is a redundant character for the moment. Every word Luke says Jace either overrules or Clary ignores. Basically the message being sent is adults don’t understand, adults get it wrong and the kids are right so, ignore their advice but don’t worry, if it goes wrong, they’ll mostly clean up after you. I get that this is a book about ‘children’ fighting for their right to survive in their world. Fine. Generally I like that as a theme. I just don’t like that to do it, she’s felt the need to turn every adult into an enemy or someone easily defied/ignored. Which brings me to the Inquisitor…

I suspect Clare meant us to feel sorry for the Inquisitor by the end of the book. I didn’t. SPOILERS: I was just glad she was dead. She reminded me of a very two-dimensional Dolores Umbridge. Because we only ever really see her from Jace’s point of view, we never see any of the internal struggle. We never hear her side properly and when we finally do she comes off as a raving lunatic. Maybe that was the point, if so, it makes her a weak adversary. If not, well something went wrong in her presentation. (It also doesn’t say much for the Clave).

Likewise Valentine. He’s described as being manipulative and exceedingly clever, and yet while I got that off the Queen of the Fairies (another new character I absolutely loved and hope returns), he just comes off as… dull. He gets pages of speech towards the end about why he’s doing all this and by about half way through it, I was skim reading. Funnily enough, I think explained the right way, you could be manipulated into seeing his point of view but his babbling just made me roll my eyes and yawn.

However, enough of the bad. Things I liked. Simon and Jace. I think their relationship has become an interesting element of the book. Simon has grown a backbone and Jace has calmed down a bit. In this case, it’s like Edward and Jacob done properly, so kudos there. (Sadly they are fighting over someone who doesn’t particularly deserve their attention but hey…) There are also moments when Clare’s descriptive writing is beautiful. The opening couple of paragraphs for a start. It’s so disappointing she doesn’t carry that through the whole book.

I’ll repeat what I said about book one. This is not a bad book, it’s just not a good one. Personally, I thought the story was more comprehensive in this book and the problems more marginalised to mostly, badly handled characters. It’s certainly readable and not so bad that it’s put me off the series. Just expect frustrations.

Rating: 5-10: About average. Good story, Clary loses a ton of score.

Favourite (3) Quotes: “He’d felt like a jack-o’-lantern for the past few days, as if his guts had been yanked out with a fork and dumped in a heap while a grinning smile stayed plastered on his face.”

“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?”

“I’ve screwed everything up royally.”

Favourite Character: Queen of the Fairies.

Least Favourite Character: Clary.