Review of “City of Ashes” by Cassandra Clare

Note: There are mild spoilers for Book One, but none for this book, Book Two.

This is Book Two of The Mortal Instruments series (see my review of Book One, City of Bones, here.) I wasn’t overly impressed by City of Bones, finding it way too derivative and way too apt to feature very trite metaphors, but still, it had its appeal. Although I wasn’t enamored of the heroine, Clary, or her somewhat hapless BFF Simon, I grew quite fond of her sidekicks: Jace, Alec, and Isabel. I also was interested to see how the big but obvious twist in Book One would play out as the series continued.

I’m happy to say that while the writing didn’t really improve much, I grew more attached to the ongoing story with this second book.

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We are following the adventures of the New York City based Shadowhunters – Nehphilim (half angel-half-human beings), who act as “the arcane world’s secret police force.” Yes, there is an arcane world full of demons, blood-suckers, wolves, and poisonous monsters, and no, we are not talking about the American political arena in Washington. [Or maybe we are, and Book Two hasn’t revealed that yet!]

Clary has discovered she too is a Shadowhunter, and so she must help battle all the evil demons that have been unleashed from other dimensions by Clary’s most unholy father Valentine.

Whereas formerly Clary’s only BFF was Simon, a “mundane” (or Ordinary Boy), now she and Simon both hang out with Shadowhunters Jace, Isabelle, and Alec, as well as assorted werewolves, warlocks, vampires, and faeries. But these “Downworlders” (i.e., beings not human but neither angelic or demonic) are, on the whole, pretty good people [sic], especially compared to the former Shadowhunter Valentine and his army of slimy, venom-spitting, shape-shifting, demonic creatures.

Clary and the ScoobyDoo Shadowhunter Crew don’t know, however, if they can survive Valentine’s new improved powers, and his cruel determination to take over the visible and invisible universe.

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Evaluation: Once again we have a plethora of the same elementary similes used in Book One to depict Manhattan: the river is “the color of steel” and it slices through Manhattan and Long Island “like a scar.” The ocean sparkles like diamonds, and blood is always announced by someone sensing the tang of new pennies (which however since 1982 only contain 2.5% copper).

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But also, like Book One, there are some laugh-out-loud moments, mostly because Jace, and sometimes Clary, have richly sarcastic, wry senses of humor. In addition, there are two big twists in this book to keep us going on with the rest of the series. And there is even a new character with a name right out of the Sooky Stackhouse series, in case anyone forgot to add it to the list of the many other popular works amalgamated by this one.

But don’t let my sarcasm hide the fact that yes, I am off now to pick up the next book!

Rating: 3.5/5

Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 2008

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5 Responses

  1. I give you a lot of credit for sticking with the series even though the first book didn’t blow you away.

  2. I’ve been so hesitant to pick these up. I did really love Clockwork Angel though, so perhaps I need to take the plunge.

  3. I didn’t think you’d be reading this one, though it’s resulted in a fun review :)

  4. Don’t worry. Although I ridiculed the books a lot, I was secretly enjoying them. Sssh!

  5. I read the first one and then got caught up with other books. I will have to start at the beginning!

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