It’s not all that surprising that City of Bones was as popular as it was. For one thing, fanfic writers with a lot of reviews and attention seem to write books that get a lot of attention. For another, this thing was flat pandering to the female Harry Potter fanbase. As such, City of Ashes was released to some fanfare. Some even considered it to be the next Harry Potter and Clare to be the next great fantasy author.
I said in my last review that I was hoping that Clare would manage to distance herself from her fanfic background. While I was pretty sure that she wouldn’t, I wasn’t aware of just how much of a bad fanfic this book would feel like. I didn’t know that Clare was going to pretty much ignore anything that she might have learned from writing fanfic.
It’s a pretty accepted fact that in most trilogies, the second book is the stupidest. The writer has plenty of ideas for the first and third books, but they just can’t seem to figure out what to do with the second one. They can’t defeat the Dark Lord, but at the same time, something has to happen. Usually they set up some minor annoyance and have the characters deal with that. This book doesn’t seem to do much of anything.
Well, nothing that couldn’t have been done in a couple chapters anyways.
I’ve never been fond of the covers for these books. A girl’s upper body with her arms in something of a power stance over the New York skyline is…interesting, but it doesn’t really give much of an impression about what the books are like. Actually, I stayed away from these books because they reminded me of porn on a first glance.
This may or may not be a detriment to others.
Just remember, this isn’t porn.
Also, the quote from Stephanie Meyer about how she’d like to live in Clare’s world really doesn’t do anything to put me at ease.
Our plot as given by Amazon:
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.
Now, I’ll summarize: After the events of the first book, Jace and Clary have realized that they are in fact siblings, at least according to Valentine. As such, they not cannot have a romance. Woe. To fill the aching void of her heart, Clary starts dating Simon for no real reason and continually angsts about how he makes her feel safe and content.
Simon is having his own problems. He thinks that because he bit a vampire at some point in the last book as a rat, he might be becoming a vampire. He’s having an aversion to light and is hinted to have a desire for blood, but that’s not really gone into by Clare. She’s much more interested in Clary and Jace’s little drama.
Meanwhile, Jace is angsting because his foster mom came back, and she doesn’t believe that he didn’t know that Valentine was his father. I mean, it’s not like that man could have lied the entire time, and he’d never seen any pictures or anything… Nor is it like Valentine looks absolutely nothing like the man who he claimed to be, and anyone who knew the guy would have known the difference easily. Really, the whole thing is stupid, but moving on. To prove how mature he is, Jace runs away, ends up in a bar fight, and has to get picked up my his sister because ‘she’s the only person he listens too’ and such.
Are you impressed by his maturity?
All the while, we’re told that not only is this cool, this is the only thing that he could have done.
After this, a woman known as the Inquisitor shows up. She doesn’t believe that Jace is innocent. She imprisons him in the City of Bones, for some reason that I was never too sure of, and lets him sit there while she is waiting to take him to stand trial (I think). Meanwhile, Valentine has been getting buddy buddy with a random demon who controls fear, and he manages to steal another one of the Mortal Instruments: the Infinity +1 Sword of Infinite Goodness, which tells if your lying. This a stupid thing for a sword to do. He plans to convert it to evil1 by killing a fairy, a warlock, and vampire and a werewolf. Don’t ask why this works. Val manages to kill everyone in the City and stops to have a chat with Jace. Really.
Clary gets told that her brother just got unjustly imprisoned, and she goes to see what’s up. Well, more like storms over complaining about how sweet and innocent Jace is and wondering how anyone can dislike him. After having a weird dream about her mother, who’s comatose and isn’t really being mentioned much in this book, giving her a rune, Clary goes with Isabelle and Alec to the City of Bones. There, Clary uses her speshul new rune to unlock everything, despite how bad this is going to look. Before being reunited with Jace for long, all the adults, including the foster mom and the Inquisitor, turn up. They don’t believe him, and…he’s allowed to walk away.
Alright, he’s a little wounded and so that make him shack up with Magnus Bane2 to heal up, but it’s a little hard to swallow. As if an organized group of demon hunters aren’t going to have multiple points where you can heal up.
So, after this, Isabelle tells Jace and Clary that the Queen of the Seelie Court wants to talk to them because one of her court was just killed. They go to a faery party with Simon tagging along. Going to said party really isn’t very helpful, because the queen thinks that it was a vampire who recently killed one of her Court, and she’s pretty much uninterested in the Shadowhunters. She just wanted to know why they weren’t doing anything, and basically says that if they don’t do something, she will. She believes our protagonists when they tell her it was Valentine but shows the most common sense out of anyone in this book by basically saying that it’s not her problem. However, if Jace asks Valentine ‘what blood runs through his veins’, she’ll help out a little, for the giggles. Then, because apparently the gods of this universe ship Jace/Clary, she will only allow Clary to go home if Jace kisses her. This has no baring on the plot, other than making Simon get mad and leave.
Simon leaves and goes to see some vampires about his more interesting worries involving his becoming a vampire, and then he’s really turned into a vampire. Because as Clary puts it “humanity is overrated” and she couldn’t possibly have a normal love interest. Oh, by the way, this scene of Simon getting turned is never shown in the book, despite the fact that it’s actually important to the plot. We’re just told what happened when the leader of the vampires, who actually does show some sense, keeps Simon from being completely killed, brings him to Clary and Jace, tells them how to make him a vampire and explains what happened.
The next part is…confusing. So, Simon, now a vampire, gets captured by Valentine along with a werewolf girl that he’s going to undoubtedly hit it off with in the next book. Instead of just killing them, Valentine gloats a little for no reason. Simon basically tells him to go play in traffic, actually looks…fairly awesome…and gets seemingly killed. Valentine doesn’t kill the werewolf girl who was right beside him and goes off and captures Clary. Someone needs to explain to Val that it’s best to kill potential problems. Then again the the protagonists couldn’t possibly win against a somewhat capable villain.
Jace gets caught by the Inquisitor,3 and it turns out that she just wants to kill him so that Valentine will feel what she felt when her son (who was actually on Valentine’s side in the prior war or something) was killed. The Inquisitor ends up eating crow when Valentine basically tells her to go ahead and kill Jace. Jace escapes (naturally) and the Inquisitor acts all humble and shocked and apologizes. She then dies right after learning something about Jace,4 and he runs off to save Clary. Before that happens, Jace finds the not quite dead Simon in the process. Val also needs to make sure that when a vampire looks dead that they are dead.
Jace ends up letting Simon drink his blood to help him, which turns Simon into a Uber Vampire who doesn’t get hurt by the sun. Since Simon was refusing to be like every other supernatural creature in this series and ditch his loving mother to hang out with cooler people, this solves some problems.
But it’s really because only speshul people are good enough for Clary.
Nothing really happens in the confrontation, Val gets away with the sword and the cup, everyone gets saved, and Simon and Clary break up.
That’s it. Moving on.
Clary: Clary has grown more annoying from the last book. She hardly ever thinks about her mother, gets all upset whenever someone calls out the Shadowhunters for being racist pigs, and generally contributes little to no active part in the story. She simply reacts to everything that happens. Her presence changes nothing. We do learn that, as any good self-insert, she is developing special powers that no one has ever seen before by making up runes/listening to the voices telling her what to draw. I’m not lying about the voices. They’re really there.
Jace: Clare has apparently forgotten every single rule about characterization in a fanfic, or she never learned it, because all she does is work on Jace’s stu-ish traits. One notable scene involves him walking into a werewolf bar and defeating everyone there despite the fact that they are seasoned warriors and he’s seventeen. Also, while Jace exhibited a lot a creepy traits in the last book, in this one, it’s very, very clear that he has no regard at all for human (or otherwise) life. He never seems to care that his actions could get his friends killed or himself killed, and he doesn’t seem to care that people are dying around him. He’s more interested in his daddy issues. Now, you could say that he saved Simon, but really, he didn’t do it because Simon was suffering, permanently caught between coming back to life and dying. He did it because (1) it would annoy his father, (2) because it might make the corruption of the Infinity +1 Sword not work, and (3) because he wants to get in good with Clary. So, despite her attempts to make him a Jerk With a Heart of Gold, Jace remains and is even more of a Jerk With a Heart of Jerk.
Simon: As I predicted, this guy had it hard in this book. Not only was he turned into the ‘boring and comfortable’ guy, Clare decided to get rid of some of his fans by making him more obsessed with sex than Jace, and thus not as cool. And more like Jacob Black. Since Clare couldn’t have Clary have in love triangle with a normal, boring human, she had to make him into a vampire. Credit where credit’s due, Simon’s transformation is one of the best written and well thought out parts of the book. Simon’s pain at not being able to tell his mother why he’s suddenly hiding in his room, the fact that he used to be a vegetarian as well as (apparently) a more of less Orthodox Jew, and his choices in life being completely stolen from him are tragic. His refusal to just run away stole the show. For a moment, I actually understood why people liked vampire fiction. The problem is that Simon’s sudden stu-powers felt like a cop out. It felt like Clare was trying to resolve Simon’s subplot as quickly as she could so she could go back to her pointless love triangle without worrying about real problems that would just get in the way.
Alec: Once again, this guy really doesn’t add anything to the overall plot, and isn’t even present for most of the important scenes. He is simply there to be gay, show how open minded Clare is, and give her slash fans something to gnaw on. This guy contributes absolutely nothing to the story, and he is as unrealistic as the characters in a slash fanfic. Which is, as far as you non-fanfic fans need to be concerned, about as realistic as the characters in Twilight.
Isabelle: She does one single thing in this book: she happens to be dating one of the Fair Folk, despite having been taught that the Fair Folk in this world use mortal girls. Thus, she is able to tell our protagonists that the Seelie Queen wants to talk to them. All this really is supposed to do is show how shallow Isabelle is and to move the plot along. She dumps him the moment that it is no longer convenient. This could have been done by someone else, but we have to see how stupid Isabelle is. Why? Because she’s a girl who isn’t Clary. And in Sue-fics, all the girls other than the Sue are either ignored or demonized.
Maya: This werewolf chick is supposed to be sympathetic. She was bit by her ex, had an older brother who tried to kill her before he died, and pretty much had a rotten life. The only problem is that, like SMeyer, Clare tries to make her secondary female characters as much like her main character as possible, and, like SMeyer, it means bashing humanity. Apparently, despite the fact that her parents are probably worried sick about her, or they think she’s dead and are devastated after losing both of their children, Maya doesn’t consider them worth her notice. They’re human and thus boring and ‘overrated’. She actually admits to never even thinking about them the moment she leaves. I guess sleeping in alleys with the possibility of being raped by some random passing psycho is more fun. As I said in my plot overview, she’s basically being set up as Simon’s Designated Love Interest and something for Valentine to target.
The Inquisitor: Once again, Clare falls into a Sue trope. Instead of disliking Jace because he’s a jerk, shows no respect for anyone or anything, and needs a good swift kick, she has to dislike him for a personal reason. After all, no one could dislike Jace because they dislike Jace. Her character is boring, flat, and completely cliché. If you’ve read even one sue/stu fic where morality depends on whether you like the main character, you have nothing new to expect.
Valentine: Once again, this guy proves himself be a pathetic villain. What’s worse is that when you read into his character, he’s the only person who actually thinks that humans are worth protecting. Therefore he’s evil. His grand scheme is to kill all supernatural beings so that humans will be completely safe. While I’d say he’s a Knight Templar, he’s not a really horrifying villain. What made Voldy a villain was that he didn’t care who he killed, and he had no justification for his hatred. Val’s also a lousy villain since he makes some pretty clear violations of the Evil Overlord List, like not killing people when he has the chance, or at least keeping them with him, and revealing his schemes to people. He also really does stop and chat with people for no real reason. You’d think that he’d learn after being defeated once. You know, Clare, there was a reason why Voldy didn’t just sit down with Harry for a cup of tea while explaining his evil plan.
While the world building itself is getting extremely problematic, having such logic problems as just how a werewolf bar doesn’t get normal patrons, the actual setting is handled well enough in this one to be at least readable. Clare shows knowledge of New York, the setting feels natural, interesting, and some of the images like how all the City of Bones is made from the ashes of dead Shadowhunters, are interesting and a little creepy. Good.
Now add some logic and I’ll give you more than three stars.
Er…humanity is icky and Clare’s made up stuff is so much cooler. If you like humanity, you’re an evil person.
Albinos are still evil.
If a guy makes you feel safe, appreciated, and loved, he’s obviously not the guy who you should be going for. Find the nearest arrogant ass and attach yourself to him. Even if he’s your brother, you’ll probably find out that he’s not anyways.
Family is only interesting as long as it’s useful.
Once again, it’s really that racism is bad. But when the main characters are themselves racist, it starts feeling a little stupid. Making another Harry Potter point, the Wizards who used terms like ‘Mudblood’ were usually the bad guys, and while the Wizards were woefully ignorant about Muggles, Rowling herself pointed out that a Muggle with a shotgun was going to win against a Wizard with a wand.
This is new. As there was some more conversation about weapons, and Clare named a few things that weren’t Western and failed. Apparently, she thought that no anime or manga fan ever bothered to learn a little about Japan’s weapons. One such fail is her use of a naginata. In City of Ashes this weapon is given to Alec, who seems to think that he can use it with one hand. A naginata is a pole arm that is traditionally a woman’s weapon. You know that thingy that Sailor Saturn used? You know, this? That’s a naginata.
So basically, she’s not only going oh, look, look, Alec is gay, gay, GAAAAYYYUUUU, she’s also lacking some knowledge of how a person uses a pole arm: it’s not with one hand.
It only takes a little trip to Wiki, Clare.
Another new thing that I wanted to discuss. Since people started to actually pay attention to teenage trends instead of letting Disney and Hollywood think for them, writers have started to realize that there are not only female geeks, but there are geeks who are interested in more than just Star Wars or Star Trek.
The problem is that many seem to think that their readers believe that these people are stupid.
Some people, like Jim Butcher, give their readers a wink and a nudge and revel in the fact that they too are Dukes of Dorkdom. Others do their best to distance themselves from such uncool things by making fun of them or they try to show how in tuned with ‘geeky’ things by trying and failing to use these things to make their characters look cooler. Clare does the last two.
Not only does she have an almost three pages of making fun of some anime for no apparent reason other than to bash anime5 but she also attempts to describe Jace as an anime hero. I know my anime heroes. They are stereotypically loud, brash, rude, and generally nice guys. You learn that they are really sweet guys pretty quick. Jace is not in any stretch of the imagination a sweet guy. If Jace was in an anime, he would be someone like Uchiha Sasuke, with a boatload of fangirls, but an anti-hero at…best…
Sorry, but this really, really annoyed me.
Things haven’t changed. The dialog is witty, but brings nothing new to the table. The sentences are awkward and Clare likes her adjectives too much. I feel like Clare is going ‘See! See! I’m a professional writer! Look at all the neat words I use!’ instead of having the self assurance to use larger words sparingly.
Mythology and Religion
I didn’t really go into the sheer lack of research and holes in my last review. As we have more revealed about every race in this novel, I’m going to have to call Clare out on…well…everything.
Both werewolves and vampires are nothing but shameless rip offs of the commonly conceived movie versions. Clare has done no real research, and probably doesn’t care enough to know that The Wolfman came up with the silver bullet, and that vampires, in the folklore sense, are a step up from zombies. While I would be fine with her making things up, there is nothing new, original or interesting in what she’s doing. She’s just using popular ideas of vampires and werewolves without even thinking. It’s unoriginal and boring.
Next, the Fair Folk. I hate to inform Clare of this, but they weren’t ruled by queens in folklore. In Scotland, the Fair Folk were divided into the Seelie (or Chaotic Neutral to Chaotic Good) and the Unseelie (Always Chaotic Evil) Courts. Both were ruled by kings. In the Irish stories, everyone was ruled by someone called Finvara. To my knowledge, the thing with queens only turned up when Spenser wrote the Fairy Queen, which was really his way of getting into Queen Elizabeth’s good graces. I’m calling this out because it’s become a cliché. I’m bored with it. Show some originality.
Also, The Fair Folk were not ‘evil’ or ‘amoral’. Actually they were a lot like people would be they were longer lived and had magic. They had a code of honor, were kind of nosy about what humans were doing, and had no problem whatsoever with punishing people for breaking the rules (either theirs or humanity’s). So long as you were polite, decent to people and left the Fair Folk alone, they would usually leave you alone. Usually. Finally, to say that the Fair Folk came from a union between angels and demons just to jam them into Clare’s little mythology is annoying. Some stories claim that the Fair Folk were angels ‘not good enough to stay in heaven but not bad enough to go to hell’ but others say that they were the old gods and others say that they just are some kind of natural thing. It’s best just to leave what they are alone. Once again, all Clare is doing is using the popular ideas without adding or even researching anything.
Finally, on angels. I’ll admit, angels aren’t my personal strength. As a practicing Catholic, I have a working knowledge of angels, mostly concerned with who’s the patron of what, and some knowledge of the ranking system, as defined by the Church, but I wasn’t sure enough of my knowledge of the Nephilim to make a judgment, so I got our own Danielle to help me.
In her words:
‘The Nephilim are basically a fantasy writer’s best friend, especially when said writer doesn’t care about biblical accuracy—the reason for that being how little we know about them. The Nephilim are mentioned briefly in the book of Genesis, and again in Numbers, almost in passing. All the verse in Genesis says is “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them.” The verse in Numbers basically just says “We saw the descendants of the Nephilim.”
Many scholars believe the Nephilim are the offspring of unions between fallen angels (aka demons) and mortal women, because true angels don’t have children. Some theorize that the Nephilim-offspring were giants, and that Goliath’s people were distant descendants of the Nephilim. This theory is bolstered by Numbers: “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” As the speaker says that those men were descendants of the Nephilim, it makes sense that they would be giants. So if a writer wants to be accurate, any descendants of the Nephilim would be giants.
However, I know a lot of writers who take HUGE liberties with the Nephilim—even Christian writers. Ted Dekker changed them for one of his series, making the offspring vampires instead of giants. Other writers give the Nephilim various superpowers, superhuman good looks, etc. It’s annoying, but oh well.’
I don’t really see how I can add to that.
Speaking of shamelessly taking from popular conceptions, Clare has a lot of Bible Fail and Literature Fail in this lovely. For example, she insists on re-quoting how Satan was the character Milton was actually supporting in Paradise Lost. Speaking as a lit major, he wasn’t. When you actually read the whole thing, and not just some of Satan’s spiffy speeches, it’s pretty clear that Milton’s making fun of him, and that Satan’s a hypocrite. Pandemonium being about as big as a bird house and how, as time goes on, Satan tends to contradict himself are examples of this. Also, in the words of my professor: “you’d be a pretty lousy Deceiver of the Nations if you weren’t very charismatic.”
And once again, Clare seems unaware that there are people, and quite a few of them, who actually believe the Bible. It’s not really the best choice of material to play with. She constantly quotes the Old Testament, uses it to make herself sound smarter, and generally adds nothing to the book but my irritation. It’s pretty stupid to quote the Bible and think you sound smart. As it’s such a major text and some Christian groups pretty much memorize it, you’re not really impressing anyone.
I’m not going to lie. This book is bad. Clare seems to have almost forgotten most of her original ambition in the first book. She’s not really trying to come up with anything new or exciting. She’s more or less following tried and true methods to write a more or less successful YA book. The pointless love triangle is even more pointless, and there’s kind of a drag in the book.
I’m assuming that Clare really didn’t know what to do with this one, while she had some more ideas for the next one.
Would I recommend it? No. Most of halfway the charming things of the first book aren’t really there, and I feel that Clare herself is too impressed by her own characters to be able to step away from them and see where they need to be improved. Worse, she seems aware of criticism and answers by trying to show us why we are wrong.
Always a bad tactic.
Since I’m not wasting my money on this thing, I don’t know when I’m going to be able to review the third novel of this joy.
So, next up is Fallen.
Score: 3 out of 10
Just remember, I’m always up for listening to recommendations.
1 The benefits of which are not really explained well. Maybe when it’s evil, it becomes a weapon. As opposed to the World’s Most Inappropriate Truth Detector
2 Remember the painfully gay stereotype that hosts random parties? Apparently he’s very popular in the fanbase. Even if he doesn’t actually do much other than flirt with Alec because if two guys are gay, they are automatically attracted to one another.
3 Remember her? One of the main plot problems?
4 Probably that he and Clary aren’t really related after all, so they can get it on without risking deformed babies.
5 She also seems unaware that anime is not always, or even usually, about tentacle porn and sex.