Alright, people, time to wrap this thing up. No recap, because honestly, if you haven’t read all the previous entries, why the heck are you reading this? Go back and start from the beginning.
We begin with Clary going to visit Simon. Simon’s mom is surprised to see Clary, and apparently had thought that they were fighting over something. Clary gives the excuse that she was sick, but really she was just drained by drawing the giant deus ex machina ship-destroying rune. We’ll soon learn that she was out for a week, so at least we have some idea of how long it’s been since the last chapter (unlike every other instance of a time-skip in these books).
Simon’s out in the garden. The description of the weather makes me think it’s late-autumn, which raises a number of questions that I’m not going to discuss here, but I am putting a pin in this. They talk a bit about how being a vampire has affected him – he’s no longer bothered by heat or cold, his skin is still cool, and while the sun doesn’t burn him, he does get tired during the day. Also, Raphael is a bit pissed about Simon basically becoming a Daywalker, with the implication being that vampires don’t like change.
And then we get this bit of dialogue:
“Anyway, this’ll be good for my music career. It that Anne Rice stuff is anything to go by, vampires make great rock stars.”
“I’m not sure that information is reliable.”
He leaned back against the chair. “What is? Besides you, of course.”
I’m going to address this in two bits:
First, while I haven’t read The Vampire Lestat or The Queen of the Damned, I’m reasonably sure that Lestat’s success as a rock star was only partially due to him being a vampire, namely that it made him interesting, not that it made him a good musician.
As for the second part, I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry. Because in a way, Clary is very reliable in regards to Simon – she can be relied upon to ignore him or forget his existence (until someone else shows an interest in him, that is), and to take advantage of his feelings for her. But we can’t have any of that pointed out, no sir – that might make Clary seem bad, and we can’t have that.
Moving on, we get to the actual point of this scene – Simon wants to break up with Clary. Simon explains that, while he still loves Clary, he’s realized that she doesn’t feel the same way about him. Something I think everyone else already knew, given how she’s treated him. But I’ll stop beating that particular dead horse for now.
Clary asks if Simon’s decision has anything to do with Maia, and Simon says it does. And while he doesn’t feel the same way about Maia as he does about Clary (because, much like Bella Swan, Clary must be the most-desired of all the female characters),
Both Hands, Ma’am: 1
Simon is aware enough to realize that Maia feels that way about him, and he’s willing to give a relationship with her a shot, instead of continuing to pursue his failing relationship with Clary. But rather than just cutting off all contact with her, Simon wants them to go back to being friends. Because I guess all that emotional baggage from him pining after her for years can be dropped just like that. Sure.
But now that she’s dashed the hopes of Clary/Simon, CC ends the scene. The next one picks up when Clary is leaving Simon’s house. No idea how much time passes between scenes, though, so I’m going to give it one of these:
A Word From Our Sponsors: 1
Seriously, who writes these commercials? They’re awesome.
Anyway, Clary hops into Luke’s new truck, which we quickly learn is exactly like his old one. Not sure why I needed to know that.
Entirely Pointless: 1
Clary makes a comment about Luke picking her up, and he says he’s feeling parental. They joke a bit about him being overly protective of her, and Clary confirms that she and Simon broke up. Then we get this:
“I see.” He probably did. “Did you want me to drop you at home?”
“You’re going to the hospital, right?” She could tell from the nervous tension underlying his jokes. “I’ll go with you.”
I believe that this is the first instance in this book where Clary’s expressed any interest in visiting her mom in the hospital. Yes, previous trips were mentioned, but this is the first time we’ve actually seen Clary decide to go. Too bad it comes at the end of the book.
So they drive off, and we get a not-too-bad description of the East River (not that CC mentions the name – again, it’s like she expects her readers to just know the geography of New York City). Clary wonders why she’s never drawn it, which somehow segues into a semi-flashback where she asks her mom why she’s never had Clary model for her. Don’t ask me to explain that transition – it’s exactly as random as it sounds. Jocelyn’s answer was some crap about how drawing something is an attempt to capture it and trying to make sure it never changes, and that if you love something, you need to let it be free to change.
No, that answer makes absolutely no sense, even in-context. I guess Jocelyn wasn’t too big on photos, then, either.
And I guess the whole point of that little bit was so Clary can think about how she doesn’t like change. Not that it makes it any more coherent. All this is intended to bring us to the next topic – Luke’s relationship with Jocelyn.
Clary brings up Valentine’s comment about Luke’s feelings, and she flat-out asks him. Luke dodges the question by asking if Clary believes it. Right, because that’s not an obvious deflection.
So Clary talks about their history, how Luke’s always been around, and how he’s been like a father to her, and spending summers with him, and how neither he nor Jocelyn ever seemed to date anyone, so she kinda figured they’d been together this whole time and just hadn’t told her because then she might start asking inconvenient questions, but she’s mature enough to handle it now.
Yeah, I don’t know why it took Valentine bringing this up if Clary had noticed all these things before. Kids aren’t stupid, CC – if they notice their single parent spending a lot of time with another adult, especially if the relationship is like what Luke and Jocelyn’s is, the child will figure out that they’re together, even if the adults aren’t married.
And Luke admits that yes, he is in love with Jocelyn. And also that she doesn’t know. Clary’s response is typical of her:
“She doesn’t know it?” Clary made a wide sweeping gesture with her arm. Fortunately, her coffee cup was empty. “How could she not know? Haven’t you told her?”
Clary, there’s an old saying about people in glass houses throwing stones. You had to be told point-blank by Simon to learn how he felt, despite several people pointing it out to you. And your relationship to Simon had been compared to that between Luke and Jocelyn – why are you surprised that your mother is just as oblivious to this sort of thing as you are?
So Luke admits that he’s never told Jocelyn how he feels. Clary asks why, and he says that it “never seemed like the right time.” Clary responds with this:
“That’s a lame excuse, and you know it.”
I do not like agreeing with Clary. It makes me feel dirty, and not in a good way.
So then Luke starts explaining it all, but thankfully we’re only subjected to an overly-long paragraph of dialogue instead of a whole damn chapter. Basically, Luke was more or less like Simon, but when Valentine showed up, Luke realized he didn’t stand a chance. Wait, how then could Luke and Val be supter-best-battle-buddies 5eva if they only met when they were sixteen? I thought the whole point of that relationship was that it was so deep and strong and better than being mere siblings?
Shoddy World Building: 1
Come on, CC, you have to keep this shit straight.
Anyway, Luke stepped aside because he figured Val was more deserving of her. Nice how this completely removes Jocelyn’s agency in this.
Then, after he and the pregnant Jocelyn went on the run, Luke offered to marry her, but she turned him down (apparently Jocelyn thought he was taking pity on her), and they parted ways – Luke back to Shadowhunter land, and Jocelyn to wherever. But despite Luke having actual responsibilities (NO I WILL NOT DROP THAT EITHER), his recurring dreams eventually drove him to go after Jocelyn again.
And then we get the explanation for why they didn’t get together once he found her. Despite everything, Luke is still a werewolf, so him changing every month would be a problem, because Jocelyn didn’t want Clary to know anything about all this stuff, and yet for some reason she also would have insisted on telling Clary about Luke’s lycanthropy if they got married. I’m not sure whether that’s just a convenient excuse or an example of the weird kind of thinking Valentine regularly demonstrates.
So Clary again asks why Luke never told her mom about his feelings. Luke points out the obvious – he’s more than demonstrated how he feels, so he’s pretty sure she already knows. Oh, Luke, I don’t think you know who you’re dealing with. Clary does, and argues that because Luke didn’t come out and actually say that he loved her, her mom has no clue. Also, based on a single conversation from some vague point in the past, Clary also believes that Jocelyn loves Luke:
“I remember once I asked her why she didn’t date,” Clary said, ignoring his admonishing tone. “She said it was because she’d already given her heart. I thought she meant to my dad, but now— now I’m not so sure.”
Luke looked actually astonished. “She said that?” He caught himself, and added, “Probably she did mean Valentine, you know.”
Why does CC have to make this all so convoluted? Were any of her readers really all that interested in Luke and Jocelyn’s relationship? I can at least kind of understand them being interested in Clary’s love-life as a kind of fantasy, but why have all these relationship dynamics stuff with the adults when the books don’t focus on them, and CC clearly has no real interest in doing so?
Blah blah, Luke’s frustrated about having to constantly keep his feelings bottled up. And now that this scene has accomplished what it was intended for, we can awkwardly transition to the next one. In this case, Clary, for no apparent reason, asks to be dropped off at the Institute. Because New York City is just so well known for its accommodating traffic.
Oh, and we’re going to put off the heroine visiting her comatose mother a bit longer. But she really loves her mom, guys!
Next scene, and Clary’s in the Institute, so all we cut out was travel time. So I’m giving it one out of spite.
A Word From Our Sponsors: 2
So Clary runs straight to the elevator and jams the call button and is generally impatient. When it arrives, Jace is inside, and suddenly all that urgency evaporates. So what the hell was the point of it in the first place? Clary was acting like she was about to wet herself or something.
Entirely Pointless: 2
And now that Jace is here, CC waxes poetic about his hair being shorter. Because that’s something I really needed to know.
Both Hands, Ma’am: 2
Jace is surprised to see Clary, and asks why she’s here. She says she wanted to talk to him. I guess now that she’s officially single again Clary decided she could just get her Jace fix without having to make an excuse.
Jace says that he’s going out to pick up food for everyone, so Clary might as well come along. Also, we get a description of how angelic (no, I’m not kidding) Jace looks in the candlelight, because reasons. In fact, he looks so amazing that Clary is momentarily stunned (not that it takes much to do that).
Both Hands, Ma’am: 3
CC, I don’t care that you know they’re not actually related, or that your readers have probably figured it out as well – they don’t know that they aren’t related, so having Clary getting all hot and bothered over Jace is really, really gross. Stop it.
So they head out, and again, Clary’s previous urgency has been completely dropped, because as they walk, they apparently don’t discuss anything having to do with themselves, and instead talk about the Lightwood kids. So once again, what the hell was Clary in such a rush for?
Entirely Pointless: 3
And you guys really need to see this conversation:
“I’m sorry.” Clary winced at her own stupidity. “They must be pretty miserable. All these people they knew are dead.”
“It’s different for Shadowhunters,” Jace said. “We’re warriors. We expect death in a way you—”
Clary couldn’t help a sigh. “‘ You mundanes don’t.’ That’s what you were going to say, isn’t it?”
“I was,” he admitted. “Sometimes it’s hard even for me to know what you really are.”
I guess that’s just another part of how they’re “better” than us mundanes – see, they don’t waste time mourning for lost comrades! You’re all weak and pathetic for actually having an emotional response to your friends and loved ones dying violent deaths!
CC, there’s a big difference between accepting that you or people you know might die, and actually seeing it happen. Military personnel deal with this all the time. I don’t care that the Shadowhunters are a warrior society, they’re still humans (or at least they’re supposed to be – you seem to have changed your mind on that). They still form bonds of love and friendship. Hell, that’s the whole point of the parabatai thing!
And then there’s the fact that, by all indications, Shadowhunters are atheist, or at least agnostic. So they don’t even have the comfort of being able to say, “they died fighting evil, so they get to go to heaven.” No, all they have is their remains being cremated and used to build prisons for baddies that don’t get used.
(Just to be clear, I’m not insulting people who are atheist/agnostic, just pointing out how it doesn’t make sense with Shadowhunters being so blasé about their own mortality.)
Whatever. They get to the restaurant, and it’s the same one from the previous book, where the whole gang got together, and Jace randomly went off to make-out with a waitress to demonstrate how desirable he is. I guess only two restaurants really exist in this world – this place, and the Chinese restaurant where the werewolves live (the Hunter’s Moon doesn’t count, because that’s a bar).
Clary and Jace sit down, because I guess when Jace said he was going to pick up something because no one felt like cooking, he really meant “no one’s catering to my needs, so I’m going to go out to eat instead of cooking something myself.” Typical.
Our “Heroes”: 1
CC, cooking is not that hard. Follow the instructions, and you’ll be fine.
The waitress from last time is mentioned, as well as her relationship with Jace. Because that’s really something that needed to be brought up.
Also, we get this bit:
A pair of werewolves occupied another booth. They were eating raw shanks of lamb and arguing about who would win in a fight: Dumbledore from the Harry Potter books or Magnus Bane.
“Dumbledore would totally win,” said the first one. “He has the badass Killing Curse.”
The second lycanthrope made a trenchant point. “But Dumbledore isn’t real.”
“I don’t think Magnus Bane is real either,” scoffed the first. “Have you ever met him?”
CC, while I’m sure you and your friends got a kick out of this, all it does for me is make me think of how I’d rather be re-reading the entire Harry Potter series than dealing with this crap. And I’m sure you and your more rabid fans might think that you’re on Rowling’s level, but you’re not even close, so the implication that you are is just insulting.
Also, even though Dumbledore would never actually use the Killing Curse (something I’d expect any fan of the series, let alone one of the Big Name Fans, to know), he’d wipe the floor with Magnus Bane, no question.
Clary finds this whole thing amusing, which leads to this (sorry for another quote so soon):
Jace was studying the menu, which gave Clary the opportunity to covertly study him. I never look at you, she’d told him. It was true too, or at least she never looked at him the way she wanted to, with an artist’s eye. She would always get lost, distracted by a detail: the curve of his cheekbone, the angle of his eyelashes, the shape of his mouth.
“You’re staring at me,” he said, without looking up from the menu. “Why are you staring at me? Is something wrong?”
First, credit where it’s due – that’s actually kind of funny. Not something I’ve come to expect from Jace.
Second, that’s a really generous way to describe what Clary does. A more accurate one would be to say that she practically starts humping his leg whenever she sees him, and obsesses over every minor detail of his appearance (seriously – his eyelashes. What the fuck?!).
The waitress comes over and breaks Clary out of her daydream, so Clary orders some random crap that we don’t hear, but we are told that Jace orders sweet potato fries (something I just don’t understand the purpose of) and some stuff to go for the Lightwoods.
Ah, so he is willing to pick up food for everyone, but not so much that he won’t make them wait while he wastes time with Clary. You can tell why he’s considered part of the family.
The waitress leaves (and I sincerely hope the staff does some nasty stuff to Jace’s fries). Clary asks Jace to tell Alec and Isabelle that she’s sorry about what happened, and to tell Max that she’ll still take him out to get comics whenever. And of course Jace has to be a dick about all this:
“Only mundanes say they’re sorry when what they mean is ‘I share your grief,’” Jace observed. “None of it was your fault, Clary.” His eyes were suddenly bright with hate. “It was Valentine’s.”
CC, please drop this stupid point. You are not being ‘clever’ by having Jace say this. As a matter of fact, here are some definitions of “sorry”:
adjective, sorrier, sorriest.
1. feeling regret, compunction, sympathy, pity, etc.:
to be sorry to leave one’s friends; to be sorry for a remark; to be sorry for someone in trouble.
3.sorrowful, grieved, or sad:
Was she sorry when her brother died?
4.associated with sorrow; suggestive of grief or suffering; melancholy; dismal.
I’d say that those are pretty applicable to this situation. It doesn’t just mean “I feel I should apologize”. This does not make Jace look clever, it makes him look like a jackass at best, or a sociopath at worst.
Our “Heroes”: 2
For Jace basically spitting in Clary’s face for her offering her sympathies. Just accept it in the spirit it’s offered in, asshole.
But of course Clary doesn’t call Jace out on this. No, instead she asks about Valentine. As I’m sure you can all guess, he’s once again managed to disappear, and no one has any idea of what he’s going to try next. As I’ve mentioned before, given that he still has the sword, he’s probably going to try to complete that ritual. I mean, it would be the smart thing to do.
Then again, no one’s ever accused any of these characters of being smart.
Then we finally start moving towards whatever the point of this scene is with Jace asking Clary what she wanted to talk about. Of course, we have to hem and haw a bit first, because we have to smooth out the minor communication issues that no one gives a shit about. And then it’s all toped off with this bit:
“I really was sick,” she said. “I swear. I almost died back there on the ship, you know.”
He let her hand go, but he was staring at her, almost as if he meant to memorize her face. “I know,” he said. “Every time you almost die, I almost die myself.”
Both Hands, Ma’am: 4
CC, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, GET YOUR HAND OUT OF YOUR PANTS!!
No, I don’t care if Jace is being literal or not – that line is so saccharine I wouldn’t be surprised if I developed diabetes. And that’s on top of my disgust for this relationship.
Oh, but it gets worse.
So, Clary starts to tell Jace what she wanted to say, but Jace interrupts her because he’s an asshole and apologizes for his behavior (you know, when he basically said, “I don’t care that we’re siblings, I still think we should screw.”), and has decided that he just wants to be her brother now. That’s the gist of it, anyway – there’s more, but I don’t give a shit about the details.
And I’d actually be okay with this except for one thing – Clary’s response. For starters, she tries (repeatedly!) to apologize to Jace for turning him down. Because saying, “no, I won’t fuck you, you’re my brother!” is just so cruel. And there’s the very clear implication that she had decided to take Jace up on his offer, and that the audience is very clearly supposed to be devastated by this.
CC, what the fuck is wrong with you?
Next scene, and we’re finally, finally at the hospital.
Unfortunately, Clary’s single act of daughterly compassion is utterly ruined by her only wanting to be comforted by her mother. Because god forbid Clary visit her mother for any reasons that don’t benefit herself in some way.
Our “Heroes”: 3
And we get a nice summary of everything that happened during the scene break – as soon as Jace left, Clary started crying, so much so that some guy on the subway offered her a tissue. Clary responded by screaming at him, “because that was what you did in New York.” And of course, this makes her feel better.
Our Heroes: 5
One for screaming at the guy who was only trying to comfort her, and another for feeling good about it.
But before Clary can even get to her mom’s room, she runs into a Shadowhunter woman covered in a don’t-look-here spell. It’s the same one who stopped Malik from blowing out Luke’s tires, because there are no background characters in these books.
She says her name is Madeleine Bellefleur (hey, a region-appropriate name!), and that she was a friend of Clary’s mom. Clary says the hospital will only let family visit, as if that would somehow stop the semi-invisible-woman. Also, Luke isn’t family, yet he’s constantly around. Maybe he has Power of Attorney or something.
But no, Madeleine is only here to tease the sequel – see, she knows what’s caused Jocelyn’s coma, that Jocelyn did it to herself, and how to fix it.
And that’s the end of the book. I suppose it’s not the worst way to end a story, but can’t help but notice that it ended before Clary actually reached her mother.
Our “Heroes”: 6
That one’s for CC. Seriously, would it have been so difficult to have this discussion happen in Jocelyn’s room?
Whatever. At least it’s finally done.
There’s a few extra samples from some of CC’s other books, but I’m not going to look at those, as well a map pointing out a few locations, which is kind of helpful. There’s also a forward from CC that got added in an update at some point (probably when the new editions came out for the TV show). I did read that, and I’ll talk about it here.
First, there’s a good bit of it is her talking about how she did all this research and incorporated so much mythology and folklore and whatnot into the books (yeah, right), and she repeatedly brings up the “all myths are true” line (though now she says it’s “all stories are true”), completely ignoring how she’s taken all the creatures from myths and legends and shoved them into five categories: it it’s not a vampire or werewolf, it’s some type of fairy, warlock, or demon. And don’t get me started on how she butchered any non-western folklore – remember, in this world, an ifrit is just a red-skinned warlock that doesn’t have magic powers, rather than a powerful magical being made of fire.
But we’re not done yet – there’s also stuff about how she incorporated Biblical lore (though only through secondary works) into the setting, and a bit talking about Nephilim (the technical name for what Shadowhunters are), and how being a mix of angel and human would be kind of interesting:
The idea of being part angel, partly a symbol of goodness, and yet being beset by all the weaknesses inherent to humanity: frailty, cruelty, greed, selfishness, despair.
I just have a few problems with this:
A) The term “Nephilim” is occasionally translated as “giant”.
B) Their fathers are referred to as “sons of God,” and there’s some debate as to what that means. The dominant Judaic take interpret them as being descendents of Seth, and the Nephilim coming from them interbreeding with the descendents of Cain, and some more modern interpretations actually translate the actual term (‘bnei elohim”) as “sons of rulers”. The half-angel interpretation is Christian in origin.
C) Even if we do go with that interpretation, most takes on Nephilim tend to view them as bad, or at least dangerous – all the power of an angel, and the free will of a human. Angels tend to wreak quite a bit of havoc when they show up in the Old Testament, and they’re following orders. I’ve even seen at least one take where the Biblical Flood was intended to wipe the Nephilim out.
And that’s about all there is to it. If someone else wants to take a more in-depth look, be my guest.
Entirely Pointless: 44
You Keep Using That Word: 92
Shoddy World Building: 43
Rapier Twit: 67
Our “Heroes”: 161
No Shit Sherlock: 16
Both Hands, Ma’am: 111
A Word from Our Sponsors: 12
My god, but this book was a slog. The first book took me a little over a year to finish. This one took about a year and a half. And I can only blame things like grad school work and doing my own writing for so much – if I’m entirely honest, there were points where I had to force myself to get back to this book.
And as much as I’ve ranted about all this book’s problems, I still feel they need to be discussed. Flaws that aren’t just minor annoyances, but huge problems with the book. So I’m going to break them up into a few sections.
- The Villains
I know I’ve beaten this particular dead horse almost to paste, but I’ll say it again – Valentine’s plan makes no sense. We know he hates demons and anything related to them, so why is he trying to summon up an entire army of them? Even if you use them to conquer the Shadowhunters’ capital and then dismiss said army, there’s no reason for the Shadowhunters to trust/follow him.
A better plan might have been to pray on the tensions between Shadowhunters and Downworlders – we’ve already seen that they don’t get along, why not push that even further? Fake a few attacks, disrupt any attempts at a peaceful resolution, and after the majority of Shadowhunters get sick of being told to hold back, come in and say, “I told you we couldn’t trust them!” Easy. Hell, CC practically used the same plot in her first Draco book. At least here it would actually make sense.
Not that Valentine’s willingness to sit back and twiddle his thumbs helps matters. I can understand Luke and maybe Raphael telling their younger followers to stay in a safe place once they learned about Valentine’s plan, but aren’t there other groups of vampires and werewolves in New York? What if they thought it sounded like a trick, or an attempt to scar them? And even if they all did listen, why did Valentine restrict himself to attacking lone targets? It’s not like the Clave was trying to conceal his return, and I can’t believe that he’d have much in the way of compunctions about slaughtering an entire pack of werewolves or vampires to get what he wanted.
Then there’s Agramon, the big bad fear demon. On paper, he’s a pretty effective baddie – a monster that literally scares its victims almost to death before killing them. Sounds good to me! And for a while, he is incredibly effective – what he did to Maia, the warlock kid who summoned him, hell, the entirety of the Silent Brotherhood? Damn, son.
But then we have the big show-down between him and Jace, and he gets taken out… by having a piece of metal railing shoved through him. Compare that to Abbadon from the first book – he/it took down most of the group without breaking a sweat, and only got taken down when it got exposed to a lot of direct sunlight. Compared to that, Agramon went down like a chump.
Now, I might be willing to buy that the magic fear-removing rune weakened him. I’m thinking of the season four episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Fear, Itself.) The fear demon there, even when it’s only partially-summoned, manages to wreak havoc on a fraternity house’s Halloween party, but when it actually physically manifests, is only a few inches tall. The metaphor here is clear – fear really isn’t all that powerful if confronted directly. Except that’s not the case here, or at least it isn’t implied – something like Agramon-as-Valentine seeming weak or keeping his distance might have helped make that clear. But as-is, it looks like the big bad fear demon isn’t really all that tough, despite all the build-up.
Finally, there’s the Inquisitor. I’m including her here because she’s really the most visible of the protagonists’ opponents. The problem with her is that there’s never any real reason for the readers to side against her, other than how she treats Jace. And really, you can’t blame her for that, despite what CC and the other main characters say – she only locked Jace up because he mouthed off to her, only put him under house-arrest because she suspected him of being a plant by Valentine, and only locked him up at the Institute because Magnus demonstrated how piss-poor a warden he was.
But it goes beyond that – the Inquisitor is bad because she doesn’t immediately accept that Jace is a good guy, even though he refuses to cooperate with her. Jace never seems to volunteer any information about Valentine, never offers to help the Inquisitor. Heck, his volunteering to face the super lie-detecting sword looks pretty interesting when Valentine shows up and steals it before the Inquisitor can use it on Jace – the idea that Valentine was covering for Jace isn’t unreasonable in that case. Until a certain point, the Inquisitor could be seen as just a well-intentioned extremist – yes, she’s maybe a bit over-zealous in her duties, but she’s still just doing her job.
And then we got the big reveal about her son, and how she wants revenge against Valentine, completely undermining her character. Don’t get me wrong – her desire to capture Valentine being driven by personal tragedy tied back to Valentine’s previous activities is fine. It could even work really well, if we got to see that desire warring with or overriding her sense of duty. But we don’t see that – all we get is “the Inquisitor is acting crazy! She’s gone too far!” which is clearly a vary biased perspective.
None of the villains in this book get treated like actual threats: Valentine sits in the background being vaguely menacing, but is ignored most of the time; his pet fear demon sounds interesting, but only shows up to do his bidding; and the Inquisitor is only a minor hindrance, at best.
- The Relationship Dynamics
I’m not going to lie – I’m not a fan of love triangles in general. Basing a large part of the tension in a work on the protagonist being torn between being with Character A or Character B feels really cheap to me, especially since it’s a false dilemma – the possibility that the protagonist could end up with someone else, or with no one at all, is never even considered.
And that’s when I like the characters involved, and the relationships are developed, so the protagonist actually has a bit of a dilemma
That is most decidedly not the case here.
In this case, there’s so much else going on that devoting so much time (the majority of Part II, but also throughout the book) focusing on these relationships is really frustrating, and it drags the book down. I’m not against including romance in other genres, but it can’t be allowed to over-shadow everything else, like trying to thwart the bad guy. I might catch some flak for this, but I didn’t particularly like how much of Order of the Phoenix focused on Harry’s first flailing attempts at romance. I understand that he’s a hormonal 15-year-old boy, and that this potentially a major event in his life, but that shouldn’t come at the cost of the bigger plot. Say what you like about the movie – at least they cut out the terrible, awkward first date between Harry and Cho.
And I can’t help but draw comparisons to the Twilight books. The relationship between Edward, Bella, and Jacob is very similar to that between Jace, Clary, and Simon in some very bad ways.
The first pairing (Bella/Edward and Jace/Clary) seems to be based entirely on physical attraction. Neither Edward & Bella nor Jace & Clary ever seem to do things together – they don’t seem to have any shared interests or tastes. Look at how often Clary just stares at Jace while the narration waxes poetic about every aspect of his appearance. Clary is better than Bella in that she at least has one interest not related to Jace – her art. But at no point does Jace ever show any real interest that. Heck, Jace doesn’t really have any interests at all beyond killing demons – no, playing the piano is not an interest, because he never seems to do it for fun.
Then there’s the fact that the second pairing (Bella/Jacob and Clary/Simon) is, in all respects, a much better, well-developed and realistic relationship. In New Moon, Bella and Jacob spend a good deal of time together, and generally seem to enjoy each other’s company – they have more in common than just mutual physical attraction. The same goes for Clary and Simon. And the frustrating part is that, despite these pairings being all-around better, they stood absolutely no chance in the long-run.
Because it’s really no secret which pair the author preferred. I feel like CC only paired Clary up with Simon as a means of satisfying the fans of Clary/Simon, while not having to alter her plans. CC did, after all, get her start in fandom – she knows exactly what her fans want, and is more than willing to give them enough bits and morsels to keep them coming back. And at least she had the decency to not drag this out for another whole book. But make no mistake – there was no way Clary was actually going to end up with Simon, and only the most ardent supporters of that ship would believe otherwise.
But I think a big part of why the relationship stuff didn’t work goes beyond simply not caring for this kind of thing – it also comes down to a lack of reader investment. This is only the second book in the series, so dangling the possibility of a relationship (whether romantic or filial) ending isn’t that big of a deal. Compare this to Harry and Ron’s troubles in Goblet of Fire. By that point, we’d already had three books to see them become friends, so when they had a fight, it was a major concern. It also helped that the neither party was in the wrong: Ron was frustrated that Harry, already famous, was once again the center of everyone’s attention, and he was once again being ignored; meanwhile, Harry was angry that Ron didn’t believe his claims that his involvement in the Tri-Wizard Tournament wasn’t intentional.
Conversely, we have Clary and Simon’s relationship. Clary’s insistence that she doesn’t really love Jace rings pretty hollow in the face of the evidence. And it’s not helped by the fact that she has routinely ignored or forgotten about him, manipulated him, or failed to stand-up for him against other Shadowhunters. It’s not surprising that he’d decide to break up with her. If anything, his desire to remain friends is the surprising part.
Speaking of which, there’s also the way every other character is treated. Everyone else – Magnus, the Lighwood kids, heck the entire Lightwood family – only exist in relation to the main characters, namely Jace. Yes, Magnus and Alec are a couple, but the main reason Magnus ever appears is to be of some assistance to the main characters, whether that be volunteering to act as Jace’s [incredibly poor] jailer, or to provide magical back-up for the assault on Valentine’s boat.
In City of Bones, Magnus was presented as a fairly neutral party – he helped the protagonists (namely by dropping exposition), but that was all. He made it quite clear that he had no interest in aiding them, at least not out of the goodness of his heart. He was somewhat amoral, providing services that bordered on violating Shadowhunter law. He (and the late, lamented Dorothea) provided a different perspective of the Shadowhunters than what Jace, Alec, and Isabelle gave – not noble protectors of humanity, but arrogant tyrants imposing their will on society through threat of force.
But then CC decided to pair him off with Alec, and became just another character to be used to help out the heroes.
The Lightwoods aren’t any better. Alec gets a bit of agency when defending the Inquisitor’s actions near the beginning, and when he serves as POV character in the final chapters, but Isabelle is barely present. Her only contribution to the plot is to convey the fairy queen’s invitation, which really just served as an opportunity to poorly foreshadow Clary and Jace’s special powers and an excuse to force them to make-out. And no, I don’t count it as setting up the other Shadowhunters being rescued by nixies, because that all happened off-screen, and barely counts as providing assistance, as far as I’m concerned.
Of the three remaining Lightwoods, Mayrse gets the most screen-time, and that consists mostly of A) acting as a teaser for the Inquisitor, B) supporting/opposing the Inquisitor, and C) delivering a The Reason You Suck Speech to the Inquisitor, a speech I’m certain CC assumed would have all her fans cheering over. Max gets a bit of development, but as it’s mostly him being an adorable little kid and fawning over Jace, he’s not really much of a character. And Papa Lightwood barely shows up at all – I care so little about him that I can’t even be bothered to remember his name.
For all that everyone talks about Jace being “part of their family,” that family doesn’t really seem to exist much beyond their connection to Jace.
- The Magic System
As I mentioned in the last installment, the rune magic in these books seems utterly broken, so in a way, this really applies to the setting as a whole. I brought up Sanderson’s Laws, and how CC seems to want the best of both hard and soft magic – she wants to be able to use it to solve all her problems (like with hard magic), but doesn’t want to be bound by any kind of rules or restrictions (as with soft magic). But before, at least there was the implication that there are only so many runes in existence. So, when we find out that Clary’s super-special-power is that she can basically create new runes, she basically becomes the most powerful character in the world, as she can just whip up a rune to deal with any potential threat. And if there’s no real threat, there’s no real tension.
But the problem also ties into Sanderson’s Second Law, which says that a character’s weaknesses (like, say, limits on their powers) are more interesting than their abilities. Let’s take a look at magic in the Wheel of Time universe. There’s always a distinct possibility that anyone who uses magic (called “channeling”) could draw too much power and “burn out” their ability entirely, cutting them off from the One Power. Men also face the added threat of almost certainly going insane due to the Satan-analogue corrupting the male half of the True Source before the series began. Even things like healing magic have drawbacks – for one, it’s pretty complicated, and it’s really just sped up natural healing, so the target gets drained of all that energy at once, rather than over time. And not everyone who can channel has the same aptitude or ability – some are very powerful channelers, some can barely channel at all. Some have gifts for a particular element, others a different one.
Now, compare that to Shadowhunter runes. Drawing a rune on someone isn’t dangerous, at least if they’re a Shadowhunter. You can draw as many as you like, provided you can find enough empty skin. Oh, they leave behind minor scars when they’re used, but that’s not really much of a downside. They might hurt to apply, but it’s not as if they continue to hurt until/when they’re activated. And since they’re not permanent, there’s no need for a Shadowhunter to consider things like their abilities and aptitudes. Further, there don’t really seem to be any limits on what runes can do, or how they work – I still want to know how Clary managed to melt a wall by scribbling on it, or how drawing a big “open” rune somehow caused an entire boat to come apart at the seams.
And that’s about all I have to say, folks. I’m going to take a break from sporking for a while, but I’m not going away entirely – there’s a bunch of books I’d love to share with you guys. And when I do eventually take on City of Glass, I’m going to make sure I read the thing first – sporking a book while reading parts of it for the first time isn’t exactly conducive to a smooth, steady workflow.
See you around.