Hey everybody. It’s been a while since I posted any book recommendations, and even longer since I finished sporking City of Bones. But with the group sporking over at Das Sporking finishing up (and a bit of time before my next semester of grad school starts), now might be the time to dig into Cassandra Clare’s second entry in her Mortal Instruments series, City of Ashes.

(And no, the fact that I may or may not have received threatening letters written in what just might be animal blood telling me to get started on this thing in no way influenced this decision. Not at all.)

(Also, in the interests of full disclosure, I have not read this book first-hand in its entirety. I read up to chapter 10 – at the 40% mark – and decided that there was no reason for me to subject myself to its horrors any further.)

But before we get started, let’s take a look at the book itself. For reference, I’m using the Kindle version of the ebook.

Let’s take a look at the cover:

And yes, that is exactly the “cover” my edition has. At least I’m not using the movie edition – that one has Lily Collins (or someone Photoshoped to look like her) staring vacantly on it, like she’s high (or doing an impersonation of Kristen Stewart).

As covers go, it’s… meh. Certainly not the worst cover I’ve seen – that title goes to the early versions of Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind (to quote tvtropes – makes romance novelists sit up and say ‘Now why didn’t I think of that!’). Still, I’m not really seeing much of a connection between what’s on the cover and the book’s contents. Yes, that’s what I assume is a shot of the New York skyline, and I assume that’s supposed to be Clary, but so what? She’s a character in the book, and it’s set in New York. But it’s not particularly eye catching, or even all that interesting.

Well, at least it’s not lying to me. That’s good, I suppose.

Now, let’s move on to the other thing that may have caught your eye. Yes, that is indeed a quote from the queen of crappy YA fiction herself, Stephenie Meyer. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

“The Mortal Instruments series is a story world that I love to live in. Beautiful” – Stephenie Meyer, author of Twilight

Now, I’m fine with people saying that they’d like to live in the worlds described in their favorite books. People who would have loved to go to Hogwarts, or become a Jedi, or visit Narnia or Middle-Earth or whatever.

But the MI world is not one I’d want to live in. However, I can see why Meyer appreciates it. Both it and her own works focus on a “normal” girl who not only enters, but is welcomed into a fantastic world where she is embraced by a group who are supposedly inherently superior to normal people, despite spending all their time sneering and looking down their noses at said normal people rather than demonstrating any degree of real superiority. Said girl also is also for some reason the vertex of a love triangle between two potential love interests – one is incredibly hot, snooty, and emotionally dead, and the other warm, friendly, and actually a decent person – and we all know who she’ll ultimately end up with (hint: not the one that any logical person would go with). Also, said girl is somehow the center of everything, despite not actually doing anything to advance the plot, and only rarely showing any degree of competence, if that.

But that’s not what Meyer said, is it? No, she said it is, “a story world that I love to live in.” [emphasis mine]. Implying that she thinks this stuff is real.

Or she’s just being overly dramatic. One or the other.

Also, I would call this series many things, but “Beautiful” is not one of them.

This quote was also on my copy of City of Bones. I really have to wonder how much this quote actually helped sell these books.

Let’s move on to the back cover, shall we?

At the top is a quote from Cosmo Girl. Now I don’t know about you guys, but when I need a book recommendation, I go to Cosmo Girl.

Let’s see what they have to say:

“A smart, funny, romantic read” – Cosmo Girl

I think they must have been reading a different book than the one I got.

First, this book is in no way, shape, or form, “smart”. Rarely do any of the characters act rationally, and those that do will be viewed negatively for it. Valentine, rather than going through with his EVIL PLAN, will sit on his ass like Orcus just so the “heroes” can show up to thwart him at the last moment.

Second, this book is rarely “funny”, at least not intentionally so. When it is, those moments will likely be because of Simon being awesome, the amount of which has been severely downgraded, if memory serves. Probably because some of Clare’s fans actually liked Simon, and we can’t have that! They should only be mooning over Jace!

Finally, there is nothing “romantic” about this book. The bulk of the “romance” comes from Clary lusting after Jace, followed by her wangsting about not being able to jump his bones because they’re siblings. That’s it.

Let’s move on to the blurb:

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? Clary would love to spend more time with her best friend, Simon. But the Shadowhunters won’t 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. When the second of the Mortal Instruments is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor suspects Jace. Could Jace really be willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?

Oh, boy. Let’s get going. [cracks knuckles]

Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal.

Yeah, sure she does. She just spends so much time complaining about not being able to be “normal”. I mean, she only dived head-first into being a Shadowhunter in the last book, so clearly she’s desperate to go back to her old life.

But what’s normal when you’re a demon-slaying Shadowhunter,

To date, she has slain a grand total of one demon, and that was by accident. She’s hardly an uber-badass monster-killing machine.

your mother is in a magically induced coma

We’ll see how often that actually comes up. [Spoiler: almost never]

and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries?

Uh, just ignore them? I mean, as long as you don’t stare at them like a gormless idiot, I don’t see how this is a problem.

Wait, I think I see it now.

Clary would love to spend more time with her best friend, Simon.

Riiiiiight. Hold on a second, I know it’s around here somewhere. Ah! Here it is:

Simon. She had forgotten he was outside, had almost forgotten he existed. – City of Bones, Chapter 19.

Yes, clearly he is very important to her.

But the Shadowhunters won’t let her go— especially her handsome, infuriating newfound brother, Jace.

Yes, blame them for the fact that she keeps hanging around with them. Clearly it’s their fault.

Also, gotta love how the first thing mentioned about Jace is that he’s hot. Because that’s what’s most important, here. And “infuriating” is putting it lightly.

And Clary’s only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine , who is probably insane, certainly evil

Again with the “help her mom” schtick. Did the person writing this even read the book?

Also, note that he’s only “probably” insane.

— and also her father.

Dun dun dunnnn!

When the second of the Mortal Instruments is stolen,

Of course it gets stolen. You’d think that, what with these things being so damn important and all, the Shadowhunters would keep these things locked up or something.

the terrifying Inquisitor suspects Jace.

Well, he was only fanatically loyal to his “probably insane, certainly evil” father up until Clary somehow snapped him out of it. Sounds prudent to me.

Could Jace really be willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?

See the “fanatically loyal” comment above.

[Also, spoiler: Of course he’s not. He’s the Designated Hero – he never does anything wrong, even when he does.]

Moving on, let’s crack this baby open.

This time, the dedication is to Clare’s father.

For my father,
who is not evil.
Well, maybe a little bit.

Um, that’s… nice? I guess? I’m not sure how to respond to that. Yeah, she’s only saying he’s a “little” evil, but that’s more than none. And I can’t help but think that this is to try to convince people that Clary isn’t a self-insert, despite clearly being so.

On to the acknowledgements.

The first people mentioned are the members of her writing group, who gave her “support and encouragement”, but evidently not any critique (or at least not any that she felt the need to mention). The guilty parties include: Holly Black, Kelly Lkin, Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, Gavin Grant, and Sarah Smith. Given some of these names, I think it’s safe to say they are only guilty by association.

Next is the “NB Team,” whatever the heck that means, as well as some other people who provided “help (and snarky commentary)”. And I am forced to wonder how much of said “snarky commentary” was meant as legitimate criticism. There’s also mention of a Sarah Rees Brennan for “loving Simon more than anyone else on earth.” Given the way Clare/Clary treat Simon, I can only assume Clare means something other than complete disdain.

There’s mention of the publishers, which is good form. Clare especially thank her editor, who used purple pencil rather than red pen (because we wouldn’t want to hurt Clare’s pwecious feewings or something), someone else “for making changes way past the deadline” (I thought “deadline” meant “when the final draft is due”), some guy for “keeping track of Jace’s weaponry stash” (because I that’s just so damn important), and Clare’s agent, “for telling me I’m being an idiot when I’m being an idiot.”

I don’t think he told her that enough times.

Clare wraps things up by mentioning her family, concluding with the mysterious Josh, “who is less than three.”

There are so many things wrong with that last bit. Clare, I get that you’re writing (or at least trying to write) from the perspective of a hormonal teenager, but could you not sound like one texting her boyfriend?

And text-speak doesn’t work with prose, because the whole point of that is that “less than three” looks like a heart.

Also, shouldn’t that be “who/whom I less than three”? As is, Clare’s just saying “Josh is [heart]”, when I think she means “I [heart] Josh”.

And just like with the last set of these, I can’t help but think that she should mention her family first. Just personal opinion.

One last thing before I call it a day. Remember how Clare began City of Bones by quoting the bit of Julius Caesar that she drew the name for the series from? Well, she decided to do something similar here. Only, instead of quoting a piece of famous classic literature, she decided to use a poem by someone I doubt many people will have heard of. It’s called (as near as I can tell) “This Bitter Language”, by Elka Cloke:

I know your streets, sweet city,
I know the demons and angels that flock
and roost in your boughs like birds.
I know you, river, as if you flowed through my heart.
I am your warrior daughter.
There are letters made of your body
as a fountain is made of water.
There are languages
of which you are the blueprint
and as we speak them
the city rises.

It’s not a bad poem, I guess. It definitely evokes a certain images that go with the basic concept of the book. I just wish it were associated with a better book, like Kate Griffin’s A Madness of Angels (which is great a Post-Modern Urban Fantasy, btw).

Of course, from what I’ve been able to find, this isn’t the entirety of the poem, meaning that once again Clare is presenting this only to show us how “deep” she is, when there is a distinct possibility (even likelihood) that she’s talking out of her ass.

Also, I can’t seem to find much information regarding Ms. Cloke that’s not connected to Cassandra Clare. She has a website, and has published some stuff, including a book of poetry. That she felt Clare’s using of some of her poems in Clare’s books was worth mentioning in said book of poetry is a bit depressing, I think, especially when that fact has nothing at all to do with the poems.

So as near as I can tell, the only reason Clare stuck this poem (or rather, piece of a poem) at the front of her book was to give a little boost to her friend. And I can appreciate that. It just wouldn’t surprise me if Clare insisted on her use of the poems being mentioned in Cloke’s collection.

And that’s all for now, folks. Next time we’ll really get going with the prologue. Yes, that’s right – this book actually has a prologue.

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Comment

  1. The Smith of Lie on 12 August 2014, 04:07 said:

    Nice to see you tackling the next book in the series.

    For starters, the cover. Maybe it is just me, but the Clary on the cover looks less like she’s a heroine of Urban Fantasy action novel and more like she’s pissed at Joffrey (that’s the name of male lead here, right?) for coming home late and drunk and covered in lipstick (which is something we all expect him to do at some point).

    Next, Smeyer’s quote. I don’t really mind the way it is worderd. The part love to live in sounds bit strange, but supposedly shows just how engrossed in the books she got. The thing that I disagree is her saying that Mortal Instruments world is a one that anyone would like to live in. Obviously it is great ride for Clary Sue, but for the rest of humankind? Well, I won’t say it is worst possible one (I’d take Mortal Instruments verse over Westeros any day of the week…), but it has nothing on Hogwarts, Shire or even Marvel/DC universes (at least in the last two you have a bit of egalitarian chance to be the superpowered indivdual).

    The dedication to her father. Now I imagine the guy as one of those hapless villains from various James Bond spoofs. He sits in his comfy chair, strokes his maine coon and plans to terrorize… The Tri-state Area! With his ingenious plan to make everyone’s clothes mildly itchy. And then sell them fabric softeners for exorbitant prices.

  2. Epke on 12 August 2014, 07:44 said:

    Prepare for mind boggling levels of stupidity in this one.

    “help (and snarky commentary)”

    Anyone wanna bet those “snarky comments” came from saaaay…. Buffy? I’m sorry, that was low – I mean, just because she has a history of plagiarism doesn’t mean she still does it.
    <looks at the plot and characters of MI> Mhm.

    About SMeyer’s quote here… City of Bones was published in 2007, Breaking Dawn in 2008, so SMeyer probably had some level of credibility when this quote was made, so the idiotic horde that gobbled up Twilight would enjoy this one, too. Of course, using it post-BD is like using a dirty syringe in a hobo shelter.

  3. Potatoman on 12 August 2014, 08:16 said:

    A smart, funny, romantic read” – Cosmo Girl

    Because Cosmo is the best reference for books and should always be considered as the ultimate authority on literary works.

    sigh between this book, Evermore and the seemingly neverending list of books being added to my sporking list everyday, I don’t know if I can be convinced to touch YA anymore.

  4. The Smith of Lie on 12 August 2014, 08:48 said:

    I don’t know if I can be convinced to touch YA anymore.

    Try Skulduggery Pleasant if you haven’t already. I can’t vouch for later entries, but up to the 2nd book the series is a blast. And it has a female protagonist. Sort of like Dresden Files meeting Kim Possible.

  5. Juracan on 12 August 2014, 11:29 said:

    Try Skulduggery Pleasant if you haven’t already. I can’t vouch for later entries, but up to the 2nd book the series is a blast. And it has a female protagonist. Sort of like Dresden Files meeting Kim Possible.

    I second that recommendation. I’ve read up to book 5. It’s a shame those books are nigh impossible to find in the US these days…

    Also, gotta love how the first thing mentioned about Jace is that he’s hot. Because that’s what’s most important, here.

    But Apep, how else is the audience supposed to know he’s the male lead? Why worry building an interesting and likeable hero when you can just make him attractive?

  6. Apep on 12 August 2014, 14:16 said:

    (that’s the name of male lead here, right?)

    It’s Jace. Joffrey is from Game of Thrones. But I understand the confusion – they are both equally infuriating. The difference is that Joffrey is acknowledged as being an asshole.

    City of Bones was published in 2007, Breaking Dawn in 2008, so SMeyer probably had some level of credibility when this quote was made, so the idiotic horde that gobbled up Twilight would enjoy this one, too. Of course, using it post-BD is like using a dirty syringe in a hobo shelter.

    I’ve seen a different version of this same cover, but they used a quote from Holly Black. Not sure if that’s from before or after the BD-fallout, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it got switched in later editions.

    Because Cosmo is the best reference for books and should always be considered as the ultimate authority on literary works.

    I get that it is a quote from a magazine the target audience (teen/tween girls) might be familiar with, but Cosmo Girl?

    It’s a shame those books are nigh impossible to find in the US these days…

    I’ve been meaning to get into that series myself. And there are ebook versions.

  7. The Smith of Lie on 12 August 2014, 14:30 said:

    Also, gotta love how the first thing mentioned about Jace is that he’s hot. Because that’s what’s most important, here.

    This is actually a one I don’t really understand. How does this work in books? I can see why a hot body and penchant towards taking shirt off could work in the movie. But in a book all you have is words and the image that reader creates on his own.

    Maybe I am some kind of cynical, empty shell of a man, but if all the character has going for her(1) is looks, I can just as well imagine one without any help and cut the pointless excercise of reading a book about them. Or you know, find pictures of pretty people in the internets. And allocate my book time to someone with character.

    (1)Him in the case of Mortal Instruments, but the sentence above pertains to me

  8. The Smith of Lie on 12 August 2014, 14:36 said:

    Sorry for double post but I just noticed I made a very unclear statment.

    The note about subject of a sentence is muddling more than it explains. I used “her” in the main body of my post since as a straight male, the characters whose looks would interest me most are female. Note acknowledges that character who has only looks in question in the book sporked is male, yet I still wrote in the main part about characters relevant to me – id est females.

    Still convoluted, but I hope I prevented anyone from thinking I’m female. On the other hand it is internet and for all you know I am tentacle monster.

    As for getting hold of Skullduggery Pelasant books – all hail Amazon and ebooks, without them I’d never be able to get my hands on them – not published in my country. At ell. Ever.

  9. Juracan on 12 August 2014, 16:11 said:

    I’ve been meaning to get into that series myself. And there are ebook versions.

    My e-reader is a Kindle, and the Kindle Store only seems to have the first three books of the series in Spanish—books that I’ve already read. Perhaps I should invest in a Nook?

    The guilty parties include: Holly Black, Kelly Link, Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, Gavin Grant, and Sarah Smith. Given some of these names, I think it’s safe to say they are only guilty by association.

    You know, I’ve actually met Kelly Link, and I have a book of her short stories. Her style seems vastly different from Clare’s….

    I really want to know how those writing group meetings went.

  10. Potatoman on 12 August 2014, 19:22 said:

    It’s a shame those books are nigh impossible to find in the US these days…

    They’re everywhere here in Perth. I’ve read most of them and I love them. :)

  11. Castor on 12 August 2014, 20:01 said:

    I remember trying to read this book. I got through City of Bones alright, but I stopped reading after the first chapter in this one for some reason. Good luck!

  12. Apep on 12 August 2014, 20:09 said:

    My e-reader is a Kindle, and the Kindle Store only seems to have the first three books of the series in Spanish—books that I’ve already read. Perhaps I should invest in a Nook?

    I found at least six in Spanish. Only the first three are available in English. Weird.

    You know, I’ve actually met Kelly Link, and I have a book of her short stories. Her style seems vastly different from Clare’s…

    Well, just because they’re in the same writing group doesn’t mean they have similar styles.

    I stopped reading after the first chapter in this one for some reason.

    The first chapter? I’d think chapter 2 would be the first real “throw book at wall” moment. You’ll see when we get there.

  13. Juracan on 12 August 2014, 20:22 said:

    I found at least six in Spanish. Only the first three are available in English. Weird.

    Wow. I messed up— I meant to say ‘English’ instead of Spanish. Your findings were accurate.

  14. Apep on 12 August 2014, 20:25 said:

    I think it’s a US/UK thing, because only the first four are available in the US store in dead-tree format. The rest are only available as imports.

    I hate it when stuff like that happens.

  15. Castor on 12 August 2014, 20:41 said:

    The first chapter? I’d think chapter 2 would be the first real “throw book at wall” moment. You’ll see when we get there.

    I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure Clary started whining about something or other in the first couple of pages. I stopped reading before things got TOO stupid. Well, more stupid.

  16. pug on 12 August 2014, 20:44 said:

    Try Skulduggery Pleasant if you haven’t already.

    I was actually in the YA demographic when I read it, but I, too, remember it being very good.

  17. The Smith of Lie on 13 August 2014, 01:45 said:

    Wow. I messed up— I meant to say ‘English’ instead of Spanish. Your findings were accurate.

    Ok, maybe there is something else at play that I’m not aware of, but it seems that finding Kindle editions for later books ain’t that hard either…
    Books 4 through 6
    Book 7
    Book 8
    Pre-order of Book 9

    And of course a less scrupuled person could easily obtain all of the books through 5 to 10 minutes of determined googling. And that would be terrible.

  18. Juracan on 13 August 2014, 08:11 said:

    Ok, maybe there is something else at play that I’m not aware of, but it seems that finding Kindle editions for later books ain’t that hard either…

    After looking through all the appropriate links, the issue seems to be this— the Kindle Editions of books 4-6, 7, 8 and pre-order of 9 are listed in the ‘book’ section of Amazon, whereas we’ve been looking in the ‘Kindle Store’ of Amazon.

    Christ, who organized that?

    I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure Clary started whining about something or other in the first couple of pages. I stopped reading before things got TOO stupid. Well, more stupid.

    Oh goodie! I can’t wait to see the sporking of that. Seriously though, who starts an epic fantasy adventure with the main character whining?

  19. Apep on 13 August 2014, 10:35 said:

    After looking through all the appropriate links, the issue seems to be this— the Kindle Editions of books 4-6, 7, 8 and pre-order of 9 are listed in the ‘book’ section of Amazon, whereas we’ve been looking in the ‘Kindle Store’ of Amazon.

    Yeah, but the there’s also the problem that you can’t actually buy any of them.

    Damn it, UK! Why must you keep so many good things for yourself?

  20. E.T. on 13 August 2014, 15:59 said:

    Hola! Lurker unlurking here.
    I’ve read books 1-8 of Skullduggery Pleasant, and am seconding all the reccomendations. I was able to get them from the county library in my area, though God only knows how the library got them. I’d suggest looking that up.

  21. Aikaterini on 27 September 2014, 10:54 said:

    Hey! Glad that you’re tackling this book. Sorry for the late comment.

    The cover is nice, but I don’t know why it’s the cover for City of Ashes instead of the first book. As we will see, the first book was more of Clary’s story while this one is more of Jace’s, so it would make more sense if the covers were reversed. I’ve actually never seen the cover with Lily Collins on it.

    And “infuriating” is putting it lightly.

    I don’t even see why romance novel blurbs mention that the hero is infuriating to begin with, like that’s such an attractive trait.

    Could Jace really be willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?

    He already did in the first book. But of course everyone will just sweep that under the rug and forget about it.

  22. Apep on 27 September 2014, 11:47 said:

    Hey! Glad that you’re tackling this book. Sorry for the late comment.

    Don’t worry. I’m still working on chapter 2 – this kind of thing is a bit of a kick in the butt.

    I don’t even see why romance novel blurbs mention that the hero is infuriating to begin with, like that’s such an attractive trait.

    I’m tempted to blame Jane Austin. I haven’t actually read Pride and Prejudice, but I’m pretty sure a lot of modern authors totally missed what made that relationship work, and instead concluded “arguing=tru luv”. I think Gail Carriger and Mary Robinette Kowal managed to get it right – it’s basically, “gee, if the leads would stop arguing for about five seconds they might just realize they like-like each other.”

  23. swenson on 29 September 2014, 08:21 said:

    That’s the thing about Pride and Prejudice… people tend to forget that Lizzie legitimately 100% was not into Darcy when he first showed up. He was a massive dick who, from her perspective, went around destroying other people’s lives because he didn’t care about anybody. She’s practically insulted when he first proposes, because she dislikes him so strongly. It’s only later, when she realizes that Darcy’s bad behavior is actually a result of him trying to care for his friends, that she starts being attracted to him. (and when Darcy realizes he should probably tone down his massive dickishness)

    In other words, it’s only when they stop arguing that the true love happens.

  24. Aikaterini on 1 October 2014, 21:42 said:

    She’s practically insulted when he first proposes, because she dislikes him so strongly

    Well, after she gets over her initial shock, she does feel sorry for him when he begins the first proposal, but when he proceeds to unintentionally insult her and her family, that’s when she gets mad. But, yes, what those people don’t seem to realize is that she turned him down. She turned him down and she meant it. And, like you said, it’s only when he stops being an arrogant jerk that she begins to fall for him.

    That’s not the case here. Jace never stops being a creep. And based on how he’s behaved, he doesn’t seem like the type of person who’d listen when the object of his flirtation told him that she wasn’t interested (which is another important thing that some people tend to forget about Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy: that Mr. Darcy listened when Elizabeth told him that she hated him. He didn’t stalk her or sneer at her that she really did want him deep down and was just too stupid to admit it; he tried to explain himself and then he left her alone).