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.