Okay, time to get this show on the road. Buckle up people, because this is going to be a rough ride.

To her credit, CC actually does appear to know what a prologue is, unlike some other inexplicably popular YA authors.

We start off well enough, with what sounds like an establishing shot of a building, encouraging my opinion that CC writes as if this were a tv show. Still, the description is sound enough, with the building being described as “like a glittering needle threading the sky.” We’re told that the building is fifty-seven stories tall, that it’s named the Metropol, and that it is “Manhattan’s most expensive new downtown condominium tower.”

Then we’re taken to the penthouse apartment, which CC helpfully informs us is on the top-most floor, the fifty-seventh. Given that penthouse apartments are always on the highest floor of an apartment building, and that we were just told how many floors the building has, I have to wonder what CC thinks of her audience if she feels the need to repeat this information.

We’re three sentences in, and already at our first count – Entirely Pointless. This is for any time CC writes something that serves no purpose whatsoever, save to inflate her word count.

Entirely Pointless: 1

CC then gets to one of the things she’s actually good at, when she actually bothers – describing settings. The Metropol’s penthouse is “a masterpiece of sleek black-and-white design” with marble floors that “[reflect] back the stars visible through the enormous floor-to-ceiling windows.” It’s not too much detail, but it’s enough.

Then she completely manages to fuck it all up with this:

The window glass was perfectly translucent, providing such a complete illusion that there was nothing between the viewer and the view that it had been known to induce vertigo in even in those unafraid of hights.

Not even a whole paragraph in, and we’re already at two counts, people. I’ve decided to re-christen CoB’s Weird Word Choice. Say hello to You Keep Using That Word.

You Keep Using That Word: 1

Yes, a translucent material does allow light to pass through it, but it’s not like clear glass. Frosted glass is translucent – you might be able to see shapes through it, but not clearly.

Regardless, we get a quick description of the view. It’s not terrible, aside from a few points. First, the East River is described as being “bracleted” by the bridges spanning it.

You Keep Using That Word: 2

and we’re told that, if the weather’s right, you can even see Liberty Island. But since it’s a foggy night, you couldn’t see it anyway, making this last bit

Entirely Pointless: 2

Three paragraphs in we finally get a character. It’s a random guy who will remain nameless until the very end of the prologue, despite his identity being pretty damn obvious. He’s staring out at the city and frowning, because he’s apparently a petulant little child. He asks someone else if they’re done yet, because he’s been waiting for a whole hour. And we’re told that he as “salt-white hair”.

No points for guessing early, people. For now, I’m just going to call him what he is.

Asshole is addressing a kid kneeling on the floor, who is actually described as petulant. Given how both characters act, though, I get the impression that CC doesn’t know what that word means.

You Keep Using That Word: 3

The kid informs the asshole why he’s taking so long to do whatever it is he’s doing:

“It’s the marble. It’s more solid than I thought. It’s making it hard to draw the pentagram.”

Wait, are you drawing a pentagram, or are you carving it into the floor? Because if it’s the former, how would the hardness of the floor effect you’re ability to draw something on it? Are you using a chisel? Why not a marker instead?

Whatever. I’m giving it another one of these

You Keep Using That Word: 4

So Asshole tells the kid to skip the pentagram, and we’re told that, despite having solid white hair, Asshole isn’t actually that old. In fact, “His hard face was severe but unlined, his eyes clear and steady.”

Again, no points for guessing early.

The kid, who we just now learn has bat wings (you’d think that would have been mentioned earlier) tells him reminds him that the pentagram is kind of important when summoning a demon, because otherwise they’ll be unprotected. Asshole says he already knows this.

Then why were you telling him to skip it? Why are you rushing him? It all sounds kind of critical to me.

And we have yet another count – Un-Logic. This is for those times when the characters act in a way that makes no logical sense. For example, since Asshole knows why the pentagram has to be there, it makes no sense for him to tell bat-boy to skip it.

Un-Logic: 1

Oh, and bat-boy now has a name – Elias.

Asshole goes on to tell Elias that he’s “known warlocks who could raise a demon, chat him up, and dispatch him back to hell in the time it’s taken [Elias] to draw half a five-pointed star.”

First, quick counts.

You Keep Using That Word: 5

Is he drawing a pentagram, or is he carving a pentagram? If the former, then it should not have taken him this damn long to do it.

We also yet another new count – Shoddy World Building. I think it’s fairly self-explanatory. In this case, we have a mention of sending a demon back to hell. Except we know (from Jace’s forced exposition in chapter 1 of CoB) that in this setting demons aren’t from Hell.

Shoddy World Building: 1

Moving on, this would be the point where a good writer would have Elias say something like, “Why didn’t you go to one of them then?” Or, “Do you want it done fast, or do you want it done right?” Or even better, “If you don’t like it, then you can do it yourself.” You know, really put this guy in his place, because so far all he’s done is whine that it’s taking too long. I think Asshole is cranky because he didn’t have his nap.

I’d mark Asshole using Elias for this as another example of Un-Logic, but it will make sense. Sort of.

Elias goes back at it “with renewed urgency” (apparently he was carving a pentagram into the floor – I’m sure no one will ever notice that) and soon finishes up. He starts to ask for his money, but Asshole tells him “You’ll get your money after I talk to Agramon, not before.”

And Elias just goes along with it.

Un-Logic: 2

Also, I can’t help but imagine that Asshole wants to summon up a character from Digimon.

Elias takes off his jacket for some reason, probably so Asshole can act all offended at the sight of them.

Again, no points for guessing who he is.

Also so CC can give a long, purple description of them. This information will be of no value whatsoever, for reasons you’ll all soon see.

Entirely Pointless: 3

Elias gets to summoning the Digi-demon, and we’re told twice in the same sentence that he’s circling the pentagram.

Entirely Pointless: 4

At this rate, we might hit double digits before chapter 1.

The ritual works – the pentagram bursts into flames, and a minute later something that I assume looks like a demon from Supernatural appears inside it.

Apparently Elias was chanting in Chthonian, which we’re told is the language of warlocks. Given that warlocks are human-demon hybrids, I’m not entirely sure that they would have enough of a culture to develop their own language, but given how we know jack-squat about pretty much all the major supernatural groups, I’ll let this one slide.

Asshole is all pleased, and starts fiddling with something in his pocket.

Not like that, you pervs. It’s “Something hard and cold and metallic”.

You people are really sick, you know that?

Agramon does the whole “who summoned me” bit, and Elias is the stereotypical arrogant wizard. The Big Bad Demon is unimpressed, but bat-boy points out that, what with him being trapped in a pentagram, Agramon is pretty much at Elias’s mercy.

And then something weird happens.

“Will I?” The smoke surged forward, forming and re-forming itself. A tendril took the shape of a human hand and stroked the edge of the burning pentagram that contained it. Then, with a surge, the smoke seethed past the edge of the star, poured over the border like a wave breaching a levee. The flames guttered and died as Elias, screaming, stumbled backward. He was chanting now, in Chthonian, spells of containment and banishment. Nothing happened; the black smoke-mass came on inexorably, and now it was starting to have something of a shape – a malformed, enormous, hideous shape, its glowing eyes altering, rounding to the size of saucers, spilling a dreadful light.

Un-Logic: 3

Well, guess that pentagram wasn’t all that useful after all. And while there is an explanation for this, it won’t actually make any real sense.

Anyway, the demon kills Elias, thus making all that lengthy description of him completely pointless. As far as the story goes, it doesn’t matter what he looked like, because he’s dead now, just like every POV character in the prologues in ASoIaF. Except GRRM would make the character at least somewhat interesting so their death might actually mean something.

Asshole, being an asshole, just watches all of this without reacting at all. I’m sure this is supposed to convince me that he’s he’s totally Evil TM , but honestly? I already thought he was an asshole, so this isn’t doing anything for me. He does however ask that Agramon not do anything to Elias’s remains, because he needs them for something.

Not that – he needs the kid’s blood.

Seriously, what is wrong with you people?

Asshole whips the thing out of his pocket (NOT THAT!) and we get another bit of description of him – namely, that he has “black Marks covering his skin”.

Alright, if you hadn’t figured out by now, Asshole is Valentine. But that will be revealed shortly, so why bother keeping up the pretense?

Anyway, Agrimon asks Valentine if he didn’t warn Elias about what he (Agrimon) could do, which Valentine admits he did. And Agrimon calls him “clever” for doing so. And of course, Valentine accepts the compliment.

All you just chose not to provide a very stupid kid with a piece of information that lead to his demise. Yeah, you’re not exactly Machiavelli, buddy. And spoiler – he’s going to continue to disappoint in the “evil scheming” department.

And because he has the Mortal Cup, this somehow means that Agrimon has to serve Valentine. No, I don’t know how that’s supposed to work. But I do know what it is.

Shoddy World Building: 2

Valentine finally admits who he is, and the prologue comes to a close.

As prologues go, I guess it’s not that bad.

There is one glaring issue, however: in the last book, it was established that Valentine was an uber-Shadowhunter. The Shadowhunters’ job is to kill demons. Valentine was so fanatically anti-demon that he actually tried to start a war between the Shadowhunter and the Downworlders just because the Downworlders are partly demonic. He did not strike me as an “ends justify the means” kind of villain.

So why in the Infinite Layers of the Abyss would he be teaming up with an actual demon?

Un-Logic: 4

And again, there is a reason for this – just not one that makes sense in-book. The reason is that Valentine is the evil. Demons are also, for some reason, all evil, despite merely being inter-dimensional beings. So it makes perfect sense for Valentine to summon up a demon, even though it contradicts his previously established motives and mind-set.

This goes beyond Un-Logic, people – this is Insane Troll Logic.

Yeah, this book is gonna hurt.

Finally, CC continues her trend of chapter names that don’t fit with the chapter itself – while I get how “smoke” fits with what happened, how do “diamonds” fit into this?

Entirely Pointless: 4
Un-Logic: 4
You Keep Using That Word: 5
Shoddy World Building: 2

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  1. The Smith of Lie on 17 August 2014, 16:21 said:

    Through the whole spork I was thinking about scene in Dresden Files, where Harry summonas Chaunzagharoth for information. We get an explanation of the role of circle and how it works. We get a negotiation that allows us to learn what each side wants and what are they willing to give up for that.

    We even have a bit of subversion when it comes to demons since Chauncey, while being obviously demonic in appearance has wire rimmed glasses and perfect Oxford accent. And he’s perfectly polite. Untill Harry and readers forget themselves and he stops to be.

    It makes for an informative scene, that serves both as worldbuilding and exposition about plot. And it is pretty tense.

    Here I still have no real idea why did anyone bother to show up.

  2. Catherine Berry on 17 August 2014, 17:42 said:

    Thank you once more for venturing into Cassandra Clare-world, slashing through the Stupid with the Machete of Truth – God speed!

  3. Epke on 17 August 2014, 17:47 said:

    Chthonian, which we’re told is the language of warlocks.

    Uh… did she derive that from the Cthulhu mythos? While a nice nod to a much better series, what does it have to do with warlocks here? Oh, sure, the demons here sound like something that comes from the darkness between the stars, but apparently they’re from Hell as well? So…. what gives?

    The whole demon-turns-on-summoner-thing sounds familiar…

    The four arms froze for a moment, as if in doubt. Then a dribble of smoke emerged from the base of the figure and prodded the edge of the pentacle with experimental care. Two such prods was all it took. The weak spot was pinpointed: a little hole in the incantatory barrier. Instantly, the pseudopodium extended forward and began to stream through the breach, narrowing almost to a point as it passed through, expanding again on the other side. Faster and faster streamed the smoke; it swelled and grew and became a bulging tentacle that darted eagerly across the space to the other pentacle, where the magician stood transfixed in horror. The trails of rosemary and rowan that he had placed around its edges were scattered to the winds. The smoke ballooned up about his shoes, rapidly encasing his legs in a thick black column. The magician made a few incoherent noises at this point, but he didn’t have time for much; the figure in the first pentacle had now dwindled to nothing; all its essence had passed through the gap and was enveloping its prey. In less than five seconds, the whole magician, pinstriped suit and all, had been swallowed by the smoke. Several triumphalist lightning bolts were emitted near the head of the column, then it sank away into the floor like a solid thing, taking the magician with it. ~~ the Golem’s Eye, Jonathan Stroud

    … and much better done in the original.

    And Agrimon calls him “clever” for doing so

    Not researching the demon you’re about to summon? Elias was an idiot. And Voldentine isn’t clever – he’s merely less stupid than every other Shadowhunter.

  4. Apep on 17 August 2014, 18:55 said:

    Through the whole spork I was thinking about scene in Dresden Files, where Harry summons Chaunzagharoth for information.

    Well, it helps that Dresden Files is just an all-around better series, Male Gaze issues aside. I’m actually a little bothered that we haven’t seen much of that kind of thing in more recent books.

    Here I still have no real idea why did anyone bother to show up.

    Well, Agrimon was summoned, so I don’t think he had much choice, and Elias was hired…

    But yeah, the reason Agrimon sticks around makes no sense.

    slashing through the Stupid with the Machete of Truth

    “Machete of Truth” – I like that.

    Uh… did she derive that from the Cthulhu mythos?

    It is a possibility, but “chthonic” dates back to Ancient Greece – mostly in reference to deities related to earth and the underworld, like Gaia and Hades. Still, it is an odd coincidence.

    The whole demon-turns-on-summoner-thing sounds familiar…

    As awesome as the Barimaeus books are (and they are really awesome), I think the “demon turns on summoner” thing is pretty much expected.

    And Voldentine isn’t clever – he’s merely less stupid than every other Shadowhunter.

    Yeah, but by the standards of this book, he’s downright devious.

  5. Epke on 17 August 2014, 19:45 said:

    As awesome as the Barimaeus books are (and they are really awesome), I think the “demon turns on summoner” thing is pretty much expected.

    No, I meant the description of it.

  6. Juracan on 17 August 2014, 21:53 said:

    Apparently Elias was chanting in Chthonian, which we’re told is the language of warlocks. Given that warlocks are human-demon hybrids, I’m not entirely sure that they would have enough of a culture to develop their own language, but given how we know jack-squat about pretty much all the major supernatural groups, I’ll let this one slide.

    My guess would be that it’s the language they instinctively know from their demon parent, but then it wouldn’t be the language of warlocks as much as the demonic language. And that’s frustrating.

    Still, I’m quite disconcerted that there’s not more information on different supernatural groups. I get that maybe Clare didn’t want to infodump, but having more information in this case would actually really help, considering warlocks sound interesting and apparently play a large enough role in the story to come up more than once.

    Also, how does he hide those wings?

  7. lilyWhite on 18 August 2014, 07:08 said:

    Granted, I forgot that his hair was blond (or at least thought it was pale enough for a stupid writer to call it “white” in this scene), but at first, I thought “Asshole” was Jace.

    That says a lot about our “hero”.

  8. swenson on 18 August 2014, 08:35 said:

    Re: the Bartimaeus book description: I actually thought of that too, the whole smoke seeking an exit from a summoning circle thing.

    Buuut it’s both an evocative image and not that difficult to come up with independently, so I’m not going to sit over here accusing her of plagiarism or anything. It’s just, well, given her past history, there is that natural tendency to jump straight to that conclusion, whether or not she deserves it anymore.

    At any rate, I actually think the “don’t draw the pentagram—oh wait you need to draw the pentagram” thing kind of makes sense. Valentine knew that under normal circumstances, you wouldn’t need it, but in this case, because he wants Digimon to eat Elias anyway (and knows that because he has the MacGuffin Cup, Digimon can’t eat him), the pentagram doesn’t matter. But it turns out Elias actually knows a little of what he’s talking about and might refuse to summon Digimon without the pentagram, so Valentine has to let him finish, even though Valentine still secretly knows it doesn’t matter.

    I mean, it’s still dumb, for a guy who’s supposed to be this great mastermind, Valentine should be more patient (and he should be careful not to do anything which might make Elias suspicious), but it’s not completely nonsensical, IMO.

  9. Aikaterini on 27 September 2014, 11:00 said:

    Also, I can’t help but imagine that Asshole wants to summon up a character from Digimon.

    That’s exactly what I thought when I first heard the name Agramon.

    So why in the Infinite Layers of the Abyss would he be teaming up with an actual demon?

    Maybe the idea is that Valentine is an opportunistic backstabber. He’ll use demons to destroy Shadowhunters, and then turn around and destroy the demons.

    But you’re right, that idea still doesn’t fit what we’ve been told about him. This would maybe work if Valentine’s real enemy was other Shadowhunters, and he hated them so much that he was willing to team up with their sworn enemy, demons, just to destroy them.

  10. Apep on 27 September 2014, 11:53 said:

    But you’re right, that idea still doesn’t fit what we’ve been told about him.

    No, it doesn’t. And the fact that he did the same thing in the last book makes it worse – he hates demons so much he wants to eradicate Downworlders just because they’re “tainted” by demons, and yet is totally willing to use full-blooded demons to achieve his goals.

    It’s like in Raiders of the Lost Ark – why would the Nazis want to use the Ark of the Covenant in the first place? But at least Raiders had good writing, characters, and action to keep you distracted. All this has is Jace and stupid jokes, most of which were probably cribbed from better sources.

  11. Resistance on 5 October 2014, 23:57 said:

    The whole demon-turns-on-summoner-thing sounds familiar…

    Yes! I was reading the CC passage, and since it’s probably been about 5 years since I read the Bartimaeus Trilogy, CC’s passage sounded so familiar. Stroud’s description (and books) are so much better, of course.

    Goddamnit, now I want to read those books.

    Keep up the good sporking work, Apep. Glad to see you back at it, this one is shaping up to be just as funny as the last time you had a go at the Mortal Instruments.

  12. Leighanne Shaw on 29 February 2016, 19:36 said:

    I love a good spork. I laugh particularly hard, between bouts of beating my head against my desk and screaming (uselessly!) about the complete failure of the educational system, when the sporker is blatantly guilty of the same errors targeted in the work of the sporkee. For example:

    how would the hardness of the floor effect
    (WRONG!) “Effect”, when used as a verb (as it is here) means “to bring about; to cause”. The word you intend to use here is “affect”, which means “to influence; to make a difference in”.

    And this is immediately followed by:

    you’re ability to draw something on it?

    (WRONG! WRONG! SO WRONG!) “You’re” is a contraction of “you are”. You mean to use the possessive pronoun “your”.

    Your own You Keep Using That Word score: 2

    I admire your dedication to the concept(s) of good writing, and I hope you will accept this as constructive criticism, in spite of all the caps. I am going to hope that your errors are just unfortunate typos that I will not see repeated.

  13. Apep on 29 February 2016, 19:52 said:

    I’ve always had trouble remembering the difference between “affect” and “effect”. Which is why I try to avoid using either. I can’t guarantee that I never make this mistake later. So, apologies in advance.

    And I do know the difference between “your” and “you’re”, as well as how to properly use “their,” “there,” and “they’re.” In this instance, it’s just a typo. They happen from time to time, because with CoA, I’m writing the sporking as I’m reading, and pretty much post the finished product once I’m done.

    Yes, I could spend some time editing, but I already have enough commitments as is, and I want to get these out as quickly as possible. Your criticisms are welcome (see, I can do it right!). And in all honesty, if these are your only complaints, then I’m happy.

  14. Asahel on 29 February 2016, 22:34 said:

    Easy way to remember the difference between affect and effect:

    Affect is a verb; effect is a noun. (Yes, I’m aware that there is a verb form of effect, but it’s very rare, and its use never intersects with the meaning of affect anyway.)