Aparna (inspirethoughts) wrote,

Book Critique – #332: The Mortal Instruments II - City Of Ashes

For review of all books in this series: Go here

Stars: 3 / 5
My Recommendation: Despite the flaws it is an interesting read if you care to overlook them.

As promised I continued with the series and here is my take on the next one.

City of Ashes is the second installment in The Mortal Instruments series, an urban fantasy by Cassandra Clare published in March of 2008. The novel is set in modern day New York but in an alternate world where humans, vampires, werewolves, magical fey, demons and shadow hunters co-exist.

In the first book City of Bones (http://inspirethoughts.livejournal.com/540145.html) we see how Clarissa "Clary" Fray first encounters the Shadow Hunters - Isabelle "Izzy" Lightwood, Jace Wayland and Alec Lightwood; how Jocelyn is kidnapped by Valentine who is looking for The Mortal Cup and also rise his Circle again; that Clary finds out she has Sight; that there are Vampires, Werewolves and other creatures living among Humans; how the secret about her father devastates not only Clary but Jace and how Clary eventually gets her mother back despite losing The Mortal Cup to Valentine. The second book City of Ashes begins where City of Bones ends.

Clary is now in a world of confusion – her mother Jocelyn is in Coma, her father is the evil Valentine and Jace is her brother with whom she has fallen in love badly (of course she did not know then that he was her brother). And now Valentine has disappeared into Idris with The Mortal Cup. Although they have left the hunting of Mortal Cup to the Clave, Clary gets pulled into the world of Shadowhunters again. This time around it is because the Inquisitor suspects Jace of being in cohorts with Valentine. But then the second Mortal Instrument - The Maellartach, the Soul-Sword – is stolen by Valentine leaving behind a trail that the Inquisitor connects to Jace. Could Jace really be in cohorts with his father Valentine? Could the Inquisitor’s suspicions be true?

Another interesting sequel and I must say a much better one than the first one. Jace is a much better character with a lot more integrity in this plot. Perhaps by going through what he went through, his stubbornness and adolescent quirkiness matured and made him into a decent shadowhunter by Cassandra. And Clary also has been redeemed. She proved worthy of her role, with steel courage and strong loyalty that I would want a lead character to have in. Finally there is hope for this series to be read by me. But the nagging question is when will the incest end? I was hoping it would be in this plot…but there is something in there that I cannot put my finger on it that makes me feel that the incest is a cover, hiding a bigger plot by Cassandra. If that is true I would like that to come out sooner than later cause incest is so not pleasant to read. She however elevated Simon a lot, making me think one of her future books in the series would be focused on him.

This time around Cassandra at least did not have disconnected conversations or missed scenes that were referred later. That is a huge plus to the plot if I may say so. However, what is it with authors like Cassandra Clare and Stephanie Meyer who always want to dangle two boys in front of the lead girl. Is it not enough that the teens are going through a lot already with the twists and turns in the plot that they have to create a love triangle too? Never got to my head this scenario.

Another thing Cassandra shattered was my fantasy of faeries being good and happy people in one single chapter. Too bad, I always loved Tinker Bell.

Cassandra managed to make this time around a bit more interesting and tolerable to read. I still detest the incest but hopefully the next book will have a better approach. Another book for those lazy days that you can either finish in a day or stretch it out to the next.
Spoiler Alerts:
1) I am wondering if the author will write a book or plot for Simon. He seems kind a cute character. And my wonder ends here…I am sure Cassandra has a book for him in future. :)
2) A conversation between Valentine and Clary kind of reveals that there is a possibility of another one of experiment by Valentine – other than Clary and Jace. I wonder if that is true and who would that be. Will have to wait and read the rest of the books to know.
3) Who was the woman with silver hair – shadowhunter who wanted to speak with Clary but doesn’t?
4) Queen of Seelie Court although doesn’t lie doesn’t give complete information either. What did the Queen of Seelie Court mean by “Valentine’s experiments”? Does she mean Clary and Jace? Or more?

5) Other books, TV Shows and movies author mentions in the plot:
a. Cassandra introduces this book with a snippet from Elka Cloke’s collection of poems titled “Bitter Language”. The verses are so deep and dark at places, it made me wonder who this poetess could be. Found that she has two other works under her belt. And also found that Cassandra had used her poems in the book Clockwork Angel (first book in The Infernal Devices series). Very interesting style of writing by Cloke. More about here.
b. Simon and Clare watch a bit of the 1931 classic film Dracula starring Bela Lugosi. More about the film here and now on my list to watch it.
c. Max Lightwood and Clary read the ninth book in the Naruto series – a Japanese manga series.
d. Magnus Bane, the high warlock in the book refers to an American soap opera “One Life to Live” that ran for almost 43 years on TV. However, here he adlibs it as “One Life to Waste” adding a humor element. More about the actual show here. How can a show run for so many years, amazes me.
e. Jace talks about a poem with the following lines: Isabelle, Isabelle, didn't worry. Isabelle didn't scream or scurry…
i. Intrigued on what poem it could be I checked and it turns out to be a verse from The Adventures of Isabel by Ogden Nash first published in 1936.
ii. Although Cassandra spells Isabel incorrectly. Well, incorrect from the poem’s perspective not from the character perspective.
iii. More about the poem here.
f. Jace plays three distinct sections of Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit. And that name made me wonder what it was. They are indeed three movements for solo piano by Maurice Ravel, written in 1908. Amazing that Cassandra made Jace very talented this time around.
g. Valentine quotes “I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine” from Song of Songs - the fifth book of Wisdom in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. More about this book here.
h. Clary creates a rune at the most critical time of need that Valentine translates as “mene mene tekel upharsin” which in turn is taken from Daniel 5:25. A detailed explanation of what it means is found here: https://www.gotquestions.org/mene-mene-tekel-upharsin.html. However, in short it means in modern terms as “the handwriting on the wall,” meaning “a portent or warning of inevitable misfortune.” It is so apt for what Clary’s role is formed into in this book.
i. Maryse Lightwood used to sing an old French ballad as a lullaby to her kids – Alec and Isabelle. I wondered if Cassandra would mention it. She finally does in the final chapter. It is a traditional French song titled “À la claire fontaine” that must have appeared as early as 1604. More about that song here.
j. The incest in the first two books reminds me of a Nora Roberts novel plot in her book titles Unfinished Business that was published in June of 1992. In the plot the lead characters Vanessa Sexton and Brady Tucker technically become step brother and step sister when Vanessa's mom marries Brady's dad. I cringed at the plot when Vanessa and Brady end up as partners for life in the end cause technically they become family and it was hard for me to accept this plot.
6) Places we visit along with Carly through this journey:
a. Cassandra mentions a 57-floor condominium tower called Metropole in Manhattan, New York. However I couldn’t find one with such name but found Metropolitan Tower instead which is a 68-story condominium tower. Perhaps Cassandra based her Metropole on this or I may be mistaken. More about the actual tower here.
b.  I had heard about and even visited Midtown Comics in NYC. However hadn’t heard or see Forbidden Planet. Seems to be another comic book store in NYC. More about it here.
c. Clary’s mother Jocelyn is admitted to the critical care unit at Beth Israel hospital. I thought it was fictional until I came across the hospital in New York. It is indeed called as Mount Sinai Beth Israel medical center opened in 1890. More about the hospital here.

7) Clary's Sights:
a. From Book I "City of Bones": Several scenes in the book described clearly shows that Clary had acquired the power of "Sight". However I have a feeling that we will be seeing these scenes either in this book or in the future books following this in the series. I am curious to see if they come true.
i. In a scene, Clary dreams of Jocelyn, Luke, Jace, Simon and Isabelle in various situations and positions . Here is what she sees:
1) Jocelyn in a hospital bed with eyes like bruises on her face.
2) Luke standing atop a pile of bones.
3) Jace with white feathered wings on his back.
4) Isabelle sitting naked with her whip curling around her.
5) Simon with crosses burned into his palm.
6) Angels falling from the sky and burning. This particular sight reminded me of Nalini Singh's Archangel's Legion - sixth book in The Guild Hunter Series. That plot focuses around incident called The Falling where angels fall from the sky and die. Although Nalini Singh's book was published in 2013, a good 6 years after this Cassandra Clare's book was published. My review of that book can be found here.
ii. She sees a vision where she is in the Glass City with Simon and Jace, and something about Simon that I want to see if it is what I think it is. (Described in Pg. 120)
b. From Book II "City of Ashes": Clary has some more sights in this part too.
i. She has a vision in which her mother draws a protective Rune on her, which she finds it etched on her skin when she wakes up. This vision definitely becomes true…waiting for the other visions to come out for real for Clary.
ii. She sees another visions in which she sees Jace hurled from sky with golden wings at his back and another dark-haired boy with dark wings tipped with blood. Could that be Simon? Did it mean she was seeing Simon turning into Vampire and relating it to the blood on the wings? Curious to see what this vision might mean eventually

8) Character / Geographical / Grammatical / Location / Historical / Mythological Errors:
a. On Pg. 277, a missing "us" at the end of Clary's comment "Simon came with." or the "with" should be removed.
b. On Pg. 373, there is a “that” in the beginning of the sentence of the last but one paragraph. It is not required.

9) This Book is also divided into three (update the number) parts with a prologue and an epilogue.
a. Prologue is titled “Smoke and Diamonds” giving us insight into what Valentine’s secret plan could be. But in contrast to other titles, Cassandra hasn’t picked this from any quote or line in poem by someone else. However, MAC Cosmetics had a line of eyeshadow with the same name, which is of course now discontinued. Looks like it was a very good product.
b. Part One is titled “ A Season in Hell”. Cassandra picked the title from an extended poem in prose form by French writer Arthur Rimbaud which had the same title – it’s English name since the original French title was Une Saison en Enfer. It was published in 1873. Cassandra even used lines from this poem, of course crediting the poet, underneath the title - I believe I am in Hell, therefore I am. More about the poem here. In this part, Cassandra does take us through the hell the young shadowhunters face in the aftermath of Valentine’s usurping of The Mortal Cup.
c. Part II is titled “The Gates of Hell” and depicts a quote from Dante’s Inferno. In reality this is a monumental sculpture by Auguste Rodin depicting a scene from the same book. More about the sculpture here.
i. However, Cassandra uses a quote from Dante’s Inferno a few pages before Part II begins. Jace quotes “S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse a persona che mai tornasse al mondo” in front of the Inquisitor.
ii. This part deals with every character facing their own gates of hell - so apt for what comes to us in these chapters.
d. Part III is titled "Days of Wrath" and depicts a quote by Abraham Coles.
i. The title is a direct lift from this quote.
ii. Days of Wrath is an English version of the Latin hymn Dies Irae published sometime in 12th century. More about the Latin poem here.
iii. Several poets and authors have translated this Latin hymn into English and one such translation was done by American author and translator Abraham Coles in 1859. More about the author here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Coles. The lines that Cassandra uses as a quote are from this translation.
iv. The last chapter prior to Epilogue is also titled “Dies Irae”.
Tags: books, critique by amateur, mortal instruments, reviews

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