City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
4 stars – I liked it; it was good
Book two of the Mortal Instruments series! I started reading this the day I finished book one, on March 6; I needed to know more right away. After the big reveal at the end of the previous book about Clary and Jace, I couldn’t wait. Check out my review for City of Bones if you haven’t already.
Finished on March 19, 2022.
A Gripping Storyline!
Now that Clary knows that she has a brother and that her father is alive, they’re dealing with the aftermath of the reveal. Valentine is still out there, building up his power with the Mortal Cup and on his way to collect the rest of the Mortal Instruments. Meanwhile, Clary and Jace (mostly Jace) are under investigation by the Clave.
Like the last book, I enjoyed the lore of the Downworlders. It explores more about werewolves in this one through Luke and his pack, introduces us to other kinds of Downworlders who were left aside in the first book, and I especially liked the evolution of vampires and how it ties into hints carefully placed in the first book. I always love it when something seems innocent and meaningless at first but turns out to be a clue later on. Bonus points if it’s well hidden and fits naturally with the story in the first place.
A continued formatting feature from the last book is the separation into sections. City of Ashes starts with a prologue as well, which, personally, I don’t skip (I find it strange when people say that they don’t read prologues). It was a nice lead-in to the story as a whole, and the epilogue was a clean way to end it while also setting up the next book and its mysteries.
There is the continued inclusion of LGBT+ characters, and even some exploration of relationships for those characters. The normalization of these relationships and the exploration of the challenges they face being themselves is great, though I’m holding out hope to see more than just Alec and Magnus.
The same cast of characters has been brought back, and they maintain consistency even as they evolve and grow. So far in their journeys none of them have acted in ways that have made me pause, and the witty banter between them made me smile. This book takes a deeper dive into some of their backstories, especially the Lightwood family beyond Alec and Isabelle. Clary, though in my opinion she takes a bit of a back seat in the major conflicts of this book, is learning more about her Shadowhunter heritage while also juggling her new relationship. Her new and interesting powers are a focal point, and I hope to see more exploration of them in the rest of the series.
In this book, we were also introduced to someone new: the Inquisitor, who is the first real look at the Clave and their politics. The Inquisitor is a character that brings with her a mix of emotions, her actions driven by a personal vendetta, and her duty to the Clave clashing with those motives.
It’s safe to say, though, that the action is really ramping up. The stakes are higher, Valentine’s plans are coming together, and with the Clave on their backs, Jace, Clary, and the others are having trouble figuring out what to do. Though, as per his disposition, Jace is going around keeping secrets and doing his own thing—which isn’t a surprise but really made me want to strangle him at times.
The one thing that I can say I didn’t like in this book was the nature of the love triangle (Simon, Clary, and Jace) and how it returned in book 2. Even though they weren’t raised as siblings, at this point, they know that they’re fully related by blood, so in my mind, that’s where it should stop. Alas, it seems like it’s going to be a running theme, which is why I reached out to the community to ask about it. Without spoilers, they assured me that it’s not all as it seems, so if the love attraction between brother and sister was the only thing that put me off, I should keep going. That encouragement and assurance are what has spurred me through this book and onto the next one because, while I don’t like it, the rest of the storyline, plot, and characters are enjoyable to read.
My final verdict: this is book two, so obviously I recommend this book to anyone who read and enjoyed the first book.
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