Cassandra Clare’s “The Mortal Instruments” trilogy

I’m on a sort of mini-vacation at the moment (visiting parents, which does count as a holiday, though not one of those where you spend the day sightseeing and doing new things, but one where you can just be lazy and revisit old haunts… which in some ways, are even nicer than the other type).

Obviously old haunts include bookstores, and I’ve realised that I spend more time in the YA section than the “adults” area.  I swear, I’m jealous of the reading selection teenagers have nowadays.  I’ve just read Cassandra Clare‘s “City of Ashes”, the second in her Mortal Instruments trilogy (YA urban fantasy).  You may recall I was umming and ahhing about getting the first book sometime back – well, I did get “City of Bones” last month and it was a B for me. And then I picked up its sequel and LOVED.

Ms Clare wrote in her bio:

In fairy tales, it was the dark and mysterious forest outside the town that held the magic and danger.  I wanted to create a world where the city has become the forest-where these urban spaces hold their own enchantments, danger, mysteries and strange beauty.

In Ms Clare’s alternate New York, there are the usual suspects including vampires, werewolves, and warlocks.  But it’s not all standard UF fare – the main characters in the book are the Nephilim, or Shadowhunters, humans with the blood of angels running in their veins.  They’re tasked with keeping the world safe from demons, and also to keep the peace between what they call Downworlders (the vampires, werewolves, etc.). To help them, they are able to draw Marks – runes they trace on their bodies that can help them attack, defend, or heal.

Clary is a human who stumbles upon the secret world of Shadowhunters and Downworlders – except of course, it’s not really a coincidence.  The first book centres on Clary figuring out her family secrets and discovering more about the hidden world.  And falling in love.  Yes, there is romance alongside the action.  Young love.  First love.  Forbidden love. Lots of angst.

I love the characters and their relationships in these books.  You have Clary, who has feelings that she really shouldn’t have for the beautiful blond Shadowhunter Jace (or should she???  I suspect there are yet more twists to come).  And then there’s Simon, Clary’s practical best friend, who’s suffering from unrequited love, but hmmm… has plenty of other things to keep him more than busy.  The secondary characters are fun too.  I’ve a soft spot for Magnus Bane, the High Warlock of… Brooklyn.  Who, despite his love for glitter and sparkle, is really a rather powerful magician. And oh yeah, the evil guys.  Black.  White.  Shades of grey.  It’s not all just romance and lust in these books, there’s also a focus on relationships between people who aren’t related by blood, but are family all the same.  Or, conversely, blood relatives who aren’t family.

Also, Ms Clare adds contemporary detail – from Simon’s t-shirts to Clare’s love of manga – that helps round out the characters and just makes this series more fun.  I stumbled upon the Characters page when writing this post and love the sketches, btw.

I’m not going to say the plot is the most original ever or the world the most unique ever, but hey, you could have the best plotline in the world, and if I don’t care about the characters, the book doesn’t work for me.  This book works because I like the characters, I feel for them, and… they make me laugh.  Yes, the snappy comebacks and one-liners sometimes seem out of place, but they do make me snicker, and definitely add to the charm these books have for me.

So while the first book, “City of Bones” was a decent read (but didn’t send me running to the bookstore to get its sequel straightaway), “City of Ashes” picked up where CoB left off and completely captured my imagination.  I can’t believe I have to wait five more months for the final book “City of Glass” (released March 2009).  Damn.


24 thoughts on “Cassandra Clare’s “The Mortal Instruments” trilogy

  1. Note: Edited the post slightly to fix the mixed-up titles in the final paragraph, plus some phrases that were bothering me.

    Hey Mollie – Your rec was what encouraged me to get it, so thank you 🙂 I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from a second book in a trilogy, but I really really enjoyed it! I think that now she’s set the scene and the initial worldbuilding in CoB, we get to know the characters a lot better in CoA, which makes the whole storyline a lot more intriguing. I actually thought the third book had already been released, so there was a bit of “oh noooooo” when I saw the March 09 release date.

  2. I’ve been eyeing these books at my local store as well–I think you’ve just pushed me over the indecision hump! I’ll pick up book one on my next trip 🙂

    Oh, and I totally agree with you–Young Adults these days have an awesome selection of books! I’m envious. I just finished Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy books and am itching for more (now am nearly done with Kelley Armstrong’s The Summoning!). City of Bones sounds like a perfect next stop on the YA reading spree.

  3. Thea – I’ve been wondering about the Vampire Academy series myself! I take it it’s worth a read? I like but don’t love the other books Ms Mead writes (for adults), so wasn’t sure about the VA series. Fictionwise only has the 2nd book in ebook format, which is a pain because I prefer trying out new series in ebook – less commitment 🙂

  4. I really like the Vampire Academy books–then again, I’m a definite fan of Richelle Mead’s writing 😉 I would recommend them though–they’re fast, smart reads and probably one of the most realistic portrayals of teenagers (well…as realistic as you can get with vampires and such) in current YA fiction. IMO of course.

    Next week at our spot we’re reviewing both VA books (along with Succubus Dreams, and a Richelle Mead Q&A), if you want a more detailed breakdown. Good timing, lol!

  5. So I may have to pick up the second one since you enjoyed them. The first one didn’t wow me, but I’m willing to admit I was wrong.

    Hey, I nominated you for a blog award on my blog. 🙂

  6. Angie – The second is definitely better than the first, IMO. I wasn’t planning to pick up City of Ashes after reading the first book, but was running out of reading material and had only five minutes in a bookshop so I grabbed the first author I recognised – my best book decision of hmm… the month so far.

    And thank you for the blog award! Am having major internet connectivity problems at the mo (I will never take broadband for granted again), so I’ll wait till I’m back home to post my nominations.

  7. Nothing to show my appreciation of your blog, but hey, I can still thank you, right? Thanks!!! I love reading your reviews and came across so many books that I enjoyed. Also, I finished reading the City of Bones and is about to embark on the City of Ashes. Just as you mentioned, I wasn’t thrilled on the first, so I really hope that the second book is better.

  8. Alisa – Commenting is bloglove too, thank you 🙂 I’m hoping you like CoA better than CoB! I’ll be interested in seeing if, like Mollie and myself, you think CoA is much better than CoB, or if you’ll buck the trend 😉

  9. I did like CoA better than CoB, but I wasn’t very impressed. I liked how Clary and Jace came into power, but the cliffhanger did me. Not a fan 😦 I am looking forward to the final book though, probably because of the cliffhanger. Oy, I have to wait ’til next year!

  10. Alisa – Sorry to hear that it didn’t work for you! I know, I am so not a fan of cliffhanger endings, at least the next one wraps up the trilogy and so should finish properly.

  11. I was just joking with one of my friends how when I go to the bookstore now I head straight to the YA section. I will need to get The Secret Countess by Eva Ibbotson. I really like A Company of Swans by her as well.

  12. My boyfriend pokes fun at me when we go to the library because I always make a beeline for the young adult section. Maybe I am a raven and am attracted to shiny covers, or maybe the young adults have the most amazing story lines in existence. Perhaps it is just me, but adult books with romance tend to focus on sex, while young adult books with romance focus on cultivating relationships and character development. Not that sex is a bad thing, I just get bored after the bazillionth mention of “his throbbing member”.

    Anyhoo, after my rant at the teenagers for stealing all the good writers…I too thought City of Ashes was amazing. I actually liked both books. The ending of the second made me gnash my teeth and squeal in anger though…I don’t like cliffhangers if the next book is not already available. I’ve even checked with all of my black market resources to see if anyone had a pre-released copy, but to no avail.

    I shall lie in my bed of pain and wait in agony and…hey, does anyone happen to know of books similar to this?

    I’ve read Kate MacAlister Dragon books(not super impressed after the first book, again with the throbbing members) and I’ve read Scott Westerfields Pretty series. Anything else come to anyone’s mind? I am desperate here. Thanks!

  13. Julie
    I got sucked into YA because of Twilight. I heard about City of Bones because of the author of Twilight Stephenie Meyer had recommended it. By the way Cassandra Clare has a myspace and there she posts cookies from City of Glass, they are very good.
    If you liked Uglies & City of Bones you will most likely like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. But it is only the first book which is suppose to be a series of 3. I believe the second books should come out next year.
    Some other books I liked that are YA are The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale & Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin.

    Bookdaze – I read The Secret Countess and enjoyed it, thanks.

  14. Julie – Not YA specifically, but I’ve been enjoying Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files urban fantasy books. Couldn’t get into the first book, but “restarted” the series with Book 4 (“Summer Knight”) and really like them. No major romance, however.

    Also I’ve liked Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series – link to The Book Smugglers’ review here.

    Oh, and if you’ve not read Patricia Briggs’ Mercy books (first is “Moon Called”), they are fantastic!

    Connie – There has been a bit of a buzz recently on “Hunger Games”, I will have to check it out!

  15. WOW! Thanks so much girls! Unfortunately, though The Hunger Games reviews have me drooling, it is 10 PM here and the library closed ages ago, so I’m grabbing the Vampire Academy series off the net as we speak. I’ll make sure to grab those other books ASAP! Thank you so so so much, you girls have saved my life! lolololol Ok, maybe that is a little much, but I have been DESPERATE. I think I played like 50 games of Spider Solitare at work today. Is it possible to go through reading withdrawal?

  16. P.S. Yeah, I’ve read the Twilight series as well (in like 3 days), couldn’t put it down, though I did get a little irritated with all the angst. Yikes! Movie is coming out this month, woot! Now I only have to wait 5 months for City of Glass!

    Also, bookdaze, I don’t dislike adult books, I love their length usually, but young adult books just tend to have better plots and such.

    Thanks again!

  17. Hunger Games is so good!!! I had stayed up late one night reading it, and finally made myself put it down and go to bed. The whole next day at work I just kept wishing I had just stayed up all night and finished it. Everyone I know who read them just loved it.

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