City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

November 6, 2013

OK I admit it, after reading The Shadowhunter’s Codex, I gave in and dipped back into The Mortal Instruments, even though I have lots of books I should be reading, and, quite frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.  Reading for me is a real pleasure, and so I choose to read what I want to read, not always what I should.  I have burned through City of Ash and intend to marathon my way through City of Glass, City of Fallen Angels and City of Lost Souls.

My review of City of Bones wasn’t all that glowing, but City of Ashes builds on the aspects I loved – the pacing, the worldbuilding, the clear goals – and strongly improved on the things I didn’t enjoy so much – the characters.  My conclusion was that although CoB wasn’t great, it did sow some seeds for a great series, and City of Ashes fulfils that promise.  If you didn’t enjoy City of Bones, please give City of Ashes a try – it’s well worth it.

What I liked

The worldbuilding.  One of Cassandra Clare’s real strengths as a writer is her worldbuilding.  The world of the Shadowhunters is so beautifully written and detailed that it just sucks you in.  I adore reading about the Shadowhunters, werewolves, vampires and warlocks.  Clare made a nice move in having one of our main characters join the ranks of the vampires so that we now have characters in whom the reader is invested, and who can bring us into their world, from each of the main groups of good guys.  I suspect that the close personal bonds between these characters, and therefore groups, will turn out to be a key point for Team Good in future books.

Clear goals and threats.  For me, personally, it’s easier to be gripped by a story when the goals and threats are clearly set out.  In this case the goal is to prevent Valentine’s realignment of the Mortal Sword.  The threat is hordes of Valentine-controlled demons overrunning the Shadowhunters.  From final chapters it appears city of Glass has a similarly clear goal – hunt down the warlock who can cure Clary’s mother.  This clear goal and threat keeps the pacing tight and keeps the reader reading on.

Characters.  In the City of Bones, I found it difficult to warm to our main characters, Clary and Jace.  I found Clary immature and whiny and Jace arrogant, far more so than he had a right to be.  While I still don’t love them the way I do Will Herondale, Tessa Gray and Jem Carstairs of The Infernal Devices, I have to admit that Clary has grown up a lot since the first book.  I was interested in her unusual gifts and look forward to seeing how they are developed in future books.  Jace remains arrogant, but having seen him more with Valentine, I can see where he got that.  In City of Ashes, more vulnerability shows through which was endearing.  I still wouldn’t want to have him as a friend, but at least he didn’t annoy me so much this time.

What I didn’t like

The narration.  Natalie Moore took over narration from Ari Taylor and I know many listeners enjoyed her narration.  Personally I didn’t.  The only character I felt was uniquely narrated was the Faery Queen, who is only in the book for a few minutes.  In all fairness, I did only listen to an hour or two, preferring to read on my Kindle.

All in all, I adored City of Ashes and gave it five stars out of five

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