The first thing I’d like to say is that two books in to reading The Mortal Instruments series I’m firmly of the opinion that these books are far better than either the Twilight or The Hunger Games books. They fit into the exact same genre and audience, but are much more gripping to read and have characters and plot that are much more exciting. Of course, this is my humble opinion, but I wanted to get that statement out first.
As the second book of the series, City of Ashes picks up very shortly after where the first book, City of Bones, left off. Clary, Jace, Alec, Simon, and Isabelle are once again thrown into a wild adventure trying to stop Valentine from destroying the Clave and unleashing hordes of demons across the planet. Of course, there are a few twists and turns in this book that caught me off guard and made it all that much more enjoyable to read.
The most impressive part of this book was how easily Clare weaves the “love triangle” of Clary, Simon, and Jace into the narrative in a way that isn’t overbearing. So many of these types of books lean on the love triangle so hard that it becomes tiresome and tedious. Not so in this case. Simon and Clary have a bit of a dalliance together for the first half of the book, and Clary is still coming to grips with the fact that Jace is really her brother, but beyond that, the love story takes a back seat to the main action. I hope the trend continues in the remaining books because it really is quite a nice break from the normal approach. You can see the love story is important, but not at the cost of the rest of the plot.
The two most interesting characters in this book for me are Simon and Magnus Bane. Simon because he becomes a vampire which causes all sorts of interesting things to happen and Magnus Bane because he is Alec’s pseudo-boyfriend and trying to hide it from everyone. Magnus Bane has been an interesting character from the first book and I hope he continues to make appearances in future books. His relationship with Alec is incredibly interesting to me and I give props to Clare for being willing to write two gay characters into the novels. Not to mention, Magnus seems to be pretty powerful.
Simon is also so intriguing to me. He wanted so badly to be part of the group but kept getting left sitting on the sidelines. Then he winds up a vampire due to the fallout from events in the first book. I picked up on the subtle hint Clare gives the reader near the beginning that it might be a possibility that he joins the vampire ranks and I’m glad I was right. Now he’s part of the group, but in a different way. Jace can’t ignore Simon as a mundane anymore, but he also has to deal with the fact that Simon is a Downworlder. Simon on the other hand has to come to grips with his new lifestyle and the fact that he can be of much more use to the group than he ever was before. Further events in the books alter the relationship that Jace and Simon have, but I won’t go into that here, it’s too big of a spoiler in my opinion. Their relationship as the two people Clary loves most is definitely something I’m looking forward to seeing develop over time.
The thing that gets me most about City of Ashes is the strength of the characters. The plot is solid and keeps the action moving well enough, but the characters really bring it to life in a way that I haven’t seen much in albeit limited young adult fiction I’ve read. I want to know what happens to them next. I want to see what they are going to do next because each one of them is so complex. It’s a job very well done by Cassandra Clare.
Overall Grade: B