Now halfway through ‘The Mortal Instruments’ series and it shows no signs of slowing down. Like every other book in the series so far, it was a fast read because of the book’s pacing, but also because I had to know what would happen next (though in this book it was a little different, but you’ll have to read on to see what I mean).
Spoiler Alert Because this is a series, the book’s basic premise may give away things from the previous books in the series, so read at your own risk.
“The Mortal Instruments: Book Four– City Of Fallen Angels”
by Cassandra Clare (April 5, 2011)
The Mortal War is finally over, and sixteen-year-old Clary Fray is back home in New York, excited about all the possibilities before her. She is training to become a Shadowhunter and learning how to use her unique power. Her mother is getting married to the love of her life, and Downworlders and Shadowhunters are at peace at last. Of course, most importantly, she can finally call Jace her boyfriend. But nothing comes without a price…
Someone is murdering Shadowhunters, and provoking tensions between Downworlders and Shadowhunters that could lead to a second, bloody war. Clary’s best friend, Simon, can’t help her, since he has his own problems. His mother just found out that he’s a vampire and now he’s homeless. Everywhere Simon turns, someone wants him on their side—along with the power of the curse that’s wrecking his life. And they’re willing to do anything to get what they want. (He is also playing with fire, dating two beautiful, but dangerous girls—neither of whom knows about the other one.) Then Jace begins to pull away from Clary without explaining why. Clary is forced to delve into the heart of a mystery whose solution reveals her worst nightmare – that she herself has set in motion a terrible chain of events that could lead to her losing everything she loves. Even Jace.
I knew that this book would be very different from the last three books. Why? The first three books essentially work as a trilogy, and I imagine the last three books will work as a second trilogy (there are six in all). Readers have been gearing up for the ultimate showdown and then the war happened in the last book, and now… same characters, same world, but a new story emerges….
The story is interesting and there were things about it that intrigued me (new things, not just plot twists, but characters and mythology) and other things that gave me stomach pains. This fourth installment of ‘The Mortal Instruments’ had me tearing through the pages as usual and I could not wait to see what happened next, but by the end of it, I wasn’t as satisfied as I usually find myself. Hence the imperfect rating in a series that is usually perfect.
I don’t know what it was about this book, but I never became utterly captivated, just intrigued while rolling my eyes a good deal of the time. Perhaps it was all the angsty teenage love and its melodrama, maybe it was the characters devolving and doing the same stupid crap they did before the war, which should have made them grow up, more than fall back… But all of the good in this book seemed tainted in a way.
Starting with the good: the pacing is still perfect as ever. Clare knows how to tell a story and not only keep things interesting, but make it difficult to do anything else until you have finished her book. Another thing I really liked is delving further into the history of Shadowhunters, the history of various immortal characters and the paths they have crossed (Mangus Bane for example). I also thought Clare did a decent job of shifting the focus of the series, which she had to do since the war is over and Valentine is gone for good.
I think my favorite thing explored in this book, is something that Clare explores and puts her own spin on, but is not of her own creation: The Mark Of Cain. Now, I am a recovering Catholic, but even I had forgotten about the Mark. Clare is true to what the Mark is: a physical mark (some theologians debate this – the physical aspect) that God put on Cain, warning anyone who would mean Cain harm that they would suffer the wrath of Heaven, sevenfold. We get to see how the Mark works, and what it means for Simon (while if offers protection from someone killing him, it is still a curse after all). We meet new characters who we find out are actually old characters and explore a real and older mythology than the birth of Shadowhunters.
Personally, I love reinterpretations of historical figures and/or events, and I thought this was awesome. Clare takes a turn at reimagining Cain, Abel, angels and the birth of the first demons of the world. But I did have a problem with one aspect of it by the end of the book – the power of such reinvention, or the rights Clare took with it. For example, everyone has probably heard of the devil, whether a person believes in the devil’s existence or not, is irrelevant. We know: fallen angel, king of Hell, evil, etc. and in a way that makes the devil an icon of sorts. So what if someone killed off the devil – as in the devil ceases to exist anymore, ever. It would be kind of a big deal. Defeating the devil fine, banishing the devil sure, but making the devil not exist anymore… that is something else entirely.
Clare does not kill off the devil, but she does kill off an equally iconic figure that has existed for several centuries. That takes big brass ovaries (balls is a sexist term I try to avoid 😉 ) and I’m not sure how I feel about it. Okay, I do, it doesn’t sit well with me. I am not religious and don’t necessarily believe in religious mythology, but again irrelevant – some figures should be untouchable when it comes to the finality of death.
The other thing that bothered me was how stupid Jace and Clary have both become. I was mostly talking about them, when I mentioned characters devolving. The two have always had a forbidden and star-crossed love, until it wasn’t either anymore. I know that this plays into the plot (a little in this book, and more so in future books) but even so I was like – agh! I liked them so much because they didn’t play into the melodramatic teeney bopper doomed love hype, but in this book they have become just that. Clary is still strong and independent, but she is stupid when it comes to Jace and seems to define herself by her relationship with him. Jace is dealing with something, and if he had just been honest with Clary from the start, so much could have been avoided. In this effect, unlike previous books, where Jace or other characters blamed themselves, what goes down in the end of this book and any problems set forth in the next, really is Jace’s fault. He did not cause them (to some extent Clary did, but that is something else entirely) but he could have easily prevented them if he manned up and acted like an adult for once. But that was too much to ask for apparently.
One final thing that I did like, however, is exploring the concept of cosmic balance. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life. The light cannot exist without the dark, and vice versa. What Clary did at the end of the last book upset that balance and now things must be made right. At least the opportunity is there, and the forces of darkness are all about seizing it. But if they have their way, it is a price so high that it wouldn’t be worth the miracle that occurred in the third book. I guess it is the ultimate ‘be careful what you wish for’ lesson that Clary is going to have to learn the hard way…
I still don’t know if my mixed feelings about this book are more about me, or more about the story itself. I do know that as always this was a wonderfully entertaining read that I could not put down. So, even if I question certain choices Clare made or aspects of the story, the writing, the characters and the world of the Shadowhunters still leave no room for doubts. They’re hardcore, the real deal and well worth the read!