August 15, 2011


by Cassandra Clare
453 pages, Margaret K. McElderry Books

Review by Melissa Conway

I enjoyed the first book in The Mortal Instruments series, so I was looking forward to The City of Ashes. It continues the adventures of Clary the angst-ridden teen as she struggles with the newfound knowledge that she isn't the normal human girl she thought she was. Clary's mother is still in a coma from the first book (the reader assumes that all the gaps in Clary's knowledge about her past can be instantly filled in if only Mom would wake the heck up), and the bad guy is still attempting to take over the world with his demon army.

There's a ton of action moving the story along and author Clare's tendency in the first book to bog the narration down with description is less evident here. Except…the reader is in for a frustrating ride on the old "will they or won't they?" merry-go-round. Without giving too much away, Clary and a certain someone are having one heck of a time connecting romantically. This is par for the course for a YA book, and I've been guilty myself of using some of the author's techniques to keep my characters apart (interruptions, anyone?). But there's a fine line between using a technique and abusing it. Halfway through the book, I had to question whether I wanted to devote more of my time reading the whole thing because I found myself scoffing at the relentless back-and-forth between Clary and her certain someone. Misunderstanding was rampant, and I wanted to reach into the pages, box their ears and shout, "Listen to each other!" Plus, even though the author has placed a seemingly insurmountable obstacle between them, she's dropped just enough hints that things aren't so hopeless after all. The characters have been too busy fighting bad guys and mooning over each other to pick up on any of these subtle clues, of course.

I'm absolutely certain that my irritation at their seemingly unnecessary torment is not shared by the average reader of this series. Since I'm not the teenaged target audience, I imagine I'm removed by maturity and faded memories of how anguishing young love can truly be. With this in mind, I kept reading and I'm glad I did.

The plot races along to the expected cliff-hanger conclusion with few surprises along the way, but I'm left invested enough to want to read Clare's finale, City of Glass. Stay tuned…

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