Thoughts on City of Ashes

City of Ashes
City of Ashes
Book Two of The Mortal Instruments
by Cassandra Clare
First published in 2008

Haunted by her past, Clary is dragged deeper into New York City’s terrifying underworld of demons and Shadowhunters – but can she control her feelings for a boy who can never be hers?


Ehrm, yeah. Let’s say that I liked the first book of The Mortal Instruments series, City of Bones, well enough. This second book fell short for me. I think one reason for that is exactly the fact that this is the second book – all the world-building has been done in book one, and the epic showdown is left for book three. The plot of this book is simple and not that much actually happens.

So what does this book focus the most on? Character relationships. Now, normally I would be all for that. I’m one of those people who put characters before a plot – if a plot is interesting, but I don’t like a single character, I most often don’t like the book. I am also willing to forgive a shaky plot if there’s a character I love. But, in the case of this book, the character relationship that we dwell on happens to be a love triangle.

Let me stress this – I hate love triangles. They usually mean that the two competing characters in the triangle act like complete brats. They make me hate the characters involved because of how they are acting, while the one they are fighting for seems indesicive, wishy-washy, or cruel. For example, I liked Simon in the first book, but in this second one I grew tired of him really quickly. Jace and Clary have never really been my favourites, and this book didn’t help. Also, not into that whole “we are brother and sister and thus our love is forbidden”. Eugh, no. How can the reader go “but their love is truuueee!” in a situation like that? Being siblings is a pretty good reason to stay apart, guys! Although I have a hunch that it will be revealed that the two aren’t actually related in the books to come. Who knows?

And then there’s this disturbing passage. I mean, is it just me, or does the main character find the idea of her love interest hitting her hot? Just read this:
“She wondered for a moment if he might actually spring at her, what it would be like if he struck her, knocked her down, grabbed her wrists even. Fighting to him was like sex to other people. The thought of him touching her like that brought the blood to her cheeks in a hot flood. She spoke around the breathless catch in her voice.”

I know, right?

There were also a few inconsistencies that threw me off the narrative for a while. Like this one:
“Taking the arm of the silver-haired woman, he led the Shadowhunters toward the entrance to the Bone City. As one after another descended the stairs, taking their witchlight with them, the glow in the courtyard began to fade. The last one in line was the woman with the silver hair.”

So the silver-haired woman goes in first and then last?

Then there’s the new character, Maia. When she is introduced, she is said to have light brown skin. Her brother is said to have “her mother’s honey-coloured skin”. This tells me that Maia is biracial with a darker skinned father and a lighter skinned mother. Towards the end of the book, though, there’s a passage about how “her cheek was printed with white dents where it had lain against the bumpy pipe. As he watched, the white faded into pink as the blood returned to her face.”

Faded into pink? This left me wondering if the image in my head of Maia was completely wrong and if the author had meant that she was tanned (which would’ve been weird). But no, I found confirmation from the author’s website that Maia is meant to be biracial. So I guess she just forgot about her light brown skin when she was writing…. On the same page spread, Maia is also described of watching someone “white-faced”. I’m willing to let that go as a metaphor, although when combined with the mention of pink just a little earlier, I managed to get confused.

So I wasn’t really feeling the City of Ashes. I am still going to read the last Mortal Instruments book, City of Glass, and reserve judgement until I’ve finished it. I just want to get to the Infernal Devices, because I’m interested in the setting (and yes, because of cover appeal).

Favorite character: Magnus. I love that tall, glittery warlock! The main characters tend to take him for granted and treat him like their personal healing kit. I love when he calls them out on it.


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