Book Review: City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

City of Glass-Clare

 

Title: City of Glass

Author: Cassandra Clare

First Published: 2009

Genre: Fiction, YA

 

Plot Summary: At the end of the second book, Clary discovers that the only way to save her mother’s life is to go to Alicante, the City of Glass. But Jace has other ideas. He thinks the trip will be too dangerous for Clary. When the former, (and the rest of the gang), leave Clary stranded in New York, she takes matters into her own hands. She finds a way to Alicante—and there, she discovers secrets about her family’s past. She also meets Sebastian, an intriguing young man, who Clary feels inexplicably drawn to. Meanwhile, Valentine’s doing everything he can to take the Shadowhunters down—and this time, it looks like he succeed.

Let me start off by saying, ‘Welcome back, Cassandra Clare!’ For a minute there (reading City of Ashes), it felt as if Ms. Clare was rushing to meet several deadlines and just packing clichés and old material into her ‘new’ books. The good news is that, compared to its predecessor, City of Glass offers more, in terms of character development and plot depth.

Granted, Clary still hasn’t grown into the strong female protagonist she can be, (a matter of turning potential into the actual, I assure you), but you see a semblance of maturity in her actions in this book. In one particular scene, wherein she rushes recklessly into the unknown, only to risk her life and Luke’s, she actually feels guilt over her brash actions—especially after Luke berates her for her thoughtlessness. She also plays a pivotal role in making sure things turn out well for Luke in the end, which one can consider a thoughtful act.

However, I think the opportunity to improve her further—to turn her from besotted child to thinking woman—has also been thwarted by the introduction of another potential romance . I don’t know… but must romance always cloud one’s vision? To be honest, I feel as if romance is Clary’s ultimate weakness. I don’t know how she finds time to find a boyfriend, make out with a brother or two, while saving the world and trying to find a cure for her mother’s magical coma. (Whatever happened to focus?) And no, saving the day near the end of the book with a superpower that would make any team virtually unbeatable won’t make up for all the bratty episodes the reader would have to plod through. In the end, rune-making and casting felt a bit like a cop out. It’s too much, too good—a step below deus ex machina.

And yet, I still enjoyed City of Glass. I enjoyed the book, because despite all this, it remains gripping, promising. It has tremendous potential for greatness. Plot-wise, there’s a uniqueness to it. The major twist in this third book offers clarity to the story while opening the possibility of a ‘new’ direction for the succeeding books. It really is a good plot. It’s just that, at times, the execution feels rushed. The plot suffers with what sometimes feels like formulaic writing. Not that I have anything against fictional love triangles, but the sheer volume of triangles in this book is also starting to become confusing: Jace-Clary-Simon, Aline-Jace-Clary, Jace-Clary-Sebastian, Isabelle-Simon-Maia, Luke-Jocelyn-Valentine, Celine-Stephen-Amatis—am I missing anyone else?

In the end, I feel that this is the type of book one ought to read if you’re already hooked on the Mortal Instruments Series. But if you’ve already had your misgivings since City of Bones, proceed with caution.

Grade: B

Book Review: City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

city of ashes-cassie clare

 

Title: City of Ashes

Author: Cassandra Clare

First Published: 2008

Genre: Fiction, Young Adult

 

Plot Summary: The Mortal Instrument Series resumes with the mysterious killings of Downworlder children. The big question on everyone’s minds is whether or not Valentine is behind all these attacks. When the Shadow Sword goes missing, things get worse for Jace. Since word got out that he’s Valentine’s son, he’s found himself in the middle of a tough Nephilim investigation. As for Clary, she’s got her hands full trying to find a cure for her mother’s mysterious coma while dealing with the fact that the boy she likes is actually her brother.

Here’s a common problem for most YA sequels—they’re hardly as good as the first book. While I’d love to say that City of Ashes is an exception to this generalization, Cassandra Clare’s follow-up to City of Bones is a bit lackluster for me. It’s not the premise, it’s not the plot. As I mentioned in my last review, Clare has a really interesting story in her hands. Yes, you have the standards—the werewolves, the vamps, the faeries—but the world of the Nephilim seems pretty original to me.

The problem lies in a number of the book’s characters. Though Clary appears marginally better (more mature) in City of Ashes, it seems that she’s mellowed only to amplify the massive communication breakdown between the adults and the teens in this book. We’re not talking about the basic misunderstandings between parents and their kids—we’re talking about life-changing and life-saving secrets being withheld, the lack of listening between both parties, and the overall daftness of 90 percent of the adults in the novel. It actually seems as if Luke is the only reasonable adult in the bunch. Even Jace comes off as a bit of a brat at the start of the story—and I actually like his character.

All in all, I found this to be a bit of a hard read. The good news is that it does have a few redeeming factors that would make someone like me want to read on further: (1) you see a lot of growth when it comes to Simon’s character, (2) you have a solid plot line with a neat twist, and (3) better action scenes. Despite its character flaws, it’s also, still, a page-turner. So, if you’ve started City of Bones, and you liked it enough, I recommend going for City of Ashes. Otherwise, if you didn’t like the Mortal Instruments’ first book, you might not want to bother with this one.

Grade: C+

Book Review: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Clare_City of Bones

Title: City of Bones

Author: Cassandra Clare

First Published: 2007

Genre: Fiction, YA

 

Plot Summary: When 15-year-old Clary Fray stepped into a New York nightclub, the last thing she expected was to become a witness to a murder that no one else could see. Things take a dive from there. Her mother goes missing and she ends up almost getting killed by a monster in her apartment. She wakes to find herself in the middle of the war between good and evil—a war between Shadowhunters and demons.

With the influx of Young Adult novels in the market, what makes City of Bones from Cassandra Clare a worthy pick?

Well, it really depends on when you’re coming from. I say when, because my choice to pick up this book has to do with history that I have (albeit one-sided) with the authoress. About a decade ago, I found her famous (though in some circles, infamous) fanfics: the LOTR: The Very Secret Diaries and, of course, the Draco Trilogy. Had a few quick laughs with the LOTR fic, but when it came to the Draco Trilogy, man, was I hooked. I would check for updates every week, and would stay up rereading each chapter. At that time, I was still using dial-up prepaid internet, and I thought Cassie Clare was probably the wittiest writer around. Of course, I was also 17, and was yet to meet Wifi, Nick Hornby, or Kurt Vonnegut.

**The fact that Aidan Turner is playing Luke Garroway in the Mortal Instruments film is, of course, added incentive for me.**

Suffice to say, I read the book out of curiosity. I wanted to see if City of Bones was as good as Draco Dormiens. What I found was that when it came to the characters of the book, City of Bones was, in a way, Draco Dormiens. Clary Fray, the 15-year-old protagonist of the Mortal Instruments series was painted as this impetuous, fiery, and passionate redhead—and I couldn’t help but think back to how Clare had written Ginny Weasley in her Draco Trilogy. And Jace Wayland, the sexy, damaged, platinum-haired bad boy of the story, was Clare’s Draco Malfoy. Of course, this is not to say that the novel wasn’t good; but for one who’s loved Clare’s past works, I just found the similarities a bit jarring. It also made it impossible not to compare the two.

On its own, I’ll have to say, City of Bones is actually a REALLY GOOD YA book. It’s creative, imaginative, and scandalous. It has all the elements of an enthralling ride—angels, demons, vampires, werewolves, forbidden love, mysterious bad boys, at least two love triangles, and even incest! Believe me, Clare just upped the ante for countless other YA writers with the incest plot. I mean, who else has the outgoing guts to do that in YA, other than VC Andrews? Genius! The book, judged on its own, is definitely a page-turner.

Except… It didn’t quite live up to what I had expected from Clare. Maybe it was Clary, and the fact that I didn’t exactly find her all that likeable. At times, she seemed more concerned about her relationship with Jace than the fact that her mother was missing and most probably dead. I found that unreal. It’s actually a bit of a peeve of mine, when a YA female leads get too caught up in the romance aspect that she fails to see how the world is falling apart. What can I say? I’m a strong believer in appropriate emotional reactions and investments.

Pace-wise, I found it a bit dragging at times too. The action scenes weren’t particularly exciting, except the scenes with the werewolves, which were really good. And lastly, lastly, lastly. Compared to the Draco Trilogy, I thought City of Bones was somewhat less witty. There were no laugh-out-loud moments for me. And you see, that was what I expected from Cassie Clare. That was what I remembered most about her writing. She had a way of drawing a chuckle out of you when you weren’t too busy rooting for one love team or the other.

That being said, I still think of City of Bones as being a pretty solid summer read. The plot is definitely interesting and promising. And despite Clary’s shortcomings, you do see her mature as the story progresses. The rest of the characters are also likeable enough. Jace is a flawed character, but the vulnerability that belies his cocksure attitude makes him a lovable male lead. Isabelle has her comic moments. Ah, and Simon. Poor Simon, is probably the most relatable character out of the lot. You can’t help but root for him despite the all-too-obvious rejection headed his way.

All in all, City of Souls is a good read that will make you want to pick up a copy of Clare’s second book, City of Ashes.

Grade: B