Review: City of Glass

This year I’ve been rereading/reading for the first time all of Cassandra Clare’s books, and couldn’t wait to pick up her third book, City of Glass. In fact, I’ve been enjoying them so much that  I went ahead and bought the whole series. On sale, of course. This will be a spoiler-free discussion of the third book, but if you haven’t read books one and two yet, check those out before reading further!

mortalinstruments1-3About the book: Clary has been informed that something in Idris may be able to revive her mother. Jace, however, doesn’t want Clary going somewhere so dangerous and will do almost anything to stop her. Simon would do less, but he gets roped into Jace’s scheme in an unexpected way that keeps him in the center of this novel’s intrigue. Clary, of course, won’t let anyone stop her from doing anything, no matter how much trouble she may find in the process. Clary’s plan to save her mother meets a surprising snag related to Valentine and his… assistant. He’s threatening the Clave even more strongly than usual now that the third mortal instrument is within sight, but there is one way he might be stopped. Even if Valentine is thwarted, though, it won’t change the fact that Clary’s heart is breaking. Or will it?

The Clary/Jace romance in these first three books is probably the strangest romance I’ve ever read. There’s a crazy Clace plot twist in this third book which I remembered from my first read seven years ago. With knowledge of how it ends, I had a lot more patience for all the angst, although I found that knowing where Clary and Jace leave things at the end of this book did not make their strange brother/sister/love relationship any more comfortable for me. It certainly is a unique take on a romance obstacle, though, and I appreciate that. It’s definitely a memorable relationship, if relationship is the correct term for a tortured, incestuous flirtation.

“I love you, and I’ll love you until I die, and it there’s a life after that, I’ll love you then.”

On another note, I do think this volume is less funny than the first two. Jace usually has some good lines, and Simon, but even in general Clare’s sense of humor gave me a good laugh in the first two books. This one, though, is more serious, more emotional, and is a little less laugh-worthy. The heavier subject matter in this one is certainly not a bad element, but I thought the difference in tone worth noting.

It also feels like there’s less action for a good chunk of the middle chapters in City of Glass. There’s some drama involved in the initial travel to Idris, and certainly there’s action toward the end of the book when Valentine’s plans wreak havoc for the entire Shadowhunter community, but in the middle there’s a lot of conversation and traveling from house to house for more conversation and then back to the first house and more talking and then back to the second house for more explanations. It’s mostly important information, and backstory is often described by Clare in a way that puts the reader into a sort of involved story-within-a-story, so it’s by no means boring. It even felt a little more typical of teenaged lifestyle, to be in a town/city in separate homes instead of all under the roof of a single Institute, and thinking that whatever it is the characters need to say is so important that they have to go immediately in person to discuss the matter. Of course, in the Shadowhunting world, some of these details actually are life-or-death scenarios, which keeps things interesting.

The funnest aspect for me stemmed from half-remembering bits of who’s who and what’s what from my previous read–there are so many people in this series who are not who they say or think they are, and I found so much enjoyment in trying to figure out who was lying about what. The good guys have faults, the bad guys have redeeming qualities, and everyone is influential for some reason or other. Clare does a great job of bringing back old characters, or introducing new characters with links to people the reader is already familiar with, so with every new name began a new guessing game. This has probably been one of my favorite series to reread for that reason. Even the characters I had strong impressions of being good or evil I had to second-guess because Clare’s writing excels at disguising a character’s true nature until the key moment of its reveal, making these characters feel more real and intriguing every step of the way.

“People aren’t born good or bad. Maybe they’re born with tendencies either way, but it’s the way you live your life that matters. And the people you know.”

An inspiring note from Clare’s foreword included in the edition I read:

“Clary and her friends are heroes who make their stories true–as, in the end, do well all.”

My reaction: 5 out of 5 stars. None of these characters are perfect, but that’s what I find so appealing about them. This is the last book in the Mortal Instruments series that I’ve read previously. I remember reading it the first time and feeling like it had a solid ending, but now that I’ve reread it, I can’t believe I was so satisfied by that ending that I didn’t want to read three more books of Simon and his vampireness, and Isabelle and Alec kicking demon butt, and Jace and Clary… well, doing whatever it is they’ll be doing for the next three books now that they know more about their pasts. I will definitely be reading on in this series as soon as possible (taking into account my already full TBR), but before I dive into City of Fallen Angels, I’ll be picking up the next Cassandra Clare book in publication order, Clockwork Angel. This is the first book in her Infernal Devices trilogy, which I’ve also read several years ago, but I remember it even less than I remembered the Mortal Instruments, except I recall having the impression that I liked it even more than the Mortal Instruments books, so I have high hopes.

Coming up next: I’m currently reading Jane Austen’s Persuasion, but I’ll only be reviewing that briefly in my monthly wrap-up, so my next review will feature the next book on my TBR, Sarah Dessen’s Saint Anything. This one’s about a teen girl who’s brother lands in jail, and to cope she makes friends with a family who runs a local pizza parlor who remind her that she’s got her own life separate from her brother and his (in)famous behavior. I anticipate having this post ready first thing next week, but in the meantime I have a list post for you tomorrow–my Top 25 Favorite Books of All Time. Stay tuned!

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

Update: you can now check out my full review of the next book in this series, City of Fallen Angels!

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