City of Glass

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels by clicking the links below:

City of Bones | City of Ashes

City of Glass was written by Cassandra Clare and first published in 2009. It is the third instalment of The Mortal Instruments series and was preceded by City of Bones (2007) and City of Ashes (2008), and followed by City of Fallen Angels (2011), City of Lost Souls (2012) and City of Heavenly Fire (2014). Since then, Clare has also published a prequel trilogy titled The Infernal Devices and a sequel series under the name of The Dark Artifices, as well as a spin-off collection of short stories titled The Bane Chronicles which focus on the flamboyant warlock Magnus Bane.

Clary Fray has finally has something that could help save her mother – the name of the warlock who created the potion that put her in a coma. The only problem is that the warlock lives in Idris, the city of the Shadowhunters, and this is somewhere that Jace thinks that she should not go. Clary’s powers are unnatural and he fears how the Clave will react when they learn that she can create new runes.

Jace and the other Shadowhunters try to leave without her, but things go wrong when they are suddenly attacked by a demon. Their only hope of survival is to escape to Idris, yet in doing so Jace drags Simon along with him. This causes immediate complications, as Downworlders are forbidden from entering the City of Glass. Furious with what they have done, Clary recklessly follows and winds up transporting herself and Luke to a lake, miles away from the safety of the city walls.

Clary soon learns that she has not picked the best time to visit the city. The Clave is in session to discuss what should be done about the rising threat of Valentine. It’s not long before the rogue Shadowhunter mounts an attack on the city, giving all who live there the choice to join him or die. Up until now, all Clary has worried about is her mother and forbidden love for Jace. Now, she realises that she is possibly the only one who can save the Shadowhunters from a fate worse than death…

I really wish I could be kinder to this series. I am generally a fan of urban fantasy stories and really did want to like it. Unfortunately, for me, the series has been getting worse and worse by the book. This one really was a slog to get through. At almost five-hundred pages in length, the story moved in fits and starts. It just felt as though it had been padded to twice the length that it really needed to be. This meant that there were stretches where little happened beyond Clary wandering between groups of her friends and having the same conversations over and over. This usually just boiled down to how she didn’t belong in the Shadowhunter world, or how tragic it was that she couldn’t bump uglies with her own brother.

While the plot was a much more focused than that of City of Ashes, this unfortunately felt a bit forced. There is still a lot of elements of this story that have been lifted from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Harry Potter. This was most obvious in the scene in which Valentine offered his ultimatum to the Clave, which was more than a little reminiscent of the very similar scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

The plot was also incredibly linear. While it did make a couple of attempts at twists, few of these were especially surprising. Valentine’s ultimate plan wasn’t really something that was eluded to prior to this book, and the origins of Jonathan Morgenstern just don’t sit right with me. I don’t really want to go into this too much here for fear of spoilers, but I will just say that this was some very weak plotting. The only reason that this twist hasn’t been revealed up until now is plot convenience, and I have the sneaking suspicion that the only purpose of this book was to undo a rather questionable plot point from earlier in the series.

The book also really lacked any emotional impact for me. This is a personal thing, but I think that’s possibly because I never felt as though any of the protagonists would come to harm. This is certainly an issue with the world-building. At one point, Izzy comments that Shadowhunters tend to die young but this isn’t something we really see. Virtually every death in this book is an older Shadowhunter and most of these occur off page. As this book is set in a world where people can be healed from the brink of death by a single rune, I never once felt that a character would be allowed to succumb to their injuries.

City of Glass also, strangely, wraps up almost every loose end in the series to date, leaving only one hanging thread that I can see will have an impact going forward. For me, this felt a little odd. While I was grateful not to have a cliff-hanger ending, we’re only three books into a six-book series. It’s difficult to see how Clare intends to drag this out for a further three books, as she could easily have ended everything here.

In terms of characterisation, City of Glass was really just more of the same. There isn’t a lot of time devoted to developing the supporting cast in this story as Clary and Jace are both such self-centred people. For example, when there is a bereavement in the Lightwood family, the book never really focuses on the impact that this has on Izzy and Alec. Even Alec’s coming out is shunted into the background, despite previous instalments having indicated that his sexuality is strictly taboo for a Shadowhunter. Unfortunately, this also meant that there was very little Magnus in this book, which was a pity as he’s one of the few characters that I actively like.

Clary and Jace are both completely insufferable. Despite having incredible powers, Clary is still a damsel in distress. While I did sometimes felt sorry due to how horrible the rest of the cast – primarily Izzy and Jace – can be to her, she really does bring this on herself by doing profoundly stupid things. Her constant pining over Jace became really tiresome in this novel, but moreso were Jace’s mercurial moods. He sometimes seemed to toy with Clary but other times attempted to break her heart as painfully as possible.

Yet, for all my gripes, I did find myself rooting for Sebastian. Up until the climatic fight, his bitterness really did appeal to me. The scene in which he told the core cast precisely what he thought of them truly summed up my feelings towards the series on the whole. Thank-you Sebastian for your ability to put my feelings towards Clary and Jace into words far better than I ever could.

Anyhow, I think you get the point. I am still not a fan of The Mortal Instruments series. While I can see why it has appeal for young readers, there are much better works of urban fantasy out there. I will probably continue with this series one day, but I’m certainly in no hurry to.

City of Ashes can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook and Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

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