City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
The following review is filled with spoilers, whining, complaining, ranting, and the destruction of everything people love about this series. Please read responsibly.
When last we left our intrepid heroes, Clary "Mary Sue" Frey discovered she was part of a super special group of people called Shadowhunters. (That should be two words, by the way.) She falls for shmexy jerk-face Jace, only to find out that he is her brother and that they are the long lost children of stock baddie, Valent... Oh, I can't do this.
This book only had one thing going for it. Good pacing. But even that couldn't save it from a whole host of other issues. Many of them were the same as with the first novel: bad characterization, terrible metaphors, and inconsistency. Now that I'm the second novel into the series, I will bring up another issue Clare has: shallow and generic world building.
First off, my reaction:
IF YOU WEREN'T A LIBRARY BOOK, I WOULD BURN YOU!
A little dramatic, but I think you get my point.
Now for the Character Breakdown!
Clary: In my last review, I complained how Clary was just a mean, whiny little girl. Well, this time around, she's not as whiny. She's just a complete bitch. Yup. I said it. Clary is a bitch. She strings Simon along, bosses people around, and yells at the poor guy on the subway who wanted to see if she was okay. I happened to be reading the Dragon Ball manga in between reading this monstrosity, and came across this panel of Frieza with his arms folded and a bubble that said, "Stop saying stupid things." After that, every time Clary spoke or thought, that image popped into my head. I'd post it here if I didn't want to get busted for copyright infringement. (Cough, Clare. Cough.) My point is, Clary is not likable, at all. At. All. I do not sympathize with her plight. I feel nothing.
Part of this could have to do with her Mary-Sueness. Clare wants her to be oh so beautiful, oh so powerful, and oh so wonderful. She never gets so seriously hurt that a healing rune can't fix it, and she saves everyone else with runes she pulls out of her ass. At one point Magnus says that things can't be created out of no where, and then Clary does it. But then Clare throws in something about hearing angels, and then doesn't clarify. It makes no sense right now. She's just so friggin' special. It's just, uh... She frustrates me so much there are no words for it. It is further exacerbated by her pining for Jace. Even if they didn't think they were related at the moment (because I know they aren't), there is something uncomfortable about it. It could be because they're both irritating. Which brings me to my next character...
Jace: What is wrong with this kid? His daddy issues are so overblown, they have their own daddy issues. He pines, he whines, he makes me want to punch him in his smart-assed face. At least he wears jeans occasionally this time. Yet he still makes so many hard-headed, stupid decisions that get other people into trouble, I would lock him up just to keep others safe. He's really bad for the other characters' health. Clare goes out of her way to make him seem like the perfect warrior. She goes so far as to have Clary (Stop saying stupid things.) mention that fighting is just like sex for Jace.
This made me hang my head and shake it. Pop culture has its share of war-loving races. If you've seen an episode of Star Trek:TNG that goes into Klingon culture, then you get what I'm talking about. Sparing is foreplay. Hell, in ancient Sparta, men had to capture their wives. A man was successful if he didn't get the holy hell beaten out of him because the women were just as well trained. Knowing this, I couldn't believe Clare went there. Jace comes off as having a death wish. I never got the sense he "got-off" fighting things in this sequel. Clare doesn't really understand that a true warrior prefers to talk with his fighting skills than with words, and Jace uses a lot of words.
My point is that Jace spends most of the book being self-centered and stubborn than anything else. And again, I could care less about him. Dude just ain't healthy to be around.
Simon: I have mixed feelings about him. I want to say that Clare ruined him, but he's the only one who doesn't worship the Mary-Sue that is Clary even though he says he's in love with her. He knows she's stringing him along, even when they're "dating," and knows he will never have her full attention. I would prefer him not to lurv her except as a friend, but love triangles are all the rage these days. Especially when a vampire is involved.
Yup, Simon becomes Vampy Simon because for some reason urban fantasies just can't stand having normal humans running around. They're weak and die very easily, in case you didn't know.
So, Simon is turned and has to cope with the change. I think Clare had a rare moment when he and Clary discuss how to tell his parents. As someone who lives with a photosensitive disorder, I connected for that brief moment. I know what it's like to look outside and see how high the sun is so I can avoid it. I thought this book might have been better if it was about Simon having to cope with a drastic life change, but then Clare ruins it, as she ruins everything else. At the end, Simon doesn't burn up in the sun. I wasn't pissed. I was absolutely livid. Clare dodged about a thousand difficult decisions she would have to make as a writer by doing that. First off, kill Simon. If she had made it where clothes could protect vampires (which I don't understand why not), then he would have to tell his parents. But that would be heartbreaking and tragic!
Clare, you are such a lazy writer.
Isabelle: Shallow dominatrix in hooker heels. That's how she comes across in this book. Thanks, dear author. She couldn't be more of a stereotype.
Alec: Cinder blocks have more personality. He's just kind of there. Even when the writing is from is point of view, I don't get a distinct sense of anything. Even his relationship with Magnus is just... meh.
Magnus: A character as usual. The only one who made me laugh. His relationship with Alec... Gurl, you can do better! If those homoerotic scenes between Jace and Simon were any indication, you could always go after one of them.
Luke: Not quite as bad ass this time around. Kind of a disappointment. Happy he's alive though.
Jocelyn: Still in a coma, and put herself in it. I have no words for how convenient this device is.
Inquisitor Imogen: Plot pawn. You read that right. Her whole purpose was to act like a moron and almost give Jace important information. Almost. We can't be giving anything away until the sequel. People need to buy them, you know.
Maia: This poor girl has so much promise, but because she's a crummy Downworlder (should also be two words) Clare doesn't really give two damns about her. I really, really like her. It was a shame she was introduced via info-dump, but other than that I preferred her over any other female in this book.
Daddy V: Sigh. Still pretty generic. The worst part, he's a heavy handed Lucifer reference. Clare practically brains you with it when she gave him the last name Morgenstern, or Morningstar. Then she tries the whole sympathy-for-the-devil shtick by having him have a conversation about Milton's Paradise Lost with Jace, because whenever Clare wants the reader to draw parallels between her characters and vastly superior works, she name-drops them like an Acme anvil. I get that she's got the whole fallen angel angle she's trying to work, but she only makes her writing look weaker by bringing up the good stuff.
That said, I'm not hating on Daddy V or Jace because they're assholes or bad guys. I like those types too, even if they're pretty unredeemable. They could be the most deplorable bastard this side of the Milky Way, but if they're interesting, then I'm good. Clare's characters do not fit under even that title. All those years writing fan fiction must have not taught her character development skills.
Besides her characters, there is also the problem with her writing. When I mean writing, I mean the actual words used and the devices she employs like metaphors. That's right, I'm about to throw sentence after sentence of terrible word choices at you, dear reader. In 3, 2, 1...
"... like a glittering needle threading the sky." Needles don't thread, they pierce. Needles are threaded. Not the other way around.
"... there was a tightness in her voice when she spoke his name, as if invisible acids were drying up the syllables in her mouth..." Jace is one syllable. Did you mean the whole sentence?
[Simon's eyes] were the color of black coffee - not really black, but a rich brown without a touch of grey or hazel." I think that one speaks for itself.
Referencing Jace's face: "It was like a book written in a foreign language she'd studied all to briefly." So she couldn't read it. That's easier to say. Not as creepy.
Referencing a voice: "... its sound of cold iron." When iron is cold, isn't it just cold?
The opening of Jace's cell: "A noise like ripping cloth tore through the room. (The sound depends on the fabric, but its never very impressive.) Clary heard Isabelle cry out as the door blew off its hinges entirely, crashing into the cell like a draw bridge falling. (If it blew off it's hinges, why did it just topple over?) Clary could hear other noises, metal coming uncoupled from metal, aloud rattle like a handful of tossed pebbles. (Pebbles do not sound metallic on their own.)"
Referring to Shadowhunter crowd: "Instead they seemed to go still, the way a pride of lions might go still when it spotted a gazelle." So they looked at them like food?
Referring to Simon digging himself out: "The grave was roiling like the surface of an unsteady ocean. Ripples appeared in its surface..." Dirt ripples. Riiight.
"The glow of Jace's seraph blade send elegant arcs of light shattering across the water..." This is not the word you are looking for.
"The sword seemed to shimmer blackly in the starlight." That's it, I quit.
There are so many more, but I'll stop there because they're making me physically sick.
I was going to bring up instances of words she used improperly (she said the ship had a corrugated steel hull), but I wanted to bring up something that I've noticed confused other reviewers: the purpose of The Clave.
I admit, this baffles me too. We're 2 books in and I've got the idea that they're supernatural police with an elitist point of view. They say they're protecting the "mundanes" (She totally ripped that off from Fables.), but Shadowhunters treat Downworlders more like sub-beings than anything else. It's like they're not even people anymore. When Daddy V says they're corrupt, he's right, but not in the way he believes.
All of Clare's best characters are Downworlders. They come across as more human than her main characters Jace and Clary, who are both Shadowhunters. They've got that imperfection to them that makes them relatable. They put up with all the crap the Shadowhunters throw at them to help save the day. We, the reader, are supposed to like the Shadowhunters, but I don't. They're prejudiced jackasses. They don't see people. They see monsters. Both Jace and Clary have slipped into that mindset at some point, and Alec is too much of a coward to admit he's in a relationship with a warlock. All Clare's antagonist wants to do is replace one elitist system with another, and I hope that both end up broken at the end. The Clave doesn't really deserve to be saved, but Daddy V shouldn't win either.
Clare tries to make Shadowhunters the good guys, but they come off as people who don't think their farts stink. And at the same time, about a thousand pages later, they're useless.
City of Ashes gets one star for her heroes being terrible people masquerading as the good guys. I know it wasn't intentional, but that's my point.
I'm so tired of these people. I'm going to watch Grimm.
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