Sunday, February 24, 2013

Book Review: City of Glass (Mortal Instruments #3)

City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments, #3)City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

FINALLY! It's over! I'm done with the original Mortal Instruments trilogy, and it feels so good.

Now, before I begin, I will be courteous enough to inform you all that the following review is filled with whining, griping, and spoilers. If you love anything about this series, read at your own peril. I am not responsible for any strong feelings that my ravaging of these books trigger.

Before you read this, please read my reviews of City of Bones and City of Ashes because I will be most likely reference past jokes. You could say I'm consistent, unlike Clare.

Last time on the Mortal Instruments: Jace gets thrown in jail for being a smart ass. Daddy V steals the Super Special Sword of Truth and then gives it after-market blood mods so he can raise Hell, literally. Simon gets turned into a sun-proof vampire. Clary goes Super Mary Sue and blows up a ship. Other than that, those 500 pages were worthless.

Sigh. If I wasn't shaking my head during this book, I was screaming at it. You would have thought I was watching a horror film. The last couple chapters I read on auto-pilot, not even caring to scribble down some notes. I'm done this series, and anything else Clare writes.

Before I chase people off with my dour attitude, it's time for the Character Breakdown!

Clary: I get that she's a 16 year old girl, but after thousands of words, she's still clueless, rash, and bitchy. When Jace and the rest of them leave her behind for Idris, she throws a temper tantrum like a toddler. Then she makes her own Portal to Idris, ignoring the rule that she needs permission to do so, and drags Luke with her. After splashing down in the Mortal Mirror (because Clare couldn't be more obvious that was what Lake Lyn was), Luke's poor sister Amatis saves her life from the freaky water. And then Clare proceeds to treat Amatis terribly. She eats her food, wears her clothes, sneaks out, and destroys her property without so much as a thank you. That poor woman gets no respect from Special Snowflake Clary.

Then there is the treatment of her mother. She spends books worried about her, and then freaks out when Jocelyn walks in the door like the woman abandoned her. Clare tries to use the excuse that Clary just didn't know how angry she was. As a young woman who loves her mother, I would have given her the biggest hug because she's all right. Then proceed to grill her on what was going on. But my point is, I wanted to slap that pubescent red-head and scream, "Bitch! Don't talk to your mother like that."

The one thing that really bugged me is when Clary reveals her special rune making skills to the Shadow-hunters and Down-worlders. (Yes, I grammatically corrected those.) Clare specifies that Clary gets her Super Scribbles from the angels because daddy experimented on her by accident. (I just realized how lame that sounds.) Clary tells the crowd gathered that she creates the runes. Yes, creates the runes even though we, the audience, knows that she does not create them. She's just "remembering," for lack of a better term, runes that have been forgotten to time. I didn't think I could get more depressed until everyone gave her credit for finally uniting the SH and DW after a thousand years. Um, no. Just, no.

The truth is, the Shadow-hunters were just too afraid and jealous to form a real bond with the Down-worlders. A real relationship. It felt like they jumped on the opportunity as an excuse because they got super-powers out of it. That does not repair the damage caused by hunting these people for hundreds of years. And they give Clary the credit. Fecking Shadow-hunters.

And then there is her one wish. What does she wish for? Jace, because daddy ran him through a sword. I know Clary isn't that bright, but as an artist, couldn't get creative. Clare kept shouting at us that Clary is an anime and manga fan. So why not rip off one of the mass resurrection wishes from Dragon Ball Z? All you need is a little modification: "I wish for all those killed in the last week by Valentine and his agents to be returned to life. Except the evil ones." Okay, there might be problems with that, but it would be worth a shot. It's better than just Jace because the Lightwoods are missing a certain little boy. What was his name again?

Moving on.

Jace: He's come a long way from being one Ed Hardy shirt away of being the douche in the corner of the night club you roll your eyes at. Sadly, instead of developing into a better person, he just grew more dramatic and boring. I don't know how that's even possible. It's almost like his personality was sucked out of him by all the similes Clare used. (I know. I almost lost my sanity to them.)

There's this scene where Clary catches Jace making out with another girl, and then they have a fight. Clary leaves, leaving him with Alec and Izzy to have a nice talk. At the end of their conversation, Jace gets angrier and punches a picture window. Do you know how expensive those are to replace? He's was being such a Drama Queen, feathered boa and all. It was painful to read, and not in the good way.

After that it was all down hill. By the end of the book, Jace feels like a generic tragic hero. He tries to show his girl how much he wuves her. He goes it alone, tracking down the bad guy. He kills his evil twin, and then gets killed by daddy. Oh, boo-hoo. Poor, [Insert Hero Name]. It was just... meh. I actually missed Jackass Jace. There was substance I could make fun of.

And Former-Shadow-of-Himself Jace finally hooks up with Clary, for good. Don't care.

Oh, and Daddy V isn't his father. He was cut out of his suicidal mother's womb after she killed herself. And he's got angel in his genetic code. Like I didn't see that one coming...

Simon: He is my favorite of the three, hands down. Despite the issues he has coming to terms with being a vampire, which is understandable, he's still the smartest and most mature. He's also the only one who sacrifices anything.

When Raphael wants to kill him in exchange for the help of the vampires, Simon goes but tells Clary to put the Mark of Cain on his forehead. While this may curse him to wander for eternity, he doesn't care. He wanted to live - well, as much as a vampire can live - and unite the vampires with everyone else. Despite the deception, Simon gets two thumbs up for courage. He really is too good for this book, especially since he was in jail for 200 pages of it.

Isabelle: By this point she's just Jace's mouth piece. Jace never tells any one any thing, so Izzy does it for him in skirts and hooker heels. I feel bad for her. By the end she's Jace's knight in shining armor. Not Clary. His adopted sister protects him and saves his ass more than anyone notices. Clary is totally the wrong MC for this story. I'm sorry how your writer treats you, Izzy.

Alec: Gains a spine a little too late. I wish Clare had given him substance two books ago. I do get why Magnus likes him, though. He's boring. I would want boring too if the rest of my life was glitter and chaos.

Magnus: There wasn't enough of him to save my sanity. I often missed him. Good to know he's capable of somber behavior.

Jocelyn: Finally wakes up, thanks to Magnus. Acts as giant info dump. Wasn't really given a personality for a woman who escaped her abusive husband, lived in hiding, and raised one of the most self-centered people in the book.

Luke: Mostly in the background even though he does all the political heavy lifting. They give Clary the credit. Feh. It's this guy who deserves it.

Amatis Herondale: Luke's sister. Puts up with Clary's abhorrent behavior. Of all the people in this book, she deserved to give that brat a beat down. First wife of Jace's father. She's nice and supportive. Too bad her writer doesn't pat people on the back who deserve it.

Sebastian: Will the real Jonathan Morganstern please stand up? This psycho is the demon child of Jocelyn and Daddy V, which makes him Clary's real older brother. He was a better baddie than his father because he was scary. When a teenager beats a nine year old to death with a hammer, I admit I wouldn't want to meet him in a dark alley. That's horror flick shit right there.

Of course, Clare wouldn't know how to describe a creepy smile if she tried. She can't keep the damn similes off the end of the sentence to make it effective. And then there's the dark prince metaphor that Clare keeps using every time she writes about him from Clary's perspective. Here is the funny thing about dark princes, they are always bad, bad news. Very bad news. I'll list a few off the top of my head that quite a few people might know about:

Prince Joffrey from Martin's Song of Fire and Ice books: I don't think I have to explain this one to anyone who's seen the HBO series or read the books. Joffrey is horrendous. This pretty little blonde pre-teen puts Sebastian to shame in the violent-acts-that-make-people-squirm department. He beheads people left and right, has Sansa smacked around by his cronies, and likes it. He's just... pure evil. That's all I can say.

Prince Jorg Ancrath from Lawrence's Prince of Thorns: Another young psycho, except he has goals. There is nothing like someone who will do whatever they want to get what they want, and that includes raping women and blowing up whole freaking castles. He also stabs his own men. There is really nothing like young Prince Jorg, except maybe Alec from A Clockwork Orange.

And because Clary likes anime, and I've been using Dragon Ball references pretty consistently, I give you Prince Vegeta: This walking Death Star gets off eradicating entire civilizations. Beating on people excites him. He killed his childhood nanny - I mean body guard - because he suddenly became useless. Even after becoming the world's wealthiest trophy husband, he nuked half of a sold out stadium to get his rival to fight him after juicing up on black magic.

So you can see why Clary's romanticized version of her "dark prince" immediately made me think, "He's evil! Evil! Run, stupid!" Seriously, Clare's logic when it comes to writing has shorted out my brain more than I want to count. No mental acrobatics will compensate for whatever goes on in that woman's head.

Daddy V: Sigh. Clare gave him a personality a little too late. It's book three, and we're just now finding out he's the well meaning, mad scientist type. Too bad the path to Hell is paved with good intentions, because that is where V is going to end up. When an angel looks at you and basically says, "You are not God, you cannot judge," then you know you're screwed.

That's what happens to V, and I must say that I pitied him. It was almost sad, if a bit pathetic. I wanted to reach through the pages and say, "Dude, you messed up. Time to face the consequences." I think I felt more for him than I did for any of the other characters in the book. If Clare was capable of good character development, then he wouldn't have been made of cardboard for two books before finally being fleshed out.

How do reader's connect with these characters? Hold on, I have to reboot my brain. I thought too hard again.

Now it's metaphor time! Prepare yourself for the worst that I cared to write down. 3... 2... 1...

  • "... she spotted a smaller mausoleum, growing like a white toadstool in the shadow of a leafy oak tree." Does that mean the mausoleum looks like a mushroom?
  • Referring to the demon towers: "The fading sunlight struck dull rainbows from their surfaces like a match striking sparks." I think I got it with the "dull rainbows."
  • "... the world was coming apart in soft colors, like a jigsaw puzzle drifting on the surface of the water."
  • "The chuckle that answered Simon sounded like metal scraping against stone." That sounds painful for the person making it.
  • "... all she could see was the bright bits of sunshine that dusted his fair hair, like shards of broken glass." This woman has a fetish for broken glass. If this book was mine, I would have highlighted every broken glass reference to see how often it came up.
  • "... a sudden spray of broken glass like a shower of jagged stars." Look, another one.
  • Referencing Alec's eye color: "At the moment they were the color of the East River during a storm." I'm not from New York City, so how would I know what that looks like?
  • "Clary woke to a sound like hail stones on a metal roof." She's describing Sebastian throwing rocks against the window. Having heard both, they sound distinctly different. When rocks hit windows, it makes a hollow noise. When hail hits metal, it's more metallic and high pitched.
  • "Pages ripped from books drifted in the air like ash." If time has passed, how is this possible?
  • "Sebastian's face came alive, like a video flashing back to action after it had been paused." And all these terrible comparisons are wearing me out, like a tire that has been driven hundreds of miles.
  • " ... like a beautiful painting destroyed by vandals." I swear I've seen her use this one before.
  • "The desire in his eyes cracked into a thousand pieces like the shards of the Portal mirror a Renwick's... " Told you she had a thing for broken glass. She's even made voices sound like it.
  • "Isabelle's whip came alive in her hand like the flaming sword of an avenging angel..." This is another comparison that Clare uses often. She uses it so often, I'm going to card her for repetition.
  • "With a sound like a pail of water poured onto flames..." She couldn't use "with a hiss?" It would make the sentence eight words shorter and make more sense.
  • "The tension underlying his voice was a live wire." If something is tense, it's taught or wound. There is nothing loose about it. It's under strain. A live wire is none of those things.

Relieved that it's over? There's more! Check out this review where they attempt to figure out the percentage of word count that the bad similes, just the similes, take up. It's a pretty hefty 27%. Wow. And the review is funny.

Now onto a more serious analysis of her writing. Below I'm going to post they typical Clary thought process paragraph. Why? Because this is typical of how Clare likes to write her descriptions and keep the character involved.
"They passed under a streetlight. Clary glanced sideways at Sebastian. In his long dark coat and white shirt, under the pool of white light, he looked like a black-and-white illustration of a gentleman from a Victorian scrapbook. His dark hair curled close against his temples in a way that made her itch to draw him in pen and ink."
First off, Clary is looking at him out of the corner of her eye while they pass briefly under a light post.

Then she gives a typical simile that is both long and tries to sound poetic, but only hampers the sentence.

And the last bolding is what I like to refer to as a Clary thought. It is a thought that is entirely unrelated to anything in this section. I know that she's an artist, but we only see her draw runes in this book. She never sits down to sketch so she can clear her mind as the Shadow-hunter apocalypse looms near. This kind of Clary thought happens a lot in all three books. She's always like, "I would draw so and so this way... This person would look good in [insert medium]... I would use [insert technique]." Since we hardly see her in the act of drawing, it just feels like Clare is trying to show off.

Same goes for the dump-truck of similes. She uses them to make her writing sound poetic, but seems to miss the point of metaphors. She either describes something so much she kills the scene, or not enough. Her writing lacks balance in that sense. It's either overwritten or underwritten. The sad thing, there is an editor listed on her Acknowledgements page. Remind me to never have the person look over my work.

All right, time to move onto another aspect of writing; world building. I would like to list some weak world building points that made me scratch my head:

If the towers keep out demons, and Down-worlders have demon energies, then how come Down-worlders can get into Alicante? I'm probably thinking too hard about this one. It just keeps bothering me, especially since Sebastian was only part demon as well.

Guns, cars, or any electronics don't work because of runes. All of these things require a spark. So, do runes prevent the creation of a spark? If so, then that would make combustion impossible, or any standard heat source that uses fire or electricity. Clare writes it off saying no one knows why, but that's pretty lazy writing. I mean, they wouldn't be able to heat food. Even in Harry Potter there was a flying car.

Then there was Clare's weapon knowledge. It's obvious she has no idea how they're even kept on the body. Every time she describes a Shadow-hunter, she says they have a belt with a bunch of weapons thrust through it. The position of the weapon on the body matters because that person has to draw it out in a battle. It needs to be easily accessible depending on the fighting style. No boot knives. How about bandoliers? I guess no one uses a claymore. And if Izzy's whip is razor sharp, why does she loop it around her arm? It would cut her. Clare throws out fancy weapon names, but then fails to describe them. For a bunch of fighters, these Shadow-hunters come across as pretty inept when it comes to weapons.

And as for the ending, it works. I just feel like it too long to get there. If you think that every book is roughly 150k a piece, with about 25% of the word count being similes alone, then these books could have been shorter with a good edit and still retain their pacing and most of the story line.

Anyway, I give this book 1.5 stars. I thought about two, but just couldn't bring myself to do it. If everything sucked but the characters, than I would probably give it three. But the characters is the series' biggest problem. The two main ones are just... frustrating.

I'm going to find something better to do. If time is kind, maybe I'll forget I ever read this.

View all my reviews