Review: City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

City of Ashes  - Cassandra Clare

There aren't that many things on this earth that hold my interest. I've tried ice skating, painting, long distance running, photography, yoga, aromatherapy, tennis: the list goes on. And the only thing I have an unending obsession with is my animals, particularly my horses. I love to ride. I love the power, grace and beauty of the horses. I love the speed and the agility they lend, and I love them for who they are too, in all their quirky, stroppy, unpredictable glory. My horses are my passion. I devote so much time, energy and cold, hard cash into making them the best they can be. I'm competitive and I love to win. I love the adrenaline rush that comes with the incredible highs of achievements and the lowest of the lows that come with the inevitable failures. And boy have I had some failures ..... Riding doesn't make it onto the list of the top ten most dangerous sports for nothing. The worst accident I ever had was when I fell from a bitch of a pony and landed hard on the ground with my foot twisted round the wrong way. I bust my knee pretty much as bad as is possible without breaking a bone. Every ligament torn, every muscle ripped, every nerve irreparably damaged. My left knee is still swollen and completely numb five years later. So why do I keep coming back for more? With so much risk involved, and having gone through so much pain, why do I keep trusting my safety into the hooves of a massive, unpredictable creature who's highly likely to leap three feet into the air when he catches his own shadow out of the corner of his eye? Maybe I'm a little crazy .....


It's the same story with The Mortal Instruments series. Granted, I'm not taking my life in my hands when I pick up the book but I am beginning to doubt my sanity when I beginning reading something that I know will cause me pain.


City of Ashes made my jaw hurt.

So, Jace is involved in the most bizarre misunderstanding whereby no-one will stop and take a second to listen to his side of the story. He then proceeds to leap around, throwing, what I'm sure Cassandra Clare believes to be witty remarks at anyone within earshot, all the while spinning about, flipping his golden hair every five minutes. Clary and Simon get in the way, relying on Luke and Magnus to swoop in and yank them out of trouble while achieving devastating, almost skillful blandness and learning not a single thing from any of the mistakes they make. The rest of the gang waft in the shadows and the whole thing culminates in what can only be described as a shit-storm taking place on some boat somewhere, providing a reasonably decent backdrop for Valentine to pose somewhat menacingly. That's the basic story guys!


This book is even worse than City of Bones as by this time the novelty has completely worn off and I'm no longer mildly amused to hear about the antics of the Shadowhunters as they pull faces at the Downworlders, and throw knives around. There's just so much chatting! Endless talking round and round and round in circles until the end of time and the earth has crumbled to dust, and yes - ashes around us (is this how the book was named?!) And of course, Clary feels compelled to pull her usual stunt of saying completely inappropriate things at entirely inconvenient times. Is she missing her brain? She appears to at least be missing parts of her brain - the part that filters the endless crap she chimes in with, the part that offers her self preservation and basic consideration for her own safety and that of those around her, the part that allows her to listen and comprehend simple instructions - that's a lotta brain to be doing without! Maybe this goes some way to explaining how she can act and respond to stimulus with pretty much zero emotion, thought or insight.


"Isabelle with her whip and boots and knives would chop anyone who tried to pen her in a tower into pieces, build a bridge out of the remains, and walk carelessly to freedom, her hair looking fabulous the entire time. This made Isabelle a hard person to like. Though Clary was trying."


"Honestly, Clary thought, it was hardly fair for a werewolf to be pretty and curvy; she ought to be big and hirsute, possibly with hair coming out of her ears."


""That's great," Clary said, trying to sound supportive despite how gross the idea happened to be of people her mom's and Luke's age being in love."


These quotes pretty much sum our darling Clary up - she's ignorant, jealous, immature, selfish and judgemental. Why did Cassandra Clare create this vile character?! Why?! There's nothing likeable about her. She's such a bitch. I'm in disbelief that this is who we have been provided with as a heroine for the series. I mean, really?! Are we really expected to give a single fuck about her, after she behaves like this?! Why does she hate these girls because they're pretty?! Why does she feel such a rivalry between herself and them. A rivalry, I must add that she has cooked up in her own head. These are her friends, her allies. They have her back no matter what idiotic shenanigans she gets herself caught up in, and she repays them by judging them behind their backs. That's not cool. And that's not what friends do.


But then Clary doesn't know how to be a friend. She barely knows how to be a human being. She toys with Simon and Jace's emotions while they dance around together, participating in a vomit inducing and incestuous love triangle.


"Luke pushed his glasses back up his nose. "Did I hear him call you his girlfriend?"
She almost laughed at his bewildered expression. "I guess so."
"Is that something new, or is it something I'm already supposed to now and forgot?"
"I hadn't heard it before myself.""
(Luke and Clary discussing Simon's choice of words)


So Simon has staked his claim. Despite having completely forgotten to discuss the situation with Clary and understand her thoughts and feelings on the subject, Simon has taken it upon himself to label them as a couple. And inexplicably, Clary seems to be alright with this. She's fine to be dealt with as a possession, to be introduced to Maia as belonging to Simon. What the actual hell?! Clary is supposed to be this strong, tough, confident girl who we all look up to and admire and yet she's perfectly happy to be walked all over and trotted out simply as someone's girlfriend. This to me, does not make good heroine material. She needs to grow a backbone, stop staring off into the middle distance and speak up! She behaves in exactly the same way with Jace, allowing herself to be used as a ragdoll for him to grab and kiss and make eyes at whenever the mood takes him. She doesn't appear to have a single thought in her head regarding the fact that two boys seem, for some reason to be in love with her and one of them just happens to be her brother! Ew.


Are they really brother and sister? Are they?! Because we are told over and over and over again how they don't look alike, and now all of a sudden Jace seems to no longer look like his father, Valentine, despite being assured during City of Bones that they have many similarities. Make up your mind Ms Clare! Jeez .....


One trait which Jace does carry through is his insufferable arrogance. This is a boy touted as god's gift to the earth and yet, he opens his mouth and this kind of crap spills out:


""How awfully convenient for you, regardless. And him. He won't have to worry about you spilling his secrets." (The Inquisitor)
"Yeah," said Jace. "He's terrified I'll tell everyone that he always really wanted to be a ballerina." The Inquisitor simply stared at him."


What is that?! What the actual fuck is that?! This is a serious exchange between The Inquisitor and Jace. I mean, we're talking about Jace's life here! We're talking about him being banished from the Shadowhunter world, thrown onto the streets of New York City and expected to fend for himself. We're talking about Jace's entire way of life, everything he knows and loves being taken from him .... And all he can do in response to this very serious threat is make jokes?! And the worst thing? These jokes aren't even funny. They're stupid. And they're embarrassing. This happens all the time. These dumb remarks seem to be his stock reply to most questions asked of him. And it's so INFURIATING! Jace just grates on me like nothing on earth. His predicament in City of Ashes? I don't care. I just don't give a fuck. Especially when Jace seems to be able to simply jump out of any sticky situation he finds himself in. Yes, he literally jumps. I couldn't make this stuff up guys! God only knows how Cassandra Clare managed to labour her way through it without going completely insane ......


I think one of the things that made it hard to care was the fact that none of the gang ever actually seemed like they were in any genuine danger. The worst injury that any of them walked away with was a bit of a scratch on the wrist and yet, Ms Clare seemed to have some kind of vendetta against all her poor, unsuspecting supporting characters and appeared to take great pleasure in killing them off or at least maiming them. Take The Silent Brothers as an example. These are a group of chaps who have pledged their entire lives to the cause of the Shadowhunters; kept their secrets, watched over their dead, guarded their criminals and even gone so far as to take a vow of silence and to stitch their mouths shut in order to do this job to the best of their ability. And does anyone give a fuck when they are brutally and hideous murdered, their bodies disrespected and humiliated in their final moments alive? Nope. Their corpses are simply stepped over, regarded with distaste by our "brave heroes" and then never given another thought for the entirety of the book. What gives these children the right to place themselves at the centre of importance in every single situation, completely disrespecting anyone else's experience or suffering! Clary and Jace are the worst offenders - nothing matters but Clary and Jace, no-one else's life is of any value or worth but Clary and Jace. Clary and Jace are so speshul. Clary and Jace, Clary and Jace blah, blah, blah. Aargh!!!


They completely eclipse Alec and Isabelle in this second instalment of The Mortal Instruments series, who are offered barely any airtime. Alec is some kind of representation of teen problems. I'm not really sure. He seems to be standing on the edge of letting his family and friends know he is gay (although they'd have to be deaf and blind not to realise what is going on right in front of their eyes. Oh, wait a moment! They're all so self absorbed and self obsessed that in fact they probably don't have any idea what's going on with Alec) But unfortunately Alec doesn't seem to be much more than that - a teen with problems. I don't really get his role. He doesn't really do anything except pout, frown and look uncomfortable in the presence of Magnus. He's so poorly characterised that he's almost transparent. We could probably have gotten along fine without him. Aside from have Magnus' phone number which comes in handy a couple of times, he contributes nothing. Isabelle isn't much better. She swans about a bit and there's something about her having a relationship with a fairy or something?! Whatever Isabelle .....


This bugs the hell outta me. It means that there are literally no likeable characters in the whole book because we are left with so few to choose from that actually carry any weight or stick in my mind. There's nobody to get behind because they are all crap. I hate them all. Simon gets on my wick. I tried to like him, I saw my choices running a bit dry and I really tried to find something positive in Simon. But nope, sorry, can't do it. He's so fucking irritating. I mean, he wanders into a nest of vampires voluntarily and then acts surprised when that didn't pan out exactly as he'd hoped it would. Now c'mon! What a goddam dumbass! He was explicitly told more than once that he was not welcome in the fairies underground palace (yeah, I'm not even going to go there with what a giant, ridiculous waste of pointless time, except to upset the group dynamics, that was .....) and then seems totally taken aback when the fairy escort tells him he cannot enter. Try LISTENING Simon! Or how about trying THINKING! Holy crap, the whole thing was so frustrating. I don't get Simon. He seems unable to talk to another human being normally, to voice his concerns, to confide his dilemmas. I mean, he can't tell Clary who he insists he's in love with, that he (a loves her, (b has concerns for his own health and (c doesn't think it's right that she's lusting after own her bro. I think it's perfectly acceptable to talk about these things. Instead, Simon chooses to storm off every opportunity he gets.


This is an appalling message to be sending to the teenaged readers this series is marketed at. It's something that teenagers are usually in need of learning how to do - to speak up and talk to other people about how your feeling, to deal with your problems rather than just pouting, huffing and lying to everyone around you about how "fine" you are. Here's an idea Ms Clare - instead of backing up this belief that it's better to run away when a subject arises that is difficult to talk about, how about educating younger readers about a better way to handle the situation by creating characters mature enough to turn to their friends and say "I'm not comfortable" or "I'm not happy" or "I need to tell you how I really feel". This is so common in books of this genre. The characters just don't behave in a way that is admirable, even though these people are written to be our heroes. Another thing that puzzles me about the characters interaction with other people (and I'm not talking exclusively about The Mortal Instruments series here, although Clary is guilty of this again and again) is their complete lack of curiosity. As humans we are naturally curious. It's one of the things that has allowed us to develop as a species. We have a strong desire to learn why things are the way they are, and how things have occurred. And yet, very few of these YA characters seem to possess this quality. They never ask appropriate questions. They never demand answers. And it's weird. Like, instead of just asking Valentine what the hell he's playing at Jace glares at him a lot and makes stupid remarks and jokes. Clary does exactly the same thing when she and Valentine are hanging out on the boat at the end. She's too busy faffing about and staring at the walls to just say to him "Look, what's your deal buddy". I just feel we would all get along a lot faster and smoother if these characters would just think about what's going on around them and inquire about other people's plans. I'm just saying .....


The writing style is ...... Uhm, interesting. Cassandra Clare sure does like to play around with similes:


"His were the color of black coffee— not really black, but a rich brown without a touch of gray or hazel."


" - bending her spine the way a magician might bend a spoon."


"The hair on the back of his neck stood up, sharp as needles."


Yeah, I don't like it. I feel the similes are incredibly weak. I mean, take that one comparing hair to needles. C'mon now, there's nothing needle-like about hair is there? When we think of needles we think of something sharp so was his hair rigid and sharp when it stood on end? I highly doubt it. There are so many more examples of simply a poor choice of comparison. It just paints an absurd picture in my mind of what is happening in the story and it totally kills any tension or suspense that was being attempted to be built when I have to stop and laugh mid-sentence because of description like this:


"a bright pinpoint of light, like a cat's eyes in the darkness, shone out at her."


What's that?! What even is that?! Cat's eyes don't light up in the dark! They don't have like, laser beam eyes or something! Yes, if you were to shine a torch in your cat's eyes it would reflect back at you due to the way the cat's eyes are structured, but they themselves are not a light source. Jeez ..... It just takes away the credibility of what's been written and turns the whole thing into a bit of a joke when we are subjected to this kind of poor description. This seems to be Ms Clare's style though, as we had the same nonsensical crap foisted on us throughout City of Bones. I would love, just for one day to view the world through the eyes of Cassandra Clare. I bet it would be a riot! I especially would love to meet her cats with their eyes like headlights .....


Do you know what? Even the basic structure of the story was poor. There was a beginning, yep. And there was also a clear cut end sequence. But the middle? Dear god, the sheer volume of stuff just shoehorned in there! Holy crap Ms Clare, ENOUGH! We're with Luke in the car and then we're listen to Magnus drone cryptically and then the goddam fairies rock up and then Jace is trapped somewhere again and then Simon's making a poor lifestyle choice and on and on and on. It reads like there was zero planning. It reads like the author chucked in a bunch of stuff near the beginning and then had to work desperately hard to make it all hang together. Yeah, I just really did not enjoy this book. I thought I would give Cassandra Clare another chance following City of Bones but nope, I can't do this series. I would love to know what other people enjoy about it. Like, how? I'm a bit annoyed with myself as I have a really long list of books to read and for some reason I picked up this lousy excuse for a novel. And there's so many of them! Like how many books are in this series? A shitload, that's how many! Well, I'm done. I swear it this time. Me and The Mortal Instruments? We're through.


Hope everyone's having a fantastic November so far! Over and out my friends!