Review: City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments #4)
Cassandra Clare

Simon & Schuster Children's (2011)
424 pages
YA / Fantasy / Supernatural

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There’s a part of me that wants to say Cassandra Clare should have stopped The Mortal Instruments series at City of Glass as originally intended, but then I wouldn’t have gotten the snarky odd coupling of Simon and Jace that was in City of Fallen Angels. I’ve come to the conclusion that Jace whatever-his-last-name-is is only palatable to me in small doses or when surrounded by characters that don’t like him much. That’s why I was pretty fond of this fourth book in the series while still finding the end really annoying.

Spoilers through City of Glass.

Considering this was originally supposed to be a trilogy, City of Glass wrapped up most, if not all, the loose ends for the main group of characters. Jace turned out to not be Clary’s brother (oh really, who would have guessed?), the bad guys were dead, Clary’s mom was going to marry Luke the werewolf, Magnus Bane was still awesome. It didn’t need another book in the series, but Clare came up with some interesting ideas on what events to make her characters suffer through next. Unfortunately there weren't enough ideas to really sustain a steady, fast-moving plot.

City of Fallen Angels takes place about six weeks later when everything is peachy except that the Lightwoods are mourning the loss of their youngest son and Jace is slowly becoming insane via nightmares where he keeps killing Clary in the middle of make out sessions. Simon keeps finding himself getting attacked, only to watch his attackers get vaporized into salt before they can injure him. And someone is going around killing Shadowhunters formerly loyal to Valentine. Nothing really out of the norm for this version of New York.

By this point, all the characters are who they are going to be. There’s no character growth outside of Isabelle deciding perhaps she isn’t a heartless ice queen and Alec possibly becoming less of a moody cynic (key word being “possibly”). Otherwise Clary remains flighty, obsessive and naïve. Jace is arrogant, annoying and secretive. Simon is sarcastic, cautious and an outsider. And when Magnus finally shows up 250 pages in, he’s still flamboyantly awesome and has the best lines. There’s nothing new here other than the faces on the bad guys (and some of those aren't even new).

In retrospect, it doesn’t feel like a lot happens and yet I desperately wanted to be reading this book whenever I didn’t have it in my hands (or was watching cartoons). That’s the magic of Cassandra Clare’s story telling. I don’t know why, but it’s completely addictive in a teenage-soap-opera-with-demons sort of way. There’s a lot of rehashing of events from the end of the previous book, which I was actually happy about as I didn’t really remember the details of City of Glass’ ending. Though about the fifth time it was mentioned that Clary asked an angel to bring Jace back to life, it started to become a little much.

I’ve never really liked Clary. She suffers from what I recently saw someone refer to as “Elena Gilbert syndrome” – she thinks she has the best plans and since all her friends will stop her thinking they know better, she doesn’t tell anyone before putting herself into mortal peril and needing to be saved by her stronger and more powerful friends. After the events of the previous trilogy, you’d think that Clary would understand her limitations, especially given she had this great power that she believes has disappeared and she spends her Shadowhunter training time either on the phone with Simon or making out with Jace. And yet she still storms into a church potentially full of cultists and/or demons that are experimenting on fetuses. Alone. And unarmed.

As with Elena Gilbert, there’s a reason your friends keep trying to prevent you from going through with your ideas, Clary. It’s because your ideas are not very smart.

Jace, the other character that I was never really fond of, is actually not a dick in this book. Despite thinking he’s going crazy and might accidentally kill his girlfriend, he spends most of the book either being sarcastic to Simon, making out with Clary or attempting to accomplish something, not being all self-defeating and acting like his pain is worse than the pain of the entire world combined (even if he's potentially going insane). It probably helped that there are a couple of steamy scenes in this one, which considering I automatically read them to all be older than they are (exception usually being Clary) didn’t make me feel as uncomfortable as I would usually think. I finally saw the appeal of Jace for about ten pages – he’s kind of hot when he’s not being an asshat.

I like how Clare told the story from three distinct third person points of view. The story for the most part was framed from the POVs of Simon or Clary. When Magnus shows up, because of some events that he alone is privy to, he becomes a third POV used sparingly. Each viewpoint is distinct in the sense that the details mentioned in the plot are the things the characters themselves would notice – Clary being naïve, overly sensitive and somewhat self-absorbed doesn’t notice a lot that’s going on outside of Jace; Simon being paranoid and frightened of his future sees everything as morose and potentially evil; and Magnus, being awesome*, reads people and notices things that no one else probably would.

But then there was the ending when everything looked like it would be sunshine and rainbows only for it to all go to hell in the last five pages. It felt a little tacked on, like the final pages really should have been at the beginning of the next book instead of at the end of this one. I could also be grumpy because events have taken a turn for the redundant. I hope the impending fifth book manages to stay away from feeling like a rehash of previous rivalries.

Though if it were up to me, the fifth book would have all the characters fall off the edge of the world except for Simon, Alec and Magnus (and maybe Jordan) and they would all be grumpy and snarky with each other as they had adventures. That’s the book I want to read.

But I’ll still read City of Lost Souls and hope that Jace continues to become less of an asshat and that Clary might eventually open her eyes and realize she’s not omniscient and all-powerful, but rather a naïve teenage girl who doesn’t know what she’s doing compared to her much more experienced friends. That could be enjoyable too.


* Can you tell who my favorite character is?

 

I received a copy of this book from the library. They made me return it earlier today so someone else could read it. I came home with nine other books instead… I have a problem.