Review: City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

City of Lost Souls (Mortal Instruments #5)
Cassandra Clare

Margaret K. McElderry (2012)
534 pages
YA / Paranormal Romance / Supernatural

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The demon Lilith has been destroyed and Jace freed from captivity. But when the Shadowhunters arrive, they find only blood and broken glass. Not only is the boy Clary loves missing, so is the boy she hates: her brother Sebastian, who is determined to bring the Shadowhunters to their knees.

The Clave's magic cannot locate either boy, but Jace can't stay away from Clary. When they meet again Clary discovers the horror Lilith's magic has wrought - Jace and Sebastian are now bound to each other, and Jace has become a servant of evil. The Clave is determined to destroy Sebastian, but there is no way to harm one boy without destroying the other.

Only a few people believe that Jace can still be saved. Together, Alec, Magnus, Simon, and Isabelle bargain with the sinister Seelie Queen, contemplate deals with demons, and turn at last to the merciless, weapon-making Iron Sisters, who might be able to forge a weapon that can sever the bond between Sebastian and Jace. If the Iron Sisters can't help, their only hope is to challenge Heaven and Hell - a risk that could claim their lives.

And they must do it without Clary. For Clary is playing a dangerous game utterly alone. The price of losing not just her own life, but Jace's soul. She's willing to do anything for Jace, but can she still trust him? Or is he truly lost? What price is too high to pay, even for love?

Love. Blood. Betrayal. Revenge. Darkness threatens to claim the Shadowhunters in the harrowing fifth book of the Mortal Instruments series.

I can’t even begin to review this book without stating up front for the umpteenth time that I HATE this cover. I get that the romance between Clary and Jace is supposed to be the big draw of the series, but did they really have to make this look like a bad romance novel? If this were the first in a series, I wouldn’t have picked it up, but because it’s the continuation of a series that I’m invested in, I overlooked the cheesy cover and dived in.

This book is much better than City of Fallen Angels probably because Jace spends the most of it not himself, and therefore, not an asshat. It also appealed to me more than the previous volume because a large portion of it focused on all the other characters besides Clary and Jace, who I find nearly insufferable in large quantities (I know, why do I read this series again?). Simon remained awesome and my favorite while Magnus developed into something other than the flamboyant warlock who helps whenever he’s asked though acts grumpy about it all the while. His story line, while mostly implied and still in the background, fascinates me.

Due to the number of characters that have now been introduced into The Mortal Instruments series, I can see how it would be difficult to give each one a worthwhile plotline and feature them as much as certain fans would want. That led to some side plots that would begin towards the start of the book, only to really disappear until the very end, not making much sense to begin with. Alec, who I also adore, was reduced to a petty, conniving teenage girl and his decisions didn’t really make any sense to me. Meanwhile werewolves Maia and Jordan are forced together on a short quest that could have easily taken place in the background to make the hefty, twisting story a little more streamlined.

I have to say that City of Lost Souls was the first time where I found Sebastian compelling. His long-game plans and his charming manipulations are really intriguing. I felt kind of cheated when he reappeared at the end of City of Fallen Angels. It felt like a cheap way to bring in a villain that didn’t need a lot of explanation, but I think it pays off because he sort of turns into a completely different character than the version we’ve seen previously. That tiny appearances of other potential bad guys were placed in key spots makes it all feel potentially more epic than the battle in City of Glass. It feels like Clare attempted to prepare me as a reader for a non-stop whirlwind that might rely just as much on Simon as it does on Clary and Jace, which is perfectly fine with me. City of Glass is my favorite of the novels so far and more Simon is always better in my eyes.

Speaking of Simon – how did the geek become such a badass? He still is a complete and total geek, but it’s like some of Isabelle is rubbing off on him and vice versa. His sarcasm and wit is always appreciated, and that he was finally able to make the big decisions and actively participate in the battle at hand instead of just being the kryptonite of everyone around him made me very happy. I would perfectly happy to read a book that was just Simon, Isabelle, Alec and Magnus being awesome and smacking down demons in New York. It would be snarky and sweet and full of wonderful sarcasm.

But now back to Clary and Jace. This is probably the book where I found them and their coupledom the least annoying. It probably benefits that Jace spends most of it being a seemingly nice guy even though he is the lap dog of Sebastian, but even when showing sparks of himself, his desperation and desire to do what’s right instead of what’s easy made him more endearing to me than he ever has been. Clary spent the book making rash and quick decisions that regularly got her into potentially deadly trouble, but it felt more natural in the circumstances she’d placed herself in. I didn’t roll my eyes, thinking she was just acting like a love sick teenage girl, but rather understood her internal dialogue and justification. Basically this is all a wordy way to say that finally I might just see the appeal of Clary and Jace (but I still prefer Alec and Magnus).

On a final note, I really want more of the Silent Brothers and especially of the Iron Sisters. With their members showing more humanity and proof of previous normal existence there’s a lot of potential and history to delve into with those communities. Perhaps this is something featured more prominently in the steampunk-ish The Infernal Devices series, which I haven’t made it around to just yet. Each of their communities sound fascinating and to learn more about their inner workings would be fun, I think.

So overall, it seems like this second trilogy is following the same trend as the first three books: finding mild entertainment in the first book (City of Bones, City of Fallen Angels), intrigue and potential in the second (City of Ashes, City of Lost Souls) and I hope the trend continues with this final book being as exciting and engaging as City of Glass. But then I hope she stops the series because I want to move on to her other realms.