Title: City of Ashes (Book Two of The Mortal Instruments trilogy)
Author: Cassandra Clare
Published: Simon Pulse (2008); an imprint of Simon & Schuster
Genre: YA fantasy
ISBN 13: 978-1-4169-7224-2
ISBN 10: 1-4169-7224-2
Do you remember watching the Star Wars trilogy--the good one, not the recent one--and the moment when you discovered Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia were brother and sister? Did you instantly flashback to that moment when they kissed in the first movie? Creepy. I mean, that's some Jerry Springer stuff, right there. So as I'm reading this Mortal Instruments trilogy by Cassandra Clare, I'm trying to wrap my head around the whole incestuous attraction between the protagonist, Clary Fray, and her crush/long lost brother, Jace. I enjoyed the book and all, but that one plot point gets harped on constantly and, to be blunt, creeps the bejesus out of me.
The lip lock happened unwittingly between Clary and Jace in City of Bones (my review of that is here), though. In City of Ashes, however, there's a scene where neither character can cry ignorance to their parentage. But, I digress on the grounds that I don't want to spoil things for the second book too, and--again--it's just yucky all the way around.
City of Ashes picks up not long after City of Bones. Clary and Simon are dating (sort of), while Jace and the Lightwoods have been putting the pieces of their family life back together following the betrayal of Hodge (a custodial guardian for the Lightwood children) and the return of Valentine (Clary's and Jace's father, and resident evildoer). Clary's mother is still in a coma. And the Mortal Cup (one of three Mortal Instruments) is still in the possession of Valentine. All caught up? Good.
The story turns towards the Mortal Sword this time, as Valentine sets his sights on stealing all three Instruments for his nefarious plans of conquering Downworlders (vampires, werewolves, fae, etc.) and the Shadowhunters (demon hunters and Downworlder police). Downworlder children are being killed one by one and it all seems to point back to Valentine, which draws the ire of the Inquisitor upon Jace as a suspected spy and traitor. This leads the gang from the first book getting back together, though not on an entirely amicable level, to investigate and ultimately fight Valentine before it's too late.
For a YA series that doesn't feel like it's reinventing the wheel, I have come to quite enjoy this series. Clare has built a conflicted character in Clary that is vulnerable and fretful without being insipid. Again, that crush on her brother is plain wrong and detracts from the story for me, but overall she's a very likable character. A bit heavy on the sass when she's laying out her logic to the adults in the room, but it's endurable. Some interesting developments occur too, with regards to supporting characters, especially Simon and Alec Lightwood.
In one way the book felt like a throughway to connect the first book and the establishment of characters with the third book and the ultimate showdown. In another way, I felt it deepened the story and helped bridge the disconnect between the real world that Clary knows and the supernatural world that Jace knows. The revelations concerning Clary's and Jace's connection with Valentine also lead me to guess on how their taboo relationship will finally be resolved ... but I'm getting ahead of myself.
This is a fun series with good humor and better action, and I'm going to keep my hopes up that the third book, City of Glass, delivers on the promise made by the first two books. If you dig monsters, fights, and a splash of romance thrown in then you ought to consider checking this out.