I’m am really liking this series except for one thing, but I’m going to give you time to stop reading this review if you have any interests in Cassandra Clare’s ‘The Mortal Instruments’ novels…okay don’t say that you haven’t been warned. Beginning with the first novel of the series, ‘The City of Bones’ there has been a connection between the two main characters; Clary who finds out that she is a Nephilim after being raised assuming that she is a plain run of the mill mortal, and Jace who finds out that his father is one of the biggest Nephilim villains of all time. During the course of the story they find themselves attracted to each other to then find that that they…I’m just going to say, it is the typical boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl find out that they are brother and sister. It is a gutsy move for Clare to write a young adult series where throughout at least the first three novels there is a question of should they or shouldn’t they commit incest. Believe me, if the novels didn’t have other things going for them, I would have thrown in the towel. As I have progressed through Clare’s series, I know that there has to be some resolution which includes the two finding out that they aren’t blood related because the whole sibling romance is unthinkable, at least within the parameters of the young adult genre. At some point, even the most devoted V. C. Andrews fan had to stop and think, ‘that’s sick!’
What the series has going for it is a unique reading universe where Nephilim are the CIA/police force of everything supernatural – they are called Shadowhunters. Being the children of men and angels they don’t have any special powers besides their training and the use of runes which mark their skin providing them traits such as bravery and strength. Amongst the supernatural world is the usual cast of characters; vampires, werewolves, warlocks, fairies, demons and so forth. Further there are other dimensions where demons are originally from and are transported to the earthly plane through portals. A central theme to the book is that accords have been signed between the Nephilim and all the other races of supernatural beings. This provides a law that governs such things as vampires sticking to a non human blood supply and werewolves not prowling for human prey. For the Nephilim it is all about the humans, except they don’t hold humans in much regard and call them mundanes.
In the ‘City of Ashes’ Clary is starting to cope with the realization that the man she pines over is her bro and that her mother is in a coma which she won’t likely recover from in a human hospital. The only father figure in her life is Luke who at one time was a Nephilim but is now a werewolf who owns a bookstore. Her best friend Simon pines for her although he realizes that not all is right in Denmark when he sees how Clary stares at Jace. Of course Jace has more issues than liking his sister a wee too much, in the first book he found out that his father was Valentine (a Lord Voldemort type of character) who raised him to be hard and merciless but whom he always thought was someone else because he went by a different name.
Amongst the universe that Clare has created, she has some great action sequences as well as provides twists and turns, that I for one, didn’t see coming. I was all proud of my predictions that so and so was in league with the dreadful Valentine to only find out I was wrong, which is fun and refreshing as long as the author stays true to the storyline, which Clare does. She also drops in some philosophy that gave ‘City of Ashes’ a deeper meaning.
“Oh, no,” Valentine said. “I’m anything but that.” He moved a little closer to her and she stepped in front of the Sword, blocking it from his view. “You think of me that way because you look at me and at what I do through the lens of your mundane understanding of the world. Mundane humans create distinctions between themselves, distinctions that seem ridiculous to any Shadowhunter. Their distinctions are based on race, religion, national identity, any of a dozen minor and irrelevant markers. To mundane these seem logical, for though mundane cannot see, understand, or acknowledge the demon worlds, still somewhere buried in their ancient memories, they know that there are those that walk this earth that are other. That do not belong, that mean only harm and destruction. Since the demon threat is invisible to mundanes. They must assign the threat to others of their own kind. They place the face of their enemy onto the face of their neighbor, and thus are generations of misery assured.” He took another step toward her, and Clary instinctively moved backward; she was pressed up against the footlocker now. “I’m not like that,” he went on. “I can see the truth of it. Mundanes see as through a glass, darkly, but Shadowhunters – we see face-to-face. We know the truth of evil, and know that while it walks among us, it is not of us. What does not belong to our world must not be allowed to take root here, to grow like a poisonous flower and extinguish all life.” (pages 400-401)
The young adult fantasy genre is everywhere now, especially after the ‘Harry Potter’ books and ‘Twilight’ franchise have produced bestsellers and hit movies (according to Clare’s website ‘The Mortal Instruments’ series has been optioned for film). At the moment the series is at the top of my list just below the ‘Vampire Academy’ books by Richelle Mead for being well written and action pact. Obviously, I am recommending ‘City of Ashes’ although reading the first book in the series, ‘City of Bones’ would be helpful, I don’t think it is imperative. I think the novels are getting better with the third book ‘City of Glass’ so far the most engrossing.