Thursday, August 14, 2014

Book Talk: City of Ashes

I finally sat down to read City of Ashes.  I admit, I have been taking my time reading this series.  I mean, the final book is out, and I just finished number two.  Almost a year after reading City of Bones.  All that aside, it’s time for my trusty review of City of Ashes.  I admit I was hesitant to read this book, because I didn’t really like the first one all that well.  (You can read my review of City of Bones here.) 

Something I should clarify:

When I read City of Bones, I had stated that Cassandra Clare wasn’t technically a bad writer.  Or rather, I said the books were not poorly written.  Clare may be a phenomenal writer who just hasn’t found the right story yet.  These books are not that story for her.  This WAS a poorly written novel.  Some of the sentences were so poorly structured, I had to read them two or three times to figure out what was actually being said.  Some of them were so bad, I laughed when I read them.

Here are just a few examples:

‘”Thanks.’  Jace rubbed his wrists, each one braceleted with a line of chafed, bleeding skin.  He was starting to be able to feel his fingertips again.”

“Jace reached across Clary and jerked it shut.  The truck veered around the two Shadowhunters – Malik, Clary saw, had what looked like a flinging knife in his hand.”  (What, pray tell, is a flinging knife?)

“The Sword’s touch seemed to spill the cold through her veins, sending sizzling ice particles through her arms and legs, numbing her hands.”  (Sizzling ice particles?!)

There are plenty of other quotes I could put here, but I want to save a little for later.

Now, if you’re curious: here’s a synopsis of the novel.  I’ll try to keep it short.

City of Ashes starts shortly after City of Bones left off.  Jace, who has been living with Isabelle, Alec and Max at the Institute for years, is called into Maryse’s office after she returns from her journey.  She tells him that he can’t live with them anymore, and refers to him by the name Valentine gave him: Jonathan.  He repeats over and over that he had no idea that Valentine was his father until recently.  According to Jace, he found out Valentine was his father the same time everyone else did.  Maryse, however, thinks Jace knew about it longer than he’s letting on.  She believes that Jace is lying and that he is more like Valentine than he claims. 

So, after being kicked out of the institute, Jace goes to a bar that serves werewolves.  Apparently, because he’s a shadowhunter, that means everyone has to treat him like the sun shines out of his butt.  So, he gets served and is allowed to stay.  While there, Jace gets into a fight and is dragged into a back office until he calms down.  This is when we also meet Maia, a new character and a werewolf.  She hates Jace from the first moment she sees him.

While this is going on, Clary is at her place with Simon, chatting and watching a vampire movie.  Apparently, the vampire movie upsets Simon, because he gets up and leaves the room when Clary makes a joke about Dracula.  (This is actually really bad foreshadowing, if you get my drift.  Clare has a bad habit of basically giving everything away at the get-go.) 

After Simon gets upset, he goes into the kitchen.  Clary follows him and asks him if he’s upset about the vampire thing.  Keep in mind, there is really no vampire thing yet, just a bad joke from Clary.  Again, bad foreshadowing.  So, while they’re in the kitchen, Clary and Simon kiss, and it’s like, bam – they’re a couple.  So, Clary invites Simon to spend the night.  But then, she gets  a call from Isabelle, who tells Clary that Jace is missing.  So, Clary goes rushing to the Institute (Go, Buffy!) and when she arrives Isabelle asks Clary what she’s doing there.  Clary, confused, tells Isabelle that Isabelle said Jace was missing and that she wanted Clary to come over.  Isabelle says that she didn’t mean Clary should rush right over.  This is another example of stellar writing and story lines.  Why would Isabelle tell Clary to come over if she didn’t really want Clary to come over?  What was going through Isabelle’s head?  Also, what was going through Clare’s head when she wrote that exchange.

Let’s remember that while Clary goes chasing after Jace, Simon – her boyfriend – is with her.  So, while at the institute, they figure out Jace is at the werewolf bar.  They go looking for him and find him in the office with Luke.  Isabelle, Alec and Clary go into the office, because Luke thinks that perhaps Clary can talk some sense into Jace.  You know, because they’re siblings.  Well, a fat lot of good that does.  Jace basically pretends to have all sorts of animosity towards Clary, not only in this scene, but throughout the rest of the novel. 

So, Clary convinces Jace to go back to the institute anyway.  Luke comes with because he believes that he can convince Maryse to continue caring for Jace.  When they arrive at the institute, Maryse is less than thrilled.  However, she comes up with one solution to finding out if Jace actually knew whether or not Valentine is his dad – calling on the Inquisitor to bring the soul sword and test Jace.  Clary is all for this – she wants to prove Jace is innocent as much as he does.  Then she finds out he could die and does a famous Clary 350 and decides it’s a crappy idea. 

Well, they call the inquisitor, who, upon arrival decides that Jace is being disrespectful and insolent.  She decides that Jace needs to spend the night in the City of Ashes – where the Silent brothers live.  There is a jail in the City that Jace will stay in, because the inquisitor believes that this will change Jace’s attitude.  While Jace is there, Valentine not only breaks in, but also kills the Silent Brothers and threatens Jace.  Jace sends out a warning to his sister, who goes to the City of Ashes with Clary and Alec.  When they arrive, Clary, Izzy and Alex discover the corpses of the Silent Brothers and learn the story of how they died.
After they leave the jail, and arrive back above ground, they realize that the distress signal Jace sent out went out to all the adult Shadowhunters as well.  Maryse is there, along with the inquisitor and several other people.  They are all in a state of disbelief at what Jace and company tell them in regards to Valentine killing the Silent Brothers.  The Inquisitor, who has a deep and unfounded hatred of Jace, tries to come up with a creative solution to punish him until she can figure out what to do with him.  Magnus, who just happens to be where ever Jace, et al, are, enters into a contract with the inquisitor and takes custody of Jace.  They stay at Magnus’s apartment for a few days, Jace thinking that he can never leave the apartment. 

In an effort to keep at least a few things secret, I’ll simply sum up a few things that happen throughout the rest of the book.

* Jace actually does leave Magnus’s apartment.  The key to him being able to do so is – Magnus put a clause in the contract that basically says that he will take care of the shadowhunter and keep the shadowhunter in his apartment at all times.  Magnus never specifies which shadowhunter. 

*This brings us to the Seelie Court (or fairy court.)  Alec stays at Magnus’s apartment so that Jace can go.  The Seelie Queen wants information from them.

*While in the Seelie Court, Clary licks her fingers after eating something from the queen.  She gets told that she cannot leave the court until she kisses Jace, because that is what her heart desires.  After they kiss, they are able to leave.  

*Simon throws a Clary level hissy fit when they kiss, and he leaves without saying anything to Clary.  Shortly after this, he gets turned into a vampire.  (Anyone surprised?  Anyone?)

After the visit to the seelie court and Simon getting turned into a vampire, the gang spends the rest of the novel basically either fighting or trying to figure out how to thwart Valentine and end his murdering of the downworlder children.  They manage to save Maia - a werewold child, and Simon - two of the necessary children for Valentine to complete his mission.  However, Valentine, towards the end of the novel, maybe gets blown up in a ship.  (Who wants to guess that he's not really gone?!)  

There are a *few* things that bother me about this novel.

- Jace and Clary.  They are, as far as they know, brother and sister.  That means that being attracted to each other is frowned upon.  I personally frown on incestuous relationships in any novel.  I just think it's creepy and weird.  Sometimes, these relationships are implied or written very well (Dany and her brother in Game of Thrones, for example) but I still think it's weird.  However, in spite of how weird the relationship between Clary and Jace is, they still fully acknowledge their attraction to each other.  They do nothing to hide it.  Clary especially makes it very obvious that she wants to be with Jace no matter what.  She says things about how he's her brother, and claims she's in a relationship with Simon, but even through all that, she makes it more than obvious that she wants to be with Jace.  At the end of the novel, Jace puts his foot down and says that there is no way he and Clary can have a relationship together.  Clary, in typical fashion, throws a fit.  She says she doesn't care and wants to be with Jace no matter what.

- The way Clary treats Simon, even though he is supposed to be her boyfriend.  She is absolutely horrible to Simon.  She leaves him at her house the night they get together to go see Jace. (?!???!!) She never spends any time with Simon.  Clary never tells Simon anything important in her life, and always seems surprised when he's around.  If he's with her and Jace is present as well, she ignores Simon and gives all her attention to Jace.  If I were Simon, I would never have spent the time trying to get together with a selfish snot like Clary.

- Cassandra Clare does a very bad job of foreshadowing.  She basically drops such heavy handed hints about what's coming that the reader can figure it out chapters before it actually happens.  (EG: I already know that Clary and Jace are not brother and sister.  Anyone Surprised.)

Overall, I thought this book was poorly written, the characters were weak and the events were too predictable.  A ten year old could have written a better story than this.  I will probably finish the series just to see how it all comes together, but I am not counting on it getting any better.  Ms. Clary - I'd give this a D.  

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