City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare (Book Two of The Mortal Instruments)
Here’s another Top Ten Teen Read of 2009—but with smart cover art and an intriguing title.
I read City of Ashes because it got on the top ten teen book list. I probably should have read the first book in the trilogy, City of Bones, but Clare does a good job of grounding the reader. Clary Fray is a Shadowhunter, which is a mortal who polices the ‘Downworld’ of monsters—werewolves, vampires, fairies (Seelies), witches and warlocks. Ordinary mortals are given the pejorative ‘mundanes’ and include Clary’s sometimes boyfriend, Simon.
Though Clary and Simon share an unbreakable bond, it’s really Jace that Clary has the hots for, mostly because Jace has that ‘bad boy who takes crazy chances and is angry at everyone’ thing going. Unfortunately, though the two were raised apart without knowledge of one another, they turn out to be brother and sister. Their father is the evil Valentine whose goal is to overthrow the Clave (Shadowhunter society). His reasons have to do with his hatred for all ‘Downworlder’ beings except Shadowhunters. He sees them as inferior monsters.
The arrogant Valentine engages a lot of powerful demons that mundanes can’t see. It is soon clear that he cares nothing for his own children if they disobey him, and could easily destroy them along with others in the Clave. So the battle is on. And it is fierce. Action is swift, bloody and described in detail. Demons are imaginatively described. As the plot twists, you’ll be hanging on for the ride. And here’s an added bonus: there’s lots of good writing—you can talk to your English teacher about the great metaphors and imagines. There’s a bit of lousy writing as well—when your English teacher lectures about how annoying a plethora of adverbs can be, bring this book in and get extra credit. (Clare can reconstruct any sentence to throw in pointless adverbs, making meaning stupefyingly [get it?] redundant.)
But so what—you’re going to be engaged—from cover to cover. And then want to go back and read Book One—City of Bones–and get on the waiting list here for Book Three—City of Glass.