“There will always be those who want to tell you who you are based on your name or the blood in your veins. Do not let other people decide who you are. Decide for yourself.” (City of Heavenly Fire, 717)
Started: May 12th | Finished: June 25th
I wanted to review this series as a whole, rather than the six books individually (though I will give a short rundown of them at the end), because I did basically binge-read these, so it’s easier (also they all kind of blend together).
My history with The Mortal Instruments is rocky. I initially picked up the first book back in 2012, back when I was a young high school freshman, the series was still ongoing, and everyone around me was in love with it. So with high hopes, I checked it out of the library…Needless to say, I did not get into the series in 2012. I think I got about 30 pages in before I stopped, because I thought the book was slow and boring.
Fast forward to 2016, when I’m now a rising college sophomore. I bought and read all the books after watching all the episodes of the TV show based on it. It’s been a long time coming.
The series is pretty long. Cassandra Clare breaks up the six books into two halves, the first being the first three books and the second being the last three books. They’re essentially different storylines, since the third book feels very much like a final book. There are some things that are left unanswered, which segues into the second half of the series. The second half of the series is related to the first half, but still different enough that it can be seen as a different trilogy, though most of the main characters are constant throughout. Yeah. It gets confusing.
Clare writes about the Shadow world, consisting of Shadowhunters, Downworlders, and demons. They’re invisible to the average person, unless you possess the Sight, which only people part of the world usually have. Shadowhunters are people who are part-human, part-angel, and their jobs are to protect the human (aka mundane) world from demons. They’re the ones ensuring everyone’s safety from evil.
Downworlders include werewolves, faeries, vampires, and warlocks. They’re generally seen as lesser by Shadowhunters because they’re part-demon instead of part-angel, even if they have humane aspects. The Clave, which is the Shadowhunters government, has strict laws for Downworlders. Tension and resentment ensues.
A lot of the series focuses on the relationships between these two groups, whether friendly, romantic, or antagonistic. I actually loved how these two different bodies interacted, because it really is an example of how partisanship and disunification really doesn’t work (shout-out to the US government).
Clary, the protagonist, grows up living a mundane life, but one day, she meets a Shadowhunter, Jace. Since she can see him, he realizes that she possesses the Sight, meaning there’s a strong chance that she’s a Shadowhunter. And turns out, she is, and her mom’s been hiding this from her because her dad’s an evil Shadowhunter overlord. With this revelation, her world turns upside down, as she struggles with being a Shadowhunter, having an evil dad, and still being teenager (there are a lot of relationship plots to get through).
Every character is unique, each contributing something different to the story, which is part of the reason why I enjoyed the series so much.These characters hold a dear place in my heart. They all have such great, unique background stories and interactions and relationships. These aspects were actually well translated into the TV show as well, and the characters are really what made me want to read the books after watching the show.
There’s Clary, the impulsive, slightly annoying heroine who always has deadly ideas that usually work out at the end. There’s Simon, Clary’s best friend, who is funny and selfless and doesn’t get enough credit. There’s Jace, Clary’s equally impulsive love interest, who struggles with his family and his identity and uses sarcasm as a defense mechanism. There’s Alec, Jace’s parabatai (Shadowhunters who are bound together), who’s so frustratingly stubborn and tends to abide by the laws, even when the laws are irrational. He just really wants the best for everyone (he’s my favorite). There’s Isabelle, Alec’s sister, who at first seems to rival Clary, since she’s the only other main female character and has classic good looks and charm. But there’s so much more to her, a complexity that’s explored more in the later books. And there’s Magnus, a sassy warlock of over 400 years, who’s so unbelievably helpful and the queer POC we need in this otherwise pretty white group.
The gist of the series is Clary and her friends try to save the world from evil. There are so many more details I can go into, but it’s a lot to summarize.
In some respects, my first impression of the series being slow and boring still hold. I do think Clare writes in a convoluted way. She pays very close attention to detail, describing everything to a T, which isn’t a bad thing since it makes for good imagery. But I always feel my eyes glazing over when reading those parts. There’s paragraphs and paragraphs in between action and dialogue because it’s spent describing something, and while that’s beautiful and all, it makes the reading slow. And sometimes, it’s spent describing something unimportant, like the specifics of a character’s every day clothing, which I find unnecessary. I always have an urge to skip over those descriptions, because I just wanted more of the on-the-edge-of-my-seat action and the descriptions just interfered with that.
But when the action came, man, was I captivated. There’s never a guarantee that Team Good (my favorite way to refer to the Shadowhunters heroes) will win, or get out of a fight unscathed. That’s what kept me reading, the thought of the antagonist continuing his plan when things seem to be at a conclusion, or the thought of a secondary character dying, or of a major character experiencing immense trauma. I wanted to keep reading to make sure that the antagonist didn’t win, to make sure that my favorite characters will make it through. That’s why I couldn’t put the books down.
There’s always a cliffhanger or some minuscule detail that ends up being very important at the end. There were surprises, even in the epilogue of the last book (don’t worry, it makes for good closure). There’s no underestimating what Clare will do to appease or aggravate the reader.
All in all, I’m really glad I finally finished reading this series. I do have a weakness for YA series, and this was the easy, heart-wrenching read my summer needed. I laughed, I cried, and the ending was perfect closure.
Here’s a short rundown of what I thought of all the books individually. I can’t guarantee things will be spoiler-free at this point, since actions from the last book do lead into the next and it’s hard not to reference them.
City of Bones
Started: May 12th | Finished: May 14th
Pretty slow at the beginning, but picks up at the end. A good introduction to the universe, with an interesting enough set-up for the second book to keep reading.
I blew through it pretty quickly, though I knew what was going to happen since most of this book was covered on the TV show. This is probably one of the duller books in the series, so you really have to commit to getting through this one before the better books come through (but come on, is the first book of a series always mind-blowing?).
City of Ashes
Started: May 15th | Finished: May 18th
I will admit, this book did blend together with the first (thanks binge-reading), but this one’s definitely better since there’s generally more action and things happening.
The antagonist, Valentine, is gaining strength quickly, Clary and Jace are figuring out the strength of their abilities and more about their identities, and Simon finally becomes essential to the story (in the first book, he always seemed like a throwaway character). The love triangle and incest are definitely real in this book, though those themes thankfully die down in the later books.
City of Glass
Started: May 21th | Finished: May 26th
City of Glass marked the ending of the first half of the series, and I’m a sucker for finale books (they tend to be my favorite), so I loved it. It takes place in Alicante, the beautiful, glass city Shadowhunter homeland, and the Shadowhunters face-off Valentine once and for all.
So much essential information is revealed in regards to Valentine, Jace, and Clary, which answers questions left open-ended by the last book. Alec, Magnus, Simon, and Izzy rise to being important primary characters, which made me happy since they’re the characters I love the most. The ending is satisfying, marking the end of the Valentine era, but still leaves open plots that’s continued in the second half.
City of Fallen Angels
Started: May 29th | Finished: June 2nd
With the second half, comes a new antagonist, Sebastian (well, he was introduced in the last book, but Valentine was the star then). He’s somehow crazier and more evil than Valentine, and I’m sure he’s one of the most unfavorable characters I’ve ever come across. He makes a good villain.
All the main characters were relatively independent in the book, none of them really working together until the end. There’s not much of a focus on how Sebastian affects any of them, except Jace and Clary, so the other characters were left for stories and growth outside of that. I was satisfied with the relationship and friendship aspects focused on, but there’s no real action regarding the main conflict until the end, where Lilith, a powerful demon, comes in and fucks shit up.
City of Lost Souls
Started: June 17th | Finished: June 20th
It was a journey getting this book (read more about that here). And when I finally got my hands on a copy, it was a bit of a letdown. Don’t get me wrong, this book is important. Crucial details are revealed and it’s a perfect set up for the last book. I should have been more entertained, but I just wasn’t.
The book’s focus was basically split up between two groups, Clary, Jace, and Sebastian & Simon, Alec, Izzy, and Magnus. I found the latter group’s parts to be more interesting over the former group’s, probably because of my disgust of Sebastian and the constant frustration I felt towards Clary. So when I did have to read about what Clary, Jace, and Sebastian were doing, I was much less invested in that than when I needed to read about Simon, Alec, Izzy, and Magnus. It could’ve been better, but again, perfect set-up for book six.
City of Heavenly Fire
Started: June 20th | Finished: June 25th
(Shout-out to the girl on the train who saw me reading this and told me how much she loved it.)
This book really did murder my soul. It’s the longest book, but I couldn’t stop reading. After every chapter, I had to put the book down and take a breather in order to process everything that happened.
The ending was perfect. I felt closure, which is what I didn’t feel after the third book. Everything felt resolved, and for the things that weren’t, I knew they would be answered in the spin-off/prequel series (still undecided whether I’ll actually read those though).
It’s very much a book about unification, whether it’s between Downworlders, friends, enemies, what have you. It was just so interesting to read about how things come together and how things end, and this might be my favorite book in the series. And instead of completely taking place in Alicante, which the third book did, some of it takes place in Hell. Like actual Hell.
There’s love, there’s death, I laughed, I cried (like ugly gasping crying at one point). That basically sums up my entire reading experience of the series.
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