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City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare Cover icture

City of Ashes

Cassandra Clare

Published 2008           411 pages

Summary (from the book jacket)

With her mother in a coma and her father hell-bent on destroying the world, Clary Fray is dragged deeper into New York’s terrifying underworld of werewolves, demons and the mysterious Shadowhunters.

Discovering the truth about her past was only the beginning. Now the fate of the world rests on Clary’s shoulders, but can she master her new-found powers and control her feelings for a boy who can never be hers?

The Review

City of Ashes is the second book in Cassandra Clare’s young adult (YA) Mortal Instruments trilogy.  The first book, City of Bones, introduced readers to the hidden world of the Shadowhunters as seen through the eyes of Clary Fray when her secret Shadowhunter heritage finally catches up with her.  Events in City of Ashes take place directly after where the story in City of Bones finishes and if you haven’t already read City of Bones I would recommend reading it first, rather than starting with City of Ashes since it’s not really a story that a reader can drop straight into.

One of my criticisms of City of Bones was that the pacing of the novel seemed slow in places – possibly a result of the huge amount of fantasy world building that that story contained.  City of Ashes suffers from no such problems, in fact the story rockets forward at great pace - dragging readers along for a thrilling ride through the urban fantasy landscapes of a magical New York City.

The story is told in third person and mostly from the perspective of Clary, which for the most part works very well since it means that the reader can share Clary’s sense of bewilderment and wonder at the secret world that is revealed to her.  Her confusion over her relationship with her new found brother (the boy she wants but can’t have) and her feelings for Simon (her lifelong best friend who she wishes was her brother and not her boyfriend) make for compelling, if soap opera-ish reading (and I mean that in a good way – I like soap operas!)

City of Ashes shows its popular culture roots, in particular there are elements of Star Wars (the discovery of an evil father and the reunion of a brother and sister who never knew that the other existed) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (a mixed group of almost-adults battling evil and saving the world.) 

Even the description of Simon crawling out of his shallow grave – “The grave was roiling like the surface of an unsteady ocean. Ripples appeared on its surface. Suddenly it burst apart, clods of dirt flying. A small mountain of dirt, like an anthill, heaved itself upward. At the center of the mountain was a hand, fingers splayed, clawing at the dirt.” – conjures an image that I have seen countless times in nameless horror films as zombies, vampires and the evil undead arise to wreak havoc.

While City of Ashes may show its strong popular culture roots that is not necessarily a bad thing.  After all there is the word “popular” in popular culture.  These are ideas that have the ability to capture the imagination on more than one occasion, and in more than one way, and have fascinated countless people before now and will continue to do so for sometime to come.  Ultimately, City of Ashes adds up to more than the sum of its parts, so there is really no cause for complaint.

A fast paced and engaging read, City of Ashes is well written and a much stronger novel than City of Bones.  Summing up, if you liked City of Bones, you will love City of Ashes. Check it out!

LoveVampires Review Rating:

Review Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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