Friday, July 18, 2014

Book Review - Cassandra Clare's City of Ashes

City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments Book 2) by Cassandra Clare
Published by: Margaret K. McElderry
Publication Date: March 25th, 2008
Format: Hardcover, 464 Pages
Rating: ★
To Buy

Clary's mom is still in a coma. But her mother isn't her only family anymore. Clary not only has an evil father planning world domination under the guise of the greater good, but a brother in Jace, whom she was starting to fall for, luckily they found out about their shared genes in time, no matter how much they wish it wasn't true. Jace and Clary being the offspring of Valentine has caused quite a stir among the Shadowhunters. Because Clary is new to this "other" world she is basically ignored by the Clave, but Jace... Jace isn't getting off that easy. Until Jace can prove his past ignorance of his lineage and that all his motives where for the good of the Clave he is to be locked up by the Silent Brothers.

While he is detained awaiting his "trial" by the sacred Soul-Sword that will know if he is telling the truth, his father Valentine arrives at the Silent City and massacres the Brothers and steals the sword, the second of the Mortal Instruments. Even if Jace wasn't under suspicion because of his father and being at the scene of another crime, he'd want to get to the bottom of this because it's in his blood as a Shadowhunter to protect the world from the downworlders. Downworlders who are flocking to Valentine as he uses the sword to call them to his side. Can Jace, Clary, and the younger Shadowhunters work secretly for the good of all without being accused of ulterior motives?

I'm sure you've all experienced this phenomena. You're reading a book, it's good bordering on great and because of some reason you set it down. It could be work, it could be prior commitments, it could even be another book you've been dying to read and it has finally come out and you can't wait another minute to start it. But you set down your book and when you pick it back up the magic is gone. There's a part of you that's thinking, it's not the book, it's me, the common refrain of all breakups. You try to make it work, but no matter how hard you try you can't reconnect.

The book is now a chore to read and you're just pushing through, trying to finish, all the while wondering what happened. This happened with me and City of Ashes. In the beginning I was flying through it, surprised by how much I was enjoying it after the first book was, well, wasn't up to my high expectations. I was even able to forgive Clare's habit of unbelievable predictability. She's so heavy handed with the foreshadowing that it's laughable. She telegraphs every punch so that there is no surprise when the blow falls. But I was ok with all this and then I wasn't.

I am not sure if it was the superiority of writing and worldbuilding of the book I forsook City of Ashes for or just that City of Ashes had reached it's apex and was quickly declining, but we irrevocably had a falling out. Yes, it was my mistake to set down this book, because who knows if I would have grown to dislike it as much as I did. I have an inkling that I would, and that inkling is Jace. I hate Jace with the fury of ten thousand suns. He is an unlikable arrogant ass. What's the refrain all good writers should abide by, show don't tell. Having all the characters say that Jace isn't really all that bad doesn't counteract the douchebaggery he's perpetrating on every single page. He's not a misunderstood misanthrope, he's a dick. An unrepentant ass isn't ever going to be a good hero or even an antihero, they're just going to be always an ass. And in this case an ass surrounded by a whole lot of flat two dimensional characters.

But what I despise about Jace is that he's basically the love interest. I was relieved when at the end of the first book that it turned out Jace and Clary are siblings because then Clare could drop this stupid budding love affair. Of course, I can see that they are somehow going to miraculously not be related just so they can get it on, and that is where the book tipped for me, when Jace was brought back as the taboo love of Clary. By having Jace, all be it temporarily, not the love interest I became interested in the book. Clare quickly cured me of all I liked, hence I think our breakup was inevitable.

So about this love. Let's say that Jace and Clary are related and there's no deus ex machina waiting in the wings to make their love acceptable, then we're in familiar literary trope territory, incest! Man, authors love incest, consensual, non consensual, startling revelation, secretive, scandalous, fabulously camp, it's out there from Flowers in the Attic to Game of Thrones to Veronica Mars to Arrested Development. And, it's just overdone already people. Using it as a shocking plot device over and over makes it lose it's shock value.

I could spend hours sitting here just listing all the books I've read or shows I've watched where this was supposed to be a big icky reveal and instead had me rolling my eyes going, oh please, not again. Donna Tartt, Diane Setterfield, Charlaine Harris, George R R Martin have all pulled this and have desensitized me to this trope once and for all. THE ONLY way this trope would have helped this book would have been to permanently part Jace and Clary on the romantic level, but that's not happening, so just, cut it out, ok, it's bad that I just got Dave Coulier from Full House in my head just then... but that's the level this trope has reached... bad and tacky 80s comedian level.


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