City of Fallen Angels (TMI #4) by Cassandra Clare | Rating: ★★★☆☆
“Hearts are breakable," Isabelle said. "And I think even when you heal, you're never what you were before".”
My reread of The Mortal Instruments, in preparation for the new television adaptation Shadowhunters, continues with City of Fallen Angels. Serving as the fourth book in the expanded series, we see our favorite Shadowhunters and Downworlders return in a new mystery set a brief time after the events of City of Glass. It is also the weakest book of the series but does a decent job at setting up for this second arch therefore it doesn't dampen my love for this incredible series.
Now that The Mortal War is over, Sebastian (or Jonathan) and Valentine are dead, and the truth has all been revealed, our favorite kids think that they can finally sleep safely at night. Now, they can head back down the path of whatever normal is meant to be–for some that means hunting, for some that means love, some that means acceptance, for the Lightwoods it means mourning the loss of Max and others it means training.
And then there’s avoidance. But we’ll get to that later. I’m going to start with characters.
Here’s what we know:
Simon Lewis has been given the mark of Cain and is protected from harm, now, because of it. Anyone who tries to attack him–or bring any sort of harm to him–is, well, totally donezo. Struggling with this mark and the troubles that come with him being a vampire (a Daylighter, due to his ability to walk in the sun) is only the beginning for our favorite geeky bloodsucker.
Now that he and Clary are O-V-E-R and back to being just friends, he finds himself moving on with not one but two girls. Maia Roberts and Isabelle Lightwood, to be exact. How could he possibly choose? Naturally things backfire in his love life pretty quickly.
Although he was exclusive with neither of the girls, it is an uncomfortable situation to date two girls who are, well, friends. And not tell them. While Simon is new at this, at dating and having attention on him, it is still a dick move and he does have to deal with the consequences of it.
But his worst troubles come by the hand of telling his mother what he is, needing a new home, losing control and biting someone and the fact that someone seems to want him dead.
Or his attention, at the very least. Besides this, attempts on his life and his own assassination of his love life, it seems a lot of people want the Daylighter on their side. Including the mysterious Camille–former head of vampires, who is also Magnus Banes ex-girlfriend. And even worse, a young girl--Maureen--who has a crush on Simon winds up dead not long after he bit her.
He didn't cause her death. Not directly, anyways--and once more we are in for a shocking plot twist when it comes to who killed her and why. We know it's only the beginning for Maureen now that she was murdered and came back as a vampire. What mischief is she about to stir?
Next up, Clary and Jace.
Let’s start with our favorite red haired shadowhunter.
Clary’s wrapped in three large plots in this one and is still, naturally, recovering from the events of City of Glass and the books that led up to it. She is the center of the story as usual. Not only does she hold the knowledge that her dad was a complete nightmare–she has witnessed the brother from hell as well. You know, literally, given all the demon blood that ran through his veins.
But because Sebastian is dead, let’s approach the other plots first.
One, preparation for her mother’s upcoming wedding.
It’s exciting, beyond exciting, to see Jocelyn and Luke on their way to marriage. I really love those two. And it sets up a sense of normalcy in their world that is desperately needed. Love and normalcy. They're mostly in the background but still present enough to give readers a glimpse at what they are doing and how loving they are to each other. Just as its always been, Clary, Jocelyn and Luke are a family. Now, it is close to being legally sealed by marriage.
And these three deserve it.
Two, strange occurrences involving babies and the possibility that someone is trying to inject demon blood and Shadowhunter blood into pregnant women to replicate what was done to create Sebastian. Wild, right? Well this is the number one plot point that everything circles around in the end--who is behind it, who is killing Shadowhunters and innocent babies, who is trying to get Simon's attention and who is causing trouble for Jace.
Which leads us to the third plot point: Jace is distancing himself from Clary. It's one of those hot-and-cold situations that she just doesn't understand. Why is he pulling away? Does he no longer love her? Well, of course he still loves her. Jace is known for not acting rationally when it comes to his emotions and protecting those he loves. His reason for pulling back is that when he closes his eyes (or, you know, doesn't) he has bizarre dreams and visions that include him hurting Clary.
They're graphic and disturbing and at first believed to be tied into the fact that he is distressed. And because he came back from the dead at Clary's wish. Later, we find that it is tied in to whoever is hunting down Simon and experimenting with blood. The answers are shocking as to who was possessing him and why--so hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen, those final pages of revelations are terrifying and grotesque and full of so much suspense that it almost makes up for the otherwise lackluster tone the novel took.
More on Jace. He is still having a hard time wrapping his head around things. The war, the fact that he died, his real parentage and his inability to let go of the idea that Valentine was his father. Things really did a number on him and how could they not? His only bright side is Clary and because of the dreams, that is taken away from him for a good long while.
While he avoids Clary for much of the novel, pining for her not so subtly, we see him forge a friendship (if you could call it that really) with Simon and newcomer Kyle (who happens to really be named Jordan, Maia's ex) and he as usual has a lot of funny moments in his snark and banter with others. It's funny, he's so brave and physical and sarcastic but Jocelyn is right in describing him as vulnerable.
I think that throughout the series as we see different layers to him, we see that she is right. Underneath that exterior he is incredibly vulnerable and it's heartbreaking. He deserves better than to go from all the crap he went through in the first three books to having a whole new mess on his hands. I was so unnerved watching him as he was possessed by Lilith, who is behind the sequence of events in this book and a deliciously horrible villain. And then, the end, with Sebastian?
Spoiler alert, that isn't really a spoiler alert: Sebastian is back. Jace is linked to him somehow. And worst of all? Jace is missing. Missing! Talk about a cliffhanger. Phew, what a mess.
Next, I'll tackle the Lightwoods. There is a lot happening behind the scenes with this family in the aftermath of the death of Max, poor little guy--the youngest of the Lightwood children. Isabelle and Alec are handling it as well as they can be but both are still horribly shaken by it and have a bit of a difficulty moving on from it. And then there's the matter of their parents acting, well, weird.
Let's go with Isabelle, first, because she is more in the background than Alec in this one. As usual, Isabelle is quick on her feet and efficient and utterly charming. She is so badass and strong that you just want the best for her. I love how she is unapologetic and how she has so many emotions swirling around in her. I feel for her when she is guilty or hurt, and I cheer for her when she is fierce and on point. Isabelle Lightwood is by far one of the brightest shining characters in this series and I love every little moment of her.
The way that she handles Simon and the Maia situation is great. She is hurt, obviously, but she also still cares. I think she is a great example of how to handle a lot of unfortunate situations. I love the little friendship she grew with Maia and how she is protective over her. They're an excellent team, really, and I can't get enough of it. I love the reality checks she gives Simon and how she doesn't let her anger/hurt control her caring nature towards him.
TEAM SIZZY! I mean, that scene between the two--when Simon realizes she came looking for him when he went missing? Swoon.
Anyways. I especially love seeing her strength as they all discover Lilith and the cult that is experimenting on babies. She is heartbroken but her Shadowhunter shines through so much you have to cover your eyes when it comes to how bright she is. I just love her so much.
Alec Lightwood and Magnus Bane are now public with their relationship and having a cute little couples getaway by traveling to various places. Romantic, right? I love these two and wish we could see even more cute moments between the two. Everything is so stressful but they are a delight to read and probably the best couple in the series. Can we have a spin-off? I'm going to be asking that until I'm old and wrinkled, if you were wondering.
They are absent for the smallest fraction but return when Camille is imprisoned and declares she must speak with Magnus. Camille being, well, Camille--she likes to stir up trouble and implies more than a few things about Magnus and his past. Being immortal means a lot of things; ghosts of past relationships sitting in the background, never aging while mortals around you grow and die and leave you behind. Alec gets his first taste of reality with this and it's heartbreaking. It's never fun hearing about the past of your beloved and because of how long Magnus has been alive, it's all the more stressful for him.
Naturally this causes a bump and a gap to form between the two. It's awful. But it also feels right and makes sense and you know or hope that things will improve for them.
Maia's plot is minimalist outside of Simon and the downfall of their relationship. She bonds with Isabelle. That's about it in terms of good things that happened to her.
Her real shocking point is the discovery that Kyle, Simon's new roommate, is actually Jordan. Jordan, the boy she dated and fell in love with years ago. Jordan, the boy who turned quickly to violent and possessive and eventually bit hurt, turning her into a werewolf. It's traumatic and brings up a lot of memories Maia would rather forget. She does gets answers, though, and is surprised by what she finds.
All this time she chalked up Jordan's behavior to bad guy status. Cold. Cruel. Calculative. Like her brother. But it turns out that Jordan hadn't planned at all to turn her into a werewolf. He didn't know what was happening when things went sour--he did but he couldn't control it. It's a complicated thing learning that he isn't the villain and that he feels so much guilt and wants to protect her, there's a surprising turn in their relationship as she dips her toes in forgiveness and in the heat of a moment, when discovering Lilith's lair, kisses him.
But can Maia and Jordan put the past aside? Does she feel anything for him? Is it too late for them?
Things are never as they seem in their world. But one thing is certain: romance, intrigue, danger and loss is on the horizon. Where will they go? Who will survive? And where in the world is Jace? City of Fallen Angels is a weak point in the series but still a fast and entertaining read that will leave fans stumbling for more.