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city of ashes City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare | Rating: ★★★★★

“There's no need to clarify my finger snap," said Magnus. "The implication was clear in the snap itself.”

Cassandra Clare’s brilliantly fun and dashing The Mortal Instruments series continues with its first sequel City of Ashes; immediately following the events of its sarcastic and dark predecessor. After being introduced to this world, these characters, and watching a world of mystery unfold, readers were left grappling for the next installment.

So many things left us questioning what could possibly happen next; what each previous revelation means for the overall plot flow. It is just as vivid, thrilling, mysterious and twisty as City of Bones–there’s a whole world of magic out there just beyond our reach and we’ve only dipped our toes into it.

We left off with quite a bit on our plates. Joceyln’s lies, and her reasoning, Clary’s unusual gift, family connections as well as romance, demons, Downworlders, history, the mortal cup and so much more.

With Jocelyn seemingly asleep, Valentine growing stronger and building an army of his own, the world seems just a bit more dangerous than it was before.

So let’s start with connections thus far:

Clary and Jace had a nearly instantaneous fiery, romantic, connection brewing only to find out that they are siblings. Yikes! And to make matters worse, their father is none other than the creeptastic villain Valentine while their mother is the mysteriously sleeping Jocelyn.

As for the hints to shared blood, we can only say that it is very A-W-K-W-A-R-D; but not unheard of in literature. Flowers in the Attic? A Song of Ice and Fire? Anyone?

But fortunately for readers, our denial over their being related isn’t at all far fetched. To say it throws everything up in the air and pauses whatever they have going on is putting it lightly–they still feel the connection very present but of course cannot act on it.

Just kidding. They’re totally unable to avoid these feelings and frankly it makes me want them together more than I did. They put up a good front; including a brief attempt Clary has at a relationship with her best friend, Simon, but it’s completely and painfully obvious that Clace can never be just friends, let alone siblings.

Alec Lightwood seems to have found himself attracted to the ever delightful, sassy and bisexual warlock, Magnus Bane. Who just so happens to have saved his life.

They’re in some sort of secret relationship with one another–something that is so obvious from the start. I genuinely love these two–I always have, even after all this time. It’s upsetting knowing that Alec keeps the relationship in the dark because much like mundanes, same sex relationships aren’t always greeted with warmth and support amongst Shadowhunters and he is afraid.

It’s very frustrating and heartbreaking.

He still, it seems, has feelings for Jace.

That being said, Alec has warmed up quite a bit from the boy we met first in City of Bones. He’s nicer to Clary perhaps in part due to three things: she is supposedly Jace’s sister, so she is not a threat to him, his sudden brush with death or the relationship with Magnus.

Whatever it is, take your pick, Alec is a little less moody than before and we are able to see a gentler side to him this time around. He’s grown a lot in his bravery and fighting skills as well, which we see throughout. I like the confident and kind tones that were brought to his character this time around.

As for the other Lightwoods, with the reappearance of the Lightwood parents and youngest child, there’s a lot more Shadowhunter family themes in this one. Including the sense of protection and abandonment that Jace faces when his adopted parents kick him to the curb for the time being.

With the revelation of Jace not being a Wayland and instead being Valentine’s son, not many people trust him. They begin to wonder if he knew all along who his father was and if he was merely a spy in Valentine’s game for power.

He attracts the attention of a lot of bad karma this time around, finding new enemies and a few fights. As if things couldn’t get worse! The Inquisitor, Imogen Herondale, seems to have it in for him and goes to extreme measures to try to get the boy to confess for crimes against his kind. She even grossly uses him as a pawn; an attempt to get Valentine to trade something of great value for his son.

Imogen believes that a parent will do anything for their child–that the love parents have for their offspring trumps everything. She’s sadly mistaken, though, and clearly gives Valentine more credit than he deserves. We are told briefly of what made her want revenge when it came down to Valentine and are left feeling a little saddened for the woman.

It’s an explanation, not an excuse. But thankfully once she realizes her error, she saves Jace’s life after something seemed to fall into place in her mind during the big battle scene.

The youngest Lightwood child, Max is present this time around but merely in the background. He is so young, but seems older, and he is such a wonderful character! I’ll always be fond of this little nugget and his interactions with his siblings.

Isabelle doesn’t have a small role in this novel, but not a big role either; there seems to be something lacking about her this time around. She’s still fun and badass, and I love her remark about heels in this book. Who wouldn’t? I only wish we had seen more and more of this Lightwood and maybe dived in deeper to her relationship with a certain fairy.

Last but not least, of our original batch of characters, Simon Lewis. Dear old Simon. He certainly had a rough introduction to the world his best friend is a part of; in the events of City of Bones we saw him get turned into a rat and be taken by vampires as well as struggle with the idea that his world isn’t as safe as he thought it was.

In City of Ashes, we see him opening up his romantic feelings towards his best friend more and more; suddenly he and Clary are more than friends. They are dating without really having the discussion. It’s a little awkward to watch knowing Clary’s feelings aren’t as strong as Simon’s, but there are some sweet moments too.

He even seems to bond a little more with the others as well as forming a new friendship with our newest character, Maia–who happens to be a werewolf like Luke.

But the sweetness never lasts.

After feeling ill and thoroughly weird (sudden aversion to sunlight, anyone?), we discover that Simon wasn’t left unharmed from his night at Hotel Dumort. Before we know it, our favorite geeky and sarcastic mundane is a vampire.

Double yikes! But the good news is, we also get to see more of Raphael. Or is that bad news? Who knows.

As for newbies: Maia Roberts. Maia is a mixed race, beautiful, intelligent and funny werewolf who is a part of Luke’s pack. In other words, Maia is a total dream. She had a rough start in life due to an abusive brother and then an abusive boyfriend who just so happened to have turned her into a werewolf.

Things have seemed to calm down–at least, as calm as life as a Downworlder can be.

She doesn’t trust easily, and rightfully so, but the thing about Maia is she is strong and obviously pretty loving/caring. I love her and getting into her mind throughout the novel. It’s easy to love her and her wit and be sympathetic to her struggles.

Her part in City of Ashes is a complicated and terrifying due to Valentine’s interest in, well, killing her. She struggles a lot and you can’t help but to want to wrap her up in a blanket and protect her from all the bad things in the world. Truly, you’ll fall for her quickly and be filled with anxiety throughout the novel.

Oh, yes. The characters are fantastic, funny and brave as usual. Cassandra’s characters come to life in a way that many authors couldn’t dream of–they are what keeps you coming back for more and more, in spite of any heartbreak.

And believe me, there is plenty to feel in City of Ashes. Luke's love for Jocelyn. Angst. Proclamations of love. Hidden feelings and things left unsaid. Death. Mysterious occurrences. Fire–action that shakes you to the core. Vivid descriptions and delightful encounters. The plots are a continuation of City of Bones and building onto the worlds history.

There’s a lot that happens: more Valentine and his meddling, answers and more questions, danger and a sudden massacre of The Silent Brothers. There’s plenty of romance, there’s plenty of battles and wit–it’s an overall good time.

Oh God. Just read it. The Mortal Instruments, I’m happy to say, remains one of my favorite young adult fantasies even now. There’s something so intriguing and irresistible about the Shadowhunters.

Say what you want about Cassandra Clare: she knows how to hook you into her stories and I hope she never fucking stops.

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