Sunday, August 25, 2013

#CBR5 Review #41: City of Glass by Cassandra Claire

Or as I like to call it: City of Why Can’t You Guys Just Communicate a Little Better?

And so, after a strong first novel and slightly less-engaging sequel, this installment to Cassandra Claire’s Mortal Instruments series hits the third-book-slump for a number of reasons. While the story is still engaging if you have become invested in these characters from the previous books, there is a definite increase in melodrama and love-angst in City of Glass. Furthermore, many of the plot twists and outcomes can be seen coming from a mile away, making it far less exciting than say, City of Bones with all it’s amusing turns. Although I must admit, I did accidentally spoil one of the big twists for myself before reading this book (I was dorking around on the internet, rookie mistake, I know), but I still feel as though you could see where all of this was headed very easily.

[Hold on to your hats, kids, if you haven’t read any of these books before, this plot description is likely to leave you a bit lost:]

City of Glass picks up after the battle against Valentine in City of Ashes. Jace and the rest of the Lightwoods are planning on going to the city of Alicante in the Shawdowhunter homeland (Idris) to speak with the Clave about what happened with Valentine. Clary also wants to go to Idris to find Ragnor Fell, the man who supposedly knows how to wake her mother up from her self-induced coma. Jace, however, is afraid that the Clave will ask questions about Clary’s role in Valentine’s defeat, and wonder about her special gifts, only to use her as an experiment. He pleads with Simon not to let Clary come along, but as he is doing so, the troop is attacked and forced to portal to Alicante with vampire Simon, even though doing so is illegal. Clary is left behind, and resolves to find her own way there despite Luke begging her not to go, claiming it is too dangerous for her. But does Clary listen? Of course not.

And so, everyone ends up in Alicante, in one unfortunate situation or another. Because Simon is a vampire who can walk in the daylight, the new Inquisitor imprisons him, despite telling everyone that he is to be sent home. Clary does not know that Simon came along, and obliviously trundles her way to Alicante with a reluctant Luke, and with the help of Luke’s sister who he hasn’t seen in years, Amatis. Jace and Clary fight about her being there, and it is clear that they both still have feelings for each other despite wanting to treat one another like brother and sister. The plot thickens, however, when Clary meets a young man named Sebastian who is all too eager to help her find Ragnor Fell; Sebastian is extremely charming, yet there is something sinister about him. It is only later that we learn the true reasons for this, after the city of Alicante is attacked by demons, a situation that should be impossible. After the destruction, everyone is on high alert for Valentine as he searches Idris for the last mortal instrument, a mirror. During this time of tension, Luke tries to reason with the Clave to form alliances with the four different factions of downworlders (vampires, werewolves, fairies, and warlocks) in order to protect themselves from demons now and for the future. Meanwhile, Clary and Jace continue to struggle with their relationship, and find out more and more about how Valentine had been experimenting on them in order to give them special gifts. These special gifts end up coming in handy when everything comes to a head at the end for one final battle with Valentine, and the big, ultimate reveal that (tada!) Jace and Clary are not in fact related. I think we all knew that that was the case from the get go. At least, I did, so that’s why I wasn’t all too concerned about the incest vibes leading up to this point.

Apparently it’s quite difficult to succinctly relate what occurs in these books because there is just so much going on! I didn’t even scratch the surface with this. In any case, most of City of Glass features lengthy conversations or back-and-forth information as to what is occurring with everyone all around Alicante and nobody can seem to really keep anything straight at any one point in time. Honestly, there are a lot of he-said-she-said situations and missed connections that lead to angst on many people’s parts. But that’s not the only problematic thing I found in this installment to the series:

First of all, Clary’s stubbornness is a trait of her character, I understand that, but her act-first nature and insistence on doing whatever she wants regardless of what people tell her is starting to tire me. Of course, it is this nature of hers that leads her to be the one who magnificently comes up with the solutions to all the big problems, but sometimes it’s like, wow, you are being totally disrespectful to both people and customs, girl, I don’t care how much of a special and gifted little thing you are.

Furthermore, all the characters seem to be keep rehashing all their old issues with nothing really new to bring to the table character-wise for some reason: they all started out with so much potential only to get lost in melodramatic love stories and static stereotypes. And the melodrama is really hindering the writing as of now; no seriously, I’m pretty sure I saw the word “wistful” being used to describe someone’s expression about 100 times in the last 3rd of the book alone. Sure, there are still some surprises to enjoy, but a lot of times it just seems like everyone is relying on Magnus or Clary to do all these fantastical magical things in order to save the day, and many of the twists, like I mentioned, can be easily predicted after just one too many hints are given along the way. I guess I’d say this book is the most derivative of typical young adult fantasy so far.

But more than anything, I am tired of the Jace and Clary relationship struggles. At first, it was kind of different, but as soon as you can see that they love each other and act like “soul mates,” you just know that they aren’t related. And because of this, I didn’t really care about their issues, because I knew they would eventually solve themselves to allow for them to be happy (You’re the father! Wait, no, HE’S the father!) . Plus, nobody else really seems to care about them being in love and yet related either. Sure, sometimes characters will use this to taunt them and call them disgusting, but apparently people understand that they love each other and see the way that they are just drawn to one another and so look past the relation or something? I don’t know. I guess I’m just exhausted from the countless YA books that promote the idea that there is one person who sends electricity through you and once you find them you are bound forever in some unspeakable way. Yeah, okay, so everyone that comes into your life becomes a part of you and a part of your story, but this just seems like a little too much. Also a little sappy: sappy writing is no good in my books.

All that being said, and despite all of City of Glass’ downfalls, I still liked knowing what was going to happen to these characters after City of Ashes. And the ending wrapped things up nicely, in a way that felt like it could have been the end of the series as a whole, if in a overly happy and neat manner. Happily ever after, ya’ll! Oh… no. There are still some books to go. But I think I’m going to give Mortal Instruments a break for a little while before picking up the next novel in the series. Because I do like them, I really do! This one was just disappointing.

[Be sure to check out more reviews on the Cannonball Read group blog]

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