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City of Ashes - Cassandra Clare
Being an avid reader and am always on the lookout for new series' and I came across this series after checking out future movie previews, I came across a film in which will be released later this year (2013); City of Bones. The preview really caught my eye, and when I found out that it is a set of books I ordered the first one straight away. After getting three quarters of the way through the first book, I realised that I had to get the next couple of books immediately and kicked myself for not doing this sooner as I really wanted to continue the story without a break.
My review of the first book in the series, 'City of Bones' can be found on both Ciao and Dooyoo. This review covers the second book in the series, 'City of Ashes'.
City of Ashes is part of 'The Mortal Instruments' book series, and there are, to date, five books in the series with the sixth and final book coming out in 2014. The books in this set include;
City of Bones
City of Ashes
City of Glass
City of Fallen Angels
City of Lost Souls
City of Heavenly Fire (unreleased)
This series was originally meant as a trilogy, though the author decided to continue the set due to popular demand. I have only completed the first two books in this series so far so I can not tell whether it was a good idea to continue the series after its natural end, though I am hoping that it wont let me down.
With all this said, I will now take you on to my review of the second book in this series; City of Ashes.
DEMONIC PROJECT RUNWAY
"I've got a stele we can use. Who wants to do me?"
"A regrettable choice of words," muttered Magnus."
A/N: Please bear in mind when reading this review that some spoilers from the first book may appear, though I will attempt to keep them to a minimum.
After finding out exactly who she is and where she came from, Clary Fray is even more confused than ever. Haunted by her past, she is dragged deeper and deeper into New York City's terrifying underworld of demons and Shadowhunters, not knowing who she can trust and trying to control her feelings for a boy who can never be hers.
The synopsis as outlined above really does this story no justice at all. It is the same with all the books in this series it seems, which is a shame as a good synopsis is needed for many to pick it up to begin with. It also focus' upon the demon side of the story in the synopsis which is a little misleading as, although there are demons, vampires and werewolves, the story focuses more upon the Shadowhunters who are, to put it simply, the demon hunters.
In the previous book, Clary is new to the world of Shadowhunters and Demons, having had her memories erased on the request of her mother by a Warlock. Now, her mother is laying in a hospital unconscious whilst she delves deeper into the hidden world, whilst trying to figure out many questions which have been plaguing her about her family and friends. It is apparent to her and the other Shadowhunters that things are about to get a whole lot worse as downworlders start to turn up drained of blood, though not by vampires. There is only one person who could be murdering child downworlders, and after something very important is stolen, leaving devastation in its wake, Clary knows that with the help of her friends, she must try to stop the terrifying outcome, though it is not that easy (when is it?!). Of course, it is not just the end of the world as they know it that is at stake - Clary's love life has become impossibly complicated, and she is not the only one who is having problems in this area!
Like the first book, I am drawn into the story almost immediately. There is not a large time gap inbetween the end of the previous book and the start of this one so it is almost as if I have simply continued the story without a break. There are some small recaps in the first quarter of this book which get a little annoying, though this can be handy to those who have had a break in between reading these two books. It really does not take long to fall back into this new world inside the pages, and from the very first page it excites and exhilarates.
Like with the first, the flow and style of writing in this book is fantastic. There is barely a moment to collect your thoughts as the action and adventure literally jumps out of the page. Unlike the first book, though, I do feel that there are slightly slower excerpts in the story, none of which are so slow that they become uninteresting, though they do seem to allow a few moments here and there to process what is happening. Usually these slower moments cover the underlying love stories between various characters. The story probably best falls into the urban fantasy genre, though I feel that it can not comfortably sit in one particular genre or another as it is so jam packed with so many different aspect. There is a whole heightened amount of humour in this second instalment, as well as aspects of science fiction, love story, action adventure and many more, though many of these are subtle - such as the love story.
Keeping with the idea of the love story in this book, I feel that I should mention a little about it as in many books, the love story becomes the heart and soul of the book and occasionally becomes too overwhelming and so the story becomes lost. Stephanie Meyer, author of the 'Twilight' series, also speaks highly of these books, so it may make a person wonder just how strong this part of the story is. The answer is, at the moment, it is not. It is a sub-plot which is certainly there for a reason, and this reason will becomes clearer to you when reading these books. There is not only the one love story either, and among all of the complex subplots in this area, the main story still overrules it. This is thankfully, in my opinion, a perfectly written sub-plot/s as I hate it when a book is all about the love or love triangle off the characters and the main storyline becomes hidden and pushed to the back.
The story is written from a narrative view, though unlike many books, this switches from character to character. The main part of the story follows Clary, though we see various points in which we follow other main characters. This works out brilliantly and almost runs as though it were a movie playing in front of you. There is no confusion whatsoever, and the pace and flow of each and between each is simply perfect.
As this is the second book in the series, I have already got to know many of the characters really well, and so this book simply adds a more rounded picture to each of the characters. There are a couple of characters in this book which I feel could have been written a lot better, and in comparison to the main characters, they are pretty weak, though luckily the main characters continue to be written really well and grow in their characterizations. With this book we are able to create a broader picture of many of the main characters, though there is still a large amount which keep us on our toes and therefore lead us into the next book.
As mentioned at the beginning of this review, this book and the series as a whole is not formally about vampires, demons and werewolves even though the synopsis leads you to believe that this is the case. Yes, these mythical creatures do exist in the book and appear quite often throughout, moreso in this book than the previous one, though they are almost an underlying sub-plot to the main storyline which focuses upon the group of Shadowhunters. This is almost a welcome relief from the growing number of vampire stories out there at the moment, and although I am partial to these kinds of stories, it is great to read a book which does not focus only upon these other-worldly creatures and instead focuses upon love, loss, strength, weakness and so much more in many different degrees and instances.
The first bok was extremely predictable in many ways, and although I felt it was not ruined at all by this as you might expect, it did become a little annoying. This second instalment is much better in relation to this, and although there are still many things in which can easily be predicted, they are not so apparent from such early on in the story, and the author still manages to keep some things a surprise with the little twists and turns throughout.
So what makes this book any different to other books along these lines?
The first story in this series was not unique at all in its storyline, so I did wonder whether this one would be any different. The answer is yes, it does take a more unique path in many ways, though of course, there are only so many different stories out there so there are a number of similarities in this story as you may find in other stories. What makes this better is the way that the story is written. It is full of humour, excitement, action, and surprise and so much more, all hidden in the pages and all bring the reader right into the midst of the story from very early on.
One thing which I find very important in a book is the ending. A story can be written perfectly, though if the ending is wrong, then it gives me a really terrible feel to the whole book, almost as though I feel my time was wasted reading it, even if I did enjoy the rest of the story.
So how does the ending of this book compare?
The ending to this second book is like the first; fantastic. The action and excitement grows flawlessly until it reaches its climax and then it simply bursts from the seams. Once the story wraps up, there is, once again, an epilogue which slows right down and gives the reader a chance to collect their thoughts before saying goodbye to the characters for the time being, and I felt that this was written really well. It also creates something new to hold on to until the next book, and like the first, it really pushed me into wanting to read more, which is a mark of a great ending to a mid-series book. Luckily this time, I had bought the following book so there was no wait, which is something I recommend doing right from the word go!
The story was 411 pages long is paperback form, which is slightly shorter than the first though no less brilliant a read.
CASSANDRA CLARE CONTROVERSY
I have mentioned this in much more detail in my review on the first book, though felt it significant to mention this once more especially as many people are starting to hear more about it through the movie coming out later this year. I have also read and heard a lot of negative feelings and thoughts due to this which may make people avoid the books, which is something in which I am glad I did not do. I heard about this only after I had begun reading the first book, and luckily by that time, I had already fallen in love with the story.
The controversy I am talking about goes back to the time when Cassandra Claire (as she was then known) was writing various fanfictions (stories based upon actual books such as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings). There was many a time in which her writings came under severe scrutiny about plagerism, as well as accusations of racism and sexism.
After looking into this further, it seems that once Clare changed the spelling of her surname, took her old fanfiction stories down from the internet and began her actual novels, the plagiarism and such like accusations diminished.
It is true that the first book was not unique in the slightest, though I have not really seen severe signs of plagiarism within these stories, and especially not in the second, so hopefully this is a sign that the author has finally found her own path. I would certainly still recommend this book, even with the authors history, as a mistake was once mad, though forgiveness with a fantastic book is paramount.
"I was alive when the Dead Sea was just a lake that was feeling a little poorly."
City of Ashes is a fantastic second instalment to this popular series and is full of the excitement and action that the first one held. It is not a book to read before reading the first one as it is a continuation.
There are a few flaws in the writing, though nothing that really stands out, and in my opinion, it is a fantastic read and I fully recommend this.
The RRP on this book is £7.99, though I was able to purchase this in'The Works' shop. Amazon also has this at £2.62 plus postage and packaging. These are fantastic lowered prices for a fantastic book.