Clary Fray’s been through a lot – in the space of just weeks she has gone from being the only child of a single mother to discovering a brother (Jace, to whom she’s strongly attracted), a father (Valentine, who tried to bring about mass destruction), and learned that she’s a Shadowhunter. Her mother’s still in a coma, and the threat of her father is unabated but the Clave’s Inquisitor is focused on Jace – her stubborn refusal, grounded in her grief and loss, to accept that Jace is working for the Clave and not for Valentine puts the entire Clave, not to mention the Downworlder population (fey, Children of the Night, Children of the Moon and others), at risk. It falls to Clary and her best friend, mortal Simon, to save them.
I thoroughly enjoyed City of Bones, the first in the Mortal Instruments series, and City of Ashes (which deals with Valentine’s theft of Maellartach, the Mortal Sword with which the Angel drove Adam and Eve out of Eden) is as strong. There’s significant world building, well integrated into the plot, which is complicated but doesn’t stretch disbelief. The dialogue is smooth and (even considering the subject matter) naturalistic, and the paranormal beings are drawn both in harmony with convention and yet wholly unstereotypically.
The series is driven by characterisation and relationships, which are beautifully designed; the sub-plots involving Simon and Clary, Clary and Jace’s mutual but forbidden attraction, and the relationship between Alec and warlock Magnus were particular highlights, but Jace’s relationship with his foster mother, and the slow devolution of Imogen (the Inquisitor), driven by her own unacknowledged bias, are also notable.
City of Ashes is only the second high demand book I’ve borrowed from my library, and I can see why it’s so popular. It’s going to be a long wait for the concluding novel, City of Glass, but I can wait. Just. - Alex