on October 27th 2009
In City of Bones, fifteen-year-old Clary Fray is introduced to the world of the Shadowhunters, a secret cadre of warriors dedicated to driving demons out of our world. And she's introduced with a vengeance, when Clary's mother disappears and Clary herself is almost killed by a grotesque monster sent by the evil and powerful Shadowhunter, Valentine. How could a mere human survive such an attack.
In the second novel, City of Ashes, Clary just wants her life to go back to normal--but that turns out to be impossible. For one thing, her mother is still in the hospital, in a mysterious coma. For another, she and her newfound brother Jace have fallen under a cloud of suspicion now that the Shadowhunter world knows that Valentine is still alive--and that Jace and Clary are his son and daughter. Then Clary's best friend Simon is turned into a vampire and kidnapped by Valentine, who intends to sacrifice him as part of a bloody ritual that will make the Mortal Instruments Valentine's forever.
In book three, City of Glass, Clary has to use all her ingenuity and newfound magical skills to get herself to the Glass City in Idris, the secretive Shadowhunters' home country, where she is forbidden to go--for it is only there that she can find the cure to the enchanted sleeping sickness to which her mother has succumbed. When Valentine attacks the city and destroys the demon towers, Clary and her allies are all that stand between him and the total annihilation of all Shadowhunters. Love is a mortal sin and the past tangles inextricably with the present as Clary and Jace face down their father in the final installment of the Mortal Instruments series.
A few Words on My Experience Rereading City of Bones, City of Ashes and City of Glass
I first read The Mortal Instruments series when I was in my early teens. I remember reading about the characters on tumblr first and then reading some fanfic. After that I was possessed by a need to find the books and read them for myself. It’s strange to think of it now, considering how popular the series is, but I didn’t have an easy time tracking down the books. I raided two bookshops in Birmingham for them, and could only find one book in the series in one store. I ended up asking my parents to order them online instead.
The Mortal Instruments will always stick with me as the first fandom I was ever involved in. I wrote fanfic, created a dedicated tumblr and founded a deviantart group about one of the characters which ended up with hundreds of members.
After I finished secondary school and sixth form I drifted away from the fandom. But then the Shadowhunters show started on Netflix. I have to say, I really enjoy it. As the second season is on a break (at time of writing) I thought it would be the perfect time to go back and reread the books from the beginning to get my Shadowhunter fix.
This series is undoubtedly fun. Alongside the main character, Clary, the reader is swiftly pulled into the world of the Shadowhunters which exists parallel to our own. The Shadowhunters are warriors with Angel blood who police and work with downworlders (vampires, werewolves, warlocks and faeries) and fight demons. A highlight of this way of introducing us to the Shadowhunters is that Clary’s experience growing up in the ‘mundane’ world allows pop culture and the modern world to clash with this more dated supernatural society of demon hunters to entertaining effect. Which means we get sword fights on the one hand and manga references on the other.
Clary is, unknown to herself, of Shadowhunter decent. Over the course of the series she learns about her heritage and gets heavily involved with the internal politics that is threatening the fragile peace that exists between Shadowhunters and Downworlders, but also within the Shadowhunter world itself as the fractures caused by an uprising of one faction of purist Shadowhunters a generation ago is still very much present. The politics is one of the main sources of conflict in this narrative. Most of these plot points get expanded on whenever one of the characters manages to pin down a member of the older generation and get them to reveal what really happened during the Circle rising a few years ago which means we get drip fed it through chunks of dialogue sprinkled throughout the series.
Another key source of conflict in the narrative is sourced in the romance in Clary’s story which takes the shape of a love triangle. One side of it involves Simon, Clary’s long time best friend who has unrequited romantic feelings for her. View Spoiler »Simon is the ‘unsuccessful’ candidate but I like how this relationship was handled. I particularly like a part where Luke, Clary’s father figure talks to Clary about it at the end of City of Ashes and tries to tell her that she shouldn’t feel guilty about it, she is who she is and she can’t control how he feels about her. She shouldn’t have to feel burdened by it. Simon with time and space learns to move along from Clary but still be her most loyal friend. « Hide Spoiler Jace is the other love interest. He’s a sarcastic, self depreciating Shadowhunter who kind of functions as Clary’s doorway to the supernatural world. There’s a lot of drama on this side of the love triangle as Jace’s family affiliations change pretty much from book to book and this has a big impact on how Clary and Jace interact with each other.
I liked how the love triangle was handled. Of course, I already knew about the twist to Jace’s side of things having read the books before, so I couldn’t experience the same feelings of ‘will they, won’t they’ tension that I did when I first read the books, but either way the end result seemed pretty well sign posted to my mind.
Family is an important component in the Shadowhunter world. I liked the family dynamic between Alec, Isabelle and Jace as the Lightwood family unit (especially as for Jace they are an adopted family). I liked their younger brother Max also, for what little we got to see of him before, well that bit in City of Glass :'(. I think one of my favourite aspects of the Shadowhunter Chronicles as a whole is the way you can trace specific Shadowhunter families through the ages and also follow the lives of the immortal characters, like Magnus Bane (who is an utterly fab character, by the way).
City of Bones, City of Ashes and City of Glass offer a good introduction to the Shadowhunter world so for people who have not yet started the series I would recommend staring here. The plot brings in a lot of history about the Clave, all the major Downworlder factions have a role to play and have representation in the main cast, and we get to see all of this through the viewpoint of Clary to whom all of this is conceptually very new.
I’m glad to say, after a big time lapse between my last time reading of these books and this time, the series remains a dependably enjoyable read. Up next, I’m reading the Infernal Devices trilogy before jumping into the second half of the Mortal Instruments. Stay tuned for the next post in this series!
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Flights of Fantasy 2018