Tuesday, July 5, 2016

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

I guess I wanted to see what the big deal was. The mystery of the first book was ruined for me since I saw the movie and the TV show before the book, so I figured before the second season aired, I should read the second book and see if... maybe my feelings had changed? Maybe it's actually a diamond in the rough and we had it all wrong with Cassandra Clare?

I've read some really great YA books, and I've read some really shitty YA books that I couldn't even finish. This... is in the middle. If someone were to ask me if they should read this series, I would shrug my shoulders. It's a "meh" book. If you want something easy to read while you're on the plane, and can pick it up whenever, this is the series for you.

It's YA fluff with action, fantasy, romance with some themes of friendship and resilience. It's a good set up with a protagonist who has a complicated family life (because who doesn't) and wants to learn about her past. Clary is her own person and makes silly decisions like other teens her age. There is a love triangle, but it's not really a triangle... it feels like a bunch of teenagers trying to navigate their feelings, which is more realistic than 2 guys vying over a girl. Jace turns out to be her brother, which has loads of weird, unusual feelings, and the Simon/Clary ship is mercifully finished by the end of the book, when Simon breaks up with Clary when he realizes that Clary doesn't feel the same way about him.

Magnus and Alec are dating and Clare gracefully navigates all the feelings of being in a  gay relationship or the first time. I wish I could say that "coming out" seemed a bit outdated, but in light of the Orlando shooting, it's not. I'm glad there is representation in the series.

Like the first book, the plot is contrived and instead of a Mortal Cup, there is a sword, and the evil Valentine is going to use the sword for... something, I'm not sure. I think an army to take down the Shadowhunters and then the rest of the Down world? The team has to get it back and Clare reveals that both Jace and Clary have special powers that Valentine has given them. Mmmmk. Sure. We'll go with it. Clare also foreshadows a big reveal about Valentine and Jace. We don't know what, but it's coming!

With my lukewarm reaction to the book, there were some notable things that I disliked about it.

I found it strange that Clary does not have any other female friends and in one part of the book, states that she is jealous of how another girl looks, and that is why she always had male friends. I'm not saying that it's not true to reality that sometimes girls don't have female friends. But that type of behavior is harmful and patriarchal. It's not good to not like your own gender, and though points for Clary to own up to not liking other women because she sees them as potential competition, it's also kind of weird. This thing about women not having female friends extends to all the other women in the novel, including the Isabelle's and Alec's mother, whose peer is the Inquisitor, a hostile angry woman who lost her son to Valentine. Kind of weird, Cassandra Clare.

Along that strain of disliking women, there is a scene, a very plot motivated scene where the Fairy Queen (yes, you've read that right) demands, through a riddle, that two in the group (Simon, Isabel, Jace and Clary) kiss because, I guess, love. The group goes through pairings, including the "hilarious" pairing of Simon and Jace. However, there is never any mention of Isabel and Clary kissing.

Weird, right? Cassandra Clare seems to reallly hates women. Women can't be friends and they most definitely can't kiss each other.

Also... Simon doesn't die? He turns into a vampire (soz, spoiler, but if you watched the show, it already happened) and after the big boss battle, he is trapped in the middle of the lake on a truck bed as the sun is going up. I thought it would have been a very bold move if he died, but instead, he is able to withstand the sunlight. It's a mystery for the next book and it's not romanticized at all but... I thought the twist was a bit lame.

Finally, the themes of the book also didn't resonate with me. It's a YA novel, so naturally, it's geared towards young adults, and I am no longer a young adult. So themes of "not letting your past define you" and "choosing your own family" are just moot points to me, but are valuable lessons for youngsters who are trying to navigate this little thing we like to call life. Clary, Jace and the others desperately try to do this, with varying results throughout the book, and undoubtedly, Clare will come back to it later in the series as they all get older and the plot develops.

Clare set herself up well with this universe and is starting to get her footing with this second book. Since Josh is now a regular at the library, I'm going to have him get the third book (I'm invested now, don't look at me) but not pay for it.

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