Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Distiller: A.R. Braithwaite
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Drink: coffee (or your favorite coffee substitute)

City of Heavenly Fire
The Mortal Instruments: Book 6
by Cassandra Clare
Margaret K. McElderry Books
(May 27th, 2014) 
725 pages

Warning: Potentially huge spoilers follow for anyone who has not read any books in The Mortal Instrument series.

City of Heavenly Fire has all of our favorite characters from The Mortal Instruments series in it: Clary and Jace are together and their love is stronger than ever, Simon and Isabelle are tip-toeing around defining what their relationship is, Maia and Jordan are living together happily (or are they?), while Alec and Magnus are both devestated from their break up at the end of the previous book (City of Lost Souls). Cassandra Clare also integrates characters from her prequel series The Infernal Devices, it is not necessary to have read this trilogy before reading City of Heavenly Fire in order to understand what is happening, but you will be greatly rewarded for doing so. Clare's companion series The Dark Artifices, first book due to come out in 2015, also has character appearances and readers will get some intriguing back story to the main characters in that upcoming trilogy.

The fundamental struggle in this novel is with Sebastian Morgenstern, who is Clary's biological brother and the demonic creation of their father Valentine, who infused Sebastian (originally named Jonathon) with the demon Lilith's blood from when he was in the womb. Shadowhunters are people born with extra abilities, the original Shadowhunter was given the blood of an angel and thus it is passed on by blood, these abilities are used to rid the world of demons. Since Sebastian is part demon himself it doesn't take much imagination to figure out why he wants to destroy all of the Shadowhunters. Sebastian is attacking the Clave, the organization and government of the Shadowhunters, with Endarkened soldiers who were once Shadowhunters themselves and turned when forced to drink from the Infernal Cup. These Endarkened soldiers are better fighters than the Shadowhunters and no one is sure whether or not they can be changed back to their original selves, which make them very difficult to fight. So, Sebastian is creating a living nightmare with families, friends and lovers being torn apart while no one knows exactly how to fight the Endarkened or where Sebastian will strike with them next. What is worse, the Endarkened are not Sebastian's only allies, but his other accomplices are subtle, so the Clave isn't sure who to trust or who they can count on when they fight back. In order to help save the Shadowhunters from extinction Clary, Jace, Isabelle, Simon, and Alec must journey into Hell itself. 

The way Clare braids the different character's stories and perspectives gets better with every book. The first book in The Mortal Instrument series, City of Bones, is almost completely written in Clary's perspective (Clare always uses 3rd person point of view). However, with every book she has added more complex layers of different characters and their perspectives, deeply routing her narratives in the character development. I enjoy reading her work more and more with each book she writes. I will say that with all of the variety of characterization present, Clare has less varied plots. It isn't that the stories are predictable, there are simply parts of the narrative that seem overlooked or less creative. There are plot twists and amazing action scenes, as well as heart wrenching romance, I needed to know what happened and was driven to finish each book. What I mean by parts overlooked or less creative I mean things such as Sebastian's name changing to Sebastian from Jonathon, the ways in which Clary and Sebastian's mom was or was not effected by the experiments Valentine did to her while she was pregnant with each of them, the explanation Clare writes for when a witch in City of Bones tells Jace that he will fall in love with the wrong girl, etc. Clare addresses every on of these in detail, intricately weaving it into each character's life and their individual story, but when looking at the overall plot, these elements - and others - fall flat for me. It isn't that I wanted more explanation or more understanding from the character's point of view, because again Clare does excellent work in that area, I think I wanted something more interesting or odd, imaginative, not cliche or the first explanation I could have come up with myself. Some pieces are glazed over, while I'm left with pages about how each individual feels or thinks about each piece. 

With every book Clare gets better at writing action and battle scenes, which I honestly skim sometimes while reading other author's work, Clare knows exactly how much detail to put in and which moments to leave out. I also enjoy the romance, although I think some parts do get a little sappy, but I'm not the sappy type. Throughout the series I was worried about the love Clary and Jace have for each other, worried that it was a juvenile obsession or just another romance like any other I've read. However, Clare knows how to be truthful about relationships, the development of love as it matures and imperfect people strive to be perfect for one another. I was left feeling satisfied and hopeful for their futures, the futures of all of the characters. There is an odd and difficult twist to get through at the end, but Clare makes up for it and I wonder if she made up for it too much. I don't want to give anything away, but in some ways I feel as though Clare has made her core characters invincible, maybe loving them too much. However, I did feel like all of the loose ends were tied up and the ending made me feel at peace and smile even though not everything in the world of Shadowhunters is perfect and it never will be. I felt that overall this novel was a great ending to a great series, one I will read again I'm sure.

Throughout The Mortal Instruments Clary is obsessed with coffee and it is described in delicious detail on more than one occasion. In City of Heavenly Fire Clary and Simon even dwell on how wonderful a good cup of coffee would be when they are stuck in a demon dimension for days and I would probably be more concerned about water, personally. If coffee isn't your drink or you don't want to be kept up all night anymore than you already will be while reading this book, then go ahead and get decaf or drink your favorite coffee substitute (I personally love Pero dark roast) so you can still feel like you are delving deeper into Clary's experience and mind as you read.


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