Thursday, July 17, 2014

City of Heavenly Fire [Review]

Title: City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare
Series: The Mortal Instruments #6
Genre: Urban Fantasy
What They Say:
Sebastian Morgenstern is on the move, systematically turning Shadowhunter against Shadowhunter. Bearing the Infernal Cup, he transforms Shadowhunters into creatures out of nightmare, tearing apart families and lovers as the ranks of his Endarkened army swell.

The embattled Shadowhunters withdraw to Idris - but not even the famed demon towers of Alicante can keep Sebastian at bay. And with the Nephilim trapped in Idris, who will guard the world against demons?

When one of the greatest betrayals the Nephilim have ever known is revealed, Clary, Jace, Isabelle, Simon, and Alec must flee - even if their journey takes them deep into the demon realms, where no Shadowhunter has set foot before, and from which no human being has ever returned...

What I Say:
After the first three Mortal Instruments books, which I fiercely adored when I first read them in high school, the fourth and fifth books both felt a bit forced; an artificial continuation of a series that should have ended. That said, I made the effort to read all the way to the end of this series, if only to find out who lives and who dies. CoHF would have gotten a much higher rating if there weren't five other books out there that were basically exactly like this one. This book had messed up brothers, a big final battle, and a strong feeling of lethargy throughout. That said:

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Plot: ooh
Sebastian Morgenstern has brought war to the world of Shadowhunters. Though it's not exactly a fair fight. Armed with an Infernal Cup that can convert Shadowhunters into soulless Endarkened warriors, no one is safe from this new fate worse than death - from which there is no cure. Jace Wayland Herondale Lightwood's veins are thrumming with heavenly fire - the only thing that can hurt the now invulnerable Sebastian - but he's having trouble getting close enough to attack, considering Sebastian is completely untraceable. Jace and Clary and co. are left with absolutely no leads as to his whereabouts until three of the Council representatives (and Clary's mother) are kidnapped. Now they have two days to save her mother, find and kill Sebastian, stop a war, and return home in one piece.

Above all things, let me tell you: this book is long as hell. 725 pages, compared to the last Harry Potter book which had 759. I'm a pretty fast reader, but between my summer jobs and studying for the GMAT, I've only had free time to read here and there. By the time I finished this book, I honestly felt like I'd been reading it for years, though in all fairness it'd only been weeks. Now, I'm not critiquing the book simply for being long - because the last three Harry Potter books were extremely long - yet somehow with those I always felt engaged and didn't simply stop caring halfway through. That feeling of lethargy I mentioned before began with the fourth book (City of Fallen Angels) and has only grown since. Characters I used to love, like Jace and Simon, have grown so dull and overplayed that when they faced their greatest ever opponent near the end, I seriously didn't care if they made it. Forget about Clary, who simply bored me to tears consistently, without any hope of redemption. As far as story progression goes - this book is 725 pages long and not that much happens, beside the main story arc of build-up to a large battle. All personal storylines occur as afterthoughts on the really long journey to this final clash, which devolves into one very long scene in which no actual fighting occurs. And then at least a hundred more pages of falling action that should could have been heavily pared down. 

Characters: meh 
What first drew me (and scores of others, I'm sure) to Jace Wayland was his complete disregard for authority and his extreme levels of snark. The more hopeless and deranged his life with Clary became, the brighter he blazed and the harder he fought to protect the things he could be sure of (his family, his world, etc). After the last page of City of Glass, when he and Clary realize their love is no longer forbidden, it all goes away. Things go south in CoFA, but it's not the same. Instead of keeping his head straight and using snark as his strongest weapon, he just broods and angsts - strangely like Alec. Jace at the end of this series is a changed man from where we left him in CoG, and it's not really a good thing.

I admired Clary in the first three books - as I've mentioned in my review of City of Bones - because despite being the audience-insert character, she wasn't a blank slate. Her passion for art wasn't something every reader could relate to, but it fleshed her out and gave her character. In this book, her love of art is only mentioned in relation to her ability to create new runes, which has become an arbitrary power that almost feels like an easy way of allowing her to be a sub-par Shadowhunter with no ability to defend herself and yet not appear completely useless.

Relationships: ooh
Jace and Clary - I got my happy ending for these two at the end of City of Glass, so everything that has come afterwards has gone a bit over my head. All the drama and angst of Jace's possession and then his time spent in his brother's capitivity, it just didn't stir me the way it should have because their story had already ended. Restarting it in City of Fallen Angels just felt forced, so it was like reading about two completely different people's relationship. I feel these two have gotten a watered-down version of what could have been (slash already was) a pretty fantastic love story.

Simon and Isabelle - This relationship piqued my interest, mainly because it's the only plot device that is unique to this book. Painted as the eternal (heh) underdog, I was very glad to see Simon be able to come into his own and be confident in his relationship with Isabelle.

Alec and Magnus - I really appreciated this relationship at first, because it was absolutely typical and ordinary in all ways except for that Alec and Magnus are both boys. That's good to see in literature, because that's what it's like in real life. Over time, though, I feel the relationship itself just became a symbol of Alec's angst because he's looked down on by his father for being gay, which ventures into After School Special territory. The actual issues of their relationship - Magnus never aging and Alec wanting him to be mortal - only come to the forefront at the whim of the author as a plot device to keep them apart. To be fair, the same is done to a lesser extent to Clary and Jace's relationship in the case of the Heavenly Fire, whose function early on seems to be solely to keep them from making out.

Special Features: meh
Two new characters, Julian Blackthorn and Emma Carstairs, are introduced in this book, as Cassandra Clare's way of setting up her next book series, which will feature these two as protagonists and follow their adventures at the California Institute. That's nice and all, but considering how much exposure they get in this book, it's like their series has just started early, in the middle of the current one. Part of my frustration with the 725-page count came from the heavy inclusion of these two characters, who won't be terribly relevant until the next series (which I don't know if I'll read) and yet I'm forced to sit through whole chapters of backstory and information about their families. This felt a lot like a marketing technique to garner interest in even more Shadowhunter books, which just seems like a ploy to make more money off of a series that peaked three books ago. I've put this under Special Features simply because I've never seen this technique employed quite so blatantly in a novel before, and felt it deserved its own category.

Parting Quote:
“Your boyfriend's crazy,” he said to Clary.
“Yeah, but he’s hot,” said Clary. “So there’s that.”
That sound you hear in the distance is me groaning.


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