The Mountains of Instead

Championing fiction as an escape from pandemics, politics and bad TV.

What Dreams May Come (Review: City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare)

City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments, #4)City Of Fallen Angels
Cassandra Clare
Walker 2011

City of Fallen Angels is the fourth book in The Mortal Instruments series. If you have not read the previous three books then don't read this, read them, as this review contains spoilers for all the previous titles. It may, depending on your personal preference, also contain very mild spoilers for City of Fallen Angels itself.

Six weeks on from the events of City Of Glass, Clary, Simon and the Lightwoods are back in New York looking to the future after the traumatic events of the Mortal War. All is going well; Jace and Clary are enjoying being together while she trains as a Shadowhunter, Simon is adjusting relatively easily to his vampiric existence while juggling two delightful ladies and Magnus and Alec are off traveling. In fact, things are so positive that Luke and Jocelyn are evening planning their wedding – it's all coming up roses. Except it's not because, really, how could it possibly after such traumatic recent events? Each character is struggling to come to terms with what happened to them and they're not all handling it terribly well. Add to this the murky deaths of several members of Valentine's Circle and a few dead babies (seriously) and things are starting to look seriously grim.

Clary, herself, is probably the most positive of the entire cast of City of Fallen Angels. Finally able to embrace her Shadowhunter self, she looks to the future with hope. However, once she realises all is not entirely well she emerges again a most tenacious character, holding on to what she believes to be right regardless of how things may seem on the surface. Her interactions with Jace continue to set scenes alight, particularly as their roles in the relationship subtly change. Another character who seems to be attempting to look on the bright side is Alec, off traveling with Magnus – but don't worry, he's soon sulking in corners again. Really, no one ever wants to have the how-many-people-have-you-been-with conversation, particularly not if one of you is immortal – it's never going to make you feel all that great. Great kudos must go to the fabulous Isabelle, fast becoming one of the strongest characters of the series. Ferocious in her loyalties and almost heartbreakingly vulnerable in her love for friends and family she is, again, afforded some of the best lines of the book - her worry for her brothers and their respective hearts beautifully expressed with her own particular clearness of thought and word.

City Of Fallen Angels, however, belongs mainly to Simon and Jace with their viewpoints carrying most of the narrative and their stories being of most importance. Simon has spent six weeks attempting to maintain his normal life but cracks are starting to show. Slowly, he becomes aware of the realities and practicalities of his vampiric nature and realises that things are going to have to change. Not only that, but he's coming to the conclusion that vampirism isn't actually the worst curse upon his head as the Mark of Cain starts to make it's presence felt. These things, as well as his hot commodity Daylighter status put Simon on a steep learning curve and his agonising is extremely well-written. Simon has always been the good guy, the regular Joe and suddenly he's having to embrace a life as an outcast, aware that he is different and of his changed status with his friends, even if they don't see it themselves. One exchange with Magnus, in particular, is gut-wrenchingly sad.

And then there is Jace. With his multiple surnames and shattered past, as well as his propensity to think the worst of himself, he should really be in therapy every day of the week. Instead, he is desperately trying to be the person whom he believes Clary deserves while hiding away the problems he's having – not least some really, very bad dreams. Even more than in the previous books, Jace seems apart from the others. Previously strong, handsome and devil-may-care he's now strong, handsome and yet horribly vulnerable and worried. He's still good at his job, swooping into battles like some angelic superhero but he's deeply tormented. The path that Cassandra Clare has set him on is a cruel one and it is unsurprising that the next book in the series is titled City Of Lost Souls because, throughout City Of Fallen Angels, Jace seems completely lost – sometimes to those around him, but mainly to himself. It's very sad, but Clare has always written Jace best when he's a little broken and this is no exception.

City of Fallen Angels is a tour de force. The plot is extremely pacy and often almost overwhelmingly tense yet never lacks coherency. The villain of the piece lacks Valentine's insidious inhumanity, more akin to one of Buffy's Big Bads, yet is no less frightening. Clare holds nothing back in her imagery and the scenes that involve infants are extremely disturbing (and treated appropriately throughout). The final set piece is breathlessly exciting, dragging the reader through a range of possible conclusions only to end on one of the finest cliffhangers I have ever read. Cassandra Clare is often brutal, meting out blow after blow to her characters – almost as if she bore her own Mark of Cain and they'd all pissed her off – but never without reason or pathos. There are many ways in which this series could progress but to second guess such a cruel mistress would be unwise. Instead, I advise you all to read this with a stiff drink on hand and prepare to wait out the long months before the next installment in the fantastically accomplished Mortal Instruments.   


Ah, just as I was really getting excited to read this book and I never got a copy. Never mind, I shall look in the library, but it sounds really fast-moving and exciting. I look forward to it!
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