The Mountains of Instead

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

Brothers in Arms (Review: City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare)

City of Lost Souls
Cassandra Clare
Walker 2012

City of Lost Souls is the fifth book in The Mortal Instruments series and this review contains spoilers for all five previous books. If you’ve not read them, don’t read this.

Life has been suddenly and irrevocably changed for Clary. Reeling from the disappearance of Jace and weeks of interrogation, she has become almost numb from loss and impotent anger and her friends aren’t faring much better. Isabelle and Alec, already grieving the death of one brother, have thrown themselves into the search for another; Simon has lost his family, life as he knew it and possibly his soul and has no idea where he fits in anymore; Magnus watches sadly as his little Shadowhunters crumble under the strain of multiple burdens and Maia and Jordan fight to overcome a shared history that is as violent as their inevitable future. All the while, the Institute searches for forces seen and unseen, Raphael and Camille continue their endless plotting and the Seelie Queen revels in her Machiavellian manipulations of, well, everyone. In the background lurks a lost brother, the shadow of a lost father and all the potential for destruction that both boy and memory represent.

Unusually, for The Mortal Instruments, the main characters (minus Jace, for reasons that quickly become apparent) have almost equal “voice” time in City of Lost Souls. Having such variety in narrative could have resulted in some rather convoluted storytelling but in actuality develops each character so beautifully that City of Lost Souls is one of the most successful MI titles so far. Clary herself seems entirely irrational and yet completely rational, all at once. Always willing to go to extremes for those she loves, Clary doesn’t disappoint when it comes to pursuing the lost Jace – except this time she jumps alone into a terrifying unknown where nothing and no-one are exactly as they seem.

Meanwhile, Simon, Isabelle, Alec and Magnus make up the core of what is jokingly referred to as Team Good. And they are good – just more than a little bit screwed up. Simon continues to emerge as a figure of increasing moral fortitude and strength, Magnus as one of kindness and Isabelle as a paradox of kick-ass attitude and beautiful fragility. Alec, for almost the first time, receives a storyline of his own and spends much of the book struggling with jealousy, wracked with worry and almost suffocated insecurity. This is the Alec of City of Bones writ large once more and he’s a little bit heartbreaking. There are also interesting sections of the story involving both Maryse Lightwood and Jocelyn Fray. Both are hard women, with somewhat murky pasts but both love their children with a depth that is often moving.

Then there are Jace and Sebastian. What Cassandra Clare did with Jace in City of Fallen Angels was hard to read and in a way what she does in City of Lost Souls is even worse. He is at once both Jace and also somewhat Other and the loss of one is made keener for all involved by the presence of one that is so… almost. Sebastian, on the other hand, is sharpened in this instalment – standing in bas-relief next to Jace’s shades of grey. Clare introduces aspects to Sebastian/Jonathan that will have readers as confused as to his motivations as the characters he interacts with are, suffice to realise that he is the lynch pin around which the fate of the series revolves.
As the penultimate instalment of The Mortal Instruments, City of Lost Souls is a huge success – better, in fact, than the previous book in the series. Utterly compelling, the story twists and turns its way to a finale that leaves many questions unanswered yet sets up the last book beautifully. Cassandra Clare’s writing is, as always, utterly compelling with the stunningly visual imagery of the Great Hunt and the Prague club scene as successful as quiet moments of story telling and sleepy confidences. For readers of Clare’s Clockwork Angel series, City of Lost Souls starts to hint at how the characters of each series may be linked, with angel pendants, book inscriptions, silent brothers and old memories creeping into the darker corners of the modern day tale. As far as writers of urban fantasy go, Clare is at the top of her game – and long may she continue. Highly recommended.

City of Lost Souls is available now. Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this title to review.


I just can't do it. I loved, LOVED the original trilogy but City of Fallen Angels was too awful to bother continuing with the series. I hate this. I REALLY REALLY DO.

I'm glad you enjoyed this one though. I was kind of digging the Clockwork series and I may visit with the second book in that.
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