Armed with new information that may finally bring her mother of her coma, Clary plans a trip to the Shadowhunter city of Alicante in search of the elusive warlock whose potion placed her mother in the coma in the first place. Concerned for her safety, Jace doesn't want Clary there and does everything he can to stop her from going. But despite his best efforts, Clary refuses to give up. Using her newfound powers, she travels to Alicante in the company of Luke. In the City of Glass, the Shadowhunter council debates how to handle the looming threat from Valentine. Their archenemy has all he needs to raise a demon army and is only missing one of the Mortal Instruments that could give him all-consuming powers. Clary's best friend, Simon, was accidentally taken to Alicante by Jace, and now sits imprisoned by the new Inquisitor who is wary of a vampire who can walk in the sunlight. Meanwhile Clary is helped in her quest to find the warlock by a mysterious boy named Sebastian, who leaves her with the odd feeling that they've met before even though she knows that's impossible. When Valentine gives the Shadowhunters an ultimatum, can they put aside their long-held hatred and distrust of the Downworlders to work together against their common enemy? As alliances are made and battle lines are drawn, and with the lives of everyone she holds dear at stake, can Clary harness her powers to save them all - even if it means giving her own life in return?
I think I may have read somewhere that Cassandra Clare originally wrote the Mortal Instruments series as a trilogy, and didn't start adding books to the series until later, perhaps after the first few books became runaway bestsellers. As such, City of Glass pretty much brings everything full-circle for our characters and wraps up all the major plot points introduced in the first two books. If I'd been reading them as they were released, I probably would have assumed this is the end for our intrepid characters, but since I'm a little late to party, I already know there's more story to tell. And it's certainly not that City of Glass wraps up so tightly that it doesn't leave room for more story. Quite the opposite, in fact. It's just that if there was no more, I'd call it a very satisfying ending.
This book takes us away from New York City (only the first couple of chapters take place there) to the Nephilim city of Alicante in the fictional country of Idris, which it seems is located somewhere in Europe. This expanded upon the series mythology quite a bit as we learn more of the history of the Shadowhunters and get the flavor of their land and culture without any mundanes being in the picture. The Downworlders are definitely present, though, as many of them live in Idris, but most are outside Alicante, as they're forbidden to enter the city without permission. We also, for the first time, get to see the Clave and learn a little more about the Shadowhunters' government, which like most governments, is pretty messed up. The other thing we finally get resolved is the full history of Valentine and his family, what made Jocelyn run in the first place, why she's been in a coma for so long, and what exactly is the relationship between Jace and Clary. I have to give the author props for great plotting. Even if a couple of the plot points were a little predictable for me, I still had a wonderful time reading this book. It's now my favorite in the series so far.
The reader gets a number of character perspectives in this volume, but I'd probably have to say that Clary's POV dominated. She's a Shadowhunter by blood, but since she never trained to fight, many think she might just be in the way when the others head for Idris. Jace fears more for her safety and tries very hard to stop her from going, but Clary is determined because she feels it may be her last hope of finding a cure to wake her mother. She may not be a physical fighter, but she continues to build on the new powers she discovered in the previous book of the series and becomes instrumental in helping fight the war with Valentine as well as uniting Shadowhunters and Downworlders against their common enemy. She learns her full history, but before she does, she still struggles in her feelings for Jace, whom she believes is her brother. I've always liked Clary, because she's a sweet girl who tries to do the right thing, but at the same time she's not a pushover. She's strong and determined, knowing what she has to do and following through to the best of her ability. Not to mention, she may not be able to wield a sword, but her powers are pretty darn impressive anyway.
Jace only gets a few of his own POV scenes in this book, but we see his character developing through the eyes of Clary and the other characters. As Clary's backstory begins to come to light so does Jace's, but before he can learn the full story, he decides to go on what ostensibly could be a suicide mission to defeat Valentine before he can destroy all the people Jace loves. Oddly enough, even though we don't get a lot of Jace's own perspective, he finally came alive for me in this book. So many readers love him, but I wasn't quite there yet. I liked him, but now I can honestly say that I fully appreciate his character. I think it's because we start to see beyond the sarcasm that's become a defense mechanism for him and really begin to see who Jace is inside. He finally exhibits some vulnerability, making him more endearing and relatable to me. In fact, it's because of his vulnerabilities and his belief that he is an inherently bad person with nothing to lose, especially since he can't be with the girl he loves romantically, that makes him take such a daring risk. And for that I did love him.
There's a lot going on for all the other characters we've come to know and love in the series. Simon gets a number of his own POV scenes and begins to grow more as a character. I've always loved him for his sweet geekiness, but as a vampire now, he also has a newfound sex appeal, which he is rather endearingly surprised to discover. We also learn more about how he's now able to walk in daylight. Simon must take a daring risk of his own to gain the cooperation of the vampires in the war against Valentine, because they are equally wary of one of their own kind walking in daylight as the Shadowhunters are. The Lightwoods suffer through a tragedy, which in some ways, I think, spurs Alec and Isabelle to live life more in the moment. We're also introduced to several new characters from Alicante, some good, some bad, as well as a surprising past character who resurfaces. Some old friends of the Lightwoods have a daughter, Aline, who's around Clary's age, and she may play a part in future books of the series. They also have a nephew, Sebastian, who's keeping some interesting secrets of his own. And when Luke unexpectedly travels to Idris with Clary, we meet someone from his past as well. Magnus plays a strong part in helping out several people. There is some positive progress on the romantic front for several supporting characters too. Even though all the romances are really secondary to the rest of the plot, it was still nice to finally have some closure on a few of them to give me some couples to feel like I can safely root for.
As with the previous books of the series, I would say that City of Glass is fully suitable for a mature teenage audience. There's a fair bit of violence. Various characters must battle demons as well as engage in hand-to-hand combat with other characters. Some characters die, at least one of which could potentially be a bit distressing, but it plays out off canvas and isn't graphic. We see Jace coming to a point where he is prepared to kill his own father in order rid the world of Valentine's evil and save those he loves. I'd say most of the violence, though, is on par with PG-13 movies. There is some language, but it's definitely not overdone and used in what I would call a sparing manner. There are a couple of scenes in which characters engage in some fairly passionate kisses. Two male characters are among those sharing a kiss, but it's written from the perspective of an observer and not either of the characters involved. The reader is briefly led to believe that two characters may have had sex off-canvas (they didn't). Jace and Clary share a bed platonically, and their continued romantic feelings for one another, while still believing that they are siblings and the potentially incestuous nature of those feelings, might bother some. In general, though, I feel that all these possibly objectionable elements were handled very well and I would personally have no problem with my own teenager reading the book.
Overall, City of Glass was an excellent read that I thoroughly enjoyed. As I said, it brings a satisfying end to all of the major plot points and conflicts, which IMHO was needed, instead of dragging certain elements out even further. So kudos to the author for that. Yet at the same time, it leaves just enough room for more potential storytelling to come. I have no idea what might be in store for all our intrepid heroes in the next three books of the Mortal Instruments series, but I'm very eager to find out. So I'll definitely be picking up City of Fallen Angels very soon.
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