Wednesday, June 25, 2014

City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare

I didn't get around to reading The Mortal Instruments series until last summer, when I binge read all five of them: City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, City of Fallen Angels, and City of Lost Souls. My sister had recommended them (and she already owned all five) and I finally got around to reading them during two weeks of holidays when I had the time to get through the entirety of the fantasy series in a fairly short amount of time. They all blended together, and it was amazing to have that kind of immersive reading experience. 

City of Heavenly Fire begins where the series left off with City of Lost Souls: Sebastian is still trying to bring about the destruction of the Shadowhunters, and it's up to Clary and Jace to do what they can to stop him. They know Sebastian better than anyone, which is more terrifying than it is helpful. They know what he's capable of, and the lengths he will go to destroy the world. 

Since it's been a year since I read the fifth book, I spent the first 100 pages of the book trying to remember what had come before. I kept asking my sister, "Why aren't Clary and Jace brother and sister again?" and I'm pretty sure that was covered in book two or three. The year of lag time between publications was just enough to make me forget much of what had happened in the last few books. I hadn't thought much about it until now, but it always surprised me that I never had that problem reading Harry Potter. Even though there were years (sometimes several) between publications, I was never struggling to remember where Rowling left off with the characters, and what had happened in the last book. I think it has something to do with the school-year formula of Harry Potter. Readers always return to Harry's story in the summer, right before he starts back at school. It's a familiar structure that is easy to relate to, and it's a way to start each book off fresh without losing anything that came before. Harry Potter doesn't have that feeling of where-are-we-now that happens sometimes with other series. 

Making it even more difficult to jump right back into the story was the fact that City of Heavenly Fire begins not with Clary, Jace, Isabelle, Alec, and Simon, but with Emma Carstairs, a new-to-me character (if she had appeared in the books previously, I couldn't remember!). Emma's part in the story is small, but well-developed in the 700-page book. By the time we get to the end, it's clear that Emma is about to become the protagonist of Clare's forthcoming series, The Dark Artifices, which will take place at the Los Angeles Institute. I found Emma to be an incredibly compelling character, and I enjoyed returning to her story and perspective even when much of the action was happening somewhere else. But I did feel sort of duped when I got to the end of the book and realized that Emma was only in the story to set up a new series. If she's taken out of City of Heavenly Fire, there is not much missed in terms of plot development. Only future plot development. 

But overall, I enjoyed Clare's final book in The Mortal Instruments series. So much that I finished it in two days, and I think it's a longer book than any that came before it.

More than anything, it's the dialogue that I read this series for. The exchanges between Jace and Simon especially are my favorite in this installment. Clare is so good at writing believable dialogue between teenage characters - even though the genre is fantasy, the exchanges between characters keep the book rooted in reality, especially a teenage reality. If there's one reason I know I'll re-read this series again, it's for the dialogue. And because of that, I know I will be looking for the publication of Clare's new series in 2015, to see where Emma Carstairs ends up, and what her story will look like. 

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