Review: Cassandra Clare’s ‘The Mortal Instruments: City of Heavenly Fire’

Shadowhunters and demons square off for the sixth book and the final showdown in the spellbinding, seductive conclusion to the internationally bestselling Mortal Instruments series from Cassandra Clare. Darkness has descended on the Shadowhunter world. Chaos and destruction overwhelm the Nephilim as Clary, Jace, Simon, and their friends band together to fight the greatest evil they have ever faced: Clary’s own brother. Nothing in this world can defeat Sebastian – but if they journey to the realm of demons, they just might have a chance… Lives will be lost, love sacrificed, and the whole world will change. Who will survive the explosive sixth and final instalment of the Mortal Instruments series?

First of all, let me start by saying that I really enjoy Cassandra Clare’s writing, and that I’m a fan of The Mortal Instruments– I loved the film (even though it had mixed reviews- I didn’t care!!) and I even have a Mortal Instruments wristband (with runes on it!!) that I got from Forbidden Planet. 9If you think that’s bad, I was tempted to get the T-shirt.) I’ve read all the books, too (of course.) I approached the final instalment- COHF- with nothing short of anticipation, yet I’m just a bit…disappointed by it all. The things I loved about the first couple of books- the gritty fight scenes, the supernatural elements incorporated in an urban world, the New York setting, the openly gay characters…. a lot of this doesn’t really feature in COHF. For one thing, they seem to spend most of their time in Faerie Land (which is exactly how you’d imagine it in a kid’s fairy tale book- all scornful faerie knights, flittering lights, leafy underground tunnels and a cold but beautiful Queen…yawn…) and when they’re not in Faerie Land, they’re in the demon realms. (Again, exactly how you’d imagine it to be- and more than a little reminiscent of Tolkien’s Mordor, only without the battle scenes, the rampaging orcs, or in fact any of the action.) When in the Demon realms, they (i.e. Jace and Clary, Simon (the vampire character), Izzy, Alec, and probably some others who I’ve forgot) seem to spend most of their time in a cave.

Not even some half-hearted Shadowhunter vs. Faerie politics (think The West Wing meets The Council of Elrond) could do much to inject some life into this book- which is about 300 pages far too long. (Or, as I often thought while wading through it, far tooooo looooong….) I’m honestly not trying to be unfair, but this book didn’t do much for me- for one thing, it has far too many characters- a small army of young tween Shadowhunters who don’t seem to do a lot, except run around like headless chickens in the Prologue, and talk about parabatai- surely the most unintentionally homoerotic element in a YA novel I’ve ever read. Besides, like in the prequel series, The Infernal Devices (which I’ve ALSO read!) they all seem to be in couples (Jace and Clary/ Izzy and Simon/Alec and Magnus/Maia and Jordan, Bert/Ernie* and on and on and on…) and the real plot seems to revolve around who will end up with who, rather than who comes out alive. Most of all, though, I was disappointed by the lack of scenes with my favourite character, the witty bisexual warlock (yes, indeedy) Magnus Bane, whose blossoming romance with Alec (a gay Shadowhunter, hello!) was something which made me smile and laugh all the way through five books, even when the religious connotations became a bit too thick and free-flowing for me. (I’ve no problem with religion, it’s just not particularly my thing, and all the scenes with pretty witty and light angels and mad bad demons, Hell and Heaven seemed stereotypical and a little unimaginative- it left me unmoved, and occasionally, bewildered, and wondering whether I should have read my Bible more closely in secondary school, rather than doodling fairies in my notebook.) Clearly it’s not a book for agnostics/atheists.
Having said (or ranted) all of that, I do think the author’s made a great effort here, and some of the writing is fast-paced and energetic, with a few unexpected twists and a great, refreshing sense of humour- but overall…not as great as I hoped it would be.

Overall rating: 6 out of 10.
* This one I just made up, but honestly, there could actually be a Bert and Ernie, and it wouldn’t have made any difference!



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