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City of Ashes: Mortal Instruments    by Cassandra Clare order for
City of Ashes
by Cassandra Clare
Order:  USA  Can
Margaret K. McElderry, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

City of Ashes is the sequel to Cassandra Clare's City of Bones, in her Mortal Instruments series, set in a New York City where human mundanes coexist with Downworlders including werewolves, vampires, and faeries - and are threatened by demons. I recommend reading City of Bones first, as the second episode includes many references to previous events and relationships.

Picking up soon after the first episode ended, we see the villain of the series, rogue Shadowhunter Valentine using the Mortal Cup to get control of a powerful demon - but then must wait to see what nefarious purpose he has for it. Next we meet three of the young stars of the series, Shadowhunter siblings, Jace, Alec and Isabelle (Izzy), returning to their home in the Institute after battling (supposedly extinct) dragon demons. Jace was adopted and has recently discovered (shades of Star Wars) that Valentine is his real father. Jace's adoptive mother Maryse, who was betrayed long ago by Valentine, is not happy to discover his paternity and, believing him to be under his true father's influence, sends him away.

Clary grew up in the mundane world with Simon as her best friend, and only recently discovered that she is a Shadowhunter. Strongly attracted to Jace, she's also devastated to find out that she's his sister. Clary's mother is in a coma and she's staying with her mother's friend Luke, an ex-Shadowhunter who now leads a werewolf pack, including young Maia. Simon wants to take their friendship to another level, creating an odd kind of love triangle. Alec is attracted to warlock Magnus, his sister Izzy has had a fling with a member of the Seelie Court, and Simon appeals to Maia.

But these relationships - and the engaging, often edgy banter amongst all these characters - only enrich a story that's full of fast-paced action. Someone is murdering children of all the races, and draining the corpses of blood - why? The Shadowhunter Inquisitor arrives to interrogate Jace about events in the first episode - she hates Valentine and takes it out on his son, sending Jace to cool his heels in a prison cell in the Silent City. After Valentine steals the Soul-Sword, the Inquisitor suspects Jace even more. When she refuses to listen to his warnings about Valentine's plans, it's up to Jace, Alec, Izzy, Clary and Simon to take the battle to their enemy once more - and it's an edge-of-your-seat ride!

Reading City of Ashes made me want to go back and enjoy City of Bones, which I missed. It's quite a series, filled to the brim with friendship, conflict and magic. This second episode takes on issues of trust and conflicted loyalties, reveals gifts of which Clary and Jace were unaware, hints at further secrets of their heritage, and permanently changes Clary's relationship with Simon. I highly recommend this Mortal Instruments series to anyone who enjoys a well written fantasy romp with delightful characters and surprises around every corner.

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