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Review: City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments#2) by Cassandra Clare

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Ratings: ☕☕ (2/5)


This review contains spoilers from the first book. Please do not read any further unless you have read City of Bones. You can find my review of City of Bones here.


The second book of The Mortal Instruments series was a conflicting book for me–on one hand, I enjoyed it immensely, and thought it was much more well written than the first book. On the other hand, there was a certain problematic element in the book that I believed was never acknowledged: the incestuous relationship between Clary and Jace.
While I will admit that it was initially very interesting to see the struggle of these two characters as they try their best to adjust with their latest discovery of how they are related, I couldn’t help but cringe every time there was a romantic scene between the two, as few as they were. Now here’s the thing; I have absolutely no issues reading a book with disturbing and problematic elements as long as it is acknowledged. I have no issues reading a book that features the characters doing something that is inherently wrong and vile as long as the writer acknowledges that such behavior should never be encouraged nor condoned (either in the form of a disclaimer or through the story telling itself). And this is where my biggest issue with City of Ashes come into play: not once, throughout the whole story, does the writer emphasizes on how wrong incest is or why it is so wrong. It is instead used as a ploy to make Jace and Clary seem like the tragic, star-crossed lovers of a typical romance novel. And considering this is a Young Adult book, which means by default the book is geared towards readers as young as 13 years old, this lack of acknowledgement of why incest is wrong makes me even more alarmed. For this reason alone, I am changing my 5 star review (which is the rating I am ashamed to say I gave years ago when I was fourteen or fifteen) to a mere 2 stars. I cannot, and will not, give good ratings to a book that does not acknowledge that incest is wrong, wrong, wrong, no matter how well written it is.

Which brings me to the final part of my review. Though still mostly a book that you read merely for entertainment, City of Ashes is much, much better written than it’s prequel, and the characters become more developed with every page. The world of Shadowhunters is explored even more, and the plot finally starts to become really interesting with the rise of an extremist’s need for “cleansing the world” as he sees fit. I particularly enjoyed Clary’s character arc in the book–watching her slowly become more responsible and trying to stand up for herself was something that I wanted to see in City of Bones, but there were still times when I couldn’t help but feel that Clare intentionally made her stumble over something or make an astonishingly stupid mistake just to keep the plot going.

All things considered though, City of Ashes was an enjoyable read for me but only because it was a re-read and I already knew what would happen in the end. However, when I view this book from the perspective of someone who has never read the series before, and worse, is a very young and impressionable reader, I can’t help but think that there needs to be a serious conversation about the encouragement of incest portrayed here.

Review: City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments#2) by Cassandra Clare



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