Thursday, 17 May 2012

Review- City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

City of Lost Souls (The Mortal Instruments, #5)
What price is too high to pay, even for love? When Jace and Clary meet again, Clary is horrified to discover that the demon Lilith’s magic has bound her beloved Jace together with her evil brother Sebastian, and that Jace has become a servant of evil. The Clave is out to destroy Sebastian, but there is no way to harm one boy without destroying the other. As Alec, Magnus, Simon, and Isabelle wheedle and bargain with Seelies, demons, and the merciless Iron Sisters to try to save Jace, Clary plays a dangerous game of her own. The price of losing is not just her own life, but Jace’s soul. She’s willing to do anything for Jace, but can she still trust him? Or is he truly lost?

Love. Blood. Betrayal. Revenge. Darkness threatens to claim the Shadowhunters in the harrowing fifth book of the Mortal Instruments series.

(Cover and description taken from Goodreads)

Amazon UK

At the end of City of Glass, Clary was granted one wish by the Angel Raziel, and she chose to save Jace from death. In choosing this, she unwittingly set in motion a chain of events that saw her part-demon brother Sebastian resurrected by Lilith, mother of all demons, and eternally bound to Jace as part of a ritual. Now, if Sebastian is harmed, Jace suffers the same damage. And the Clave want him dead…

Now Clary and her friends have to make a choice: to tell the Clave and risk Jace’s death, or to find a way to save him- alone. Clary calls upon the Queen of the Seelie Court, to find a way of following Jace. Risking her life, Clary goes after him and Sebastian, hoping that she can find out what Sebastian is planning. But how far is she willing to go to save his soul? Meanwhile, Alec’s growing obsession with Magnus’s long past sees him longing for a way to be immortal, so they can spend eternity together. Even if it means asking for the help of Camille, former head vampire. But vampires are not to be trusted, and her price is steep…

Luke has been severely injured by Sebastian, and with their leader on the verge of death, werewolves Jordan and Maia have to put aside their differences in order to find a cure. Meanwhile, Isabelle and Jocelyn travel to the land of the Iron Sisters, weapon forgers, to find a weapon that can break the curse binding Jace to Sebastian. But there is no weapon, aside from those belonging to the angels and demons themselves. Simon has been thrown out of his house by his own mother, who is convinced that he is a monster. Cursed with the Mark of Cain, he cannot be harmed without the harmer suffering the same damage sevenfold. This may be the group’s only chance to save Jace.

What I enjoyed most about City of Lost Souls is that we get to learn so much more about Downworlders: werewolves and warlocks in particular. Clare also explores many characters more deeply, including Isabelle, Alec, Magnus and Sebastian, and their complex relationships - but without compromising the action, unlike in City of Fallen Angels. The recurrent theme is: how far will you go to save someone you love? Beautifully written as ever, the novel is as much of an emotional rollercoaster as City of Glass, and hints at a final conflict that could change the world as they know it. Downworlders and Shadowhunters alike must choose sides, because there’s a war coming, and the denizens of darkest hell may soon walk the earth…

Rating: ****

Review- City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments, #4)
The Mortal War is over, and sixteen-year-old Clary Fray is back home in New York, excited about all the possibilities before her. She's training to become a Shadowhunter and to use her unique power. Her mother is getting married to the love of her life. Downworlders and Shadowhunters are at peace at last. And - most importantly of all - she can finally call Jace her boyfriend.

But nothing comes without a price.

Someone is murdering Shadowhunters who used to be in Valentine's Circle, provoking tensions between Downworlders and Shadowhunters that could lead to a second bloody war. Clary's best friend, Simon, can't help her. His mother just found out that he's a vampire and now he's homeless. Everywhere he turns, someone wants him on their side - along with the power of the curse that's wrecking his life. And they're willing to do anything to get what they want. At the same time he's dating two beautiful, dangerous girls - neither of whom knows about the other one.

When Jace begins to pull away from Clary without explaining why, she is forced to delve into the heart of a mystery whose solution reveals her worst nightmare: She herself has set in motion a terrible chain of events that could lead to her losing everything she loves. Even Jace.

Love. Blood. Betrayal. Revenge. The stakes are higher than ever in City of Fallen Angels.

(Cover and description taken from Goodreads)

Amazon UK

The start of a new trilogy and a continuation of the Mortal Instruments series, City of Fallen Angels picks up six weeks after City of Glass left off. Following the same characters we’ve come to love, this brilliant fourth instalment is the start of a whole new story, one that promises to be even darker than the previous books.

Training to be a Shadowhunter and finally able to call Jace her boyfriend, Clary is happy with her new life. But what she doesn’t know is that Jace is plagued by nightmares about hurting her, and because of this, begins to pull away from her. Meanwhile, Simon deals with being a vampire, unable to bring himself to consume human blood and unwilling to associate with others of his kind. He’s desperate for a normal life, but cannot deny that sooner or later he will have to embrace his new identity as an immortal bloodsucker. And make up his mind between the two girls he’s dating: Isabelle, the stunningly beautiful Shadowhunter, and Maia, the tough teenage werewolf. But Simon is no ordinary vampire: he is the Daylighter, the only vampire able to stand in direct sunlight, and this makes him a target for mysterious assassins, as well as the former head vampire in New York City, Camille. Unsure who to trust, Simon can only rely on the power of the mark Clary gave him to protect him, which returns any harm to him sevenfold upon the inflictor.

Meanwhile, dark plans are afoot. Someone is killing Shadowhunters, former Circle members, and there’s a creepy cult experimenting on children with demon blood. The Shadowhunters suspect that someone is trying to create another child like Jonathan, Clary’s brother, whom Jace killed- a Shadowhunter with demon blood in its veins, more monster than human. Jace finally confesses to Clary about the nightmares, and they start to think that something is manipulating him. But it may already be too late…

Dealing with the consequences of decisions made in City of Glass, City of Fallen Angels is a strong start to the new trilogy. We get to learn more about vampires, which in Clare’s books have a far from simple existence. Clare actually shows us the real consequences of immortality, through the characters of Magnus Bane, the 800-year-old warlock whom Alec fears will abandon him once he grows old; and Simon, who is forced to face the knowledge that he will stay sixteen forever whilst all his friends age. The one problem I had with the book is that not much happens in terms of plot development - it moves between characters a lot, but is less focused on action and more on the different characters' romantic entanglements. For some this might be a good thing, but I found myself getting a little impatient.

Whilst this doesn’t have quite the same impact as City of Glass, City of Fallen Angels sets up a strong basis for a new battle. The demons are restless, and a villain more evil even than Valentine waits in the wings. Will Clary and the others be able to thwart this new threat?

Rating: ***1/2*

Monday, 14 May 2012

Review- City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments, #3)

To save her mother's life, Clary must travel to the City of Glass, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters - never mind that entering the city without permission is against the Law, and breaking the Law could mean death. To make things worse, she learns that Jace does not want her there, and Simon has been thrown in prison by the Shadowhunters, who are deeply suspicious of a vampire who can withstand sunlight.

As Clary uncovers more about her family's past, she finds an ally in mysterious Shadowhunter Sebastian. With Valentine mustering the full force of his power to destroy all Shadowhunters forever, their only chance to defeat him is to fight alongside their eternal enemies. But can Downworlders and Shadowhunters put aside their hatred to work together? While Jace realizes exactly how much he's willing to risk for Clary, can she harness her newfound powers to help save the Glass City - whatever the cost?

Love is a mortal sin and the secrets of the past prove deadly as Clary and Jace face down Valentine in the final installment of the New York Timesbestselling trilogy The Mortal Instruments.

(Cover and description taken from Goodreads)

Amazon UK

The third Mortal Instruments book is even better than the first two, as the Shadowhunters face their toughest battle yet. The fight moves to Idris, the Shadowhunters’ home country, where Valentine intends to find the final Mortal Instrument in order to complete his plan to eradicate all Downworlders and destroy the Clave.

Clary wants to travel to Idris to find a cure for the enchanted sleep her mother is under, but Jace, Isabelle and Alec insist that it’s too dangerous, and persuade her best friend Simon to stop her. But when the Institute is attacked by demons, Simon is unintentionally dragged through the portal too. As a newly turned vampire, a Downworlder, he is not allowed into the city, but finds himself under scrutiny by the new Inquisitor due to his ability to stand in direct sunlight without being burnt- a side effect of consuming Jace’s blood. Distrusted by Shadowhunters and Downworlders alike, Simon is tricked into coming to the Hall of Accords, where he expects to be returned to his own world- but is instead imprisoned. The new Inquisitor intends to coerce him into speaking out against the Lightwood family, blaming them for the mistakes of the previous Inquisitor and for the success of Valentine’s plans.

Meanwhile, Clary makes a portal to Idris herself, using her power to create new runes, an ability no other Shadowhunter has. In doing this she unintentionally drags Luke, a werewolf friend of her mother’s, along. Alicante, city of the glass towers, is an impressive place, but the other Shadowhunters are unwelcoming, and she is frustrated by her failure to save her mother. In their search for the Gray Book, a book of immense power, Clary and Jace discover the true nature of Valentine’s past, and the reason his children can do things no other Shadowhunters can.

With two of the Mortal Instruments in his possession, Valentine is ready to declare war against the Shadowhunters, in the heart of their supposed haven. Clary and the others must convince the Clave that they should be fighting alongside the Downworlders, and not against them. But with betrayal at every corner, friends becoming enemies, and Valentine’s most diabolical plan about to succeed, who can truly be trusted? Whilst Jace struggles to accept that his father turned him into a monster, a weapon, and that the only way to free himself is to murder him; Clary realises that her talents could help ensure victory over Valentine and his demonic minions.

What I love about this series is that there’s something for everyone: forbidden love, fantastic action sequences, fantastic characters and unexpected plot twists. Love, loss and sacrifice culminate in a nail-biting climax to the trilogy. Cassandra Clare pulls no punches, and the finale is as heart-wrenching as it is gripping. The nonstop action and the astonishing revelations that, when you stop and think about it, make perfect sense, make this a thrill of a read from start to finish. A book that can keep me up reading all night is a winner in my book, and it was impossible to sleep without knowing the ending to this fantastic series.

Rating: *****

Review- City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments, #2)
Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what's normal when you're a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who's becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn't ready to let her go — especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary's only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil — and also her father.

To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings — and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?

In this breathtaking sequel to City of Bones, Cassandra Clare lures her readers back into the dark grip of New York City's Downworld, where love is never safe and power becomes the deadliest temptation.

(Cover and description taken from Goodreads)

Amazon UK

In the second in the Mortal Instruments series, Clary is drawn deeper into the world of the Shadowhunters, the demonic underworld of modern-day New York, where faeries lurk in Central Park, vampires covens live in abandoned hotels, and warlocks throw wild attic parties. Trying to come to terms with her new identity as a Shadowhunter- one of the magical world’s secret police who answer to the Clave, fighting demons and maintaining peace with Downworlders- Clary also struggles to deal with the fact that her mother is in a coma. Jace, meanwhile, is reeling with the shock of the discovery of his parentage. He is then accused of being under the influence of his real father, Valentine, by his adoptive parents and by the Inquisitor, leader of the Clave. Believed to be dead for the past fifteen years, Valentine has returned to continue his quest to spark war between the Shadowhunters and the Downworlders. Having stolen the Mortal Cup- a relic which enables one to create new Shadowhunters, at the potential cost of killing the person being transformed- he then breaks into the Silent City and murders the Silent Brothers, the most powerful members of the Clave, and steals the Mortal Sword, the second of the Mortal Instruments.

With the help of Magnus Bane, a warlock, the Shadowhunters realise that Valentine is murdering Downworlders for a reason: he intends to perform a ritual which will turn the Sword’s allegiance to him, and allow him command over demons. His plan, it seems, is to use them to force the Clave into submission and to kill all the Shadowhunters, whom he believes to be corrupted. But unless Clary and the others can convince the Clave of this, nothing can be done. The Inquisitor refuses to cooperate, believing Jace to be a spy for Valentine, and expecting him to side with his father against the Clave. As if there isn’t enough for her to worry about, Clary’s best friend Simon is turned into a vampire, giving the Downworlders another potential weapon to use against them. Clary blames herself for dragging him into this world, and for not being able to care about him in the same way he cares about her. Now unable to go out during the day without being burnt alive, Simon is in greater danger from Valentine, who is searching for young Downworlders to complete the ritual…

The second book in the Mortal Instruments sees the return of great characters, including Magnus Bane, a totally bonkers warlock who uses his supernatural powers to watch daytime TV without paying; fellow Shadowhunters Alec and Isabelle; and werewolf Luke. New characters include the cold and unforgiving Inquisitor, the cruel and manipulative Queen of Faerie, and stubborn young werewolf Maia. This is urban fantasy at its best, with brilliant world-building and some great fight scenes- and forbidden love that will break your heart. There are gruesome murders, underground cities, and all manner of vicious demons. At the same time, there’s plenty that teen readers will relate to, including unrequited love and identity crises. After learning that they were part of an ‘experiment’ by Valentine, Clary and Jace come to realise that they have powers other Shadowhunters do not. This sets us up for some shocking twists in the next book of the series- you have been warned…

Rating: *****

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Review- City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1)
When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder -- much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It's hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing -- not even a smear of blood -- to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary's first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It's also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace's world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know. . . . 

Exotic and gritty, exhilarating and utterly gripping, Cassandra Clare's ferociously entertaining fantasy takes readers on a wild ride that they will never want to end.

(Cover and description taken from Goodreads)


As City of Lost Souls, book five in the Mortal Instruments series, has just been released (a curse on Lancaster University post for me not getting my pre-ordered copy on time!), I’ve decided to review the other four books in the series- which remains one of my favourite fantasy series of all time- starting with City of Bones. Cassandra Clare creates an inventive fantasy world in which supernatural creatures exist alongside humans, the majority of whom are unaware of them. The series follows Clary Fray, who thinks she is a normal teenager until she witnesses what appears to be a murder- except that both the murderers and the victim are apparently invisible to everyone but her. This is her first encounter with the Shadowhunters, ruthless demon hunters who believe she must be one of them and not, as she believed, a ‘mundane’, a human. The Shadowhunters, also known as the Nephilim, are rumoured to be the offspring of humans and angels, the angel blood in their veins giving them the ability to fight demons. Tattooed with various symbols which enhance their powers when activated, Shadowhunters live to defend our world against invading creatures from infernal dimensions.

Overnight, Clary’s ordinary life is shattered. Her mother disappears leaving no trace; a demon attacks her when she returns to her apartment; and Luke, a close friend of her mother’s, refuses to help her. Clary is forced to turn to the Shadowhunters for answers, discovering that there was more than one secret buried beneath her seemingly ordinary life. Her mother was a Shadowhunter in hiding, a secret Luke was apparently in on; and her father never died in an accident. Instead, as Clary learns in horror, her father was none other than Valentine, leader of the Circle, a group of extreme Shadowhunters dedicated to destroying all Downworlders- creatures they deemed to be ‘impure’, such as vampires, faeries, werewolves and warlocks. Believed to be dead for fifteen years, demons whisper that Valentine has returned, and it seems he has taken his former wife captive in the search for an object known as the Mortal Cup.

But there is more at work, for someone has placed a block in Clary’s memories, which is why she had no knowledge of her true nature. She is taken into the City of Bones to seek answers about the memories she has hidden, only to find that even the sinister Silent Brothers are unable to remove the block- she will have to find the warlock who put the spell on her in the first place. Her loyal friend Simon is dragged into this world also, and seems to be entranced by Isabelle, a beautiful but cold Shadowhunter, much to Clary’s annoyance. The other Shadowhunters are equally unfriendly: Jace irritates Clary with his constant sarcasm, and Alec is openly hostile towards her as a supposed ‘mundane’. Meanwhile, the various plot strands weave tighter, revelations abound- and the twists at the end are truly shocking.

This is far and away the best urban fantasy series I’ve read. The idea of an invisible magical world existing alongside ours is of course one that has been used a million times, but Clare creates something truly unique here. We learn early on that the Shadowhunters are not magic-users; that itself is in fact what makes them human. Instead we meet some truly gruesome demons, a warlock who throws lavish parties for his cat’s birthday, and vampires who turn into rats when intoxicated. Humour and horror abound in this melee of fantastical mayhem- and thankfully, there are no sparkly vampires in sight. Clare has a real gift for writing vividly and her world comes to life through enviably beautiful prose. The characters step off the page, and you can’t help but love the majority of them. The plot mirrors the classic journey into the Underworld, an appropriate touch given the demonic schemes at work. A brilliant start to an addictive series: be warned, the descent into hell is easy, but getting out is another matter…

Rating: *****