Book Review: City of Glass: Looking Better in Black Since 2009


Minor spoilers ahead.

Every review I’ve written previously has been a review of first impressions.  This was my second time reading Cassandra Clare’s City of Glass (book 3 of The Mortal Instruments series), though I do think that it’d been 2 years since my first reading.

That first time through I remember being very caught up in the tale.  I remember actually throwing the book against the bed at one point in anger over an unjust and unexpected character death, something I think no other book has ever made me do for any reason.  I remember “squeeing” aloud at my first experience with a love-sprung, homosexual kiss in literature and my then-sheltered sensibilities squirming in quickly-forgotten guilt.

I was a more passive reader this second time around.  While I made a few noises still, I never threw the book.  This time, the death and the kiss were expected, though I’d forgotten many details of the plot, and it still felt fresh.

City of Glass is a thrilling read.  Clare’s heroes and heroines return to the Shadowhunter homeland, Idris, and to its capitol, Alicante, the Glass City.  The villain of Shadowhunter legend, Valentine, searches for the final Mortal Instrument to complete his set and plans to use them to destroy current Shadowhunter culture.  The heroes and heroines seek to convince Alicante to go to war to stop him.

Clare’s characters I have always found particularly real.  Even knowing the ending, I feared for them.  I mourned their deaths, those whose deaths I’d forgotten perhaps more than those that I’d remembered as there’s a freshness in an unremembered detail that adds to the visceral reaction.

Reading through a second time, the text dealt me the same sharp slaps that J. K. Rowling’s always did on a second read, that hitch in your breath when, say, you’re reading through Goblet of Fire, and you realize that what you thought was perfectly in character for Moody, was actually a slip; the line has a completely separate meaning than you thought it did now that you know that not Moody, but Barty Crouch Jr. is speaking.  It’s a sensation that’s hard to describe if you’ve never experienced it.

I’ve pointed out Clare’s history as Claire.  Reading through this second time, I could not help but remark on the similarities between Valentine and Voldemort (who, incidentally, I would not name as Claire’s primary parallel character for Valentine, though Voldemort has no exact parallel, and Valentine may be an amalgam).  Particularly, Valentine’s ultimatum to the Shadowhunters, delivered in the Shadowhunters’ meeting hall, with their dead around them, while they are in mourning, seemed to mirror Voldemort’s magnified voice echoing through the Great Hall demanding that Harry Potter meet him in the Forest.  I’m not calling foul; there are some images, some tones that just work, and they should be replicated again and again; I am calling attention to what is well-used.

Where Clare far exceeds Rowling is in the witty banter and sarcasm that is oh so appealing in a hero.  The dialogue is not unbelievable for all Jace’s acerbity and is perhaps even made more real by it.  Clare’s characters’ emotions also possess a rawness and reality, probably stemming in part from a closer narrative style, her intimate knowledge of them all, and more poetic description.

Overall, a great read.


Clare, Cassandra.  The Mortal Instruments, Book Three: City of Glass.  New York: Margaret K. McElderry-Simon & Schuster, 2009.

This review is not endorsed by Cassandra Clare, Margaret K. McElderry Books, or Simon & Schuster.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

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