After a brief hiatus, upon reentering the world of shadowhunters I expected the story to progress intriguingly, yet rather slowly, around the same pace it had in the previous installments (City of Bones and City of Ashes), lingering on the intimate interactions between the lead characters while building the tension in the secrets of the plot. So, I was pleasantly surprised with the intensity and speed at which, so much unfolds in this book; it totally had me spending hours upon hours on the couch, in the local coffee shop, and outside in the garden, reading furiously to find out how everything would come together.
Jace and Clary are trying to keep their distance from each other in this book, but hardly succeeding. Simon is in danger from all supernaturals, because of his recently discovered abilities to walk in the daylight. Clary’s mother is still cursed in a deep sleep, and Valentine is running lose. I really enjoyed seeing Alec come in to his own. He is the first of our band of heroes to officially reach adulthood and hit 18, but although this coming of age means he can visit the Consul and enter the sacred Clave meetings, his character’s real growth occurs as he makes great bounds by admitting his feelings for Magnus to himself, and his family.
We’re also introduced to a bunch of new characters when the book moves from NYC to Idris, the fabled homeland of the shadowhunters. The new characters add intensity and help shed light on some of the mysteries that have been circulating the plot for some time now, in particular, a tall, dark stranger named Sebastian who takes an immediate interest in Clary. And let me tell you, one of the best things an author can do in a multi book series is to switch up the well known and comfortable setting for a new, undiscovered locale. It shakes things up and infuses intriguing new situations and challenges for the main characters, while expanding our imaginations. I loved all the details of Idris, from the illuminated demon towers, to the cobbled streets and townhouses of Alicante, to the lush descriptions of the surrounding countryside. It felt simultaneously otherworldly and strangely familiar, as if from a recurring dream.
Clary and Jace both do a lot of growing up in this edition, which makes me eager to see how they function in the next few books as they make their transition into adulthood. Clary starts off the book as impulsive and tempestuous as always, but through out the climactic turn of events she is forced to confront responsibility and make some hard-hitting decisions, that irrevocably change her, eliciting a more mature side.
One of my favorite parts of the book was the friction between the shadow hunters and downworlders, as they are forced to come together if there is any hope of defeating Valentine and his seething army of demons. The detailed backstories and characteristics of the vampires, werewolves, fairies, and warlocks create a brightly satisfying world that is easy to spend hours in, without truly noting the passage of time. Perhaps Cassandra Clare is part fey herself…