Book review: City of Fallen Angels, Cassandra Clare

It doesn’t feel right to call Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series “so bad it’s good”. It almost feels right. But – like the first season or so of Gossip Girl – while the books border on trashy, they’re smart, knowing trashy. Not so much “guilty pleasure” as “straight-up pleasure” – I’ve often recommended them as “Like Twilight, but good”.

So basically what happened is this: Clare wrote a trilogy of books (City of Bones, City of Ashes, then City of Glass) about the demon-killing Shadowhunters and their varied adventures and romantic entanglments. Trilogy becomes bestselling trilogy, and when you have a trilogy on your hands you do the sensible thing and extend it. Hence the fourquel City of Fallen Angels (which will be followed by two more sequels, comprising a second trilogy).

Which means Clare has to find more stuff for her heroes – including hunky Shadowhunter Jace Wayland/Morgenstern/Lightwood/Herondale/Whoevenknowsanymore, whose aforementioned hunkiness is endlessly purple-prosed at us; his girlfriend Clary; and her best pal Simon – to do.

And therein lies one of Fallen Angels‘ biggest problems: nothing really happens. The first three-quarters are mostly just melodramatic hand-wringing, with all the meat of the plot at the end.

Which wouldn’t be so bad if the melodrama wasn’t so forced. For example. We’re repeatedly reminded how passionately in love Jace and Clary are, yet their relationship is filled with vague problems-for-the-sake-of-problems. Sure, I get that conflict drives narratives and the course of true love never did run blah blah blah, but the couple’s impenetrable woes eventually become frustrating.

The bigger, unseen problem, though, is the book’s troubling subtext: three male characters (Jace, Simon and newcomer Kyle) physically hurt women, often greivously, and are forgiven because, basically, they weren’t themselves or weren’t in control of their actions at the time, and thus aren’t actually bad guys. This is… worrying, is the mildest way to term it, and I wonder how other readers reconcile it. (I’m guessing “easily”, given the number of rabid fangirls these books have.)

On the bright side, this is the best written Mortal Instruments entry so far (though not as good as in Clare’s spin-off, Clockwork Angel). The previous three books were marred by flat background characters, some of whom are fleshed out a little more in Fallen Angel.