City of Fallen Angels takes place two months after the events of City of Glass. In it, a mysterious someone’s killing the Shadowhunters who used to be in Valentine’s Circle and displaying their bodies around New York City in a manner designed to provoke hostility between Downworlders and Shadowhunters, leaving tensions running high in the city and disrupting Clary’s plan to lead as normal a life as she can — training to be a Shadowhunter, and pursuing her relationship with Jace. As Jace and Clary delve into the issue of the murdered Shadowhunters, they discover a mystery that has deeply personal consequences for them — consequences that may strengthen their relationship, or rip it apart forever. Meanwhile, internecine warfare among vampires is tearing the Downworld community apart, and only Simon — the Daylighter who everyone wants on their side — can decide the outcome; too bad he wants nothing to do with Downworld politics. Love, blood, betrayal and revenge: the stakes are higher than ever in City of Fallen Angels.
"Just coffee, please."
Cassandra Clare's books are some of my favorites, ever. I've been known to draw runes on myself. I constantly attempt to rope other people into reading them. I spend hours on the phone discussing plot twists and characters and scenes with my friends. When I got the chance to attend a signing of Cassandra Clare's back in April, I nearly died of excitement. Needless to say, my anticipation for City of Fallen Angels drove people up the wall. But, April 5 did roll around, and when it did, when I had read the book - finally! - I was left with a whole bunch of thoughts and feelings about it that took me a while to really sort through and pinpoint. For the most part, I thought it was great - the characters, the relationships, the humor, the pain, the emotional upheavals, and the mystery all made it great. But I did get the feeling that something was off, that it wasn't quite as good as the others, and it took a few long, exhaustively in-depth conversations with Brightskin (whom you may remember) to pinpoint exactly what I didn't like. But, more on that later - first of all, I have a lot to gush about!
The characters, the characters, the characters. Cassandra Clare's ability to take a large cast of characters and make me care so much about each and every one of them has always been one of the best parts about her books for me, and the fourth TMI book had some great character development. I have to say, Simon was the one who surprised me the most - he has just grown so much, and it was intriguing and painful to learn about the tough decisions and lifestyle he faces as a vampire, and not just a normal vampire, but a Daylighter. And as if that wasn't enough, he also has the Mark of Cain to deal with (the effects of which are nothing short of spectacular). I felt for him and cheered for him, even when he was doing something that I innately didn't think was right or was stupid; I even cried for him in a certain scene with his mother. He has a bit of a girl problem, as he's dating both Isabelle and Maia at the same time, and neither girl knows about the other. While I like Maia as a character, I must say that I am most definitely Team Izzy on this one, just because I think that Simon and Isabelle contrast each other, and yet understand each other too. Simon was amazing in this book, and I really enjoyed getting to know him further and seeing what kinds of issues he faces.
Then, of course, there's Jace. Jace is just indescribable. I mean, to see him so vulnerable and afraid was a whole new experience, and as a reader, it was utterly painful - which, I suppose, is the point. You just can't help sympathizing with him and fervently hoping that he's okay and that it'll all work out for him somehow. I honestly admire Cassandra Clare for putting him through so much, when it would have been so easy to just let him go off into his happily-ever-after with Clary. Instead, many issues are brought up for him, both old and new, and things that I thought were rather unresolved about him at the end of City of Glass were picked up again. He also gets in his customary smart comments and sarcastic insults, and it's interesting to see him grow into someone who is more open, at least with Clary. And Simon and Jace's relationship was hilarious, second only to the Malec. I mean, the mango! Unforgettable. Their banter was entertaining, but underneath that, you could see a real friendship forming.
I must say, although I love Clary, there have definitely been times when I've wanted to smack her for being a bit stupid. She has the tendency to rush into things without thinking, and while I admired her courage, I wished she would be smarter about her decisions. I am happy to say that in City of Fallen Angels, Clary is indeed wiser about things (except for one glaring mistake at the end, which I will discuss when I rant about the cliffhanger). She learns fighting skills, gets backup when she knows she's going into a possibly dangerous situation, and is very resourceful in battle. This made me like her even more, because while she retained her toughness and determination, she also gained some caution. I also enjoyed watching her relationship with her mother develop, as things are obviously different between them now that Clary knows about the Shadowhunter world. And Clary and Jace have plenty of heated encounters, the DSAS (Dirty Sexy Alley Scene) being one of them, which made me both swoon and shiver.
Isabelle has always been one of my favorite characters, but she just got so much better in this book, because we got to see a side of her that she rarely ever shows. I admire her for her confidence and courage, and yet I feel for her when she shows that part of herself that is afraid to truly love. I cried when she said this: "But I watch my brothers give their hearts away and I think, Don't you know better? Hearts are breakable. And I think even when you heal, you're never what you were before." (239) I think that's part of the reason I ship Simon/Izzy - she needs someone as caring as Simon to melt her a bit and show her how to love uninhibitedly.
Maia was, as always, unflappably normal, which is what I like about her - she's so down-to-earth, even with all the insanity surrounding her. Kyle was a surprise, but a pleasant one. He was mysterious at first, but the more we got to know him, the more I liked him. He's funny and cute and kind, certainly, but he's got a past that haunts him, and once you see how much it hurts him, you can't hold what he did against him (and I'm very much hoping that Maia feels the same!).
So, all of these characters and relationships were great. But the one that I loved most of all was Magnus and Alec's. The two of them...they just make me laugh and sigh and even cry. Magnus, of course, is his fabulous self, although we do see a more nostalgic side of him. He usually seems to timeless and young, but the costs of immortality have taken a toll on him. I adored seeing how Alec has grown into himself and become more comfortable. He's just as adorable as ever, but now I feel for his pain as it really hits him that he's going to die, and Magnus isn't - that they don't actually have forever. And on top of that, Alec is jealous of Magnus's past loves, and while I feel really bad for him, it's difficult not to laugh at least a little at his petulance. The Malec in CoFA is sweet and utterly heart-wrenching, and so when Alec makes a certain decision regarding Camille, I don't blame him in the least, and when Alec and Magnus talk about hope, I tear up.
I enjoyed Camille's elegant cunning, and how she was tied back to The Infernal Devices. In fact, all the little connections to TID were really neat, and while it's not required that you understand them in order to understand the plot of City of Fallen Angels, they add to the complexity of the story and make you anticipate Clockwork Prince even more.
CoFA was hilarious, and it gave us some truly memorable moments, including "sexy vampire mojo", "the nuclear bomb of boyfriends", Izzy's sex talk with Clary, Alec's jealousy, Simon's band, the mango scene, South Carolina, and so much more. There's also plenty of action, both with the Shadowhunters and with Simon's Mark of Cain. I thought that the theme of people falling to their temptations was very well illustrated, with resonance for many characters - Jace, Simon, Clary, and Alec.
This is a Cassandra Clare book, so of course all the relationships were convoluted and complex and utterly compelling. There are just so many different threads binding the characters to each other, and it's fascinating to see them come into play; I'm really left wondering what the feelings that certain characters have will lead them to do in the next books. Just how far are they willing to go for someone they love, or someone they hate?
I know there's been a lot of uproar about the cliffhanger - and it is most definitely a major cliffhanger - and while I, too, am dying to know what happens next, I've come to savor that feeling of anticipation, as it only makes the next installment all the better. That being said, it was really quite an ending, and after reading it, I wanted to kill Clary. ***SPOILER***Who leaves their emotionally messed-up boyfriend on a roof all by himeself with the creepy body of their half-demon brother, which was very recently being used in an ancient ritual of evil?! ***END SPOILER***
So, having gushed on about all the great things in City of Fallen Angels, I do want to talk about what I think made it not as good as the previous installments, and what could have been better. I felt that at many points, it was far too dramatic and cliché, especially when it came to Jace and Clary. Yes, I get it, you two love each other very, very, much, but that does not mean you have to spend all of your time a) saying how much you love each other, or b) making out passionately. The problem of overly dramatic dialogue came up with Jace a lot, as he said ***SPOILER*** how he couldn't be with Clary, wasn't good enough for her, etc. I feel that the way all this was expressed was kind of ridiculous, and that it could have been done much better ***END SPOILER***. And while the passionate, making-out scenes were well-written, they became endlessly repetitive after a time. I love romance and reading about Jace and Clary making out just as much as the next person, but in this book, it happened so often that it was rather ridiculous. I felt like yelling at Clary to stop taking Jace's shirt off and start confronting him about his problems. The other thing that I disliked about CoFA is that the whole thing felt a bit rushed. There were too many plotlines and not enough time spent on each of them. While I enjoy alternating POV, the constant switching back and forth between storylines didn't allow me to focus on the main plot, which I found to be very irritating.
Overall, City of Fallen Angels was a great read. I enjoyed it, and although there were flaws, I'm still eagerly anticipating City of Lost Souls in May of 2012. I will be giving away a signed copy of City of Fallen Angels a bit later, so be sure to check back on the blog!