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Book review of ‘City of Heavenly Fire’ by Cassandra Clare: Hell bound

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City of Heavenly Fire appears to mark the end of Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments six novel series. Like her Infernal Devices prequel trilogy that she wrote while penning The Mortal Instruments, Clare is leaving enough room to recycle characters. In fact for her new series The Dark Artifices it sounds like she will be using Tessa Gray and Jem Carstairs from the Infernal Devices as major characters, along with several she introduced in City of Heavenly Fire, to order repopulate the Los Angeles Institute.

If what I just wrote reads like mush to you that is understandable. It is hard to keep track of Clare’s overall story chronological trajectory because she has started various trilogy tales from the standpoint of middle, beginning, middle, end, beginning middle – much like George Lucas with Star Wars. She is a strong enough writer to pull her universe of characters together for her fans but it could prove risky in enticing new readers to The Mortal Instruments/Infernal Devices/The Dark Artifices/And Whatever the Other Series She is Writing that Happens Twenty Years After the Events in London fan base. These books may be fast reads but most are five hundred pages or more so there is always a commitment involved. To really appreciate all that Clare has accomplished you got to dip your toe into a very deep lake.

The overall Mortal Instruments storyline took place over six novels. The arc of the stories began with the first three novels (the villain being Clary Fray’s father) and then the last three books (the villain, her brother). The first three novels were more interesting, whereas the last three felt as if Clare was not as precise in regards to plot. However the best of the second trilogy is City of Heavenly Fire.

Subjectively the main characters of The Mortal Instruments were not as interesting as some of the novels’ secondary characters or even main characters in Clare’s Infernal Devices. It is a smart move to expand her universe by broaching other storylines. Richelle Mead has had similar success with transferring her focus from the characters of her Vampire Academy novels to her Bloodline series. The exploration of other storylines also has the advantage of wiping the slate almost clean after a movie version fails.

Alas, some words for the film version of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bone. A hit movie can obviously insure the longevity of novel franchise as in the Harry Potter books, but what about popular novel series that have their maiden cinematic interpretations fall flat? Studios aim for the next Twilight, but for every Hunger Games and Divergent there are green tomatoes gleefully splattered on other Young Adult “novel to film” attempts of which The Mortal Instruments: City of Bone is an example. Much can be written on this topic, but suffice to convey that the movie pleased neither fans of the novels or audiences new to Clare’s universe. The result is that even though the film made its initial costs back it was not considered a hit and that has pushed a planned sequel into Hollywood “development” which means cinema purgatory (ergo don’t look for the sequel to debut in theaters within the next decade unless some studio bigwig gets a wild hair). Overall, the effect is that the film failed to enhance Clare’s novels.

In regards to a recommendation, one does not review the novel as much as review the franchise and if the book in question helps develop the larger story arc. These are not “stand alone” tales. Clare proved that she knew how to tie up loose ends with her Infernal Devices trilogy. As far as her Mortal Instruments novels, I wish she had stopped at a trilogy. Character traits that are irritating in three novels really get under the skin in six. If you thought Clary’s mother was a mealy mouth semi-professional victim before, City of Heavenly Fire only makes her seem thrice so. The positives of Heavenly Fire were that it was sprinkled with characters and issues to make The Dark Artifices something in which to look forward.

Overall, despite Clare’s writing starting out as Harry Potter fan fiction, Clare has created a great fictional universe to escape to when the real one feels too bleak (Iraq anyone?). I recommend City of Heavenly Fire because I love Clare’s novels. Despite some of the ill attempts at humorous character banter, questionable incestuous themed plot angles (relax, they weren’t really brother and sister) and in vitro demon blood transfusions, her books are fun. Few storytellers have the ability to write novels of seven hundred pages that feel as if their efforts were too short.

Happy reading!

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