Cassandra’s Clare’s “Mortal Instruments” is a frustrating read

By Farah Bassyouni Oct 9, 2023

Warning: Spoilers for “The Mortal Instruments” series. This newspaper is not responsible for any hellfire thrown in the process of reading.

Author Cassandra Clare piqued my interest with the first book of the series, “City of Bones”, and drew me even closer with book two, “City of Ashes”, after the cliffhanger of book one. 

By the third book, “City of Glass”, I was getting mildly irritated. After forcing myself to finish the series after a three year hiatus, I can safely say that I will never reread this series. In fact, I’d say this is one case where the adaptation (albeit still awful) being better than the written works.

1. The main character, Clary Fray is insanely two-dimensional 

“City of Bones” is an overall decent introduction to the world of the Shadowhunters, the half-angel, half-human race of supernatural beings who protect the world from demons. Upon meeting the self-appointed leader, Jace, Clary understandably has problems keeping up with the Shadowhunters seeing as she is still in high school and still has no clue that one of them. However, by the end of “City of Glass”, I wanted some development, physical and mental. Let her be a strong character instead of needing rescuing all the time. Unfortunately she had yet to learn any fighting skills and failed to grow from her experiences, remaining whiny and confused most of  the time.

2. Side characters continually outshone the love interests

The two-dimensional status of Clary (and her on and off relationship with Jace) from the book leaves the side characters, Alec, Izzy, and Magnus much more appealing because they actually grow. Alec, Jace’s best friend and Parabatai, figures out that he’s into men rather than women; he’s stuck in his “I can’t stand Downworlders” mindset until he meets Magnus, a Downworlder and a warlock (Downworlders are non-mortal creatures such as vampires, werewolves or warlocks), and plants a hot one on him. It was so romantic, I was rooting for them.

Izzy, Alec’s sister and Clary’s bestie, was by far the slowest evolving character of the series. She starts out as a lewd, sexy character  but finally changes and falls for the nerdy vampire, Simon, who helps balance her out (yes, there is eventually nerd love).

3. The POV’s become overwhelming

While the first three books are written in third-person perspective, we mostly follow Clary or Jace exclusively. Every once in a while an Alec or Izzy chapter will appear, but they are brief and far between. However, by the end of book four, “City of Fallen Angels”, the point of view switches from this character to that character so fast it causes the reader to get whiplash. There’s just too much going on in the books by now and the storyline ends up suffering from it (not that the last three books were worth the read anyway).

4. The plot was way too drawn out

I would have at least been content by the end of the third book, “City of Glass”, if it were summed up as the end. Unfortunately, new plotlines began which Clare stretched out into three more books.

If she’d stuck mainly to Clary and Jace in the original trilogy and then moved to Izzy and Malec with their own novels, the result probably would have been much better. Unfortunately, Clare had a bad case of ‘I-love-these-characters-so-I must-write-more’. Cameo appearances in spin offs could have been a good way to continue Clary and Jace’s story, but they did not need six books just for their story.

The plotlines for the later half of the series were so frustrating that I almost did not finish the series. Clary and Jace’s relationship was a large part that upset me. Their romance was all over the place; they even thought they were brother and sister for a while. Then there was Sebastian, Clary’s real brother, who simply didn’t need a five book villain/minion arc. Taking over the world does not take that long…

5. The writing style started off bad and never improved 

I am a fan of first time writers and authors who don’t have a large following like J.K. Rowling and Sarah J. Mass. So when it came to reading the first two books, I was alright with the clearly newcomer style. It wasn’t very lyrical, it was a bit sloppy, and there was either too much description or not enough. 

Sitting on my couch and reading “City of Glass”, my resolve was dwindling. By “City of Fallen Angels” I wanted to hit my head on a wall.

The scenes further lacked description and the lyrical writing never developed. Sadly, it went to die in a cemetery and came back as a vengeful, Downworlder vampire. I have placed “The Mortal Instruments” in a box to be donated to my sister since she reads everything, and I think a younger reader would get more enjoyment out of the series.

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