Review – City of Heavenly Fire
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  • Posted:
  • May 3, 2016

COHF

City of Heavenly Fire is the sixth book and final book in Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series. It came out in 2014. I bought it immediately but held off reading it until I felt the perfect mood surface. That mood finally hit me this spring.

It took a while for me to read this for several reasons. One is that I had several other things going on in life to devote the attention to this. Two is that I found the book to be overly long in places. Three is that though I wanted to love the book I had a hard time doing so. I did not find it as diverting as I needed it to be. It’s not a great book…it’s only good, in places. Allow me to explain.

* Spoilers for those who have not read any of Cassandra Clare’s books *

Sebastian Morgenstern has been raising hell in Los Angeles. He has unleashed an army of Endarkened Shadowhunters upon the institute.  The Clave gathers to protect themselves from this new threat despite the fact that Sebastian is determined to ruin their efforts. But thwarting a kidnapping, claiming a new sword, and saving the world from the Endarkened is all in a day’s work for Clary and company, our intrepid Shadowhunters.

If the plot sounds light that’s because it is. This was one of the things that made this book feel so insufferably long — a very over-stretched, minimal plot. Granted, there were plenty of character driven moments to pad out the lapse but those became increasingly annoying as the book progressed. From the beginning Clare introduces the Blackthorns (five young siblings) along with Emma Carstairs, their friend and protector. Clare bounces between this grouping, the werewolf contingent (Maia Roberts and friends), the vampire contingent (Simon Lewis’s clan), the New York Shadowhunters (Clary, Jace, Isabelle, Alec, etc.), and numerous other story informants to progress her tale, but the plot, as is, stretched thin atop of everyone. This fragility made it a hard book to follow with frequent passages where I actually forgot what was occurring. Because of this, I found myself caring less as I went on.

There are pockets of awesome moments, though they are far between. There is a fantastic plot between Brother Zachariah and Jace that left me reeling with its implications. There is also a great moment at the end where Clare ties everything off nicely, though it took ages to get there. This moment actually made me want to reread all nine books again (despite my frustration with this book). This overall leads me to believe that this book is far more character driven than some of her previous books. Clare has always been a master of mixing the action and suspense with good, human moments. However, this simply takes far too long to deliver those. There was a time when I felt the characters were doing nothing but sitting around and that was four hundred pages in…then they wandered around for a hundred pages seeking the end of the plot.

Yeah, like I said, not great.

I can’t recall a Shadowhunter book where the characters sat around waiting so long and so often? I can’t recall a Shadowhunter book where I cared so little about the characters or the dynamics. Perhaps this is due to me as it has been some time since I read City of Lost Souls (and was very underwhelmed by that one as well). Perhaps had I read this back to back this may not have happened, though I recently finished Clockwork Princess before this and mostly enjoyed that book? Perhaps this book, and the previous two before it, simply did not need to be, as so many Clare detractors are saying. I know that I enjoyed book four (City of Fallen Angels) and I looked forward to the latter two books with great fervor. Now that I have read the last two, however, I just feel sort of flat. The characters themselves were disappointing and the story itself was no masterpiece. It could easily have been edited down by two hundred pages.

So, considering all of this, is it just me, then?

Like I said, there are moments of great character depth and storytelling, but if I detail those here I will go into spoiler territory and I wouldn’t dream of doing that. As is, this book felt like three different novellas smashed together, and not particularly great ones with little uniformity binding them.

Perhaps someday I will reread all of these books and see if timing is, indeed, everything. Perhaps I will learn to love them again, including the perfect first trilogy of this series. I find it hard to believe that I won’t enjoy those books again, but I did not enjoy this as much as I might have and I feel sort of sad about that. Perhaps I have grown away from them or perhaps Clare herself has grown away from me. I can’t quite decide, but there it is.

3 out of 5 stars. I wanted to love it, but I simply don’t.

– BP

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