City of Ashes: The Mortal Instruments, Book 2

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
City of Ashes: The Mortal Instruments, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
City of Bones sequel is gripping but a lot gorier.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 38 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers can explore why the author quotes from Dante's Divine Comedy and Milton's Paradise Lost. They can also think about how the author's version of vampire, werewolf, angel, and fairy lore differs from other books, and how it's the same. Fantasy fans will race through this installment and be on to the next book in the series before you know it. Could lead to some interesting discussions about book series, and the difference between fantasy and realistic violence. See our "Families Can Talk About" section for some ideas.

Positive Messages

Some classic good versus evil stuff as a brother and sister fight against their power-hungry father. The book also ponders what makes a family and binds people to each other. Also, the book explores what it means to be fearless as characters fight a demon that preys on fear.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Teen characters fight for good and Clary is a strong female demon-fighter, discovering some of her hidden gifts in this installment of the series. Jace lets some of his walls down to care for others, and when faced with a difficult choice, he makes the harder but better decision. Except for Luke, who plays the protective father figure, the other adults are pretty pig-headed.


Lots of fantasy violence, much of it very gory, more so than the first book -- stabbing, impaling, throat and wrist cutting; severed limbs and bodies; organs coming out; children being eaten; descriptions of puddles, bowls, and rivers of blood; many deaths. Also, a father deliberately breaks his son's bones; and stories told about a pregnant woman who commits suicide and an abusive teen relationship.


Some kissing and making out, and a brother and sister resist their incestuous feelings for each other; porn channels mentioned; several mentions of sex; some innuendo; two characters are gay and may be having an affair.


Smattering of insults including "bitch" and "asshole," plus "dickhead," "bastard," "jackass," "damnit," and "screw you."


Toys, computer games, electronics, snack brands, bands, and movies mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Wine and beer drinking by adults and underage werewolves. Some smoking by an adult.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that there is a lot of gory violence here -- more so than in the first book. This installment includes throat and wrist cutting, dismemberment, stabbing, severed limbs, and more, all with lots of blood. There are also mild sexual references, including to incest and homosexuality, and some kissing. Teens who didn't read the first book will be confused by this one.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byGreatparentreader September 9, 2020


The book is great I would not say there is too much sex because that all happens in book one and book one is age appropriate. The violence is not bad because it... Continue reading
Adult Written byAmeliaIsAMom June 28, 2020

Another hit!

This book surprised me! Less cursing than the previous book in the series! Again some violence, but all for the better of the plot! Even a couple of references... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byicefox February 3, 2016

This is a magnificent book!

I really loved the first book but this really built on the characters and the plot a lot, and I always look for strong characters and plot. I have to admit the... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old January 24, 2015

good book for young teens

the main review makes this book sound really gory: its not. the violence there is fantasy violence, like vampires werewolves and demons, stuff like that. there... Continue reading

What's the story?

In this sequel to City of Bones, Clary continues to be torn between Simon and Jace; an Inquisitor, who has an agenda of her own, comes from the Clave to investigate Jace's relationship to Valentine; and Valentine gathers an army of demons to destroy the Clave. And if none of that makes any sense to you, that shows that you need to read the first book before tackling this one.

Is it any good?

Fans will be glad that author Cassandra Clare wastes no time in recapitulation of the first book -- she slams straight into the action here. In the first book, City of Bones, a complex world of demons, werewolves, vampires, faeries, and Shadowhunters, hidden within our own and filled with politics, factions, and history, was set up and partially explained. CITY OF ASHES won't make much sense without having read the first book.

And there's a lot more of that action than in the first book. It's also a lot bloodier, sometimes unnecessarily, and sometimes disturbingly so, such as when a major character's throat and wrists are slit. But fans of the series will find many of the elements that first drew them in: an engrossing, if melodramatic, writing style that makes the pages fly by; a complex and fully realized parallel world; intriguing mysteries that are more fully fleshed out here, but not yet solved; and appealing teen characters who are gradually discovering new and unusual abilities. Teens who don't mind the gore will find this is gripping sequel.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the trend toward gorier violence in the genre. Is it necessary?

  • Is reading about fantasy violence different than realistic violence? What about reading violent scenes versus seeing them on a screen?

Book details

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