City of Ashes: The Mortal Instruments, Book 2
By Matt Berman,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Sequel to "City of Bones" is gripping but gory.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers can explore why the author quotes Dante's Divine Comedy and Milton's Paradise Lost. They can also compare the author's version of vampire, werewolf, angel, and fairy lore to other books.
Family bonds are complex: Nontraditional family connections are important but can also become unhealthy. Part of being courageous is learning to see the value in teamwork. On the other hand, strong disagreement can lead to dangerous gray areas in decision making.
Positive Role Models
Clary is a brave demon fighter, discovering some of her hidden gifts in the process and bringing her group together to work as a team. When faced with a difficult choice, Jace makes the harder but better decision. Other characters continue to make poor decisions and demonstrate jealous, rude behavior. Except for Luke, who plays the protective father figure, adults are pretty pig-headed.
Main characters are White but Magnus (described as "part Asian" in City of Bones) has a significant role and Maia (a "bi-racial" werewolf) and Raphael (a Spanish-speaking vampire) are in a few important scenes. Two characters are queer but conceal it, and others make stereotypical comments about gay men dressing extravagantly, disliking sports, etc. Main character Clary is a strong woman, but other women characters have small secondary roles. Simon's Jewish traditions (burial practices, etc.) are respectfully addressed. Good representation of healthy nontraditional families with foster children, single parents, and non-parent caregivers.
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Violence & Scariness
Lots of fantasy violence, much of it gory -- stabbing, impaling, throat cutting, broken bones, many descriptions of blood, etc. Fights with demons sometimes lead to death, and the storyline involves murders of magical creatures. Brief mentions of realistic violence such as animal cruelty, physical abuse from family members and romantic partners, suicide, torture, and rape.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Teens make jokes about pornography, sleeping with supermodels, genital size, naked women, etc. Couples navigate relationships, including kissing and making out in bed, and talking about dating and having sex. Characters discuss whether it's OK for siblings to date each other. Boys briefly appear shirtless. An adult begins to date a teen.
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Smattering of insults including "bitch" and "a--hole," plus "d--khead," "bastard," "jackass," "dammit," and "screw you." Other exclamations include "Jesus," "hell," "ass," and "for God's sake." Ableist ("insane," "lame," "lunatic") and outdated terms ("warpath," "handicap") used.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults and some teens drink wine and beer. Brief smoking by an adult.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that City of Ashes is the second book in The Mortal Instruments, an urban fantasy series about monsters and magical Shadowhunters. Violence includes stabbing, impaling, throat cutting, broken bones, many descriptions of blood (most gory scenes are between Shadowhunters and demons). There are also sexual references, and several couples navigate complicated relationships. Some characters make stereotypical comments about gay men. This installment of The Mortal Instruments series explores what binds people to each other, with positive messages about nontraditional families and less-than-positive messages about unhealthy connections. Characters continue to demonstrate jealous, rude behavior but slowly start to work as a brave team. There's more racial diversity than in the first book, but Clary is the only main woman character this time. Readers who skipped Book 1, City of Bones, will be confused by this one, so it's best to start with that one.
Where to Read
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What's the Story?
In CITY OF ASHES, the sequel to City of Bones, Clary navigates complicated relationships with Jace and Simon. A Clave Inquisitor, who has an agenda of her own, comes to investigate Jace's relationship to his evil father. Joined by Isabelle and Alec, warlock Magnus, and other Shadowhunters, Clary and Jace make a plan to stop Valentine, who's gathering an army of demons against the Clave. (And if none of that makes any sense, reading the first book before tackling this one is a must.)
Is It Any Good?
Fans will be glad that author Cassandra Clare wastes no time in this second volume in The Mortal Instruments series and slams straight into the action. City of Ashes won't make much sense without having read City of Bones, which sets up the complex politics and history of demons, werewolves, vampires, fairies, and Shadowhunters. In this installment, there's less worldbuilding as characters get right into the bloody, gory, violent action that's part of Shadowhunter life. But fans of the series will find many elements that first drew them in: an engrossing (if melodramatic) writing style; a complex and fully realized parallel world; intriguing mysteries that continue to unfold; and teen characters who are gradually growing together. City of Ashes lacks diversity and relies on stereotypes but is markedly better than the first book. Teens who don't mind the gore and are willing to see where the story goes will find this a gripping sequel.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the gory violence in City of Ashes: The Mortal Instruments, Book 2. Do you think it's necessary to the story? Why, or why not?
Is reading about fantasy violence different than reading about realistic violence? What about reading violent scenes vs. seeing them on a screen?
How do Clary's actions demonstrate courage? How does teamwork help Clary and her friends stay safe?
- Author: Cassandra Clare
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Book Characters, Brothers and Sisters
- Character Strengths: Courage, Teamwork
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster
- Publication date: March 1, 2008
- Number of pages: 453
- Last updated: January 13, 2020
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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Where to Read
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