City of Fallen Angels: The Mortal Instruments, Book 4

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
City of Fallen Angels: The Mortal Instruments, Book 4 Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Exciting entry in bestselling series has creepy cult stuff.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 25 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Hamlet is quoted a few times, with some other literary and Bible mentions, especially the story of Cain and Abel. As with the rest of the series, vampire, angel, demon, fairy, and werewolf lore is all combined. Readers can explore how the author's version of these mythical and biblical characters compares with other stories.

Positive Messages

Many characters grapple with heavy lessons about how to make up for past bad decisions, self-acceptance, forgiveness, and how to find your place in the world. The book also explores the strength of love to overcome evil as demons try to divide and conquer.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main characters are full of angst in this book and must overcome feelings of isolation (in Simon's case), self-doubt (Clary), and self-loathing (Jace). Clary and Jace's relationship definitely takes a step backward as Jace closes himself off when he worries about her safety instead of confiding in Clary right away. They all work through it and major and minor characters come together and look out for each other when it's a matter of life and death.


Demon-fighting is a constant in this series, but it's on a smaller scale here. Demons are stabbed with special swords, heads severed, spewing gross demon blood. Babies whose mothers were given demon blood are born with claws for hands and die quickly. Possession that causes self-injury (stabbing). A cult of demon-worshippers sacrifices themselves. Vampires feast on blood and talk of the lure of human over animal blood. Some violence mixed with the sexual tension that is later explained.


Clary and Jace embrace passionately a couple times, legs intertwined, shirts off. A boyfriend gets jealous of his boyfriend's past relationships; they kiss. Simon and Isabelle kiss. Isabelle and Clary talk about using protection when Clary takes the next step with Jace.


No "f" words but everything else a few times: "bastard," "dammit," "goddammit," "asshole," "bitch."


Video games mentioned, iPod, and some NYC landmarks.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Wine and champagne drunk by teens and adults. Mention of pot. Simon feels like he's high after drinking blood.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is the fourth book in the bestselling Mortal Instruments series -- and the first in a second cycle that will include three books. While the previous installment was full of demon-Nephilim battles, this one takes the violence to a creepier place with the Nephilim (humans who have angel blood) fighting against some serious cult activity: demon-worshipping to the point of sacrificing babies to the cause. This leads to nightmarish imagery of dead babies with claws for hands. Consistent with the other books, there's plenty of blood -- drunk by vampires, sacrificed, spewed everywhere, and mixed to create superbeings. There's also more sexual energy in this one (mostly straight but some gay as well); using protection is mentioned but characters don't have sex. Main characters grapple with feelings of isolation, self-loathing, and self-doubt but come together to fight against evil and reaffirm their important connections to each other.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAmeliaIsAMom June 29, 2020

Love this!

Let me just start with all the biblical references. They are scattered all throughout and fun to look for! While having a dark and almost eerie plot, the author... Continue reading
Adult Written bytalltree123 September 12, 2019

Great Book!

This is book is entrancing and will be much loved by Shadowhunter fans! It's great for getting kids hooked up on reading.
Teen, 13 years old Written bypoe-ette April 19, 2012
Teen, 13 years old Written byiss.y April 14, 2021

What's the story?

At the end of book three, characters were in the Glass City of Idris after a big battle with demons and the evil Valentine. Back in New York City, characters try to re-imagine their lives. Clary is training at the institute for the first time, Simon is trying to live a semi-normal life (while hiding his stash of blood from his mom), and Jace is working on his relationship skills with Clary while trying to remind himself that he isn't like the psychopath who raised him. But evil forces are at work, with Jace invaded by strange and violent dreams where he's afraid for Clary's life, Simon visited by a very old and very powerful vampire who nearly compels his alliance with her, and Clary using her ruin-creating abilities to uncover a cult that tampers with the unborn like they did with her own brother.

Is it any good?

After the nail-biting, demon-demolishing, evil-vanquishing conclusion to the first cycle, book four had a lot to live up to, and it builds pretty slowly but steadily. It surfaces new evil forces to fight and draws on quite a bit of relationship angst to propel the characters -- maybe a bit too much when it comes to Jace and Clary. While the cult activity and dead claw-handed babies will definitely give readers the creeps, CITY OF ANGELS keeps the series full of light moments and humor for contrast.  And the new villains are just as complex as Valentine, but female this time, a fun twist and a reminder of the series' appeal to both boys and girls.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about all cult imagery in this book. For those practicing a religion, is it hard to read about? Is it more jarring than the straight-out demon fighting?

  • Families can also talk about the popularity of this series. If you've read the first cycle of three -- that ended like a complete trilogy -- were you wondering/worrying/excited with what the next cycle would hold? Were you happy or disappointed with the direction the author took with the series?

  • Families can also talk about Clary and Jace's very intense relationship. Is all that self-doubt and worry typical of teen relationships, or over the top?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and romance

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