A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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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?
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