A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series has always been meant for more mature teen readers. But the sexual content is a bit more mature in City of Heavenly Fire and the previous installment, City of Lost Souls, than in the others. Here main characters have sex for the first time (with a condom), and other couples -- straight and gay -- do plenty of kissing and rolling around together. The series continues to be bloody and violent, with some truly gory moments -- guts spilling, heads rolling -- and some profoundly sad ones, such as when a 12-year-old boy must kill his own father because his father drank out of a cup that "turned" him evil. There are more sad deaths, mostly by stabbing, and some battle scenes and talk of massacres. The older teen characters drink wine together. They also fight alongside one another, showing loyalty, friendship, and bravery -- big themes of the series. Clare includes a gay relationship with all the complexity and then some of a straight one -- which is rare, especially for a fantasy series. She also introduces her first autistic character, Tiberius, who will figure more prominently in her follow-up series, The Dark Artifices.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Sebastian, Clary's brother who was made evil with demon blood by their father, Valentine, has some truly diabolical plans in store. Shadowhunters in the city of Alicante are shivering in their combat boots as Sebastian ransacks institutes all over the world, forcing Shadowhunters to drink from the Infernal Cup. The contents turn them evil and soulless -- perfect additions to Sebastian's growing army. No one's willing to believe that Shadowhunters they once knew and loved can't be turned back -- until they face them in battle and more Shadowhunters die at their hands. There's nothing Sebastian fears anymore except for Jace, who, through some magic of Clary's "stele" (a blade that carves magic symbols), has heavenly fire running in his veins. Sebastian knows this is the one thing that can kill him, which is why he demands that Clary and Jace join his side or the whole world will be destroyed. They have two days to decide. But no way is Jace waiting around to be claimed. He gathers up Clary and their friends Isabelle, Alec, and Simon and seek him out where his power is strongest. It's a path that, not surprisingly, leads them straight to hell.
Is it any good?
This YA fantasy is too long -- but amid far too much of the characters' internal dialogue and remembrances of the good and bad times of the past five books, it's got a satisfying end for fans. Guess what will finally happen with Clary and Jace? And for Alec and Magnus it's nice to see such a dramatic and complex story line for gay characters who usually get the briefest of mentions, if they exist at all. Simon's life takes a surprising turn in the tense climax -- stay tuned. The stakes are about as high as they can be for both the characters whom readers love and the whole world. This is an exciting send-off.
But this isn't good-bye, not really. Cassandra Clare carefully introduces new characters for her next series, The Dark Artifices. As Emma grows up, she'll be another strong heroine -- just like Clary and Tessa.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the long-running Mortal Instruments series (six books) and its spin-offs: Infernal Devices (three books) and The Dark Artifices (launching in 2015). What's appealing about already knowing the fantasy world of Shadowhunters before you pick up the next installment? Will you read them all?
Author Cassandra Clare introduces her first autistic character, Tiberius, in City of Heavenly Fire. Which characteristics does she give him? Are there any autistic people in your life -- at school or in your family? How is Tiberius different from or similar to those you may know?
If you could be a Shadowhunter, vampire, werewolf, or faerie, which would you be? Why?
- Author: Cassandra Clare
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
- Publication date: May 27, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 17
- Number of pages: 725
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 29, 2020
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