A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
As with the rest of the series, vampire, angel, demon, fairy, and werewolf lore is all combined in City of Lost Souls. Readers can explore how the author's version of these mythical and biblical characters compares with other stories. There are also brief descriptions of major European cities: Prague, Paris, and Amsterdam. The author usually weaves in some mentions of classic literature and poetry as well. Clary and Jace settle in to read A Tale of Two Cities, and major section headers start with pithy classic quotes.
The major question characters grapple with is what one person's life is worth -- should you risk everything and potentially put many others in danger to save someone you love? Parents of the teen characters also struggle with when to let go and let children face the dangerous world on their own and make their own decisions. The power of hope is also big here. Plus, the Iron Sisters' motto is "Fire tests gold" or "adversity tests one's strength of character."
Positive Role Models
Lots of talk about how Clary rushes headlong into danger all the time to protect those she loves. It gets her in a lot of trouble (and makes her mother sick with worry), but she's brave and strong enough to pull through all the dangers. Simon overcomes many doubts about himself and his nature to do something truly heroic and selfless.
Violence & Scariness
It's the Nephilim's job to fight demons: special weapons cut off demon limbs and heads, and poisonous demon blood spurts everywhere, burning Clary and friends. A big finale fight scene shows many injured and some dead. Forces of heaven and hell are summoned with the help of witchcraft, endangering those involved. Clary is attacked, cut, and bruised, then forcibly kissed and taunted in a sexually violent way. Clary hallucinates a horrible scene of dead bodies and blood dripping everywhere in a club frequented by vampires. Talk of many dying violent deaths at the hand of a rogue vampire. Some ceremonial blood-drinking by the bad guys.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
There's a bigger focus on sex and relationships this time, with a handful of couples -- straight and gay -- in play, most of whom are in their late teens. Clary and Jace get pretty passionate on a few occasions but stop themselves from having sex -- though shirts come off in bed together, and there's some curtained-off, drug-induced heavy petting at a club. Maia and Jordan have sex, which isn't described beyond Maia jumping in the shower with Jordan and them being in bed together later. Simon and Isabelle have a passionate bedroom scene (for a vampire) where kissing is mixed with bloodletting. Alec and Magnus live together, and some kissing is described.
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"Bitch" comes up a couple of times, plus "hell" and "dammit." One instance of "What the f--" is written just like that.
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Products & Purchases
Brief product mentions include DS, Xbox, Cuervo, Gap, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and Burberry. Plus shout-outs to Star Wars and Dungeons and Dragons.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Isabelle gets passed-out drunk on tequila because she's nervous about talking to Simon about her feelings. Clary, Sebastian, and Jace drink wine a number of times (the drinking age for Nephilim is 15). Clary and Jace inhale faerie drugs at a club. At first it's exhilarating, and then Clary starts to hallucinate horrible things and passes out. A couple mentions of smoking or the smell of smoke.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the Mortal Instruments series has always been meant for more mature teen readers. But with some extra sexual content and a couple of scenes of irresponsible drinking and drug use, City of Lost Souls ages up even a bit more. The series continues to be bloody and violent: Nephilim battle demons, hacking away at limbs -- and, almost grosser, the bad guys drink blood together. There's also some sexual violence against the main character. But there's more focus on the non-violent sexual activities of four couples. For the gay couple that lives together, only kissing is described, but the straight couples either have sex (nakedness and kissing described) or come very passionately close and talk about it. Nervous about talking to her boyfriend, one girl gets very drunk. And in a club, faerie drugs induce sexual euphoria followed by horrible hallucinations. Amid the demon fighting and relationship angst there's a deeper core, though: Clary and friends will do anything to save someone they love.
Is It Any Good?
There's something about Mortal Instruments 5 -- aka CITY OF LOST SOULS -- that's a little lost, waiting to build up to another finale in the next book.
After the death of a major villain (Clary's dad, Valentine) and an all-demons/Nephilim/werewolves/vampires-on-deck war of the ages in Mortal Instruments 3, Mortal Instruments 4 had a lot to live up to. The storyline got a little cultish and weird, but it was still quite exciting. And the ending was rather jaw-dropping.
In Book 5, Clary being forced to live with her super scary part-demon brother should be super scary, but for most of the time it's a pleasant tour through Europe (OK, with the occasional demon fighting, but still). And then there's the steamy filler. Yeah, it's great to see Maia and Jordan get together, and Isabelle think more seriously about Simon, but they're just tangents. That said, the main story does end in Cassandra Clare's usual spectacular fashion. She knows how to do a big finish while dropping all kinds of hints about the wild dangers to come in the next installment. You just need to wade through most of Europe and plenty of rumpled bed sheets to get there.
Did we miss something on diversity?
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.