City of Lost Souls: The Mortal Instruments, Book 5

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
City of Lost Souls: The Mortal Instruments, Book 5 Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Bloody bestselling fantasy series gets steamier.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 20 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

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.

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

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.


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.


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.


"Bitch" comes up a couple of times, plus "hell" and "dammit." One instance of "What the f--" is written just like that.


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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bycristinaromanh December 9, 2020
Adult Written byAmeliaIsAMom June 29, 2020


This book is less focused on the dark side and more of the relationships in the story. Mild language. Overall awesome!
Teen, 16 years old Written byShowman movie13 July 31, 2020

Very interesting and some violence

This book, like the 4th one, has less violence in it. The main violence is almost at the end of the book; in a big battle. There is mild bloody sheds but it qui... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old April 16, 2014

Great book! FIVE STARS!!! Some spoilers ahead:

The fifth book is the most violent of all. Lots of blood is drawn during fighting between Shadowhunters and Demons, and there are even more steamy moments betwe... Continue reading

What's the story?

At the end of City of Fallen Angels, Jace disappeared with Sebastian, Clary's brother made evil with demon blood. Clary fears for Jace and has decided to do anything to get him back, but she's warned that he won't be at all like himself. He had been forced into a twinning ceremony, which subjects a now shell-like version of Jace to Sebastian's will and, worse, means you can't kill one without killing the other. Clary, still bent on saving Jace while finding out what evil Sebastian is up to, joins them in Europe, all the while secretly communicating with her best friend, Simon, through special faerie rings. Meanwhile, Simon and a host of friends, Nephilim and Downworlder alike, are trying to find a weapon that can sever the connection between Jace and Sebastian and bring Jace back to himself. They literally search heaven and hell for what they need, but will they find it before Sebastian sets his nefarious plans in motion?

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the Mortal Instruments series so far. Are you excited for the conclusion? Are you reading the prequel series, The Infernal Devices, as well? Which do you like better?

  • In one scene, Isabelle gets really drunk when she's nervous about talking to Simon. Why do you think she decided to do that? Are the consequences realistic?

  • There's a lot of blood to wade through in this series. Does it feel less violent because it's a book instead of a movie or a video game? Fantasy instead of reality? Or does it all affect you the same way?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy and romance

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