Book Review: The Mortal Instruments series

I’m perhaps a little late to hop on this bandwagon, but the final book in this series was published roughly two months ago, so I think a full series review seems apt at this point. I say I’m late, because I only started reading this in March when I first picked up City of Bones. Many of my friends raved about this and so I decided to give it a shot. I bought the first two books on my study trip to England last year and then bought the other 3 books in London in October. Come March, I felt finally ready to read the series. After finishing book 5, I quickly ordered the sixth book when I saw it was already out so I could finish the series. Here are my thoughts on the series.

I read this series in English which is the language I always reads my books in. Like I said in the intro, the series consists of 6 books in total which could be split up into two trilogies. The main characters remain the same throughout all the books, but their main adversaries are split over books 1 – 3 and 4 – 6. The plot revolves around Clary Fray: a regular 16-year-old, who visits a club called Pandemonium with her best friend Simon one night only to see something she should have. From that moment onwards her life is catapulted into a maelstrom of demons and Shadowhunters (or demon killers). As it so happens to be, Clary was born a Shadowhunter without knowing it. One of the things she sees that night at the club is a boy called Jace: proud shadowhunter and tormented soul. Of course, they are meant to be together.

… And it takes 6 books to find out whether they can and will be together. Each of the 6 books revolves around its own unique plot, but all serve a larger story purpose that ties all 6 books together. My advice is to read these from book 1 – 6 as I don’t find the books suitable to read as standalone stories. Perhaps you could read books 1-3 and then books 4-6 separate as the storylines in those two 3 book sections revolves around the same bad guy, but then again you’d miss certain things from book 1 which are important in book 6. I will now first give you a brief synopsis of each of the 6 books, before I will tell you what I think of this series.

The first book, called City of Bones, revolves around Clary’s introduction into the world of the Shadowhunters. She fights off her first demon, finds out about her mom being a shadowhunter and her dad, called Valentine, so happens to be about the worst thing that has ever happened in the Shadowhunter world. And of course she meets Jace Lightwood: the love of her life. Through Jace and his adopted family members, Clary learns about the world of the Shadowhunter: of werewolves and vampires, of faeries and warlocks and demons, lots of demons. She meets her first Silent Brother and in the mean time her best friend Simon remains all but on the sidelines.

City of Ashes leaves off after a showdown between Clary’s stepfather for all intended purposes and Valentine. Valentine escapes, but of course his evil plans will soon take more shape and bring him back to New York. Clary and Jace struggle with the fact that they are brother and sister, while Valentine plans to open the demon realms to a crack in the defenses over New York. In the mean time, Simon finds out he possesses a spectacular talent, and even Clary isn’t left out in the special department. Her ability to draw runes proves itself a valuable asset in the fight against Valentine. In short: it’s all in a Shadowhunter’s day’s work.

The third book takes the story from New York City to Idris: the land of Shadowhunters. The City of Glass refers to Alicante, capital of Idris and protected by two glass Demon Towers that flash when there is trouble and keep up the wards to keep anything bad out. The backstory of shadowhunters is elaborated on because now Clary is submerged in that world more than ever. Together with Jace, she finds an Angel who is kept as a prisoner in a house on the outskirts of the city by Valentine which brings more struggles to Clary and Jace’s relationship. In the mean time Valentine is planning a full blown war and take it to Idris. Only to serve as a diversion of his real plan: to bring together the Mortal Instruments to call on the Angel Raziel: the creator of the Shadowhunter race.

After the third book, in which Valentine has made a fatal mistake, the story moves on to Jace who, for some unknown reason, has started to pull away from Clary. He dreams he wants to kill her and it leaves him confused and hesitant about their relationship. Jace isn’t the only tortured soul. Simon, Clary’s best friend, is going through plenty of troubles as well. He is dating the werewolf girl Maia, while also dating Jace stepsister Isabelle at the same time. And that is just the least of his troubles. Luckily, he befriends Jordan Kyle and together Clary, Isabelle, Alec (Jace and Isabelle’s brother), Simon, Jordan and Maia go after Jace to save him. Too bad that Jace, after being saved, is immediately pulled back by another dark force: Sebastian, Clary’s real brother and one of the main forces Valentine had to his disposal during the War.

City of Lost Souls introduces us to Sebastian and his dark plans. Compared to Sebastian, his father Valentine seems like a fluffy stuffed animal. Sebastian’s plans are darker and even more gruesome than his father’s. It doesn’t help that Jace is now tied to Sebastian in a more than haunting way and that they go off the grid all the time. The question is: is Jace lost forever or can the power of heaven help him to become himself again? And what does Sebastian want with a Mortal Cup replica? Luckily, Clary stole the fairy made rings from the library at the Institute so she can inform Simon whenever she has news.

In book six, and the final book in the series, the search for Sebastian continues. While wreaking havoc in institutes around the globe, killing Shadowhunters left and right, Sebastian’s powers grow, yet no one can find him. In the mean time he kidnaps Clary’s mother and stepfather (who so happens to be a werewolf), a warlock and a vampire to use as leverage. While the grown ups decide to not pursue, Clary and her friends decide to do the opposite. Their main reason? Because everyone in the group knows at least one kidnapped person who is important to them in one way or another.

My opinion of this series is that it is a fun and enjoyable read. It’s easy to get through the books as the writing is light and well-paced. The downside to this series is that it’s six books long. There is simply too little going on to justify the number of pages you have to read in order to get through the story. There is a lot of filler, a lot of fluff and especially after reading the first three books I felt that it could have easily been put into one book. The plot is very flat: only a few characters receive more detailed explanations of their motivations (mainly Clary, Jace and Simon) and the Shadowhunter world explanations are very meager in the first few books. It’s not until Clary starts to train as a Shadowhunter that you’re introduced properly as a reader. And that’s not until book 4. Especially because the tagline on the books is a review by Stephanie Meyer calling it a ‘storyworld I enjoy’, I find that the story world takes shape too late. It’s as if it took the author 3 books to establish what this world looked like for herself, which just makes it a bit uninspiring at times.

Needless to say, my favorites from this series are the final three books. The last one specifically, is a book I couldn’t put down. As it tied things together and had some interesting, unexpected plot changes, it was the most enthralling of the six books. However, I would say that the author tries to tie things together a bit too neatly in the end, but it’s a young adult book, so I hadn’t expected anything else. The tortured soul state of Jace is also a plotline that sometimes got on my nerves. Pretty much throughout books 2 – 5, Jace is going through some major doubts and changes. To the point where it sometimes becomes a bit too much to believe and it often put me off of Jace as a character. But since he’s still Clary’s love interest, as a reader you’re still very much tied to him, whether you like it or not.

But there is plenty that the series gets right. It handles some interesting themes, which form the subtext for the stories. There’s the struggle of teenager vs adult, sexuality, love, race, acceptance, making sacrifices and the importance of family & friendship. All these themes tie in with teenage experience and I can definitely see how this appeals to a great number of people. For me, the books were a joy to read because it has some great characters, that despite a lack of backstory, you’ll still grow to love or hate. My favorites: Magnus Bane (High Warlock of Brooklyn and Alec’s boyfriend), the Fairy Queen of the Seelie Court and Simon. I recommend you read this if you’re willing to invest in reading almost 3300 pages that you’ll breeze through in a jiffy, but aren’t always filled with the most interesting of content.

Have you read this series? Would you like to?

There is a prequel called The Infernal Devices to this (set in Victorian London and a different cast of characters) and sequels to both The Infernal Devices (The Last Hours) and Mortal Instruments (The Dark Artifices) are in the making. Later this year, the Bane Chronicles will be released and entails the life of Magnus Bane and ties in with a part in the final book where Magnus gives a book with his life story to his boyfriend Alec.

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