City of Glass, the third book in the Mortal Instruments trilogy by Cassandra Clare, follows the story of Clary, a demon-fighter, or Shadowhunter, living in a time of turmoil. Clary must travel to the Shadowhunter city Alicante to save her mother’s life. She does so without permission from the Clave, the totalitarian council that governs all Shadowhunters. When she arrives, she finds that her brother, Jace, does not want her there and that her best friend Simon has been imprisoned because he is a vampire that can withstand sunlight. Vampires, along with warlocks, seelies, and werewolves, are collectively known as Downworlders. They hold an uneasy truce with the Clave, but there is still discrimination and distrust against them. To complicate matters, Clary’s and Jace’s father, the evil Shadowhunter Valentine, is gaining strength. He possesses two of the three Mortal Instruments, which if combined are said to give their owner immeasurable power. He plans to use this power to gain control and eradicate the Downworlders. With the help of the enigmatic Sebastian and several of her other Shadowhunter and Downworlder allies, as well as her newfound ability to create powerful magic runes, Clary must find a way to stop Valentine, unite the Shadowhunters and Downworlders, save her mother, and deal with her complicated feelings for Jace.
On the whole, I felt that City of Glass, like the rest of the books in the trilogy, was a very satisfying book, and was definitely worth buying. The description of the setting was superb, immersing the reader in the complicated yet fascinating world of the supernatural. Though it offers all the supernatural fun of any fantasy, it also addresses the real themes of discrimination and familial bonds. I also especially enjoyed the characterization of Valentine. In previous books, Valentine came off as your average evil overlord. He ruthlessly kills people, psychologically torments his family, etc., etc. In City of Glass, however, another side of his personality is revealed. In his own twisted way, Valentine believes that he is doing the Shadowhunters and the world a favor. In fact, most of his beliefs are just the magnified views that the rest of the Shadowhunters have about the Downworlders. Although a man who had committed such atrocities might be considered unable to care for people, nevertheless Valentine loved his wife and family dearly. After his wife, Clary’s mother, ran away, Valentine spent years searching for her. He was also fully capable of killing Jace, which was in his best interests, but he could not bear to. All in all, the author shows that Valentine, like all people real or imaginary, is not purely black or white, but a moral shade of gray.
The only negative comments I have to offer center around the predictability of several key plot points. Although there are certainly several aspects of the story which are quite original, I feel that Cassandra Clare tried and failed to make unpredictable plot twists. I won’t disclose any specific details, but I think that the location of the third mortal instrument, Sebastian’s true identity, and the real connection between Clary and Jace were all painfully obvious, so much so that the paltry attempts at foreshadowing were quite irritating. I also thought that the ending of City of Glass did little to break the mold of traditional fantasy books. Of course, good triumphs over evil and all the main characters live happily ever after. I’m not saying that the ending was bad, just that it was not so original. All in all, however, City of Glass was a very enjoyable read.