The Mortal Instruments is a series of books by former fanfiction writer, Cassandra Clare. The series comprises of six books in total, and three companion books, which centre around a group of teens/young adults that are part angel and part human who are trained to kill demons that enter into the human world and to protect the mundanes (regular humans).
City of Bones is the first novel in the Mortal Instruments series and where we first meet all the main characters, starting with Clary Fray and Simon Lewis. They are at an all-ages nightclub called Pandemonium and having a good time until Clary spots Isabelle, Jace and Alec lure what she believes to be a boy into a storage room and kill him, finding out that it was actually a demon that looked human. Clary has a hard time processing this and ends up leaving later on with Simon. Unfortunately for Clary and her mother, the Shadow world is just not something they can escape from so easily. Throughout the book, Clary encounters demons, vampires, warlocks, werewolves and fairies, changing her entire perspective of the world.
For the most part, this book is decently written, but I definitely wouldn’t give it top marks. Some of the writing was a little on the bland side, dragging some things out that didn’t need to be. The ending also left a lot to be desired. Jace felt completely out of character in the last couple of chapters when he was interacting with Valentine, Clary and Luke. The whole “surprise, the guy you’re in love with is actually your brother” story line felt a little icky the first time (though not so much once you know that that was a lie) and completely unnecessary. Ultimately, with what Valentine was trying to achieve, the lie made some sense, but I felt that the author could have found a better way to do what she wanted without going there.
City of Ashes is the second book in the Mortal Instruments series. It continues on the story from the previous book with Clary and Jace trying to come to terms with the fact that they are “brother and sister”. Along with dealing with that issue, Simon has been turned into a vampire. While all of that is going on, Valentine is gathering up an army of demons that he is summoning with the Mortal Sword. Jace gets himself into trouble, as per usual, but this time it’s mostly not his fault as the Inquisitor has a vendetta against Valentine, and as Jace is believed to be his son, she is taking it out on him. She tries to trade Jace for the Mortal Instruments, not realizing that Jace had told her the truth when he said that Valentine would never agree to that deal, ready to sacrifice his own son in order to do what he believed was the right thing.
Jace and Clary run off to save Simon and Maia from Valentine, stopping his plan from coming to fruition, at least temporarily. Alec also almost admits that he is in a relationship with Magnus.
City of Glass is the third book in the Mortal Instruments series. Nearly this entire book takes place in Idris, the fictional country of the Shadowhunters (situated between Germany, France and Switzerland) that only people from the Shadow world can journey to as there are magical wards that protect it from the mundanes. The gang all head there to stop Valentine, while Clary is in search of a warlock who knows how to wake up her mother. Simon gets dragged along as well after being at the portal during an attack. He ends up in the prisons of the Gard after Alec, Jace and Isabelle trust the Clave to send him back home (maybe not the smartest idea given some of their past dealings with the Clave). We first meet Sebastian in this book, who Clary immediately finds a strange familiarity with. Clary spends a good portion of the book trying to find the Book of the White, a spellbook that has the antidote to wake up her mother. Eventually, Clary and Jace head to his childhood home where they find the book hidden in an old cookbook and also discover Valentine’s secret room. In the room, they find a half-dead angel bound by runes. Clary helps the angel escape and her and Jace learn more about Valentine and what he has done. They learn that his first child was fed with demon blood while still in the womb.
They head back to Alicante to find that the wards have somehow been taken down and the city is under attack by demons. They fight their way through the city and make it to the Hall of the Accords, where everyone is gathering. As the demons back off from the attack, the Shadowhunters regroup. Jace, Alec and Clary head to the Gard to free Simon since he had been left there during the attack. They manage to rescue Simon and the prisoner beside him who turns out to be Hodge. Sebastian appears and kills Hodge, finally showing his true colours and that he was loyal to Valentine. Valentine gives the Clave an ultimatum, either follow him or die in battle against the demons. Jace takes off after Sebastian in order to bring him to justice.
Jocelyn returns after Magnus wakes her from her sleep and joins the rest of the Shadowhunters. Clary remembers one of the runes the angel had shown her in her mind and realizes that it would be able to help them win. She convinces the Clave to go along with her plan that would pair every Shadowhunter with a Downworlder, sharing their abilities. While Jocelyn and Clary talk, Clary finds out that Jace is definitely not her brother and it was Sebastian all along.
Jace finds Sebastian, fights with him and, with an assist from Isabelle, defeats him and leaves him for dead. Clary meanwhile helps the Shadowhunters and Downworlders prepare for battle and marks Simon with the Mark of Cain. Clary attempts to portal to Lake Lyn and is “rescued” by Valentine who intends to kill her in order to summon the angel Raziel. Jace arrives in time to prevent her from being kill but is stabbed in the chest with the Mortal Sword. Valentine summons Raziel, but while he wasn’t paying attention, Clary changed a rune in his carvings, allowing her to be the one who could ask the angel for a gift. Raziel, angered by his hubris and what he had done to the other angel, kills Valentine and gives Clary her wish: Jace’s life back. The book ends with a celebration in Alicante, attended by both Shadowhunters and Downworlders, signalling changes to come.
City of Fallen Angels is the fourth book in the Mortal Instruments series. The vampire Camille finally makes her entrance in this novel, using Simon as her in to cause some trouble for the Shadowhunters. Simon reveals to his mother that he is a vampire and it does not go well. He manages to convince her that it was a bad dream, but he knows he cannot return. Simon moves in with a werewolf, Jordan Kyle, who turns out to be part of a special group of werewolves that keep the others in line and track down stray werewolves that are not part of a pack in order to train them and to keep them from hurting anyone else. Jordan also turns out to be the werewolf that bit Maia. Jace starts having dreams about killing Clary, which puts a strain on their relationship because he starts to avoid her. They go to the Silent City in an effort to make sense of the dreams. While dreaming, the demon Lilith tricks Jace into cutting himself and she uses a demon rune in order to control him.
Both Simon and Clary end up in Lilith’s grasp thanks to her machinations. She demands that Simon resurrect Sebastian. Lilith had been trying to recreate half demon children like Sebastian but without success. Simon reluctantly bites Sebastian. Isabelle, Alec, Jordan and Maia track them down. Clary tricks Jace into holding her and cuts the rune that Lilith had marked him with, breaking her hold over him. Lilth tortures Clary, but Simon throws himself between them, causing Lilith’s death due to the Mark of Cain. Sebastian gains control of Jace and makes him finish the awakening ritual.
City of Lost Souls is the fifth book in the Mortal Instruments series. Simon returns home to find that his mother has blocked him from the house with religious runes around the door. She rejects him, saying that he has killed her real son. Things get worse when they learn that Jace is missing. Jace returns to Clary to ask her to come with them (him and Sebastian). She later joins them in hopes of freeing Jace and learning Sebastian’s plans. The others summon Raziel, who gives Simon a special sword at the cost of his Mark of Cain. Clary manages to get a message to Simon but is interrupted by Sebastian. She escapes and meets up with Simon at the battlegrounds, who gives her the sword. Unable to reach Sebastian, she stabs Jace, believing that because he is more good than evil, he will survive. Sebastian escapes the battle and Jace survives and is taken back to the institute to recover. Camille’s meddling in Alec and Magnus’s relationship comes to a head and Magnus breaks up with Alec. Jace discovers he is filled with sacred fire, which will burn anything he touches when he has an adrenaline rush. Camille is killed by Maureen, a 14 year old vampire, to gain control over the New York clan.
City of Heavenly Fire is the sixth and final book in the Mortal Instruments series. The battle between Shadowhunters is building as Sebastian turns some of the Shadowhunters using the Infernal Cup and demon blood and turning them into Endarkened. The Praetor Lupus is attacked and most of the werewolves there are killed. Maia becomes the praetor after killing Rufus, and helps Lily kill Maureen to take over the vampire clan of New York. The Seelie Queen joins Sebastian’s side, believing that he will win over the Shadowhunters, vampires, werewolves and warlocks. During battle, Jace is injured and burns Brother Zachariah back to his Shadowhunter form, James Carstairs (see Infernal Devices series). The Endarkened demand that the Shadowhunters hand over Clary and Jace. They, along with Simon, Alec and Isabelle, force the Seelie Queen to take them to Edom. Clary confronts Sebastian, tricking him into believing she will rule by his side, and stabs him with her sword. He reverts momentarily back to Jonathan, the brother he could have been, and destroys the Infernal Cup, killing all of the Endarkened. Magnus summons his father to help them get out of Edom who takes Simon’s immortality and memories of the Shadow World as payment. Alec and Magnus get back together and Clary scatters Jonathan’s ashes.
The Bane Chronicles is a collection of ten short stories about the life and adventures of Magnus Bane. The stories are sort of in chronological order with some deviation. The first story is about multiple trips to Peru between 1791 and 1962, which reveals why Magnus Bane is banned from Peru. The next story takes place in France during the French Revolution. We learn about his connection to Camille Belcourt, the Herondale family and his dealings with the vampires. The eighth story is the first story that touches upon the relationship between him and Alec and is set between City of Ashes and City of Glass. The ninth story goes back to before the events of the book series to his first meeting with Jocelyn, and the tenth story is another one about Alec. There is a bonus story called The Voicemail of Magnus Bane, which is a voicemail that he leaves on Alec’s phone.
I really enjoyed this series of short stories as it gave a little more substance to the character of Magnus Bane. Most stories can be read separately from the series without needing any real background, but it does help.
Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy is a collection of ten short stories about Simon Lewis’s time at the Shadowhunter Academy in Idris following the events of City of Heavenly Fire. The Shadowhunter Academy is newly reopened as they need to train and make new Shadowhunters to refill their ranks after the events of City of Heavenly Fire. Simon is sort of famous among the children of Shadowhunters because of his involvement with taking down Jonathan “Sebastian” Morgenstern and his group of corrupt Shadowhunters. At the beginning of the stories, there is a very clear divide between the children of Shadowhunters and regular humans who will drink from the Mortal Cup to become Shadowhunters. Simon was put in the group with the Shadowhunter children even though he is a regular human, but after seeing the way they were treating the rest of the mundanes, he transferred to their group. As the story goes on, the gap between the two groups narrows and they all become closer. By the end of the story, the mundanes are ready to drink from the Mortal Cup, knowing that they may not make it through. One of the characters does not survive the process.
The biggest character disappointment with this series is Clary’s lack of leading woman quality. She has her moments, sure, but for the most part it seems like she has a bit of the “damsel in distress” quality to her. While she was new to the Shadow world, she didn’t really embrace being a powerful woman until halfway through the series when she started training.
Another major issue I had with this series was the whole potential incestuous relationship between Clary and Jace in the first three books. I understand that it was a whole ruse by Valentine to manipulate Jace, but surely Cassandra Clare could have found a better way to keep the two apart and have Jace manipulated into working with Valentine. The whole thing just left this really icky feeling while reading it, even after knowing that they weren’t siblings.
I find some of the writing and plot to be a little juvenile. While I do realize that these books were written for teenagers, it still lacks a lot of the qualities that could make it great. There are so many times where characters make stupid decisions or the dialogue seems forced, almost soap opera like in quality. It really speaks to a lack of quality, but I will give the author some credit as it was still a much better story than Twilight. There were many hints of Harry Potter, but given that the author was inspired by J.K. Rowling, that’s hardly surprising. Much like Fifty Shades of Grey, this story originally started out as a Harry Potter fan fiction before Cassandra Clare published it into her own set of novels, which have become much more fleshed out and expanded on since. I do look forward to reading the next set of novels, The Dark Artifices.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (Movie)
City of Bones was adapted into a movie in 2013, starring Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower. This movie was not the best adaptation of a book, but I think it hit some good notes overall. I didn’t feel the casting was quite right and though I have nothing against Lily Collins or Jamie Campbell Bower, I just didn’t feel that they were the best picks for the two main characters. They weren’t completely wrong for the roles, but there was something missing. Lily Collins in particular did not fit the image I had of Clary. I had always pictured her with really red hair, almost ginger, and they missed the mark there. I also wasn’t a huge fan of her portrayal of Clary. I did enjoy the casting of Kevin Zegers, Robert Sheehan and Godfrey Gao. I felt they played their parts perfectly. The only thing that really felt out of place where the accents of Jace, Isabelle and Alec. Isabelle and Alec were brought up in New York, so it makes absolutely no sense that they would have a British accent, and Jace has been with the Lightwoods since he was 10, so his accent should have naturally faded. It seemed odd and out of place.
I think one of the downfalls in this adaptation was in part the costuming, hair and makeup. I don’t know what they were thinking giving Jonathan Rhys Meyers braided pigtails(?), but it was a bad idea. His whole look was just kind of ridiculous.
I think all fans can at least agree that this was not a great adaptation. Though we are perfectly aware that books can almost never be adapted exactly as they are on the page to the screen, some adaptations just drop the ball in the overall picture of the story and changes made.
Shadowhunters (TV Series)
So far, this series is exactly how the Mortal Instruments should have been adapted in the first place. While they did change some things to update the series and make it different from the movie, I have felt that most of those changes were actually for the better. They aged up the group so that they are 18 instead of 16, and instead of a musty, old-fashioned headquarters, they have integrated technology into the institute. In the books, it’s never really explained why they don’t use technology even though they seem to use some forms of it, but not others. It’s one of those things that never really made sense or was properly explained away. The closest explanation was only in regards to Idris and that technology didn’t work around the demon towers. There have been both minor and major changes in the story line as well, including Clary finding out that Valentine is her father very early on.
The casting for this series was really well done. Katherine McNamara is exactly how I pictured Clary, and Dominic Sherwood has the perfect attitude portrayal for Jace. They aren’t perfect in terms of exact portrayal, but they are close to what I imagined. I was a little underwhelmed by Matthew Daddario’s performance as Alec at first, and his hair and makeup is a little emo for my taste. However, I will say that as the season progressed (and I got used to the look), he definitely improved. Harry Shum Jr.’s portrayal of Magnus Bane left something to be desired when compared to Godfrey’s performance in the movie at the beginning, but as the show continued, it definitely got better. I think the Malec story line is what really pushed the improvement as there was more character development for them.
One thing I am finding with the series, however, is that sometimes the story line is a little fast paced and some things are not being explained very well to non-book fans. There’s almost too much going on and it feels as though we are losing some of the character and relationship development in order for them to push the plot along. The show has finished the first season at the time of writing this article and we’re already deep into the Shadow World without any real understanding of who some of these characters are. I suppose that that is one of the downsides of a visual media versus a book.
I will definitely be sticking around to see where this series goes and am excited to see that it has been picked up for a second season. One of the things that currently intrigues me is how they are going to play the “Jace is Clary’s brother but he’s not” story line. I’ve never been a fan of this story line so I’m hoping that the show plays it a little better than the books did. Since Jocelyn has been woken up quite a bit earlier than in the books, hopefully we’ll get a faster resolution on this story line.