Today I Read…City of Ashes

Today I read City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare, the second book in The Mortal Instruments series. city of ashes

Everything has changed since Jace Wayland and Clary Fray learned that they are the children of the evil Valentine. Jace’s foster mother, the one who has raised him for the last seven years, has accused him of being a spy for Valentine and thrown him out of his home. So naturally he decides to go out and start picking fights in a werewolf bar. Clary is waiting for her mother to wake up from the coma Valentine left her in. Simon, Clary’s best friend, has been turned into a vampire, as well as Clary’s new boyfriend. And Maia is trying to adjust to life as a werewolf after she was attacked by her ex-boyfriend Jordan.

And now the Inquisitor is coming to question Jace and prove his loyalty–or his treachery. Valentine has killed the Brothers of the Silent City to steal the Mortal Sword. And Clary and Jace are still trying to fight their attraction to each other. Faeries and demons and warlocks, oh my…

Things are changing. And they will never be the same again.

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Clary and Jace keep meeting more people, and their lives keep getting more complicated. In City of Ashes we learn more about how Valentine affected people during the last war, and more about his current plots. Valentine is the master of the subtle knife- you don’t even know that he has it until you’re already lying on the ground bleeding. Is he lying, when he tells Jace that he loves him and wants him to join Valentine’s cause? Or is he telling the truth, knowing that it will hurt more? Or is he telling the truth in the way that will make people believe whatever he wants them to believe? We learn that there are those in Shadowhunter society who will hold the son responsible for the sins of the father, and that Valentine has sinned indeed. Valentine’s favourite story is Milton’s Paradise Lost, and he sympathizes with Lucifer–the influence on Valentine as a character is clear. The worst thing about Valentine is his total belief that he is right. That the ends justify the means. And that there are certain groups which, simply by being what they are born to be, deserve to die, and anyone who gets in the way on purpose or by accident is nothing more than collateral damage.

Hm, this sounds familiar. From about a dozen instances in history. And current events.

Clary and Jace’s epic, tortured romance continues–their love is too strong to deny, even though they are brother and sister and can never be together. Normally all this teenage angst would annoy me a bit, but they both handle it so badly that I have to sympathize with them. Jace can be an arrogant jerk, and frequently is. He pushes Clary away and is rude to everyone, especially anyone in authority, but he does feel so helpless. He loves Clary and knows that it is wrong. He loves Valentine, the father who raised him and taught him, even though he knows that Valentine is a monster. Clary knows that she should love Simon–he’s been her best friend for forever, her constant loyal companion, and he loves her so much, but Jace…Everybody screws up. How they handle it is where the story happens.

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She jumped a little, spilling some of the wine. “Jace. I didn’t hear you come in.”

He didn’t move. “Do you remember that song you used to sing to Isabelle and Alec—when they were little and afraid of the dark—to get them to fall asleep?”

Maryse appeared taken aback. “What are you talking about?”

“I used to hear you through the walls,” he said. “Alec’s bedroom was next to mine then.”

She said nothing.

“It was in French,” Jace said. “The song.”

“I don’t know why you’d remember something like that.” She looked at him as if he’d accused her of something.

“You never sang to me.”

There was a barely perceptible pause. Then, “Oh, you,” she said. “You were never afraid of the dark.”

“What kind of ten-year-old is never afraid of the dark?”

Her eyebrows went up. “Sit down, Jonathan,” she said. “Now.”

He went, just slowly enough to annoy her, across the room, and threw himself into one of the wing-back chairs beside the desk. “I’d rather you didn’t call me Jonathan.”

“Why not? It’s your name.” She looked at him consideringly. “How long have you known?”

“Known what?”

“Don’t be stupid. You know exactly what I’m asking you.” She turned her glass in her fingers.

“How long have you known that Valentine is your father?”

Jace considered and discarded several responses. Usually he could get his way with Maryse by making her laugh. He was one of the only people in the world who could make her laugh.

“About as long as you have.”

Maryse shook her head slowly. “I don’t believe that.”

Jace sat up straight. His hands were in fists where they rested on the chair arms. He could see a slight tremor in his fingers, wondered if he’d ever had it before. He didn’t think so. His hands had always been as steady as his heartbeat. “You don’t believe me?”

He heard the incredulity in his own voice and winced inwardly. Of course she didn’t believe him. That had been obvious from the moment she had arrived home.

“It doesn’t make sense, Jace. How could you not know who your own father is?”

“He told me he was Michael Wayland. We lived in the Wayland country house—”

“A nice touch,” said Maryse, “that. And your name? What’s your real name?”

“You know my real name.”

“Jonathan Christopher. I knew that was Valentine’s son’s name. I knew Michael had a son named Jonathan too. It’s a common enough Shadowhunter name—I never thought it was strange they shared it, and as for Michael’s boy’s middle name, I never inquired. But now I can’t help wondering. What was Michael Wayland’s son’s real middle name? How long had Valentine been planning what he was going to do? How long did he know he was going to murder Jonathan Wayland—?” She broke off, her eyes fixed on Jace. “You never looked like Michael, you know,”

she said. “But sometimes children don’t look like their parents. I didn’t think about it before. But now I can see Valentine in you. The way you’re looking at me. That defiance. You don’t care what I say, do you?”

But he did care. All he was good at was making sure she couldn’t see it. “Would it make a difference if I did?”

She set the glass down on the table beside her. It was empty. “And you answer questions with questions to throw me off, just like Valentine always did. Maybe I should have known.”

“Maybe nothing. I’m still exactly the same person I’ve been for the past seven years. Nothing’s changed about me. If I didn’t remind you of Valentine before, I don’t see why I would now.”

Her glance moved over him and away as if she couldn’t bear to look directly at him. “Surely when we talked about Michael, you must have known we couldn’t possibly have meant your father. The things we said about him could never have applied to Valentine.”

“You said he was a good man.” Anger twisted inside him. “A brave Shadowhunter. A loving father. I thought that seemed accurate enough.”

“What about photographs? You must have seen photographs of Michael Wayland and realized he wasn’t the man you called your father.” She bit her lip. “Help me out here, Jace.”

“All the photographs were destroyed in the Uprising. That’s what you told me. Now I wonder if it wasn’t because Valentine had them all burned so nobody would know who was in the Circle.

I never had a photograph of my father,” Jace said, and wondered if he sounded as bitter as he felt.

Maryse put a hand to her temple and massaged it as if her head were aching. “I can’t believe this,” she said, as if to herself. “It’s insane.”

“So don’t believe it. Believe me,” Jace said, and felt the tremor in his hands increase.

She dropped her hand. “Don’t you think I want to?” she demanded, and for a moment he heard the echo in her voice of the Maryse who’d come into his bedroom at night when he was ten years old and staring dry-eyed at the ceiling, thinking of his father—and she’d sat by the bed with him until he’d fallen asleep just before dawn.

“I didn’t know,” Jace said again. “And when he asked me to come with him back to Idris, I said no. I’m still here. Doesn’t that count for anything?”

She turned to look back at the decanter, as if considering another drink, then seemed to discard the idea. “I wish it did,” she said. “But there are so many reasons your father might want you to remain at the Institute. Where Valentine is concerned, I can’t afford to trust anyone his influence has touched.”

“His influence touched you,” Jace said, and instantly regretted it at the look that flashed across her face.

“And I repudiated him,” said Maryse. “Have you? Couldyou?” Her blue eyes were the same color as Alec’s, but Alec had never looked at him like this. “Tell me you hate him, Jace. Tell me you hate that man and everything he stands for.”

A moment passed, and another, and Jace, looking down, saw that his hands were so tightly fisted that the knuckles stood out white and hard like the bones in a fish’s spine. “I can’t say that.”

Maryse sucked in her breath. ” Why not?”

“Why can’t you say that you trust me? I’ve lived with you almost half my life. Surely you must know me better than that?”

“You sound so honest, Jonathan. You always have, even when you were a little boy trying to pin the blame for something you’d done wrong on Isabelle or Alec. I’ve only ever met one person who could sound as persuasive as you.”

Jace tasted copper in his mouth. “You mean my father.”

“There were only ever two kinds of people in the world for Valentine,” she said. “Those who were for the Circle and those who were against it. The latter were enemies, and the former were weapons in his arsenal. I saw him try to turn each of his friends, even his own wife, into a weapon for the Cause—and you want me to believe he wouldn’t have done the same with his own son?”

She shook her head. “I knew him better than that.” For the first time, Maryse looked at him with more sadness than anger. “You are an arrow shot directly into the heart of the Clave, Jace. You are Valentine’s arrow. Whether you know it or not.”

*******************************************************************************************

“Clary, I’m telling you he made his own decisions. What you’re blaming yourself for is being what you are. And that’s no one’s fault and nothing you can change. You told him the truth and he made up his own mind what he wanted to do about that. Everyone has choices to make; no one has the right to take those choices away from us. Not even out of love.”

“But that’s just it,” Clary said. “When you love someone, you don’t have a choice.” She thought of the way her heart had contracted when Isabelle had called to tell her Jace was missing.

She’d left the house without a moment’s thought or hesitation. “Love takes your choices away.”

“It’s a lot better than the alternative.”

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