Today I Read…City of Fallen Angels

Today I read City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare, the fourth book in The Mortal Instruments series. city-of-fallen-angels

Valentine and his son Jonathan are dead, the Clave is finally working together with the Downworlders, Clary is learning how to be a Shadowhunter, and Clary and Jace are free to be together. Everything should be perfect.

Only Jace has been having nightmares about hurting Clary and pushes her away, to protect her. Simon is being followed by agents of Camille, the ancient vampire queen who has been absent from the city and the clan for years. Simon’s new roommate Kyle is a werewolf, who is charged to protect Simon, except Kyle has secrets of his own. And someone is murdering babies in New York.

Looks like evil never really dies…

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Simon’s story really starts to take over from Clary and Jace in this book, which starts a new trilogy in the series. His powers as a Daylighter, a vampire who can walk in the sunlight, become more than a simple plot device in this book. Raphael and Camille both want to use him and his powers to their own ends, to support their power. Simon also has the Mark of Cain, which Clary put on him in the last book, but it is more fully explained what the consequences are. He has to deal with his mother thinking he is a monster and throwing him out of his house. He is dating two girls at once, Maia the werewolf and Isabelle the Shadowhunter, and neither of them knows about each other–until they find out. And his roommate Kyle is actually Jordan Kyle, the ex-boyfriend of Maia, who attacked her and turned her into a werewolf.

Clary and Jace’s epically angst-ridden relationship continues, even though Jace is pulling the macho stay-away-from-me-for-your-own-good-while-never-actually-explaining-what’s-wrong thing. The good thing is that Clary refuses to put up with his nonsense, even though she is going through training, investigating the babies’ murders, and preparing for her mother’s wedding to Luke at the same time.

The series is as complicated as a soap opera, with twists and turns and secrets and lies around every corner. However, it never gets so complicated that the reader loses interest.

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“So, did you have fun with Isabelle tonight?” Clary, her phone jammed against her ear, maneuvered herself carefully from one long beam to another. The beams were set twenty feet up in the rafters of the Institute’s attic, where the training room was located. Walking the beams was meant to teach you how to balance. Clary hated them. Her fear of heights made the whole business sickening, despite the flexible cord tied around her waist that was supposed to keep her from hitting the floor if she fell. “Have you told her about Maia yet?”

Simon made a faint, noncommittal noise that Clary knew meant “no.” She could hear music in the background; she could picture him lying on his bed, the stereo playing softly as he talked to her. He sounded tired, that sort of bone-deep tired she knew meant that his light tone didn’t reflect his mood. She’d asked him if he was all right several times at the beginning of the conversation, but he’d brushed away her concern. She snorted. “You’re playing with fire, Simon. I hope you know that.”

“I don’t know. Do you real y think it’s such a big deal?” Simon sounded plaintive. “I haven’t had a single conversation with Isabelle—or Maia—about dating exclusively.”

“Let me tell you something about girls.” Clary sat down on a beam, letting her legs dangle out into the air. The attic’s half-moon windows were open, and cool night air spilled in, chilling her sweaty skin. She had always thought the Shadowhunters trained in their tough, leatherlike gear, but as it turned out, that was for later training, which involved weapons. For the sort of training she was doing—exercises meant to increase her flexibility, speed, and sense of balance—she wore a light tank top and drawstring pants that reminded her of medical scrubs. “Even if you haven’t had the exclusivity conversation, they’re stil going to be mad if they find out you’re dating someone they know and you haven’t mentioned it. It’s a dating rule.”

“Well, how am I supposed to know that rule?”

“Everyone knows that rule.”

“I thought you were supposed to be on my side.”

“I am on your side!”

“So why aren’t you being more sympathetic?”

Clary switched the phone to her other ear and peered down into the shadows below her. Where was Jace? He’d gone to get another rope and said he’d be back in five minutes. Of course, if he caught her on the phone up here, he’d probably kill her. He was rarely in charge of her training—that was usually Maryse, Kadir, or various other members of the New York Conclave pinch-hitting until a replacement for the Institute’s previous tutor, Hodge, could be found—but when he was, he took it very seriously. “Because,” she said, “your problems are not real problems. You’re dating two beautiful girls at once. Think about it. That’s like . . . rock-star problems.”

“Having rock-star problems may be the closest I ever get to being an actual rock star.”

“No one told you to cal your band Salacious Mold, my friend.”

“We’re Millennium Lint now,” Simon protested.

“Look, just figure this out before the wedding. If they both think they’re going to it with you and they find out at the wedding that you’re dating them both, they’ll kill you.” She stood up. “And then my mom’s wedding will be ruined, and she’ll kill you. So you’ll be dead twice. Well, three times, technically . . .”

“I never told either of them I was going to the wedding with them!” Simon sounded panicked.

“Yes, but they’re going to expect you to. That’s why girls have boyfriends. So you have someone to take you to boring functions.” Clary moved out to the edge of the beam, looking down into the witchlight-illuminated shadows below. There was an old training circle chalked on the floor; it looked like a bull’s-eye. “Anyway, I have to jump off this beam now and possibly hurdle to my horrible death. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

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The moment Simon opened the door, he knew he’d miscalculated. He’d thought his mother would be asleep by now, but she wasn’t. She was awake, sitting in an armchair facing the front door, her phone on the table next to her, and she saw the blood on his jacket immediately. To his surprise she didn’t scream, but her hand flew to her mouth. “Simon.”

“It’s not my blood,” he said quickly. “I was over at Eric’s, and Matt had a nosebleed—”

“I don’t want to hear it.” That sharp tone was one she rarely used; it reminded him of the way she’d talked during those last months when his father had been sick, anxiety like a knife in her voice. “I don’t want to hear any more lies.”

Simon dropped his keys onto the table next to the door. “Mom—”

“All you do is tell me lies. I’m tired of it.”

“That’s not true,” he said, but he felt sick, knowing it was. “I just have a lot going on in my life right now.”

“I know you do.” His mother got to her feet; she had always been a skinny woman, and she looked bony now, her dark hair, the same color as his, streaked with more gray than he had remembered where it fell around her face.

“Come with me, young man. Now.”

Puzzled, Simon followed her into the small bright-yellow kitchen. His mother stopped and pointed toward the counter. “Care to explain those?”

Simon’s mouth went dry. Lined up along the counter like a row of toy soldiers were the bottles of blood that had been in the mini-fridge inside his closet. One was half-full, the others entirely full, the red liquid inside them shining like an accusation. She had also found the empty blood bags he had washed out and carefully stuffed inside a shopping bag before dumping them into his trash can. They were spread out over the counter too, like a grotesque decoration.

“I thought at first the bottles were wine,” Elaine Lewis said in a shaking voice. “Then I found the bags. So I opened one of the bottles. It’s blood. Isn’t it?”

Simon said nothing. His voice seemed to have fled.

“You’ve been acting so strangely lately,” his mother went on. “Out at all hours, you never eat, you barely sleep, you have friends I’ve never met, never heard of. You think I can’t tell when you’re lying to me? I can tell, Simon. I thought maybe you were on drugs.”

Simon found his voice. “So you searched my room?”

His mother flushed. “I had to! I thought—I thought if I found drugs there, I could help you, get you into a rehab program, but this?” She gestured wildly at the bottles. “I don’t even know what to think about this. What’s going on, Simon? Have you joined some kind of cult?”

Simon shook his head.

“Then, tell me,” his mother said, her lips trembling. “Because the only explanations I can think of are horrible and sick. Simon, please—”

“I’m a vampire,” Simon said. He had no idea how he had said it, or even why. But there it was. The words hung in the air between them like poisonous gas.

His mother’s knees seemed to give out, and she sank into a kitchen chair. “What did you say?” she breathed.

“I’m a vampire,” Simon said. “I’ve been one for about two months now. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before. I didn’t know how.”

Elaine Lewis’s face was chalk white. “Vampires don’t exist, Simon.”

“Yes,” he said. “They do. Look, I didn’t ask to be a vampire. I was attacked. I didn’t have a choice. I’d change it if I could.” He thought wildly back to the pamphlet Clary had given him so long ago, the one about coming out to your parents. It had seemed like a funny analogy then; now it didn’t.

“You think you’re a vampire,” Simon’s mother said numbly. “You think you drink blood.”

“I do drink blood,” Simon said. “I drink animal blood.”

“But you’re a vegetarian.” His mother looked to be on the verge of tears.

“I was. I’m not now. I can’t be. Blood is what I live on.” Simon’s throat felt tight. “I’ve never hurt a person. I’d never drink someone’s blood. I’m still the same person. I’m still me.”

His mother seemed to be fighting for control. “Your new friends—are they vampires too?”

Simon thought of Isabelle, Maia, Jace. He couldn’t explain Shadowhunters and werewolves, too. It was too much. “No. But—they know I am one.”

“Did—did they give you drugs? Make you take something? Something that would make you hallucinate?” She seemed to have barely heard his answer.

“No. Mom, this is real.”

“It’s not real,” she whispered. “You think it’s real. Oh, God. Simon. I’m so sorry. I should have noticed. We’ll get you help. We’ll find someone.A doctor. Whatever it costs—”

“I can’t go to a doctor, Mom.”

“Yes, you can. You need to be somewhere. A hospital, maybe—”

He held out his wrist to her. “Feel my pulse,” he said.

She looked at him, bewildered. “What?”

“My pulse,” he said. “Take it. If I have one, okay. I’ll go to the hospital with you. If not, you have to believe me.”

She wiped the tears from her eyes and slowly reached to take his wrist. After so long taking care of Simon’s father when he’d been sick, she knew how to take a pulse as well as any nurse. She pressed her index fingertip to the inside of his wrist, and waited.

He watched as her face changed, from misery and upset to confusion, and then to terror. She stood up, dropping his hand, backing away from him. Her eyes were huge and dark in her white face. “What are you?”

Simon felt sick. “I told you. I’m a vampire.”

“You’re not my son. You’re not Simon.” She was shuddering. “What kind of living thing doesn’t have a pulse? What kind of monster are you? What have you done with my child?”

“I am Simon—” He took a step toward his mother.

She screamed. He had never heard her scream like that, and he never wanted to again. It was a horrible noise.

“Get away from me.” Her voice broke. “Don’t come any closer.” She began to whisper.

“Barukh ata Adonai sho’me’a t’fila . . .”

She was praying, Simon realized with a jolt. She was so terrified of him that she was praying that he would go away, be banished. And what was worse was that he could feel it. The name of God tightened his stomach and made his throat ache. She was right to pray, he thought, sick to his soul. He was cursed. He didn’t belong in the world. What kind of living thing doesn’t have a pulse?

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Today I Read…City of Glass

city of glassToday I read City of Glass by Cassandra Clare, the third book in The Mortal Instruments series.

The Clave, the governing body of the Shadowhunters who rule from the city of Alicante in the land of Idris, wants to meet Clary Fray. Which is just fine with her, since she wants to go to Idris to find the warlock Ragnor Fell, who might be able to wake her mother, still in a coma after being rescued from the evil Valentine–Clary’s father. Jace, on the other hand, wants Clary to stay home where it’s safe–he says he doesn’t have any feelings for her anymore, but she is still his little sister. But when the group is attacked as they are about to travel to Alicante, Simon the newly-made vampire goes through the portal instead of Clary. Too bad vampires are forbidden from Idris, and have been for centuries.

Using her special abilities to make new Marks, Clary opens a Portal to Idris, where she finds Jace awfully close to the beautiful Shadowhunter Aline. And she meets Sebastian, handsome, accomplished, and flirtatious–except she tastes ashes when he kisses her.

With Valentine’s final attack on the Shadowhunters, old secrets come to light, including why Jace and Clary have their special abilities, and exactly who they are to each other. Someone will return. Someone will betray them. And someone will die.

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This is the end of the first trilogy in the series-the 4th book starts a new story arc. We finally get all the answers about what Valentine was doing back during his first rebellion against the Clave, what he did to Jace and Clary, and all of the people who were hurt back then and are still affected now. We finally find out who Jace is. It’s nice to get a happy ending–at least until City of Fallen Angels begins. I don’t want to say too much here, because I hate it when people ruin the end of the book.

I will say that Luke makes a much better leader than most of the Clave. And I still really like Magnus Bane. Seven hundred years old (ok, eight hundred, but he doesn’t look it), but he’s still a fool for love. At least he’s a fool on his own terms, and he does it with style.

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“But you just got here!” Clary protested. “I thought we could hang out, watch a movie or something—”

You need to pack.” Simon smiled, bright as sunshine after rain. She could almost believe there was nothing bothering him. “I’ll come by later to say good-bye before you go.”

“Oh, come on,” Clary protested. “Stay—”

“I can’t.” His tone was final. “I’m meeting Maia.”

“Oh. Great,” Clary said. Maia, she told herself, was nice. She was smart. She was pretty. She was also a werewolf. A werewolf with a crush on Simon. But maybe that was as it should be. Maybe his new friend should be a Downworlder. After all, he was a Downworlder himself now. Technically, he shouldn’t even be spending time with Shadowhunters like Clary. “I guess you’d better go, then.”

“I guess I’d better.” Simon’s dark eyes were unreadable. This was new—she’d always been able to read Simon before. She wondered if it was a side effect of the vampirism, or something else entirely. “Good-bye,” he said, and bent as if to kiss her on the cheek, sweeping her hair back with one of his hands. Then he paused and drew back, his expression uncertain. She frowned in surprise, but he was already gone, brushing past Luke in the doorway. She heard the front door bang in the distance.

“He’s acting so weird,” she exclaimed, hugging the velvet coat against herself for reassurance. “Do you think it’s the whole vampire thing?”

“Probably not.” Luke looked faintly amused. “Becoming a Downworlder doesn’t change the way you feel about things. Or people. Give him time. You did break up with him.”

“I did not. He broke up with me.”

“Because you weren’t in love with him. That’s an iffy proposition, and I think he’s handling it with grace. A lot of teenage boys would sulk, or lurk around under your window with a boom box.”

“No one has a boom box anymore. That was the eighties.” Clary scrambled off the bed, pulling the coat on. She buttoned it up to the neck, luxuriating in the soft feel of the velvet. “I just want Simon to go back to normal.”

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“Because,” Simon said. “If you want me to lie—not to Clary, but to all your Shadowhunter friends—if you want me to pretend that it was Clary’s own decision not to come here, and if you want me to pretend that I don’t know about her powers, or what she can really do, then you have to do something for me.”

“Fine,” Jace said. “What is it you want?”

Simon was silent for a moment, looking past Jace at the line of stone houses fronting the sparkling canal. Past their crenellated roofs he could see the gleaming tops of the demon towers. “I want you to do whatever you need to do to convince Clary that you don’t have feelings for her. And don’t—don’t tell me you’re her brother; I already know that. Stop stringing her along when you know that whatever you two have has no future. And I’m not saying this because I want her for myself. I’m saying it because I’m her friend and I don’t want her hurt.”

Jace looked down at his hands for a long moment without answering. They were thin hands, the fingers and knuckles scuffed with old calluses. The backs of them were laced with the thin white lines of old Marks. They were a soldier’s hands, not a teenage boy’s. “I’ve already done that,” he said. “I told her I was only interested in being her brother.”

“Oh.” Simon had expected Jace to fight him on this, to argue, not to just give up. A Jace who just gave up was new—and left Simon feeling almost ashamed for having asked. Clary never mentioned it to me, he wanted to say, but then why would she have? Come to think of it, she had seemed unusually quiet and withdrawn lately whenever Jace’s name had come up. “Well, that takes care of that, I guess. There’s one last thing.”

“Oh?” Jace spoke without much apparent interest. “And what’s that?”

“What was it Valentine said when Clary drew that rune on the ship? It sounded like a foreign language. Memesomething—?”

“Mene mene tekel upharsin,” Jace said with a faint smile. “You don’t recognize it? It’s from the Bible, vampire. The old one.

That’s your book, isn’t it?”

“Just because I’m Jewish doesn’t mean I’ve memorized the Old Testament.”

“It’s the Writing on the Wall. ‘God hath numbered thy kingdom, and brought it to an end; thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting.’ It’s a portent of doom—it means the end of an empire.”

“But what does that have to do with Valentine?”

“Not just Valentine,” said Jace. “All of us. The Clave and the Law—what Clary can do overturns everything they know to be true. No human being can create new runes, or draw the sort of runes Clary can. Only angels have that power. And since Clary can do that—well, it seems like a portent. Things are changing. The Laws are changing. The old ways may never be the right ways again. Just as the rebellion of the angels ended the world as it was—it split heaven in half and created hell—this could mean the end of the Nephilim as they currently exist. This is our war in heaven, vampire, and only one side can win it. And my father means it to be his.”

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The scene showed a cellar, the same cellar that Clary knew she was standing in right now. The same scrawled pentagram scarred the floor, and within the center of the star lay the angel. Valentine stood by, once again with a burning seraph blade in his hand. He looked years older now, no longer a young man. “Ithuriel,” he said. “We are old friends now, aren’t we? I could have left you buried alive under those ruins, but no, I brought you here with me. All these years I’ve kept you close, hoping one day you would tell me what I wanted—needed—to know.” He came closer, holding the blade out, its blaze lighting the runic barrier to a shimmer. “When I summoned you, I dreamed that you would tell me why. Why Raziel created us, his race of Shadowhunters, yet did not give us the powers Downworlders have—the speed of the wolves, the immortality of the Fair Folk, the magic of warlocks, even the endurance of vampires. He left us naked before the hosts of hell but for these painted lines on our skin. Why should their powers be greater than ours? Why can’t we share in what they have? How is that just?”

Within its imprisoning star the angel sat silent as a marble statue, unmoving, its wings folded. Its eyes expressed nothing beyond a terrible silent sorrow. Valentine’s mouth twisted.

“Very well. Keep your silence. I will have my chance.” Valentine lifted the blade. “I have the Mortal Cup, Ithuriel, and soon I shall have the Sword—but without the Mirror I cannot begin the summoning. The Mirror is all I need. Tell me where it is. Tell me where it is, Ithuriel, and I will let you die.”

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.”

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“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.”

Today I Read…City of Bones

Today I read City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, the first book in the best-selling The Mortal Instruments series.

city of bonesClary Fray and her best friend Simon are out for a night of fun when she sees two boys following a couple—but Simon can’t see them. When Clary tries to intervene to stop the two boys and the girl from killing the other cute boy, they tell her he is a demon. Claws, black blood, body disappearing—whatever is going on, it isn’t normal.

The next day, Clary gets a call from her mother telling her to stay away from home, which ends with the sound of screaming and things breaking. When she gets home she finds her mother missing and a Ravener demon in her apartment, which promptly tries to kill her. The demon-killing trio—Jace, Isabelle and Alec—find her tell her that they are Shadowhunters—descendants from an angel whose sworn duty is to kill demons and Downworlders who make trouble—vampires, werewolves, warlocks, fairies. Most mundanes can’t see any of them, but Clary can. But there are bigger problems than the fact that Clary’s mother has disappeared after lying to her for her whole life or arrogant, rude, beautiful boys named Jace who won’t leave her alone. The Downworlders are whispering that Valentine is back—a rogue Shadowhunter who tried start a war and break the Covenant that lets Shadowhunters and Downworlders live in (relative) peace. Except that Valentine is supposed to be dead.

I’ve heard that The Mortal Instruments series is supposed to be the next big YA series, now that Harry Potter and Twilight are over, although The Hunger Games is still going strong. The first movie, starring Lily Collins as Clary, is due out this year. There is one particular issue that I’ll be interested to see how they handle in the movie—it is revealed in the first book that Clary and Jace are actually brother and sister, and the children of Valentine. This obviously complicates their burgeoning epic romance, and adds considerably to the angst quotient. It’s like if Han Solo was Princess Leia’s brother and the son of Darth Vader instead of Luke Skywalker, but Han was still the love interest. It can’t be omitted, because it’s a fairly important plot point that continues through several of the books—I’ll discuss it further in those reviews. Incest tends to be a fairly serious taboo in modern culture.

The story is very much a soap opera with monsters, with secrets from the past being revealed, complicated relationships, and long-running feuds between the various groups. Clare’s strength is how individual each character is—even the ones who don’t get much direct time in the spotlight still have very distinct personalities, and eventually they all get their time to shine. Loyal Luke, flamboyant Magnus, overlooked Simon, perfect Isabelle, hiding Alec, arrogant Jace, determined Clary, manipulative Hodge, evil Valentine…but each is so much more than just one simple adjective, no matter what they initially appear to be.

I won’t call this an instant favourite (at least not mine), but it is addictive to see what happens next, with a good balance of relationship drama, mysteries from the past being revealed, and action.

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“Of course I can see you,” Clary said. “I’m not blind, you know.”

“Oh, but you are,” said Jace, bending to pick up his knife. “You just don’t know it.” He straightened up. “You’d better get out of here, if you know what’s good for you.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” Clary said. “If I do, you’ll kill him.” She pointed at the boy with the blue hair.

“That’s true,” admitted Jace, twirling the knife between his fingers. “What do you care if I kill him or not?”

“Be-because—,” Clary spluttered. “You can’t just go around killing people.”

“You’re right,” said Jace. “You can’t go around killing people.” He pointed at the boy with blue hair, whose eyes were slitted. Clary wondered if he’d fainted. “That’s not a person, little girl. It may look like a person and talk like a person and maybe even bleed like a person. But it’s a monster.”

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

“I told you before, my name is not little girl,” she said through her teeth. “It’s Clary.”

“I know,” he said. “Pretty name. Like the herb, clary sage. In the old days people thought eating the seeds would let you see the Fair Folk. Did you know that?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“You don’t know much, do you?” he said. There was a lazy contempt in his gold eyes. “You seem to be a mundane like any other mundane, yet you can see me. It’s a conundrum.”

“What’s a mundane?”

“Someone of the human world. Someone like you.”

“But you’re human,” Clary said.

“I am,” he said. “But I’m not like you.” There was no defensiveness in his tone. He sounded like he didn’t care if she believed him or not.

“You think you’re better. That’s why you were laughing at us.”

“I was laughing at you because declarations of love amuse me, especially when unrequited,” he said. “And because your Simon is one of the most mundane mundanes I’ve ever encountered. And because Hodge thought you might be dangerous, but if you are, you certainly don’t know it.”

“I’m dangerous?” Clary echoed in astonishment. “I saw you kill someone last night. I saw you drive a knife up under his ribs, and—” And I saw him slash at you with fingers like razor blades. I saw you cut and bleeding, and now you look as if nothing ever touched you.

“I may be a killer,” Jace said, “but I know what I am. Can you say the same?”

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

Hodge jerked upright, so abruptly that Hugo, who had been resting comfortably on his shoulder, launched himself into the air with an irritable caw. “Valentine?”

“Yes,” Clary said. “I heard the same name in Pandemonium from the boy—I mean, the demon—”

“It’s a name we all know,” Hodge said shortly. His voice was steady, but she could see a slight tremble in his hands. Hugo, back on his shoulder, ruffed his feathers uneasily.

“A demon?”

“No. Valentine is— was—a Shadowhunter.”

“A Shadowhunter? Why do you say was?”

“Because he’s dead,” said Hodge flatly. “He’s been dead for fifteen years.”

Clary sank back against the couch cushions. Her head was throbbing. Maybe she should have gone for that tea after all.

“Could it be someone else? Someone with the same name?”

Hodge’s laugh was a humorless bark. “No. But it could have been someone using his name to send a message.” He stood up and paced to his desk, hands locked behind his back. “And this would be the time to do it.”

“Why now?”

“Because of the Accords.”

“The peace negotiations? Jace mentioned those. Peace with who?”

“Downworlders,” Hodge murmured. He looked down at Clary. His mouth was a tight line. “Forgive me,” he said. “This must be confusing for you.”

“You think?”

He leaned against the desk, stroking Hugo’s feathers absently. “Downworlders are those who share the Shadow World with us. We have always lived in an uneasy peace with them.”

“Like vampires, werewolves, and…”

“The Fair Folk,” Hodge said. “Faeries. And Lilith’s children, being half-demon, are warlocks.”

“So what are you Shadowhunters?”

“We are sometimes called the Nephilim,” said Hodge. “In the Bible they were the offspring of humans and angels. The legend of the origin of Shadowhunters is that they were created more than a thousand years ago, when humans were being overrun by demon invasions from other worlds. A warlock summoned the Angel Raziel, who mixed some of his own blood with the blood of men in a cup, and gave it to those men to drink. Those who drank the Angel’s blood became Shadowhunters, as did their children and their children’s children. The cup thereafter was known as the Mortal Cup. Though the legend may not be fact, what is true is that through the years, when Shadowhunter ranks were depleted, it was always possible to create more Shadowhunters using the Cup.”

“Was always possible?”

“The Cup is gone,” said Hodge. “Destroyed by Valentine, just before he died. He set a great fire and burned himself to death along with his family, his wife, and his child. Scorched the land black. No one will build there still. They say the land is cursed.”

“Is it?”

“Possibly. The Clave hands down curses on occasion as punishment for breaking the Law. Valentine broke the greatest Law of all—he took up arms against his fellow Shadowhunters and slew them. He and his group, the Circle, killed dozens of their brethren along with hundreds of Downworlders during the last Accords. They were only barely defeated.”

“Why would he want to turn on other Shadowhunters?”

“He didn’t approve of the Accords. He despised Downworlders and felt that they should be slaughtered, wholesale, to keep this world pure for human beings. Though the Downworlders are not demons, not invaders, he felt they were demonic in nature, and that that was enough. The Clave did not agree—they felt the assistance of Downworlders was necessary if we were ever to drive off demonkind for good. And who could argue, really, that the Fair Folk do not belong in this world, when they have been here longer than we have?”

“Did the Accords get signed?”

“Yes, they were signed. When the Downworlders saw the Clave turn on Valentine and his Circle in their defense, they realized Shadowhunters were not their enemies. Ironically, with his insurrection Valentine made the Accords possible.” Hodge sat down in the chair again. “I apologize, this must be a dull history lesson for you. That was Valentine. A firebrand, a visionary, a man of great personal charm and conviction. And a killer. Now someone is invoking his name …”