Jace, Simon and the Interweaving Strands of Cassandra Clare’s City of Fallen Angels

As you know, I was pretty excited to read Cassandra Clare’s City of Fallen Angels, the first in her new trilogy (or the fourth book )  in The Mortal Instruments Series.  Although, I wasn’t blown away as some of my friends were with her first novel, City of Bones, I found that as Clare continues to write, her books get much better, the writing and character arcs stronger. This is most pronounced in her last book Clockwork Angel, which I think her best book so far.
 As you also know from my previous post, I am trying to figure out this thing that writer’s use in their novels…it’s called PLOT. You know that overall thing that the characters are trying to overcome; the thing that moves the story along.  As fun as stream of consciousness novels are, one needs to master the constructions of plot before one can do away with it. Or, so I’ve been told…
With City of Fallen Angels, Clare has done something very interesting, because she’s continuing with a series which was, at first, supposed to be a trilogy. This is often done in publishing – let us all remember fondly Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy in four parts – so that part of it isn’t that unusual.  But, what is unusual is how she’s constructing the next three books as sort of a continuation of The Mortal Instruments world, but with its own three-book story arc.  I keep comparing it to the second season of a T.V. Show. You’ve watched the first season, you know the characters and the world, and they defeated the big bad but are now changed because of it. Now, six weeks after the fact, they come together to fight a new evil. 
Clare spends a lot of time setting things up, but, I’m willing to go along with her because I’m sure that the wait will be worth it.  It definitely is, for she ends the book with a bang.  She has a lot of back-story to weed through as well to remind us of what happened “last season,” which takes up a bit of time. It is a fine balance and I believe that she does this very well.   
The rhythm of her set up works because she didn’t want us to know right away who the villain is. Someone is killing Shadowhunters and also doing something rather sinister to babies. (Icky!) By flipping the point of views primarily between Jace and Simon, Clare creates two or three possible scenarios – one of which actually helps move us to the next book.  She also makes references to her other series, The Infernal Devices, giving us  a little taste of what is to come in the next book, Clockwork Prince.  
It is also only natural, that I focused a lot on how Clare’s writing style because it was something that I was working on myself. The mirrors of what I might not like in my own writing, I think that I may have seen in hers.  I have been paying particular attention to my own punctuation so I picked up on sections where some punctuation may have helped the flow of the phrasing.  As I read on, though, I realized that this is part of Clare’s style and rhythm of storytelling.  Again, perhaps that is about knowing the rules and then knowing how and why to break them? (Much like when James Joyce wrote the Penelope Chapter of Ulysses without punctuation; once you get into the rhythm, you feel the phrasing.)
I enjoyed Clare’s descriptions so much in Clockwork Angel,  that I couldn’t wait to see what wonderful phrasing she would use in COFA. She sets up scenes very well, such as when she’s describing the Ironworks club:
“Years previously, when Long Island City had been a center of industry instead of a trendy neighbourhood full of art galleries and coffee shops, the Ironworks was a textile factory. Now it was an enormous brick shell whose inside had been transformed into a spare but beautiful space. The floor was made up of overlapping squares of brushed steel, slender steel beams arced overhead, wrapped with ropes of tiny white lines. Ornate wrought iron staircases spiralled up to catwalks decorated with hanging plants. A massive cantilevered glass ceiling opened onto a view of the night sky. There was a terrace outside, built out over the East River, with spectacular view of the Fifty-Ninth Street Bridge, which loomed overhead, stretching from Queens to Manhattan like a spear of tinseled ice” (283).
Also, the make out scenes between Clary and Jace were so intense that it made my heart beat in double time.  A good make out scene is hard to do without it being cheesy. These scenes are steamy…
Clare’s multidimensional characters are what make this series work.   Clare makes us care about these characters. We want Jace and Clary to be together. We hope Simon figures out his place in the world. We think that Alex and Magnus are adorable. And, frankly, Isabelle is just awesome.  The evil forces plotting against them are just the conduits for them to figure themselves out in the big bad world. 
She has a knack of using dialogue to really getting into the character’s body language and soul.  Some of my favourite scenes are when Jace, Simon and a new character, Kyle are hanging out together because not only do you get to see another side to them, but, it lightens the mood.  In this scene, Simon has returned after sneaking out of the apartment to find Jace and Kyle playing video games:
“That guy over there in the corner is totally looking the other way,” Jace observed, pointing at the TV screen. “A spinning wheel kick would put him out of commission.”
“I can’t kick people in this game. I can only shoot them. See?” Kyle mashed some buttons.
“That’s stupid.” Jace looked over and seemed to see Simon for the first time. “Back from your breakfast meeting, I see,” he said without much welcome in his tone. “I bet you thought you were very clever, sneaking off like that.”
“Medium clever,” Simon acknowledged. “Like a cross between George Clooney in Ocean’s Eleven and those Mythbusters guys, but, you know, better-looking.”
“I’m always so glad I have no idea what you’re vacantly chattering about,” said Jace. “It fills me with a sense of peace and well-being.” (156)
At this point, Jace is actually avoiding sleep because he keeps having troubling dreams.  As Simon begins to learn, his tone and manner is his defense mechanism.  We get to see it in action.  
I’m fascinated with how Clare continues to build her world, using biblical mythology and popular culture. I wonder how easy it was for her to take three books and plot them out into six, looping it back to another series still in the works. The writer in me is  intrigued to see how she’s plotted it all out.  The YA reader in me is jittery because I have to wait a WHOLE YEAR until I find out what happens next… 

About Melanie J. Fishbane

My novel, MAUD: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L.M. Montgomery was published in 2017 through Penguin Random House on April 25, 2017. I hold an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Here I talk about my writing process, things I love, and creative people who inspire me.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Literary Book Boyfriends, Teen lit, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

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