In City of Ashes, Cassandra Clare picks up the action right where she left it at the end of City of Bones. The action is practically nonstop throughout the first book, all taking place within days, and it continues that way in this second book of the Mortal Instruments series.
Clary and Jace and the other teen Shadowhunters are fighting Valentine, an evil Shadowhunter who had been in hiding from the Clave for years and has now come back with a vengeance with an evil plan. His actions have left Clary’s mother lying in a coma in a hospital, with no sign of waking up, and now young Downworlders are being found dead, with their blood drained. It’s clear that Valentine is behind these horrible killings, but they need to find out why.
Throughout the book, Clary learns more about the world into which she was born but from which her mother has hidden her. She and Jace also start learning more about secrets from their pasts and how Valentine’s schemes affected them. The secrets and mysteries are slowly revealed throughout the book, but they are far from being made clear. Clare keeps the momentum and suspense going at a perfect level, keeping readers glued to the book until the very end. She put together all the right ingredients — action, mystery, suspense, romance, character-building and plot — in her first book and is still cooking them up with aplomb in the second. There are even a few laugh-out-loud moments when the characters are interacting; they are just fun to get to know. It’s reassuring when turning the last page to know that they are still around for a third book.
Rated: Moderate. There is some mild and moderate language, but Clare, as she did with the first, often refers to characters “cursing” without actually using the bad language. What makes the book a moderate (at least for teen readers) are two things: first, the level of violence and gore. There’s a lot of bloodshed, often of Downworlders and demons, but also sometimes of humans. Second, the teens in the book have been thrown into an adult world of lots of responsibility, but they’re also kind of free to run a bit wild. Young characters, whether they be Shadowhunters or Downworlders, drink alcohol and sometimes talk about sex rather freely. There are no details, and they don’t necessarily seem to be having sex, but they are talking about it pretty matter-of-factly without considering any of the consequences.