This review contains spoilers.
Sebastian Morgenstern is on the move, systematically turning Shadowhunter against Shadowhunter. When one of the greatest betrayals the Nephilim have ever known is revealed, Clary, Jace, Isabelle, Simon and Alec must flee—even if their journey takes them deep into the demon realms, where no Shadowhunter has set foot before, and from which no human being has ever returned. Love will be sacrificed and lives lost in the thrilling and long-awaited final instalment of the bestselling and acclaimed Mortal Instruments.
I have mixed feelings about the final installment in The Mortal Instruments series. I used to appreciate the characters a lot more. Back before City of Glass (the third book) had been released, I was thrumming with excitement about spending more time in this world. After reading the companion series, The Infernal Devices, that changed. I really enjoyed those books and their characters and for some reason, when I went back to Clary and Jace’s world, I just wasn’t feeling it anymore.
In the prologue for City of Heavenly Fire, we meet Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn, who will be headlining the next Shadowhunter series, The Dark Artifices. I don’t know whether I’m a fan. They’re supposed to be 12 years old but they act even younger. And I couldn’t keep track of Julian’s younger brothers and sisters. Looking at it now, I realise there are only four of them (Livvy, Ty, Dru, Tavvy) but I thought that there were more. Possibly because most of the nicknames had to end in -y and I was confusing them with the seven dwarves.
I assume that Cassandra Clare was trying to insert the characters seamlessly so we could bond with them before the new series but it wasn’t working for me. The prologue at the LA Institute was a strong start but, apart from that, I didn’t care all that much about her story because most of her appearances are spent waiting for something to happen. I think my interest would have been piqued if there were only a few other brief references to Emma and her situation, rather than the way her point of view was repeatedly dangled in front of me right when I didn’t want it.
I took a weekend trip to Sydney while reading City of Heavenly Fire and honestly could not justify the space and weight it took up in my carry-on luggage. Long books are great when they’re worth it but I felt bogged down by this one. There was no shortage of action but the flow and urgency of the novel was repeatedly interrupted with point of view changes, sometimes to relay the exact same information and get a mundane (no pun intended) and unnecessary reaction from some other character. As a result of this, important action that probably warranted a cliffhanger chapter ending was often instead sandwiched between other, calmer scenes.
If something bad happened to a character and it was only a POV break instead of a chapter break, I never felt even slightly concerned about their well-being. Actually, I don’t think I was ever worried about a character. It seemed Cassandra Clare was reluctant to piss anyone off with a last-minute death. Situations where deaths would have been perfectly reasonable were eschewed in favour of less harsh and impermanent punishments.
Before I forget, congratulations should go to Jace for keeping up the Herondale tradition of taking a break from impending peril to have sex in a cave. That’s a nice bit of family history there. I was waiting for someone to grab a stele and draw some kind of contraceptive rune, but no. What made you think to bring a condom with you on a last-minute frantic rescue mission to a demon dimension?
The end of the book was spent pushing home the fact that everyone was doing well, and tying up any loose ends with The Infernal Devices crossovers—at least, that’s how it came across. But I was ready for the book to end quite a few pages before it did.
The point of view changes were never more draining than in the final scene. Almost every POV change opened with describing where everyone else was sitting and there were at least five mentions to what kind of piano music was being played in the background (jazz or classical). Instead of giving a quick glimpse into events, the chapter felt to me like it dragged on longer than the ending of The Return of the King movie.
So many people were saying that they sobbed through this book and I honestly can’t see where or why (unless it was just because the series was finally ending). I wasn’t even remotely misty-eyed at the moments specifically designed to tug at the heartstrings. Quite frankly, I think I would have been happier if I’d only read the first three books of The Mortal Instruments (the original trilogy before it was stretched out) and The Infernal Devices.
Maybe you’ll cry at this book and feel all the things that I didn’t feel about the characters and their situations. Maybe I’ll even come back to this book one day and appreciate it more the second time around. But after finishing it, I’m disappointed to say that all I felt was relief that I wouldn’t have to lug City of Heavenly Fire to work again.
That being said, this book is action-packed and wraps up both The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices series satisfactorily. There are a few loose ends but they seem to have been deliberately left in order to provide an opening for The Dark Artifices, the first book of which is due out in 2015.