(In which surprises fall semi-unlimitedly.)
I believe one of the codes fiction writers live by is to never run out of surprises for readers. If this is the only criterion upon which any fictional work should be judged, then City of Fallen Angels will be one of the high-scorers.
After the battle in Alicante where Downworlders and Nephilim join hands against Valentine and his son Jonathan (who took Sebastian Verlac's identity), life for Clary and her friends seems to go back to normal. I believe there is a tremendous need to capitalize "seems". To elucidate, Simon is dating Maia and Isabelle (which means they are both oblivious to it of course); Luke still has to be used to Jocelyn loving him and the fact that they are getting married; and Clary is now openly dating Jace after the truth of his parentage gets revealed, which makes her happy, only that Jace is acting terribly weird.
On top of the sudden change in Jace' treatment of Clary, the gang gets confronted by appearance of new faces - Kyle, the hot guy who wants to apply as a vocalist in Simon's band and Camille, a vampire who asks Simon for his help to get rid of Raphael. With the precious information from these seemingly-innocuous people, Clary and others are led to various hair-raising discoveries that ranges from an assassination plot on one of them to a sinister attempt to emulate Valentine's experiment. And just when Clary thought that love indeed conquers everything, she'll realize that it is a means of destruction after all.
City of Fallen Angels is a crafty concoction of teenage emo moments and their equally crafty attempt to act like adults. In this installment, the characters try to solve their own problems so as not to be burdens to others. This character transformation, apart from Clare's signature humor, is what I find enchanting about this book. Clary takes responsibility for her actions and feels the need to protect people and not the other way around. Simon finally discovers the true power of the Mark of Cain amd uses it to save a friend's life. Maia gradually decides to move forward without bitterness or remorse. Alec embraces his true nature even more and Isabelle learns to accept her vulnerabilities. Mostly positive transformation, eh?
Except, I think, for Jace.
He didnt't lose his signature cockiness and his over-awareness of his staggering good looks, thank goodness. In fact, we know things are fine when he starts praising himself and bullying others with his sarcasm. What he lost, however, is that thing that drives Clary, or other people, to him - his ethereal ability to provide comfort and protection. In City of Fallen Angels, he is the one who seems to be in constant need of being protected and nurtured. Or maybe I was wrong and his vulnerability is still what attracts Clary et al towards him. But, sexism aside, I don't quite enjoy the idea of Jace being an emo kid with tons of teenage drama. And whatever happened to his linguistic eloquence? And then the explanation that he could offer to Clary regarding his sudden coldness is "I don't understand what's happening to me" or "I love you, Clary"? Why did he wait for Clary to seek help from the Silent Brothers? Why can't he tell Simon if he can't tell Clary? And then, as if he's not yet in trouble, his problems turn out to be detrimental for everyone. I thought Jace could do better than that. But then again, that's just me. Those who find it endearing must have been tired of the whole damsel-in-distress thing and finally thought that it's about time men have their share of being rescued. Besides, Clary is the heroine of this series? Sigh.
Well, after everything's been said and done, what really matters is that this book is an enjoyable read. And if we rely on that blurb by The Trades saying “. . . If you’re a fan of The Mortal Instruments, you need to read City of Fallen Angels. And if you aren’t a fan, then you really need to find out what’s wrong with you, fix it, and start from book one.” to gauge a part of our sanity, then at least I'm pretty sure nothing's wrong with me yet.
City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare