Note: No spoilers for this book! But spoilers for earlier books.
City of Heavenly Fire opens with some endearing new shadowhunter characters, twelve-year-old Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn. Later we also enjoy visits from some old favourites from the Infernal Devices prequels, so read them before you hit Book Six. You won’t be spoon-fed with re-caps of ‘the story so far’.
The Mortal Instruments series is no Divergent; that is, the last book in this set doesn’t disappoint. As usual, one of the best features is the trademark smartarse humour in the face of almost certain death. Here’s Jace, in a demonic wasteland:
‘Who’s there?’ he called, then frowned. ‘Of course,’ he added, addressing the darkness all around, ‘even I, as a Shadowhunter, have seen enough movies to know that anyone who yells “Who’s there?” is going to be instantly killed.’
The melodrama and plot twists are similarly satisfying. One noticeable difference from the previous books, however, is found in the character dynamics. Earlier, conflict in relationships was maintained through love triangles and jealousies, secrets and deceit, and general miscommunication. These tracks are well-worn and Clare avoids treading them again, generally allowing the resolutions and growth from the previous books to hold. There’s perhaps some slightly heavy-handed repetition of some of the characters’ ideas—how many times do we need to hear about Clary’s fear that she has evil in her? But it’s a nice change from Jace’s cycles of brooding and the sparks of jealousy shooting from Alec to Jace, Jace to Simon, ummm, Clary to Aline, Isabelle to Maia (?), Alec to Camille, and so on…
Since sulks and misunderstandings aren’t an obstacle, something else is needed to allow all that sizzling sexual tension to build gradually, to prevent these kids—downworlders, immortals, and Shadowhunters alike—from spending the whole book jumping each other’s bones. There’s the ‘heavenly fire’ burning through Jace’s veins stops him from getting too ‘hot’ with definitely-not-his-sister** Clary. But apart from that, they all have that evil Sebastian guy to deal with. Because of the trouble that rapey definitely-Clary’s-brother Sebastian stirs up, nearly every kiss is interrupted, nearly every tender moment must morph into a battle. Relationships and feelings, then, are nicely woven into the fast-paced action.
As for the ending, let’s just note that—as we learned from the Infernal Devices series—Cassandra Clare is a kindly author who ties up the loose ends. After the battle climax we do get some quality time winding down and resolving things.
In a shrewd marketing move, the makings of the next series set in this universe are embedded into City of Heavenly Fire from those opening pages, so that we’re primed and ready for a new generation of angsty teen attraction and supernatural intrigue.
**Well. As the Seelie Queen pointed out, they are kind of brother and sister, actually, because they both have blood from the same angel.