Friends, hello, I am FINALLY back with another review! And I’m especially excited for this one because it’s over one of my absolute favorites: The Mortal Instruments series. Recently, I reread the first three books in preparation for The Red Scrolls of Magic (which I’ve now read and LOVED) and it was quite the experience. And by that, I mean it was the absolute best experience.
It’s been several years since I read The Mortal Instruments for the first time. My first read was in early 2014 at age 15, and honestly? It changed my life in ways I can’t even begin to explain. I’m so very happy to be revisiting these books that I hold close to my heart, and this time, also reviewing them and sharing why I love them as much as I do!
Today’s review is only going to cover the first 3 books in the series, and then I plan to come back with another review over books 4-6 once I finish those as well. So this’ll be a “series review part 1” of sorts. I’m not sure when part 2 will be out, but I’m making progress on City of Fallen Angels (#4) now so hopefully soon enough!
Alright, on with the review ~
➤Author: Cassandra Clare
Publication: 2007, 2008, 2009
- City of Bones – 4 stars
- City of Ashes – 3.5 stars
- City of Glass: 4.5 stars
➤Overall Rating: 4 stars
We’re going to start with some positivity here because wow do I love how genuinely enjoyable these books are. I had some fears going in to this reread because I wasn’t sure if I’d like it quite as much as I did as a teenager, but there was really nothing to be concerned about. The storyline is just as engrossing I remember it being. There’s so much to be immersed in, from the action to the character dynamics to the political aspects, and it all comes together to make for a terrific reading experience.
As for the pacing, I honestly found it to be really well done in these first few books. It wasn’t difficult to become intrigued from the start because of how exciting things are at the beginning. And generally, things remained exciting throughout all three books. There were very few parts where I was bored or found what I was reading to be unnecessary, which is a definite plus.
I do have to say that the plotline in City of Ashes did seem a little all over the place to me, which is part of the reason for the lower rating on that one. Additionally, City of Glass had a bit of a slower start, but that seemed justifiable given the setup that needed to happen for that book. Other than that, I found the overall storyline and pacing of these books to be excellent. Things remain entertaining throughout!
As what usually happens, the characters are the main reason I love these books as much as I do. I’m very in to character driven books, and while I think this series has a great balance between a plot and a character driven storyline, I feel like this cast of characters is what makes the series so enjoyable. They mean the world to me.
There are lots of characters in this series, so I’m not going to include them all here, but here’s some brief thoughts on the one’s I think are worth noting:
➤Clary: I have only infinite appreciation for Clary. She’s so authentic and well written and I wish her importance was more recognized. I loved seeing the start of her journey again
➤Jace: Okay I love Jace, but ahh he can be frustrating in these early books. I get sad because of much he’s been through in his life though so I’ve been trying to be more understanding of him at this phase
➤Alec: Alec deserves all the happiness in the entire world so seeing him unhappy earlier in these books breaks my heart. Knowing how far he’s going to go in the future makes me so, so proud though. I just want the best for him always
➤Isabelle: My absolute favorite character in this entire series. Like, no contest whatsoever. I can’t even explain why I love her so endlessly but she’s absolutely everything to me
➤Simon: Simon always just ends up thrown in to everything without warning here, poor guy. He’s wonderful and has such a great personality. I adore him
➤Magnus: I don’t even think it’s possible not to love Magnus. He’s iconic and always helpful to everyone. It’s not a Shadowhunters book unless Magnus Bane is there saving them all honestly
➤Luke: I have newfound appreciation for Luke because he really did so much good in this series. Such a great man
➤Jocelyn: Even though she was pretty much sleeping the entire time, I liked the parts she was in and found myself getting way more emotional over her backstory than I recalled
➤Amatis: I barely remembered Amatis and I’m kind of ashamed of that because she’s a wonderful character with a story that also makes me very sad
➤Max: The youngest Lightwood who provides wholesome content and who I love a lot
➤Aline: A legend!! I had forgotten Aline showed up so early on in this series but I was super glad she did
➤Raphael: Another legend! Raphael is one of my favorites although he sadly wasn’t here at the beginning very much
➤Valentine: A fascinating villain in some ways, but all the horrible things he did had me so mad and I’m not a fan
➤Sebastian: My favorite villain in all of The Shadowhunter Chronicles. He’s super creepy but also complexly written which makes him very interesting to read about
Okay so here’s where I have a little bit of an issue with this series. I knew this was going to be the main problem I had going in to this reread, so I was expecting it, but the writing in these first few books isn’t exactly spectacular. As much as I enjoy reading this series, it’s worth noting that the writing is just alright in the beginning. It’s not that it’s terrible, and I wouldn’t say it lessened my experience, but it’s something I was aware of this time.
But the good news is, I thought the writing significantly improved as these books progressed. I especially noticed how well written City of Glass was compared to the first two. I believe this has a lot to do with the fact that Cassandra Clare had started writing The Infernal Devices at that point (which I personally find to be her most well written series). You can truly notice her improvements around that time.
All in all, the writing in these first 3 books isn’t anything exceptional, but I don’t think it’s absolutely horrendous either. It’s just… very okay. I can recognize it’s not great, but it didn’t make a significant impact on my enjoyment of these as a whole, so it wasn’t much of a negative.
I felt obligated to include a section dedicated to the setting because it’s truly one of the reasons I love this series as much as I do. I mean, it takes place in New York City!! That’s my absolute favorite place on earth. When I first read these books, I hadn’t visited NYC yet so I’m only now recognizing certain places and streets that are included. It’s been a lot of fun to be immersed in a city I love and am familiar with combined with the elements of the Shadow World. I couldn’t have asked for anything more, really.
But even though NYC is my favorite, I also loved the setting change to Idris in City of Glass too. It was so epic. Going there in that book made everything seem bigger and more intense, like things were about to really go down. Idris is also just so interesting. I know it doesn’t exist but like, I think it’d be cool to visit there.
Whether in NYC or Idris, the settings were very well written and added to the overall atmosphere of these books in a lot of ways. I only have positive things to say about this aspect for sure.
To sum this all up: I love these books to no end. I know they’re not exactly the most quality type of literature. I know my nostalgia and my memories attached to this series are a big reason I’m praising it as much as I am. But I’m so beyond thankful for these books. They provided me with such happiness and comfort when I needed it as a teenager and they’re doing the same for me again during this reread. Plus, they were what introduced me to The Shadowhunters Chronicles to begin with so I have lots and lots of appreciation for that.
It’s (obviously) hard for me to speak about this series objectively, but I do want to note that I really can recognize the flaws in it. Especially now that I’m reading these as I’m older, I notice the issues here and there. It’s just… there really is nothing like revisiting an old favorite series, ya know? These books are super special to me so this review has definitely been impacted by that.
All in all, rereading these books and revisiting some favorite characters has been the best experience. Yes, there are a few problems with the writing and such, but the good by far outweighs the bad for me. These books are tons of fun with lovable characters, an intriguing plotline, some great settings, and so much more. All the good things. I’m very much looking forward to continuing this series reread!!