Review: City of Lost Souls (The Mortal Instruments #5) by Cassandra Clare

City of  Lost Souls picks up basically where City of Fallen Angels leaves off. Jace and Sebastian have disappeared, the Clave is hunting for them, and his friends and family are strong on the outside even though inside they are all freaking. All of this inner turmoil brings Clary and Isabelle closer, however, which was rather touching. This last half of the series has been focusing less on just Jace and Clary and gives more credence to the side stories of the secondary characters, so we get to see things like Isabelle opening up to another female in a real and meaningful way.

The size of the cast of the characters was a little annoying, however. Not only do you have to remember where Jace and Clary are with their relationship, you also have to try and remember Alec and Magnus’ status; which band Simon is in, how he’s dealing with his vampiric issues and his mark, and what’s new in his love life; whether Isabelle has forgiven Simon and, if not, who she’s dating now; if Maia has forgiven Simon and, if not, who she’s dating now; Sebastian’s past and how it will effect his choices; Jocelyn and Luke’s relationship with each other, the pack, and the Shadowhunters; and, of course, all the other Downworlders and minor Shadowhunters. This book is cast like a soap opera and it has just as many romantic entanglements to prove it. I understand that the secondary characters receive a lot of love (I dressed up as Isabelle a few Halloweens ago and am a HUGE Simon fan), but do they ALL need their own secondary plot? Doing a one-shot on a character is an option, too, you know.

One character that’s not actually a character is New York City, and I still love it. The descriptions of each neighborhood and location are rich and Clare captures how each place has its own personality. It makes me nostalgic for when I lived there. Clare does this with each setting in City of Lost Souls, and each new city is a welcome addition to the list of characters. (Yes, I’m aware I just complained about it being too long. I can’t help loving the way the setting is used, however.)

Another aspect of Clare’s writing that I love is how she jumps seamlessly between moods and takes you on an emotional rollercoaster. We go from a dramatic scene (the Clave deciding that they will deprioritize their search for Jace and Sebastian, and his crew’s reaction to this decision) to one that’s funny (Simon telling Shadowhunters that the Clave’s motto is Basia Coquum–literally, “Kiss the Cook”) and back to drama with wise advice (the Seelie Queen warns Clary to reconsider her search for Jace because once she finds him, “he may not be quite as you left him”).

There is a lot of character development in City of Lost Soul‘s pages. Simon is still very devoted to Clary and has family issues he must sort out. Clary became a little too wimpy for me even though she’s constantly tryng to convince herself she’s not. Just because you say it, doesn’t make it true, babe. Isabelle becomes increasingly frustrated with her relationship with Simon and how it constantly flounders. Alec showed an insecure side that I didn’t pick up on as much in the previous Mortal Instruments novels, and insecurity generally causes people to make mistakes.

Two characters that we met a couple of books ago were reintroduced as a lesbian couple: Aline Penhallow and Helen Blackthorne. They live in Los Angeles, which makes me wonder if part of the reason they were introduced is to lead into Clare’s third Shadowhunter series, The Dark Artifices, which is set in LA. I hope they were not introduced just to round out the gay couples in the series. I find token characters extremely annoying  and, as I mentioned earlier, there are already a billion characters. We don’t need more. The couple is only featured briefly, however, so it remains to be seen whether they will play a larger part in City of Heavenly Fire, help lead into the next series, or are a token couple.

The ending of City of Lost Souls was different than I expected, but I was pleased and I think most other readers will like the book’s resolution, as well. It’s a cliffhanger, and a kind of creepy one at that.

I’ve been a big fan of The Mortal Instruments books since City of Bones and City of Lost Souls holds a special little place in my heart with the rest of the series. Even though I felt like the cast had grown too large, the novel has all of the hallmarks of Clare’s writing that I admire and the plot went in interesting directions that will surprise most fans.

4 stars

Genre: Young adult paranormal romance; urban fantasy

Don’t forget to check out this scene that Clare deleted during editing, and this one, and this one.

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