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Book Review

This contemporary (urban) dark fantasy by Cassandra Clare is the third in the " The Mortal Instruments" series and is published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, a division of Simon & Schuster Publishing.

City of Glass is written for ages 14 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Clary Frey prepares for a trip to Alicante, the capital city of the Shadowhunters — beings who are part human and part angel. While there, she hopes to find Ragnor Fell, the warlock who holds the key to unlocking the enchantment that is keeping Clary's mother, Jocelyn, in a coma.

Clary's newfound brother, Jace, and his adopted family are also going to Alicante. The adults will meet with The Clave, the ruling order of the Shadowhunters, to discuss what they've discovered about Valentine's plan to destroy them. Valentine is Jace and Clary's biological father, and he has been collecting the Mortal Instruments, relics with magical powers, in order to overthrow the Shadowhunters. He's succeeded in finding the Mortal Cup and the Mortal Sword, but he still searches for the Mortal Glass.

Jace is desperate to keep Clary out of the Shadowhunter world, afraid of what the Clave will think of her ability to create new runes — symbols with magical powers. He tries to enlist the help of Clary's best friend, a vampire named Simon, to keep Clary away. Before their plan can be put into action, though, the two are attacked by demons. Jace carries a wounded Simon through a portal to Alicante, even though vampires are not allowed in the Shadowhunter city. A distraught Clary makes her own portal without the others' knowledge. Her surrogate father, Luke — a werewolf — follows her through.

Luke brings Clary to his estranged sister's house. After Clary recovers from an accidental poisoning, she sneaks out of the house to find Jace and the Lightwoods. Jace is furious with her and tells her that she is too reckless to be of use to the Shadowhunters. Sebastian, a visitor in the Lightwood home, sees Clary's distress and offers to take her to Ragnor Fell. When they find the warlock's house, Clary is surprised to see her friend Magnus Bane posing as Fell. Bane freezes Sebastian and tells Clary that Fell was killed when he wouldn't tell the location of a powerful spell book. The book is hidden in Valentine's old home, and Bane convinces Clary to get Jace's help to find it.

Jace apologizes for speaking harshly to Clary and agrees to help her. While searching his childhood home, they uncover a hidden chamber. The two are shocked to discover a withering angel still held captive within runes Valentine carved years ago. Through visions, the angel shows them how Valentine craved the powers of the Downworlders (vampires, werewolves, warlocks and fairies). He desired their speed, strength and magic.

Valentine secretly fed the blood of a greater demon to Jocelyn while she was pregnant, hoping to create an invincible Shadowhunter. Jocelyn knew something was wrong with the child when it was born and fell into depression. Valentine then captured the angel and used its blood to heal Jocelyn, not knowing she was pregnant with Clary. When Clary creates a new rune to release the angel, the angel kills himself, causing the mansion to disintegrate around them. Once Jace and Clary escape, they seek comfort in each other's arms. Clary soon realizes that Jace believes he is contaminated with demon blood and is desperately trying to redeem himself by being with Clary. The two argue and head back to Alicante in silence.

Before they get back, they see the city in flames. The magic that protected it from demons has been broken, and an evil horde is attacking the citizens. Jace's adopted brother, Max, is killed in the fighting. When Clary and Jace help Simon escape from a burning prison, he insists they also help a fellow prisoner. They recognize him as Hodge, Jace's former tutor, who sacrificed Jace to Valentine in order to secure his freedom. Before Hodge can redeem himself by telling them where the Mortal Glass is hidden, Sebastian kills him. Valentine sends a message that unless the Shadowhunters agree to make him the head of the Clave and kill all Downworlders, he will summon an even greater army of demons to destroy them.

Jace tracks Sebastian to a cave and overhears that Sebastian is Valentine's true son and the one who is part demon. Jace is another Shadowhunter's son. Valentine had given angel blood to another Shadowhunter while she was pregnant. Valentine has discovered the Mortal Glass is actually a lake, and he takes the other Mortal Instruments there so he can summon the angel Raziel and fulfill his plan to destroy the Clave. Sebastian and Jace fight. Jace believes he has killed Sebastian and leaves to stop Valentine.

Clary demonstrates her ability to create new runes to the Clave, and they agree to use this power to bind themselves with Downworlders to defeat Valentine. The Downworlders would then be given representation in the Clave, creating a new government. As the others prepare for battle, Clary discovers more of Valentine's plan and takes a portal to him. He renders her unable to move or speak. Jace arrives, wounded from his battle with Sebastian but ready to fight. Before he can strike the final blow, Valentine runs him through with the Mortal Sword. Jace's blood is the last ingredient Valentine needs to summon Raziel so Raziel will do his bidding. Clary manages to crawl to the circle of runes Valentine has drawn around an altar. She fights against the magical restraints he has put on her in order to scratch her own runes over them. When Raziel does appear, it is not Valentine who he must obey but Clary. Raziel kills Valentine and tells Clary she can compel him to do one favor. She asks for Jace to be returned from the dead.

With Valentine's death, the demons attacking Alicante flee. Shadowhunters and Downworlders celebrate with a festival. Luke admits his love for Jocelyn, and she agrees to marry him. Clary and Jace are free to express their love for one another with the knowledge that they are not brother and sister.

Christian Beliefs

Raphael, the head of the Vampires, puts on a cross and visits church regularly with his family to convince them he isn't really a vampire. When Jace refers to Valentine as "Our father," Sebastian asks if he is praying. Raziel tells Valentine that glory belongs only to God. When Jace admits his love for Clary, while still believing she is his sister, he says he feels like God was spitting on him. A verse from the book of Job is cited as well as the prophecy in Daniel: "mene, mene, tekel upharsin."

Other Belief Systems

The Inquisitor binds Simon to his prison cell by carving the Seal of Solomon and Star of David symbols on the door handle and bars. The Shadowhunters believe the angel Raziel gave his blood to Jonathon Shadowhunter to create the first Nephilim centuries ago. Sebastian explains that the city of Alicante has no need of churches because their demon towers keep them safe. Hodge explains that the magic surrounding Alicante is the Shadowhunters' religion. Their faith in their power to protect the city is what convinces them they are better than ordinary humans.

Simon says that people aren't born good or bad but it's their choices that dictate which they will become. Clary brands Simon with the "Mark of Cain" to protect him from the vampires. Although the vampires won't kill him for fear of being cursed, it is unclear what consequence the mark will have on Simon's future. Raziel says that demons do not possess souls. He claims that the Downworlders have souls. He also hints that God may consider them human.

Authority Roles

Aldertree, the new Inquisitor for the Clave, is willing to lie in order to inspire the Shadowhunters to do what he thinks is right. He also threatens to starve Simon unless he agrees to lie, too. Jace tells Clary how Valentine once beat him with a belt when he read some of his father's private papers. Clary confronts Jocelyn about the lies she told during Clary's childhood. Jace learns that the previous Inquisitor had been his grandmother and had sacrificed her life for his.


The words a--, d--n, b--tard, b--ch and h--- are used. H--- is also used in reference to the place. God's name is used with thank, oh my and sake. The Spanish word Dios is also used as an exclamation. Other negative words used are screw, suck, crap and p---ed.

Shadowhunters fight demons throughout the book in graphically depicted battles. The demons are described in detail. For example, some have talons and others have bodies like skeletons. They smell like rotting corpses. Demons' heads are cut off, throats are slit and demon and Shadowhunter blood is spilled. It is hinted that the demons feed on their victims. It is also intimated that a demon tried to rape one of the Shadowhunters. The Seal of Solomon carved into the door of his prison burns Simon's hand. Jace thrusts his hand through a window in frustration.

Luke's sister believed he should have committed suicide rather than remain a werewolf. The angel Jace and Clary discover in Wayland mansion is emaciated. In a vision, he shows the teenagers how Valentine stabbed him and used his golden blood to heal Jocelyn of her depression. When freed from its prison, the angel stabs himself. Sebastian's battles with the other Shadowhunters are described in graphic detail. Valentine kills Jace by running him through with a sword. The angel Raziel kills Valentine with flames from its mouth.


Clary sees Jace kissing another girl. The top buttons of the girl's shirt are undone, and her black bra is showing. Sebastian kisses Clary, but she stops him because it feels wrong. Jace and Clary share a moment of intimately described passion after the destruction of Wayland Manor. They begin to disrobe before Clary stops Jace from going further. Jace and Clary sleep in the same bed before Jace leaves to search for Sebastian. Simon spends the night with Jace's sister but tells Clary that they didn't have sex.

Simon talks to Jace's adopted brother, Alec, about his homosexuality. Jace challenges Alec to kiss him in order to prove that Alec really doesn't love him but is using him as an excuse not to have a relationship with anyone else. Alec helps Magnus defeat a demon, and the warlock confesses his love for Alec. Alec promises to introduce Magnus to his parents if they survive the night's battles. The two kiss before the final conflict with Valentine's army. At the end of the book, Alec is referred to as Magnus' boyfriend.

Discussion Topics

If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:

  • Jace asks Simon to lie to the Lightwoods in order to protect Clary.
  • Would you lie to protect a friend?
  • What does the Bible say about lying?

  • The Clave believe that Jace is Valentine's son, so they don't trust him.

  • Is he like his father?
  • What has he done in this story that shows he isn't like his father?
  • Is it fair to judge people based on the actions of their family? Explain.
  • What things do you feel you're judged on, good or bad, because of your family?

  • Clary often does things without thinking, such as creating a portal to Alicante when no one can enter illegally.

  • What would have happened if Luke hadn't saved her?
  • What are some of the rules in our home?
  • How do they protect you?

  • Aldertree, the Inquisitor, says that great leaders tell stories to get people to do what they want.

  • What role does public perception play in this story?
  • What role does it play in our world?

  • Valentine believes he is acting for the good of the Nephilim.

  • Where does his logic fail?
  • What does Raziel say is the difference between the first Shadowhunter's motive and Valentine's?

Additional Comments/Notes

Alcohol: While left alone in the house, teenage Shadowhunters share a bottle of wine with their dinner. They don't let their 10-year-old brother have any.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

14 and up


Cassandra Clare






Record Label



Margaret K. McElderry Books, a division of Simon & Schuster Publishing


On Video

Year Published



2010 CBC (Children's Book Council) Children's Choice Book Award Finalist


We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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