City of Fallen Angels


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Book Review

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

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

Plot Summary

Sixteen-year-old Simon Lewis is having a difficult time adjusting to his new life as a vampire, especially since it became known that he’s a “Daylighter,” able to be out during the day without fear of being killed by sunlight. Several attempts are made on his life, but the “Mark of Cain” that his best friend, Clary, gave him means that anyone who tries to kill him will have a horrible death. His daylighter status and Clary’s mark make Simon a wanted commodity by many in the supernatural world. Camille, a female vampire who until recently led the Manhattan vampire clan, wants Simon to help her return to power. She offers him knowledge and power in return and gives him five days to make up his mind.

Shadowhunters are descendants of human beings who drank the blood of the angel Raziel. Jace, a 17-year-old Shadowhunter, is also having problems. Jace is madly in love with Clary, and she with him. But Jace has been plagued for weeks by nightmares in which, during passionate moments with Clary, he kills her. He keeps his nightmares to himself, but he can’t eat or sleep. Clary begins to worry that Jace doesn’t love her.

Simon’s music band brings in a new lead singer named Kyle. When Simon moves out of his house — after his mother discovers he’s a vampire — Kyle lets Simon share his apartment.

Clary offers to help in the investigation of the murders of three Shadowhunters. Her mother’s fiancé, Luke (a werewolf), accompanies her to the Shadowhunter morgue where one of the bodies is being held. Clary carves a new rune into the corpse’s chest, and the Shadowhunter is brought back from the dead. He chokes out the name of his killer, Camille, before Luke pours acid on the rune so the man can return to the dead. Luke warns Clary that she needs to learn more about her gift before she tries something like that again.

Jace has learned that someone is trying to kill Simon and decides to act as his bodyguard. Jace identifies Kyle as a werewolf. Kyle admits it’s true and confesses that he’s a member of the Wolf Guardians. They track down newly created werewolves and vampires who haven’t become members of packs or clans in order to help them make the transition into their new lives. They keep the new Downworlders from becoming too violent or suicidal. The Wolf Guardians heard about Simon’s solitary lifestyle and sent Kyle to keep an eye on him. Both Jace and Kyle agree to form an uneasy truce in order to protect Simon. Later that night, Simon sneaks away from his bodyguards to meet with Luke. The werewolf tells him that Camille is involved with the Shadowhunter murders, and Simon admits the offer she made to him. Luke promises to get help from the Shadowhunters.

Clary overhears a phone conversation between Jocelyn (her mother) and a nurse at a hospital where a baby has been abandoned. Jocelyn made inquiries about the baby, and the nurse called to tell her that the child died after a priest tried to baptize it. Clary insists on going to the hospital with her mother to view the baby. From its appearance, Jocelyn knows that someone had given demon blood to the child’s mother in an attempt to create a demonic version of a Shadowhunter.

Kyle and Jace decide to let Simon act as bait in order to draw out the person or people who have been trying to kill him. Simon’s band will perform in the city, and Jace will patrol the audience looking for Simon’s enemies while Kyle acts as backup. The night turns into a disaster. Clary shows up unexpectedly, and she and Jace argue, then make out in an alley outside the venue. Jace runs away, fearing he’ll hurt Clary. Simon, who used to be a vegetarian before becoming a vampire, has not been vigilant in drinking animal blood to keep up his strength. He loses control when a young fan asks for a picture after the show, and he drinks her blood. Kyle manages to stop him from killing the girl. Later, when Kyle approaches Simon to give him a ride home, they run into Maia, one of the girls Simon is dating, who also happens to be a werewolf. In fact, it was Kyle that turned her into one, and she has never forgiven him. When she sees Kyle, she attacks him.

Clary discovers a clue as to where the demon baby in the hospital may have come from. She texts her friend Isabelle to meet her at the Church of Talto. Meanwhile, Simon receives a note saying that someone has his girlfriend and will kill her if he doesn’t go to the same address. Simon calls Clary, Isabelle and Maia — all girls he has had relationships with — and none of them are being held hostage. He later discovers that the young girl he’d attacked was mistaken for his girlfriend and killed. Clary arrives at the Church of Talto only to discover it is being used for black magic, specifically a ritual to create demon babies. She is attacked by a demon, but Isabelle arrives to save her.

Jace runs to Clary’s bedside as she recovers from burns she received from the demon. The two begin to passionately kiss but stop when Jace’s nightmares become reality, and he cuts her arm with a knife. Jace finally admits his dreams to Clary, and she suggests they go to the Silent Brothers, an elite group of Shadowhunters who are able to read people’s minds. The Brothers are able to see that when Jace faced his adopted father, Valentine, back in the Shadowhunter world, Valentine had killed him. Clary had been granted one request from the angel Raziel, and she had asked for Jace to be returned from the dead. Shadowhunters, the Silent Brothers explain, go through a ritual when they are born to keep them from demonic influence. When Jace came back to life, he was essentially reborn, but without the spells to protect him. The Brothers agree to perform the ritual to cover him, but warn that it will be difficult. Clary leaves him with the Brothers and returns to the city to go to her mother’s engagement party.

Simon is lured away from the party by the appearance of the young fan he’d attacked. She’s become a vampire, but not by his bite. She leads him to an abandoned building to meet with Lilith, the first of all the demons. Lilith has preserved the body of Valentine’s son, Jonathon, whose mother, Jocelyn, had been given demon blood while pregnant. Lilith knows that Jace was brought back from the dead and believes the Old Laws demand that one of demon blood must be brought back in order to keep the natural balance. To complete the ritual, she needs Simon to drink Jonathon’s blood and give Jonathon some of his blood. When Simon refuses, Lilith brings Jace into the room. Lilith is the one who has been haunting Jace’s dreams, and she was able to convince him to bind himself to her command. Jace has brought Clary with him and holds a knife to her throat. Simon agrees to bite Jonathon to keep Jace from killing Clary. Clary manages to obscure the rune binding Jace to Lilith, and a battle ensues. When the demon strikes Clary, Simon throws himself in front of the blow. Because of the Mark of Cain, Lilith is turned to salt. Jace is left alone with Jonathon’s body, while Clary and Simon talk to their friends and other Shadowhunters who have arrived at the scene. Jace is still compelled to obey Lilith’s commands, even though she’s gone. Simon has revived Jonathon’s spirit, and now he calls Jace to finish the ritual that will bring him back to life. The two exchange blood through cuts in their hands, and Jace realizes that Jonathon has taken possession of his body.

Christian Beliefs

Simon notices that most anti-vampire weapons have crosses. Simon bears the Mark of Cain, a copy of the mark God gave to Adam’s son after he killed his brother Abel. Camille tells Simon that man can’t fight against the divine, and he reminds her that Jacob wrestled with an angel and won. She quotes Genesis 32:30 — “And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face” (KJV). Another vampire quotes Genesis 4:10 — “Thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground” (KJV). Jace quotes Romans 12:19 — “For it is written, Vengeance is mine: I will repay, saith the Lord” (KJV).

Jace says he wouldn’t swear on a stack of Bibles that something he said was true, and he describes what happens to someone trying to injure Simon as watching the wrath of God. The rituals in a Shadowhunter wedding are taken from the Song of Solomon 8:6. Instead of rings, they exchange runes on their arms and over their hearts, which is based on the verse “Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death” (KJV).

Other Belief Systems

The Shadowhunters swear “by the angel,” meaning Raziel, the angel that gave his blood to create them. Simon’s mother prays in Hebrew when she figures out that he’s a vampire, hoping to make him go away. Vampires have the power of the “encanto,” which makes humans believe almost anything a vampire tells them. Kyle has Sanskrit tattoos that are prayers for peace.

The Silent Brothers tell Clary and Jace that the dead can be brought back to a kind of life using black magic, but only an Angel of God’s right hand can place a human soul back into its body. It is believed that Lilith was Adam’s first wife who fled the garden rather than be ruled by God or her husband. She was cursed to become a demon. She can’t bear children and promised revenge on God by killing human babies. She is able to create demons by splattering drops of blood in a place called Edom.

When Alec claims that the stories about Lilith are just myths, Isabelle argues that all myths have some truth in them. Lilith possesses Jace through his dreams and forces him to harm Clary against his will.

Authority Roles

Luke has been Clary’s surrogate father throughout the “Mortal Instruments” series, and he continues that role in this story. Luke is also the head of a large wolf pack and as such is a mentor and leader to those werewolves. He is well respected among the vampires, and even the Shadowhunters admire his wisdom. Luke counsels Clary and Simon when they come to him with problems. He is strict but compassionate. Isabelle confides to Simon about her father’s affair when she was a girl and that her mother told her men couldn’t be trusted.

Profanity & Violence

Much of the teens’ dialogue is laced with profanity including d–n, h—, b–ch, b–tard, a– and a–hole. God’s name is used with sake, oh my, thank and
d–n. Jesus’ name is also used as an exclamation. Other objectionable words include crap, suck and screw.

The Mark of Cain protects Simon because it causes anyone who attacks him to die a horrible death. Either their bodies will be covered in wounds and blood sprays from their mouth or they’re shattered like glass before being turned into a pillar of salt. Jace has recurring nightmares in which he kills Clary, usually by stabbing her. The Shadowhunter that Clary reanimates writhes in pain as they try to question him. Black blood pours from his mouth.

The dead baby Jocelyn and Clary see in the morgue has sharp, curved claws instead of fingers and entirely black eyes. Before Simon drinks the young fan’s blood, his need for her blood is described in sensual detail. His drinking of her blood is also a sensual experience. Maia attacks Kyle by sinking her claws into his throat. Lilith and Camille both turn humans into half-dead minions who will fight and die for them.

The demon that attacks Clary has three heads, blade-like teeth and scales. Its blood burns her. Kyle, Maia, Isabelle and her brother, Alec, find 50 dead demon babies in the building where Lilith is keeping Jonathon. Lilith’s minions attack them with broken glass, rebar and concrete blocks. Lilith promises to torture Clary to make the boys pay for disobeying her orders. She manages to slice Clary with a whip before Simon stops her.

Sexual Content

When first speaking with Simon, Camille leans forward so that her blouse opens. Simon dates both Maia and Isabelle at the same time, without telling either. He kisses them both. Maia and Kyle kiss after the battle with Lilith’s minions. Jace and Clary kiss passionately several times, both in reality and in Jace’s dreams. The sexual tension between them escalates until Jace comes to Clary while she’s recuperating from the demon attack. She is in bed wearing only a T-shirt and underwear. They engage in very sensual and explicit foreplay with Clary taking off her shirt, leaving her in her bra and panties. The writing indicates they would have gone farther if Jace didn’t stab Clary in the arm.

Isabelle has a frank discussion about sex with Clary, telling her that Clary can come to her if she needs any birth control. Isabelle says she believes Jace has had sex before and laments that the Angel didn’t give them a birth-control rune.

Alec is involved in a homosexual relationship with a warlock named Magnus. At the beginning of the novel, the two are traveling the world together on a romantic holiday. When they are called back to New York, Alec discovers that Magnus and Camille were lovers 100 years ago. Alec becomes jealous, thinking of all the men, women and boys Magnus has been with over the years. He’s afraid Magnus won’t love him when he gets old, because warlocks don’t age. Magnus and Alec kiss.

Discussion Topics

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

  • Keeping someone’s confidence is a good thing, but how could much of the story’s conflicts have been avoided if either Jace or Clary had told an adult about Jace’s death at Valentine’s hands?

  • Read Exodus 34:7. What does God mean when He said He would punish the children for the sins of their parents?

  • How does Isabelle’s father’s adultery affect Isabelle?
  • How does it affect the decisions she makes?
  • Is this the same thing as what God mentioned in the Old Testament about His punishment?
  • How do Jesus’ death and resurrection change things?

  • Can you think of a time when you, like Maia, were hurt by someone you cared for deeply?

  • How can understanding the motives behind someone’s actions lead to forgiveness, as Maia forgave Kyle?

  • As a vampire, Simon is unable to even say God’s name.

  • If you are a believer in Christ, is there anything that can separate you from His love?
  • Read Romans 8:38-39. What does the Bible say?

Additional Comments

Lying: Simon spends much of the story not being truthful to the people he cares about. He lies to his mother about being a vampire; he doesn’t tell Maia and Isabelle that he is dating both of them, even though they are friends.

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.

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