Friday, April 3, 2009

City of Glass

Cassandra Clare's City of Glass came out last week, and everyone in my household was pleased to hear that it's a wonderful ending to a great YA trilogy. We bought it at a bookstore in the train station in Chicago, and Eleanor read it all the way back to my brother's house in the suburbs, and then every moment she could snatch the next day. There were parts that made her exclaim out loud, and when she handed it to me, she said I should hurry up because she wanted to talk about it with someone. Well, I've been doing my best to hurry up with it all week, because Eleanor left for a band trip in the wee hours of this morning, giving me a deadline in the busiest part of the week, before I could have any free time to read. But City of Glass is a novel you make time to read.

Eleanor and I laughed and I cried out loud while reading this book. At one point I even got angry. I slapped the book shut (with my finger marking my place) and said to her "if I find out Sebastian is Clary's brother, I'm going to be so mad! I mean, listen to this: 'she went numb with an icy shock of wrongness. Something was terribly wrong...' I just can't stand it when somehow a character 'just knows' that it's WRONG to kiss her brother." Eleanor assured me that the feeling of wrongness was not merely about family ties. Eventually, I settled in and learned to trust the storyteller. In the end, I found that the trilogy is about more than just "the importance of being nephilim." In fact, the treatment of the "Downworlders" reminds me of the treatment of house elves, goblins, and other non-wizarding magical creatures in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. I wouldn't say that Clare's fiction is derivative, but rather that her magical world intersects with other fictional magical worlds (most notably Holly Black's, whose characters watch Clare's characters go by, at one point). I especially like the way the Seelie Queen is left flat-footed at the end of this novel; it's immensely satisfying to see someone finally stand up to her. As Captain Jack Sparrow would say, it's all about leverage.

City of Glass brings most of the things I enjoyed in the first two books to satisfying conclusions: the humor, the characterizations of evil, and the love story. In addition, (to Eleanor's quite vocal delight on first reading) it provides a nice little reply to fans of Stephanie Meyers' forever-seventeen vampire Edward in the musings of Clare's vampire Simon:
"Young forever, Simon thought. It sounded good, but did anyone really want to be sixteen forever? It would have been one thing to be frozen forever at twenty-five, but sixteen? To always be this gangly, to never really grow into himself, his face or his body? Not to mention that, looking like this, he'd never be able to go into a bar and order a drink. Ever. For eternity."

There's less humor in this final book, but Magnus Bane still gets a few good lines, including another one about how old he is:
"'I'm seven hundred years old, Alexander. I know when something isn't going to work. You won't even admit I exist to your parents.'
Alec stared at him. 'You're seven hundred years old?'
'Well,' Magnus amended, 'eight hundred. But I don't look it.'"
And even though Magnus promises to play a crucial role in the events of this novel, we're still no more sure we can trust him than Clary is--"she wondered why she'd ever thought trusting someone who wore that much eyeliner was a good idea."
Simon also gets some of the humorous lines in this final novel. Our favorite is:
"Has there ever been an Inquisitor who didn't die a horrible death?" he wondered aloud. "It's like being the drummer in Spinal Tap."

The issues involved in how to fight for good and against evil are nicely nuanced, even in the title City of Glass. The vampire looks "faintly green" at the idea of drinking blood from a cat, because he has a pet cat at home. Clary finally gets to tell her mother that it's not a mother's right to protect her child from who and what she is. And, more importantly, Clary comes up with a clever way to use her magical talents and help her friends, and she succeeds in convincing the entire community of adults that they need her to do it. Valentine meets the end he richly deserves, but not as an entirely black and unlamented villain.

And the love story. It's a good one. Clary won't give in to her own urge to love Jace, early on, because she thinks, as she says to him, he only wants "something else you can hate yourself for." Jace finally tells her "I love you, and I will love you until I die, and if there's a life after that, I'll love you then." And Clary is finally able to say yes to Jace, a sort of Molly Bloom eternal yes that goes a long way towards reconciling me to the angel ex machina way Clary and Jace reach their happy ending.

Once Walker has gotten a turn to read this book, I'm pretty sure Eleanor and I will be rereading it. Because now that our anxiety over what happens is assuaged, we'll want to sit back and enjoy these characters some more.


lemming said...

concluding a series does place certain burdens on an author - long-time readers (or viewers, etc.) will often feel that they "know" how it all ends and the author had better be prepared to justify their choices. I think most of the marriages in Harry Potter fulfilled expectations, but I'm still grappling to accept a few of the deaths.

Jeanne said...

Lemming, aren't we all still grappling with the HP deaths... But the death count is pretty darn restrained, if you think about it. Only one out of a family of eight? And after the foreshadowing boggart scene in Order of the Phoenix?

Anonymous said...

Ha! I just finished the first one, and am on the list at the library for the next two. We'll see if I'm able to wait out the list or will need to buy some airplane reading . . .