City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare
rating: 3/8 tentacles
*THIS IS THE FIFTH BOOK IN A SERIES. BEWARE OF SPOILING PREVIOUS BOOKS.*
I have mixed feelings about City of Lost Souls, mainly because it didn’t meet the expectations built up by the previous four books in The Mortal Instruments series. I wanted to like it, I really did, but there are just too many problems.
This fifth installment reads more like fan-fiction than professional writing: self indulgent, lacking focus, and poorly edited. Clare spends too much time on cliched descriptions of make-out sessions and telling us what her characters are wearing. Providing detailed descriptions of a character’s ensemble every single time he or she enters a scene is an amateur’s mistake. If the outfit is relevant or contributes to characterization, these details help readers visualize the scene, but too much of this information bogs down the story and distracts readers from what matters. This line, for example, does not work:
“As she came in, Alec looked up and saw her, and sprang to his feet, hurrying barefoot across the room—he was wearing black sweatpants and a white t-shirt with a torn collar—to put his arms around her.”
The color of Alec’s sweatpants is not important and doesn’t warrant interrupting the action to tell us about them. Shoving this information in ruins the flow of the narrative. Sadly, this line is not the only one of its kind.
This oversharing is one of the many ways CLS lacks focus. I often found myself thinking, “What, this again? Get to the good part!” Clare spends an inordinate amount of time on the trivial exploits of secondary characters. Maia and Jordan’s scenes were all pretty much gooey teen romance, which I’m not a fan of to begin with (personal preference), and dislike even more when it contributes nothing to significant characterization or plot.
The plot (Clary and friends’ attempts to find Jace and Sebastian and then stop Sebastian’s nefarious scheme) often got buried under the aforementioned makeout sessions and fashion commentary, but when it wasn’t, when we were right in the thick of things—the book was pretty good. There was a lot of interesting development with Sebastian’s character and his relationship with Clary. My favorite scenes were with Sebastian. He’s a fantastic—I don’t want to say villain, because Clare makes things nice and grey for us. A very dark grey, but grey nonetheless.
The climax stood out as the strongest part of the novel. I wish Clare had written the rest of it with the same clarity and focus.
The City of Lost Souls possesses an entertaining plot that has been sucked into the quicksand of Clare’s surprisingly amateurish writing. The novel could have used some more editing to really reach its potential, I think.