Study Guide

City of Ashes

By Cassandra Clare

City of Ashes Introduction

When searching for a room in NYC on Airbnb, there are a few things to watch out for: bedbugs, crazy squatters, ending up in a storage unit full of forty hipsters instead of the penthouse apartment pictured on the website, demons, vampires, werewolves…

Oops. We got real-life New York City confused with the New York City of City of Ashes. While bedbugs, squatters, and hipsters are always an imminent danger, as far as we know, demons, vampires, and werewolves only exist within the pages of this book. But, like we said, that's only as far as we know.

City of Ashes, published in 2008, is the middle child in Cassandra Clare's original Mortal Instruments trilogy, which begins with City of Bones and ends with City of Glass (and then continues with three more books, a prequel trilogy, and a new trilogy released in 2015). And being in the middle means that City of Ashes has its fair share of troubles.

Valentine, our Big Bad, is determined to raise a cartload of demons and start an all-out war. It's up to Jace and Clary, Valentine's own children, to stop him. On top of that, Jace and Clary are dealing with romantic feelings for each other. Did you read the part where we said they have the same father? Yep, they're siblings who are more Flowers in the Attic than, say, Scout and Jem.

Cassandra Clare's books are insanely popular, and in a way started the whole fanfiction-to-fiction trend even before Fifty Shades of Grey made it a big deal. If you notice any similarities between Harry Potter and the Mortal Instruments, that's not an accident. This series started off as Harry Potter fanfiction. However, in City of Ashes, we start moving farther away from that and into a more original world.

Despite some backlash, City of Ashes was voted the #4 book of the year for teens in the annual Young Adult Library Services Association Teens' Top Ten contest, putting it among the likes of Paper Towns, Breaking Dawn, The Hunger Games, and The Graveyard Book. That's good company to keep.

Unfortunately, all the teens that voted were too busy reading to see The Mortal Instruments film based on City of Bones. It flopped, dumping the City of Ashes adaptation in the scrap heap. However, never fear. The whole series is scheduled to come to a small screen near you.

So when the TV show isn't on, pick up a copy of City of Ashes and continue exploring the world of the Mortal Instruments.

What is City of Ashes About and Why Should I Care?

If you haven't read City of Bones, you probably won't care about City of Ashes, as the sequel takes place almost right after the first, And if you did read City of Bones, you're probably hungry for more no matter what we say. But we're going to say it anyway, because that's what we're here for.

City of Ashes is even better than City of Bones. On the surface, the plot moves faster than you thought possible. We don't need to deal with any of that exploring and defining that slows down the first book in any new fantasy series. We're already there, and we hit the ground running.

But going deeper than that, this volume digs into a theme that many classics have tackled before, just not quite like this. What do Romeo & Juliet, Lady Chatterley's Lover, and City of Ashes have in common? Forbidden love.

Like Romeo and Juliet or Lady Chatterley and… her lover, good ol' what's-his-name Clary and Jace aren't supposed to be together. Why? They're brother and sister, and not in the Greg and Marcia Brady sense. So there you have it: City of Ashes is just like the classics, but it just happens to have more incest and demons in it.

City of Ashes Resources


Hunting the Hunters
As of 2014, there are 116 (give or take 100 or so) books featuring Shadowhunters.

Prophecies of Cassandra
Cassandra Clare has all the background info and delicious artwork based on her Mortal Instruments series that you could ever want.

Movie or TV Productions

Ashes to Ashes
The first movie bombed, burning the planned City of Ashes into a pile of ashes. Sorry, fans.

The movie might be dead, but like a phoenix from the Ashes (a whole City of them), the series is scheduled to be reborn as a TV show.

Articles and Interviews

What Might Have Been
Imagine what the movie would have been like with nuggets of info from this interview.

Jace in Real Life?
Could Jace be based off a real live person? (Spoiler alert: no. But another character may be.)


Keep Your Eyes Open
If you've ever wanted to combine Taylor Swift and the phrase "magically induced coma," this fan-made video for City of Ashes is the perfect solution.

It Gets Better
This guy thinks City of Ashes is a step up from City of Bones, despite all the complicated relationships he has to explain.


Symphony of the Night
It's like listening to Jace play the piano just for you.

Audiobook of Ashes
It's like having Clary read just to you.


Girlfriend in a Coma
Clary's mom is in a fictional coma in a real-life hospital. This one.

Clap if you Believe in Faeries
This is Turtle Pond, which serves as a gateway to the faerie realm. We don't see any faeries in this pic, though.