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Pump Six and Other Stories
Paolo Bacigalupi

City of Ashes

City of Ashes - Cassandra Clare It's truly remarkable - Cassandra Clare has managed to create a slew of fantasy characters who are neither entirely one-dimensional (just slightly) nor your standard caricatures, with interesting motivations, with an engaging plot with a few gentle twists, and a mythology that is intriguing in its set-up and makes me want to know more, and yet I cannot stand a single one of her characters. I have zero emotional attachment to any of them and actually find several of them pretty reprehensible, yet I am entertained while learning what happens to them next.

The Clary/Jace relationship is equal parts fascinating and baffling, as I can't decide if she's really going to keep them related to each other, and yet they are both so simultaneously flat and self-centered that the only thing interesting about them is their devotion to each other, even as that devotion seems entirely unwarranted. They're both pretty wretched to the other people who are in their lives, and I think she's shot too far with Jace in the "arrogant and infuriating yet still dastardly charming," as he's pretty much just irritating. For once it makes sense that these characters are fifteen or sixteen, even though they're doing all sorts of crazy stuff. They're just that emotionally dumb.

Simon is defined solely by his love for Clary, which seems equally inexplicable yet so very John Hughes movie-esque. At least he's slightly more fleshed out than Alec (who I hope realizes the folly of loving a tool like Jace and runs away to live a thoroughly debauched life with Magnus, who is the only one I don't want to punch in the face after this book). Isabelle is a nonentity.

I'm a little more intrigued by what happened with the prior generation, and I like that this book was much less coy about the past. I'm still not entirely sure I track where everyone's loyalties are/were, and the politics feel interestingly complex yet currently obscure (mostly due to my lack of emotional investment in any of the characters).

My favorite bit of the story in this book was Maryse Lightwood, Jace, and the Inquisitor, all wrapped around the issue of what it means to be a parent. That the Inquisitor's primary motivation for all her actions concerning Jace were in essence directed towards Valentine, and that her primary assumption was that Valentine valued his children enough to act in a rational-to-her manner. I'm still not sure which side of the line Valentine actually falls on (was he taunting the Inquisitor with his apparent lack of care for Jace just to torment her with her error, knowing that Jace was already escaped and safe...ish, or does he really not give a rat's ass? or is Jace even his son?), and I'm not sure if that's deliberate and skillful obfuscation or just I'm-smarter-than-you writing.

Also, I'm still a little fuzzy on the whole Jace swears loyalty to Valentine at one point but a) never gets caught and 2) never clearly reneges on that oath, even as he fights Valentine. Is he still bound to Valentine by that oath, or was that broken when he finally grew up a little? Maybe I shouldn't have torn through the book quite so fast.

All that, and I still gave it four stars, as it hung together much better than the first book, and I enjoyed being deeply irritated at all these characters.