Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what's normal when you're a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who's becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn't ready to let her go—especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary's only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil—and also her father.
To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings—and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?
In this breathtaking sequel to City of Bones, Cassandra Clare lures her readers back into the dark grip of New York City's Downworld, where love is never safe and power becomes the deadliest temptation.
Prologue: Smoke and Diamonds
In the penthouse on the 57th floor of the Metropole in Manhattan, a young warlock named Elias is preparing to summon the Greater Demon Agramon for his client, Valentine Morgenstern. Unbeknownst to the boy, Valentine has other plans: after the ritual is successfully performed, the Demon of Fear reads that Elias's own greatest fear is of a demon escaping his pentagram—a fear the demon brings to life before proceeding to kill the warlock, with Valentine remarking that he intends to use the boy's blood. Valentine then speaks to Agramon, telling him that the latter will obey him as he has the Mortal Cup, and Agramon "kneels" to him in allegiance.
Part One: A Season in Hell
Clary Fray's mother still hasn't woken up. Jace, who was kicked out of his home by Maryse Lightwood, goes to the werewolf bar Hunter's Moon. There, he treats the present members of the local werewolf pack with disrespect. The bartender, Freaky Pete, doesn't want his bar getting destroyed so he tells Bat, a werewolf who got into a bit of a fight with Jace to go take a walk and calm down. Later, Bat comes in and announces that he just saw Joseph, a young cub, being killed nearby—unwittingly interrupting Valentine's draining process for his ritual. He spots Jace and asks him for help as a Shadowhunter to investigate the murder, and a further fight breaks out when Jace refuses, saying it isn't his job. The fight is stopped by their pack leader Luke Garroway, who calls Clary for help dealing with Jace, as she's the only one he listens to.
The three of them go to the Institute and confront Maryse, who said that the Inquisitor is coming to talk with Jace and she was trying to spare him. When the Inquisitor arrives, Jace is rude to her, and she locks him in the City of Bones as a lesson to make him respect her. After receiving a distress call from the Silent City, Clary, Isabelle and Alec go to save Jace and find that Valentine had come in the night and killed all of the Silent Brothers in order to take the Mortal Sword. Clary uses an Opening rune to blow Jace's cell door off its hinges, and with Alec half-carrying Jace, who can barely stand, they make their way out.
Part Two: The Gates of Hell
When they emerge, the Inquisitor agrees to let Jace stay with Magnus Bane while he recovers. Clary, Jace, Isabelle, Alec, and Simon get an invitation from the Seelie Queen to go to her courts, however Magnus isn't supposed to let Jace leave, so Alec stays in his place. The others go to the Seelie Court. Clary is tricked into tasting the faerie food, and the Seelie Queen tells them that she must stay in Faerie and that only the kiss she most desires can free her. Clary is forced to kiss Jace, but they get lost in the kiss, and Simon, jealous and annoyed, storms off when they leave.
Later, they are at the Institute when Raphael shows up with an almost dead Simon, saying he must either become a vampire or be staked in the heart and die. They bury his dead body and Simon is reborn a vampire. Outside Luke's house, Maia is attacked by a demon. Luke is also attacked by one shortly thereafter. They go after the demons while Jace goes to visit his father on a boat in the river.
Part Three: Day of Wrath
The Inquisitor shows up the next morning claiming that Jace was working with Valentine. She planned to threaten Jace's life unless Valentine returned the Mortal Instruments. While she waits for Valentine's reply, she puts Jace in a Malachi Configuration, but he jumps out of it and escapes.
At the river, Clary draws the Fearless rune on Jace. Magnus turns Luke's truck into a boat to get to Valentine's ship, because he has kidnapped Maia and Simon and intends to use them for the Infernal Conversion. Clary is taken by a demon onto the ship and Jace and Luke go after her. Back at the Institute, Valentine's replies that he would rather have the Mortal Instruments and let Jace die, than hand them over and let his son survive. By then, it's too late to get backup from the Clave but the New York Conclave go to fight Valentine. The Inquisitor ends up saving Jace's life after seeing the scar on his shoulder. Jace then goes deeper into the boat, kills Agramon, and gives Simon his blood to save his life after Valentine slit the latter's throat. Clary inscribes a rune on the boat which makes it fall apart and saves those who were fighting the demons from an unwinnable battle. However, Valentine still has the Mortal Instruments. It is later discovered that thanks to Jace's angelic blood in his veins, Simon is now able to withstand sunlight. Jace is welcomed back to the Institute by Maryse.
Clary goes to visit Simon, who tells her he would rather stay friends than risk losing what they have. Clary goes back to Luke's house and asks him to take her to the Institute, where she bumps into Jace, who is leaving to pick up food from Taki's Diner. She accompanies him there. Jace tells her that he will just be her brother from that point on. After this, Clary goes to the hospital to visit her comatose mother, Jocelyn. Here she meets Madeleine, who says that she knew her mother and knows how to wake her up.
Valentine set in motion the next move in his plan: realign the Mortal Sword from seraphic to demonic with the Ritual of Infernal Conversion. With Agramon in his employ, he set out to drain four young Downworlders of their blood.
Jace and Clary remain conflicted about their feelings for one another. Clary briefly dates Simon, but the relationship is complicated by Clary's feelings for Jace, and vice versa—something that disturbs them both and try to deny to one another, considering that they now know that they are siblings—which is later made known to the others when the Seelie Queen forces the pair to share the kiss that Clary desires most.
Meanwhile, Simon is Turned into a vampire by Raphael Santiago. Valentine then targets Simon and Maia, a member of Luke's pack, as the vampire and werewolf recipients of his ritual. With rescuing Simon as Clary's priority, Clary and the others go to Valentine's ship, and soon, the Inquisitor comes to her senses and joins the battle against Valentine's army. Simon and Maia are rescued, and with a rune created through her special ability with runes, Clary destroys the ship.
In the end, Simon decides to let Clary go, while Jace is determined to only be Clary's brother. Meanwhile, a woman from Jocelyn's past, Madeleine Bellefleur, finds Clary and tells her that she knows how to wake her mother up.
Prologue: Smoke and Diamonds
Part Two: The Gates of Hell
Part Three: Day of Wrath
- Clary Fray - the main protagonist of the series, Clary, though raised a mundane, was suddenly thrown into the world of Shadowhunting upon her mother's disappearance.
- Jace Morgenstern - one of the most skilled Shadowhunters of his generation, Jace discovered that his father is Valentine Morgenstern, and that Clary, whom Jace had just expressed interest in, is his sister.
- Alec Lightwood - the eldest Lightwood and Jace's parabatai; Alec's sexuality, which is frowned upon in the Nephilim society, and relationship with Magnus Bane bring up issues for himself and his family.
- Isabelle Lightwood - Alec's beautiful younger sister, Isabelle is a strong and fierce Shadowhunter, as well as a rebellious daughter.
- Valentine Morgenstern - the notorious leader of the Circle, father of Clary and Jace, and husband of Jocelyn. Believed to be dead for over a decade, Valentine recently revealed himself to be alive, plotting the downfall of Shadowhunters and Downworlders.
- Jocelyn Fray - Clary's mother who put herself in a coma to prevent Valentine from getting answers from her.
- Maryse & Robert Lightwood - parents of the Lightwood children and heads of the New York Institute.
- Max Lightwood - the youngest Lightwood child at nine years old.
- Imogen Herondale - the Inquisitor with a vendetta who rushed over to New York to investigate Valentine's "son".
- Simon Lewis - Clary's geeky, mundane best friend who inevitably joins Clary and the Shadowhunters because of his feelings for her.
- Magnus Bane - the High Warlock of Brooklyn who decides to help the Conclave for Alec.
- Luke Garroway - Valentine's former parabatai before Turning into a werewolf, Luke is a close friend of Jocelyn who helped raise Clary.
- Maia Roberts - a member of Luke's New York werewolf pack.
- Raphael Santiago - leader of the New York vampire clan.
- Seelie Queen - the queen of the Seelie Court of the Fair Folk.
- Meliorn - the queen's personal knight and confidante, Meliorn has a past connection with a certain Lightwood.
- The original (now hardbound) cover features Clary Fray and the Brooklyn bridge. The repackaged (paperback) cover also features Clary, this time holding a stele while sitting on the ground in front of a Fearless rune.
- The title refers to the Silent City after it was infiltrated by Agramon and Valentine Morgenstern. They murdered all the present Silent Brothers and, as explained by the characters, deceased Shadowhunters are usually burned, their ashes used to make the City's marble, giving off a smell of smoke and ashes, which was worsened by the smell of their decaying bodies. After their death, the term "city of ashes" became morbidly appropriate.
- The book is told from different points of views, namely: Clary, Jace, Simon, Maia, Alec, and briefly in Luke's.
- "City of Blood" was the original title of the book but Cassandra Clare was asked to change it as it sounded a bit too horror.
- "City of Ashes was City of Blood once!" Cassandra Clare on Twitter
- "City of Ashes was originally City of Blood but they asked me to change it to sound less 'horror.'" Cassandra Clare on Tumblr