This sequel to City of Bones flows much better than its predecessor and finally sheds some of the Harry Potter trappings. I think Clare finally got comfortable with her world and her characters and it shows in how characters like Valentine (whom I called a poor man's Voldemort in a review of City of Bones) and Magnus Bane finally feel three dimensional. The world also feels more settled and less forced. At this point one gets the sense that Clare is finally working from a space of inspiration rather than copying from others.
I still feel like her writing hasn't fully matured however. This is most noticeable in the confusing pacing and sense of passing time in City of Ashes. I gather from little remarks strewn throughout the book that only a week or two has passed since the end of the first book but it feels like several weeks or months, especially since Clary turns 16 sometime in that short period (a fact which makes her burgeoning sexuality with Simon and Jace a *little* bit more palatable). This wouldn't be so bad if some mention had been made about her birthday, but her age is flippantly mentioned and then forgotten about, almost as if Clare reconsidered that Clary was supposed to be 15. Also, as the characters go about their adventures, it's difficult to tell how much time is passing. One night seems to go on forever, only to have the scene change abruptly to another day. You think, from comments thought by or said between the characters that Clary is avoiding Jace or Jace is avoiding Clary, and Simon is avoiding both Jace and Clary (there is a tireless amount of this behavior) only to find out that not even a full 24 hours have passed. In some cases, barely 12 hours have passed. How can it be obvious that someone is avoiding someone else, but keeping tabs on them through Isabelle, if not enough time has passed for our characters to get a good night's sleep, much less avoid each other? There are lots of strange comments or thoughts by characters that indicate a longer passage of time than actually occurred. In another scenario, Magnus complains that all Jace does is clean his apartment and watch reruns on TV. But careful reading also suggests that Jace has only been rooming with Magnus for one day and not much of the previous night before (considering that night should have been filled with getting woken up in the middle of the night to be imprisoned, witness a massacre at said prison, and then investigate said massacre--all before being put under house arrest with Magnus Bane). So really, if it even was still night when Jace made it over to Magnus's house, I'd imagine he'd sleep most of his time there away before he was visited by the others. I doubt he'd be cleaning so much that Magnus would make a remark about it. It would only make sense if Jace had been in his new surroundings for several days and established particular habits that Magnus could complain about.
I hope the above made sense. It's just all so confusing and I feel like I have to be an investigative reporter to understand the timeline properly. I really wish Clare's editor had pointed out that her writing can be misleading and even illogical at times.
Other things that bother me are the extensive use of euphemisms and the back and forth between Jace, Clary, and Simon. The euphemisms wouldn't bother me so much if they weren't the same always. The skyscrapers cut the sky *like* knives, or the moss surrounds the lake *like* green lace. At some point I wish she'd rephrase this with something different so maybe moss laced the lake instead of surrounding it *like* lace. The love triangle is very popular in paranormal fiction and I liked it once too--when I was nine and reading The Vampire Diaries. As an adult that kind of waffling between two boys really gets on my nerves unless it is done so well that the interplay is interesting rather than annoying. Suffice it to say, I don't think Clare is up to that challenge for me, as very few authors are, hence the reason I hate this trope so much.
Yes, I'm a picky reader and a lot of little things about Clare's writing really interrupt my enjoyment of her world. But I am heartened that she seems to finally be developing some originality in her world-building and her characterization. Hopefully, as she continues writing, she'll iron out all these other inconsistencies and her writing won't straddle an uncomfortable line between juvenile and inspired.