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When young Clarissa ("Clary") Fray sees three teenagers seemingly commit murder in a nightclub, she is immediately intrigued by them and their strange mannerisms - such as their talk about demons and Downworlders. She later shrugs it off, preferring to live life normally with her overprotective mother Jocelyn and her Geek best friend Simon.

That is, until Clary meets Jace again, and she goes home to discover that her apartment's been trashed and her mother's gone missing.

When she unknowingly kills the demon that trashed her apartment, Jace brings Clary back to the Institute and she meets the other two teenagers at the nightclub - Isabelle and Alec Lightwood, both beautiful and dangerous. Their tutor Hodge Starkweather explains their world to her - that yes, mythical creatures such as vampires and werewolves do exist, known to them as Downworlders, and that Shadowhunters are a special "breed" of people that act like supernatural detectives, making sure that the Muggles of the world are safe and never find out about the demons that inhabit several dimensions.

But things aren't over for Clary just yet. There's a war on the horizon - the Shadowhunters against massive demon forces conjured by the Big Bad of the series, Valentine who just happens to be her father. But other than that, Clary's personal life is not without its own drama - how will she cure her mother? What about her relationship with Simon, which is slowly getting more and more complicated? And what is she to do about the beautiful and elusive Jace, who seems very attracted to her?

This (former) urban fantasy trilogy by Cassandra Clare (otherwise known as Cassandra Claire) consists of City of Bones, City of Ashes, and City of Glass. The fourth book, City of Fallen Angels, was released April 2011, and the fifth, City of Lost Souls, was released May 2012. The sixth (and perhaps final) book, City of Heavenly Fire, has yet to be released. Clare has also published the first two books of a prequel trilogy, The Infernal Devices, entitled Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince, respectively. A sequel series, The Dark Artifices, set five years after the events of The Mortal Instruments, is also planned.

A film version is also set for production in 2012, with Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower having been cast as Clary and Jace.

This series has a character sheet. Please put all character-related tropes there.

Tropes used in Mortal Instruments include:

  • Adults Are Useless - Every single higher-up is at a Clave meeting. All of them. While Jace's group of inexperienced youths are pursuing the Mortal Instruments, the maniacal Valentine, and attempting to stop The End of the World as We Know It. Anyone who isn't is either insane with power, revenge, or a spy.
  • The Ageless: Warlocks and vampires do not age after reaching maturity.
  • All Myths Are True - Lampshaded explicitly several times.
  • Ancestral Weapon: Clary is given her mother's stele in the second book. Subverted since she loses it.
  • Animorphism - Simon is turned into a rat in the first book, and Magnus can turn into a cat
  • Anguished Declaration of Love - Clary gets one from Simon and another from Jace, while Jocelyn gets one from Luke in the third book. Magnus's is more of an Irritated Declaration Of Love, when Alec demands to know why he hasn't called him back, resulting in this exchange:

 Magnus: You're an idiot.

Alec: Is that why you didn't call me? Because I'm an idiot?

Magnus: No. I didn't call you because I'm tired of you only wanting me around when you need something. I'm tired of watching you be in love with someone else- someone, incidentally, who will never love you back. Not the way I do.

Alec: You love me?

Magnus: You stupid Nephilim. Why else am I here? Why else would I have spent the past few weeks patching up all your moronic friends everytime they got hurt? And getting you out of every ridiculous situation you found yourself in? Not to mention helping you win a battle against Valentine. And all completely free of charge!

Alec: I hadn't looked at it that way.

Magnus: Of course not. You never looked at it in any way. I'm seven hundred years old, Alexander. I know when something isn't going to work. You won't even admit I exist to your parents.

  • Applied Phlebotinum: The runes.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Raphael, being Mexican, tends to interject phrases in Spanish when he speaks. In City of Ashes, he tells Clary that Simon "no es muerto," which is incorrect; it should be "no esta muerto." It seems like a classic Google Translate error rather than it being intentional.
  • Author Avatar - It's probably not a coincidence that the heroine is named Clary while the author's name is Cassandra Clare, which would result in some interesting implications if Cassandra Clare has a brother.
  • Battle Couple - When Alec and Magnus go into the final battle as partners
    • Also Luke and Clary's Mother.
    • Also Maryse and Robert Lightwood, though not explicitly given screen time as such.
  • The Beautiful Elite: All the Nephilim are somehow good-looking (with the possible exception of Hodge and The REAL Sebastian Verlac). The vampires, too.
  • Beta Couple - Alec and Magnus; Luke and Jocelyn. Simon and Isabelle at the end of thr third book and during the fourth.
  • Big Applesauce: The first two books, as well as the fourth. The third book is set in Idris. The prequel trilogy is set in Victorian London.
  • Big Brother Instinct - Alec takes his job as the oldest Lightwood sibling very seriously. Jace too, despite not being their real brother.
  • Black and Grey Morality - The story kind of trips over this. Valentine is supposedly evil because he hates all Downworlders and wants to kill them all, but when you see how the Shadowhunters treat mundanes and Downworlders, you start to wonder how they got to be the designated heroes.
  • Big Damn Heroes - The Shadowhunters
  • Brother-Sister Incest - Jace/Clary, albeit unknowingly
    • Subverted when it turns out they aren't related after all
    • Also Sebastian/Clary
      • Simon makes sure to tease Clary about it, too. "So, Jace isn't your brother, but you HAVE kissed your brother."
  • Break the Haughty - Gets a glorious example in City Of Ashes, when the Inquisitor learns that her plan to trade Jace to Valentine for the Sword and Cup won't work. It causes her to freak out and have a short bsod before Maryse snaps her out of it.
  • Calling the Old Man Out - A difficult feat for Jace, even after years of having been abandoned by Valentine.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In the first book, Madame Dorothea's tarot cards: the Ace of Cups was the Mortal Cup.
  • Coming Out Story - Alec is outed quite spectacularly towards the end of the third book
    • Luke gets Simon a pamphlet called 'How To Come Out to Your Parents' when he becomes a vampire and tells him to adapt it to suit the situation. Neither Simon nor Clary is amused
  • Devil in Plain Sight - Some demons, Sebastian
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Simon, dear God. He can't pray because he's a vamp, so he instead goes out saying simply "Clary."He gets better.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Sebastian to Clary, although to be fair he was The Mole all along and she didn't even know they were related.
  • Epigraph - City of Bones begins with quotes from Julius Caesar and Paradise Lost
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Valentine really does love Jace, even though he's not his real son.
  • Fantastic Racism - Nobody gives mundanes any respect. One of the more blatant examples was when Simon takes down the Greater Demon in City of Bones. An review notes that the Shadowhunters react in a manner that "suggests Simon's mundane status was a crippling retardation he managed to overcome; apparently mundanes are incapable of dexterity, motor skills, or strategy?" Who was making weapons before the Nephilim were created, again?
    • Not just mundanes, but Shadowhunters in general tend to look down on Downworlders too, and the vampires and werewolves are constantly at each others necks, and the Faeries are equal-opprotunity misanthropes.
  • Foot Focus
  • Fur Against Fang: The vampires and werewolves do not get on well; this is because the two demon species which originally infected humans, giving rise to the vampires and werewolves, were rivaling species who hated one another.
  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: ORGY IN HOBOKEN!
  • Idiot Ball - At the end of City Of Glass, Clary decides to wish Jace back to life. Which is great except she seems to have forgotten about all the other shadowhunters that died. Real considerate there Clary.
    • Arguably, Simon's little incident with the vampires in City of Ashes counts.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: All of the books in the series are called "City of X". The titular City of Bones is the Silent City, while the titular City of Glass is Alicante.
  • Infant Immortality - Horribly. Brutally. Subverted.
  • Interspecies Romance: Isabelle with Meliorn, a fairy knight. Part of Dating What Daddy Hates.
    • Also, Alec and Magnus, one being a warlock and the other a shadowhunter
  • Invisible to Normals - Idris and the rest of the Shadow world.
  • Lie Back and Think of England -Jace tells Clary to do this before they kiss in front the fairy court. More like "Close your eyes and think of England."
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia - Every two years, Jocelyn brings Clary to the warlock Magnus to have him make Clary forget what she knows of the magical world.
  • Like Brother and Sister – Simon and Clary come off as this at first, until Simon gains the status of Unlucky Childhood Friend before moving rather briefly into Victorious Childhood Friend and then going back to Just Friends.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father - Valentine is Clary and Jace's father
  • MacGuffin - The titular Mortal Instruments: A cup, a sword, and a mirror
  • Masquerade
  • Mind Rape - Lilith to Jace in Book 4
  • Moment Killer - Every time Jacy and Clary seem to be about to exchange a moment that could turn into a Relationship Upgrade it is inevitably interrupted.
  • Muggle and Magical Love Triangle: Clary has Simon (muggle, at least for the first book and a half), and Jace (magical).
  • Muggles - 'mundanes' or the less polite 'mundies'
  • Mundane Utility - Jace to Magnus: "Nearly unlimited supernatural power, and all you do is use it to watch reruns. What a waste."
  • Noodle Incident - How exactly did Magnus get himself banned from Peru? [1]
  • Not Listening to Me, Are You? - In the first book. Simon does this to Clary, who's looking at a good-looking mystery man
  • Official Couple - Jace and Clary
  • Old Shame - You know, it might be easier for Cassandra Clare to erase all memories of that NC-17 Ron/Ginny Incest Fic if she didn't go and give her published series the exact same name.
    • And boy, does it ever show on the Amazon reviews.
    • It would likewise have been easier for her to ditch the whole plagiarism debacle attached to the Draco Trilogy if she'd either used her real name or else gone with a different pseudonym. She's one of the few writers who had a pre-built Hatedom and Fan Wank before she even got published.
    • But she also had a built-in fandom and she got her book deal because of her fandom fame, so it's a bit of a double-edged sword. The fact that so many characters are Expys from her best-known work, not to mention the copy/paste of scenes from the same into this series, would make it a little hard for her to get away with pretending to be someone else anyway.
  • Only in It For the Money - Magnus is, at least until he falls in love with Alec.
  • Operation: Jealousy - Simon hangs around Isabelle to make Clary jealous when it seems like she's not interested in him.
  • Our Angels Are Different - In many ways.
  • Our Vampires Are Different - They're able to pass for normal humans.
  • The Reveal - Jace is Clary's brother, and Valentine is their father
    • And Jace is not Clary's brother: Sebastian is. It's complicated.
  • Secret Other Family - Jace was unaware of Sebastian's existence, which led him to believe that he was Valentine's real son. Also Clary's father and brother.
  • Shape Shifter - Eidolon demons, Magnus
  • Shouldn't We Be in School Right Now?
  • Shout-Out:
    • Val and Luis from Holly Black's Valiant are seen at one point.
    • A badge on Clary's bag says 'Still Not King', a reference to Clare's famous The Lord of the Rings fanfic The Very Secret Diaries.
      • A "Still Not King" pin is also seen in Ruth's bag in Valiant in a reverse shout-out (shout-back?)
      • The "Still Not King" badge could also be a Shout-Out to Roy Mustang of Fullmetal Alchemist.
    • Best of all, two extra characters have a debate on which fictional gay wizard would win in a fair fight, Dumbledore, or Magnus. ** A reference to Hellsing is made when Clary thinks about how a church looks like "one of her favorite anime scenes involving a vampire priest".
    • Max is frequently seen reading Naruto.
    • Happens often with animanga, given that Simon is characterized as a typical Geek. At one point Clary asks him if he wants to spend the evening with her watching Trigun.
    • Simon is described in the fourth book as wearing Jeph Jacques's "Clearly I Have Made Some Bad Decisions" shirt, and Cassandra Clare also mentions his in-universe series "Magical Love Gentlemen".
  • Shut UP, Hannibal: In the third book, Valentine avoids this by using a magic rune to keep a character quiet so he can monologue without interruption. The character eventually gives a rebuttal by writing in the dirt.
  • Similarly Named Works (The third in the trilogy is presumably not related to Paul Auster 's classicly surreal postmodern detective novel.)
  • Straight Gay - Alec
  • Suetiful All Along - Clary is convinced that she is not attractive, despite repeated assurances that she is attractive and looks like her mother, someone Clary does view as attractive.
    • Well, she says she considers herself "cute" rather than beautiful, like her mother. And the only person who has called her beautiful was Jace.
  • Summoning Artifact: The mortal instruments.
  • Summoning Ritual: The titular Mortal Instruments are required to summon the angel Raziel, a ritual that can only be done once every millennium. Once they have all three, Raziel will come to them and will grant any single wish the summoner wants.
  • Token Minority: Simon is Jewish, Maia is biracial, and Magnus is part Asian.
  • Too Dumb to Live – Simon. YMMV. Though, breaking into a hotel of murderous vampires that have expressed that they wouldn't mind having an excuse to turn you into hamburger meat isn't such a good idea. Especially if you go alone. And do it at night.
    • Sure the vampire blood was summoning him back to Raphael and he would have given in and sought them out sooner or later but if he had only asked Luke, he would have known to wait a few more days and the blood would have gone out of his system as well as the compulsion it had on him to return to Raphael.
  • Trilogy Creep: First, there was the original trilogy (City of Bones, City of Ashes, and City of Glass). Then, it was announced that Clare was writing a steampunk prequel trilogy set in Victorian London (The Clockwork Angel, The Clockwork Prince, and The Clockwork Princess). Then, a fourth book centered around the Simon character of the first trilogy was revealed to be in the works (City of Fallen Angels). Then Clare decided to add two more books to the Mortal Instruments story (City of Lost Souls and City of Heavenly Fire) while also stating that this new trilogy of MI books would no longer focus solely on Simon but rather on the entire cast. This series of somewhat obscure YA fantasy books literally tripled in size.
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend – Simon is this for a time when it seems like Clary and Jace are a thing until they find out they're siblings and then becomes a sort of example of a Victorious Childhood Friend for a while and then he trips over an Idiot Ball... it doesn't work out and they go back to being Just Friends.
    • Luke is an example as well, for Jocelyn since, she was, you know, married to Valentine, but now they're set to be married.
  • Urban Fantasy
  • The Verse - Clare is also publishing a prequel series. The first book was recently released.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy - Jace spent most of his life being this - until he found out who his father really was. And even then....
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist - Valentine. Unfortunately, his plan to reform the Clave to protect against demonic threats involves raising a massive demon army and slaughtering them all.
  • What the Hell, Hero? - Jace's treatment towards Clary when they're not snogging.
    • Luke also calls Clary out (with good reason) at the beginning of the third book.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Idris.
  • Who You Gonna Call? - Shadowhunters
  • Will They or Won't They? - Jace and Clary, to ridiculous levels. Nothing much ever seems to happen until they figure out they aren't related.
  • Winged Humanoid - Jace in Clary's dream and sketch
  • Wolf Man - Luke, Maia and her pack.
  • World of Snark
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Subverted by Sebastian.
  • Writers Cop Out: Even though the Not Blood Sibling reveal is foreshadowed, anytime Jace and Clary are about to have a romantic moment before they know this, it is suspiciously always interrupted.
  • You Keep Using That Word: Surreptitiously.
  • You Killed My Father: Jace to Valentine which is of course followed by a (false) Luke, I Am Your Father.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It - How Luke becomes the new werewolf pack leader.
  • You Suck - Really, it gets to the point where should-be True Companions are abandoning each other to vampires and demons for slights like "I can't believe you like her/him more than me!" and "It wasn't my fault!" Kind of sends the underlying message that this is all teens are capable of.
  1. According to Word of God, it has something to do with a llama.