What it takes to be a hero in Cassandra Clare’s “City of Heavenly Fire”

City of Heavenly Fire is the sixth and final instalment in Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instrument series, and readers will not be left disappointed. Rather, City of Heavenly Fire is just one of those books that you hold in your heart long after finishing.

The novel picks up after the events of the fifth book in the series, City of Lost Souls. While Sebastian Morgenstern is gaining power against the Shadowhunters, Clary and her friends do everything they can to stop him destroying their world in the dramatic climax to the series.

 Sebastian Morgenstern is on the move, systematically turning Shadowhunter against Shadowhunter. Bearing the Infernal Cup, he transforms Shadowhunters into creatures out of nightmare, tearing apart families and lovers as the ranks of his Endarkened army swell.

The embattled Shadowhunters withdraw to Idris – but not even the famed demon towers of Alicante can keep Sebastian at bay. And with the Nephilim trapped in Idris, who will guard the world against demons?

When one of the greatest betrayals the Nephilim have ever known is revealed, Clary, Jace, Isabelle, Simon, and Alec must flee – even if their journey takes them deep into the demon realms, where no Shadowhunter has set foot before, and from which no human being has ever returned…

Love will be sacrificed and lives lost in the terrible battle for the fate of the word in the thrilling final instalment of the classic urban fantasy series The Mortal Instruments.

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City of Heavenly Fire is the perfect ending to the series and after five previous instalments, the style and the structure of this story is familiar, like an old friend. Even though this is an end to the series, it doesn’t feel like their story is over. Clare’s characters are always cropping up and getting references in other books, which is good as you feel so much potential and know the door is never firmly shut on your favourite characters’ stories.

Clare masterfully manages to link everything together fluidly – especially the characters’ ancestry. She knows her world inside out; all questions and theories that have plagued you for months are answered and justified, along with extra surprises and sweet moments. She manages to create a story that has you laughing on one page and in floods of tears the next. Or, sometimes, at the same time.

Her writing is punchy, and Clare is a masterful storyteller:  the characters speak with believable voices; the dialogue is enough to make you laugh out loud more than once; the plot rattles on at a page-turning pace; and even though you know to expect twists, the revelations themselves are a surprise.

But what I love most is what she teaches her readers about what it takes to be a hero: Heroes aren’t those who win every battle, but those who get up and carry on fighting and don’t give up, even when the world gives them every reason to.

At one point in the novel, Clare’s inspiring heroine, Clary, is talking to a young Shadowhunter girl, Emma, where Emma thinks that be heroic she needs to win. What Clary tells her is words she clings to and carries with her through the darkest times in her life:

“Heroes aren’t always the ones who win,” she said. “They’re the ones who lose, sometimes. But they keep fighting, they keep coming back. They don’t give up. That’s what makes them heroes.”
― Cassandra Clare, City of Heavenly Fire

It’s not that heroes don’t ever fail – they do. They just get back up and carry on. The greatest heroes in the world are those that never give up. They stick it out, make the best of each situation and make it work. They sacrifice things in their life, in order to help others grow, and give up what they want because someone else needs it more. They work hard and overcome adversity.

They fail for a moment, but they get back up to show others they don’t have to stay down. They teach others that having a voice is a sure sign of courage, and they refuse to stay silent to make other people feel comfortable. They are fearless and will do whatever it takes to bring out the greatness in their cause and in other people.

My own heroes are the dreamers, the men and women who wanted to, and tried to, make the world a better place than when they found it. Whether in small ways or the greatest. Some succeed, some fail, and most have a mix of both. But it’s the effort that’s heroic. Win or lose, we admire, and are inspired by, those who fight a good fight.

The people we look up to are usually those who didn’t stay down when they were told or expected to; those who stood up each time we thought they wouldn’t be able to, and found the fight inside them to keep going long after everyone, including themselves, thought they couldn’t.

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