main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Literature: Mortal Instruments

An urban fantasy series by Cassandra Clare following Clary Fray after she witnesses three teenagers apparently commit murder in a nightclub - but no one else can see them.

Not long later, she goes home to discover that her apartment's been trashed and her mother's gone missing. Soon she and her Childhood Friend, Simon, are dragged into the world of Shadowhunters. The three teenagers, Jace, Alec, and Isabelle, explain their world to her: 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 policemen, making sure that Mundanes are safe and never find out about the demons that are invading their dimension.

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 man who took her mother, Valentine. Clary's personal life is not without its own drama - her relationship with Simon,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?

Originally concieved as a trilogy, dangling plot threads were meant to be tied up in a graphic novel. The author found that dissatisfactory, however, and added another three books to the series, and began working on several other series set in the shared universe.

A film version was released August 2013, with Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower having been cast as Clary and Jace; the sequel is scheduled to start filming in 2014.

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

The Mortal Instruments:
  • City of Bones
  • City of Ashes
  • City of Glass
  • City of Fallen Angels
  • City of Lost Souls
  • City of Heavenly Fire

Supplementary materials:
  • The Bane Chronicles
  • The Shadowhunter Codex
  • Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy
  • The Secret Treasons

Spin-off Series:

Provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Induced Plothole: In the book Simon was abducted by vampires because he'd been turned into a rat, and they mistook him for one of them. In the movie, they took him as a hostage because they wanted the Mortal Cup. The movie failed to give us any possible use Vampires could have for the Cup.
  • 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.
    • Subverted with Magnus Bane. Physically he looks to be about nineteen, slightly older than the protagonists. But he is actually centuries old and thus technically more of an "adult" than even the oldest Shadowhunters. He is also incredibly useful.
  • The Ageless: Warlocks cease to age upon reaching maturity and vampires do not age at all once they have been changed, meaning that child vampires will never reach adulthood.
  • All Myths Are True: Lampshaded explicitly several times.
  • Alternate Universe: Edom is actually a parallel Earth, that even had its own Alicante and Shadowhunters, but which was laid waste to by the demons and is now part of the territory held by Asmodeus and Lilith, and basically rented out to Sebastian.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: SCANDAL's "Rainy" is the theme song for the Japanese release of the City of Bones film
  • Altum Videtur: Gratuitous Latin is in widespread usage here. Partly justified in that Idris is located in Western Europe and has been around since the Middle Ages, when Latin was still the common language of the educated class in that region. Sometimes abused by Shadowhunters as part of their smug routine. Ominous Latin Chanting is also popular.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Subverted in Ty Blackthorn. [1] is that he is on the autistic spectrum.
  • Ancestral Weapon: Clary is given her mother's stele in the second book. Subverted since she loses it.
    • In City of Heavenly Fire, Clary gets one of two swords her father commissioned that was specifically meant to be an Ancestral weapon. Sebastion/Jonathon already has the other. Emma's Cortana also counts
  • Animorphism: Simon is turned into a rat in the first book.
  • 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.
    • Magnus also gives one to Alec one book earlier though the love part is only implied
  • Applied Phlebotinum: The runes.
    • Though there is some stuff that runes can't do.
  • 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 está 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. (It is worth noting, however, that Cassandra Clare is just a pen name - the author's real name is Judith Rumelt.)
    • Clare has stated when asked by a fan "What kind of a name is Clary?" that she was named after a friend, who's full name is Clarissa, much like the Clary in the books. The only real similarities seem to be red hair(though Cassie also states that she imagined Clary's a much darker shade) and the first four letters of their names.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: In the film, Johann Sebastian Bach is stated to have been a Shadowhunter and his music was designed to harm demons.
  • 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.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Alec and Jace are filthy after fighting a demon in a subway tunnel, but Isabelle is spotless.
    Isabelle: I'm pure at heart. It repels the dirt.
  • Beleaguered Assistant: It could be argued that Alec and Isabelle are this for Jace. While he is a very talented Demon Slayer, he is also extremely reckless and very frequently ends up as a Distressed Dude. Early on it is noted that Alec has never killed a demon, despite being the oldest of their Power Trio, mostly because his attention is focused on keeping Jace (and to a lesser extent Isabelle) from serious harm. This trope spreads, almost like a disease, when Clary enters the picture, giving her her own set (mostly Simon and Luke, although Isabelle and the others also take turns). Magnus eventually starts feeling like this for the entire group, since his magic is needed by just about everyone.
  • Beta Couple: Alec and Magnus; Luke and Jocelyn. Simon and Isabelle at the end of the third book and during the fourth.
  • Big Applesauce: The first two books, as well as the fourth. The third book is set in Idris, but the trope is still in play, as the representatives of the faeries, vampires, warlocks and werewolves that come to Idris (which is located between France and Germany) are all from New York City. 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.
  • Big Damn Heroes: In City of Glass Jace saves Clary from being killed by the big bad. The big bad then proceeds to kill Jace seconds after he gives his "World of Cardboard" Speech.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • In the first half, Valentine is defeated, Jace and Clary can pursue a relationship, Alec came out without any immediate backlash, and the Downworlders have gained representatives on the Council. On the other hand, Max was murdered, Simon is bearing the Mark of Cain, Sebastian's body has vanished, and the Seelie Queen is holding a grudge against Clary.
    • In the second half, Sebastian and his Endarkened are defeated with minimal casualties to the main cast, and everyone's relationships are either going well or getting back on track. Unfortunately, the Clave has passed legislature against faeries that is sure to backfire, Mark is abandoned to the Wild Hunt, Helen is sent away, and Julian was forced to kill his father in front of his younger siblings.
  • Black and Grey Morality: The impetus of the series is Valentine Morgenstern's belief that all Downworlders should be exterminated, despite Shadowhunter laws that protect him. Pretty evil right? Then you learn that despite these supposed protections, prejudice against Downworlders is pretty heavily ingrained into Shadowhunter culture. The issue is lampshaded several times throughout the series, but it comes to a head at the end of City of Heavenly Fire when the Clave begins passing legislature inhibiting the freedom of faeries, despite Magnus' warnings that it will only cause future problems. If that wasn't enough, they also begin discriminating against Shadowhunters with faerie blood, abandoning one who was kidnapped by faeries and risked his life to leak vital intelligence. The author herself says that was intended to make the readers realize that the Clave isn't just flawed and in need of a few tweaks, but crippled by its own prejudice.
  • Blue-Collar Warlock: Magnus Bane, who lives in a warehouse loft and generally behaves like a New York hipster. This is apparently not unusual for warlocks in general. One is even shown to work in a hospital as a nurse.
  • Brainwashed: Jonathan does this to Jace in City of Lost Souls.
  • 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.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: In City of Bones a fortune teller tells Jace that he will "Love the wrong person". He falls in love with Clary, who turns out to be his sister.
    • Subverted. They end up not related. Jace is the son of his supposed Father's second second-in-command. And Clary ends up with Jace, though only after meeting and kissing a boy she finds out is her REAL brother. Oops.
    • In City Of Lost Souls Sebastian/Jonathan is shown to actually want Clary, backing her up against a wall and forcefully kissing her, while going on about how they can be evil and rule the world together.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Every character of a different ethnicity who appears in the series always turns out to be biracial, (usually half Caucasian). Magnus is half Dutch half Indonesian, Aline is half Japanese half Caucasian, Maia is half black and half Caucasian.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: A difficult feat for Jace, even after years of having been abandoned by Valentine.
    • For the entire duration of Jocelyn's kidnapping and subsequent coma, Clary is completely devoted to bringing her back. When Jocelyn finally is cured and returned, the very first thing Clary does is tear into her for depriving Clary of her Sight and not preparing her for the Shadowhunters' world.
  • Can Not Tell A Lie: The fairies. This should not be mistaken to mean that they are always honest.
  • Casting Gag: In the film, all of the Shadow Hunters have British accents. Clary who is the daughter of one is also the daughter a Brit
  • Celestial Paragons and Archangels: Raziel, who created the Shadowhunters. Also, Michael, Gabriel and many others are mentioned but do not appear. Raziel explicitly states that God exists, but what degree of direct interest He takes in earthly affairs is ambiguous.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In the first book, Madame Dorothea's tarot cards: the Ace of Cups was the Mortal Cup.
    • Also, the lake that Clary and Luke fall into during City of Glass turns out to be the Mortal Glass.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Clary's ability to draw - this helps her create Runes of her own.
  • Code of Honour: The Shadowhunters' Law, which provides a moral framework for what they do, but which is often very restrictive. Both the heroes and villains have a distinct tendency to try to circumvent it, even while accepting it in principle.
  • Combat Stilettos: Isabelle wears heels constantly and fights in them when she needs to. She has even been known to use them as weapons, slashing and impaling targets with her kicks.
  • Comically Missingthe Point: More than once during the Anguished Declaration of Love as seen above, where Alec Lightwood seems more concerned with the fact that Magnus didn't return his calls and lied about his age than the fact the city is under attack and Magnus is explaining all the pain Alec's closeted-ness and his love is causing him. Leading us to this little gem where they BOTH end up missing the point of their conversation:
    "You told me you were three hundred! You're seven hundred years old?"
    "Well, eight hundred, but I don't look it."
  • Coming-Out Story: Alec comes out 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.
  • Contemptible Cover: The first book, as seen on the page picture. Jace doesn't go shirtless at all in the first book, and hardly ever throughout the whole series. A more accurate cover artwork would probably look something like this, the teaser poster for the film adaptation.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: All over the place. Isabelle dates anybody but other Shadowhunters. Alec winds up in a gay relationship with a warlock. Jocelyn isn't wild about her daughter dating the boy that Valentine raised. Jocelyn and Luke's relationship has caused them no end of grief over the years. Valentine forced Stephan Herondale to divorce Amatis simply because she was Luke's sister. Aline and Helen's lesbian relationship is controversial for Shadowhunters. Somewhat invoked and somewhat subverted when Maia and Simon date: A werewolf and a vampire dating is controversial but their mutual surrogate father figure, Luke, doesn't care and thinks highly of both of them. Worth noting that while these relationships are all said to be taboo, actual opposition or fallout is very low-key, if it's seen at all.
    • Fridge Brilliance occurs when reading City of Lost Souls. Alec points out that he faces constant discrimination, but it's subtle, much like in real life.
  • Demon Lords And Arch Devils: Lucifer, Azazel, Samael, Asmodeus, Lilith and many others. At least some are fallen angels.
  • Demon Slaying: The Shadowhunters' whole schtick.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: Some demons, Sebastian
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Simon, in City of Ashes. He can't pray because he's a vamp, so he instead goes out saying simply "Clary." He gets better.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The first three books barely make note of the parabatai bond. Strange, considering how important it is in the prequel series. The second half of the series compensates by emphasizing the bond several times.
    • The Forsaken are only significant in the first book. After that, they are barely mentioned at all.
  • 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.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: Isabelle, Alec, and Clary do this in City of Ashes when they realize that all the silent brothers are dead.
  • Everybody Lives: For the most part. There's an occasional death, but it's almost always a villain, and if not, it's never a major character.
    • By the end of the series the death toll includes Max Lightwood, Jordan Kyle, Raphael Santiago, and Amatis.
  • Everything's Better With Sparkles: Magnus is quite fond of them, and his magic itself does sparkle.
  • Evil Counterpart Race: The "Endarkened" Shadowhunters that Sebastian Morgenstern creates using the Infernal Cup and Lilith's blood. They are stronger and faster than regular Shadowhunters, but cannot use their Runes or angelically aligned weapons. They are given demonic equivalents.
  • Evil Plan: Driving the plot in every book. In the first three it is Valentine's. In the fourth it is Lilith's and the fifth and sixth center on Sebastian's.
  • Expy: Most of the characters are expies of Harry Potter characters as interpreted by Cassandra Clare's old fanfic The Draco Trilogy:
    • Clary Fray is Ginny Weasley.
    • Jace Wayland is Draco Malfoy.
    • Simon Lewis is a Composite Character of Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Seamus Finnigan.
      • In universe he starts to take on many aspects of the biblical Caine thanks to Clary inscribing His mark onto him.
    • Isabel Lightwood is Blaise Zabini.
    • Alec Lightwood is Harry Potter.
    • Valentine Morgenstern is a Composite Character of Lord Voldemort and Lucius Malfoy.
    • Luke Garroway is Sirius Black.
    • Jocelyn Fray is Narcissa Malfoy.
    • Hodge Starkweather is Peter Pettigrew.
    • Sebastian is Tom Riddle.
  • Extra-Strength Masquerade: The Shadow World is generally invisible to Mundanes. Many Downworlders strut around fairly openly, relying on humanity's natural Weirdness Censor to cause people to not see them for what they really are. The Shadowhunters, being almost human, put a modest amount of magical effort into rendering themselves unnoticeable in everyday society. Also, their country apparently doesn't exist.
  • The Fair Folk: Fairies are rarely trustworthy. Although they cannot lie, they are masters of evasion. They also have a definite sadistic streak and will ally with good or evil depending on where they think their interests are best served.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Warlocks, werewolves, vampires, faeries, demons, angels, and Nephilim are the main fantasy creatures; however, many others are mentioned in passing. In fact, in City of Bones Jace tells Clary that "all the stories are true."
    • Except for mummies. No one believes in mummies.
  • Fantastic Racism: Shadowhunters are notorious for their sense of superiority. At best, they consider mundanes to be helpless and useless; at worst, they consider Downworlders to be dangerous criminals that need to be kept in check. The elitism of the Shadowhunters is often Lampshaded by outsiders, notably Clary and Simon, as well as Downworlders.
    • Taken Up to Eleven in City of Heavenly Fire when Helen and Mark Blackthorn are considered tainted by their half-faerie status despite the former having fought for the Shadowhunters and the latter having actually leaked vital intelligence to the Shadowhunters. It's even sold by the Shadowhunters as saving the family from the future pain of being betrayed despite both clearly caring for their family.
    • The Shadowhunter Codex reveals that throughout history, there have been several attempts to wipeout Downworlders and that torturing them and robbing them was quite legal for some time. Things began to change with the Accords, but the racism lingers in Shadowhunter culture
    Clary: So progressive, we couldn't murder Downworlders in the street anymore.
    Jace: Big change, though—from "Downworlders are basically demons" to "Downworlders are basically humans."
  • Foreshadowing: In City of Bones, Simon makes a joke about Jewish Vampires. That's exactly what he ends up becoming.
  • Forgotten Phlebotinum: The Alliance Rune. After City of Glass it's never used again, even when Shadowhunters and Downworlders are going into battle right next to each other.
  • Functional Magic: Primarily Inherent Gift, as one of the defining attributes of being "human" is the inability to use magic and thus free access to magic is generally limited to Downworlders and Shadowhunters. Warlocks (who are half-demon) are the primary practitioners of magic, although the Shadowhunters have their Runes and the Fairies possess strange powers.
  • 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.
  • Genre Savvy: In City of Ashes, Simon Lewis says the following line after Valentine's ship blows up.
    Simon: Never believe the bad guy is dead until you see a body. That just leads to unhappiness and surprise ambushes.
  • Geometric Magic: Angelic Runes are a crucial part of the story, and the most potent weapon in the Shadowhunters' arsenal.
  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: ORGY IN HOBOKEN!
  • Gratuitous Greek: Interestingly averted despite the regular use of Gratuitous Latin and the fact that Shadowhunters are usually educated in both Classical languages. While it is mentioned that some texts, such as the Book of the White, are written in Greek, nobody seems to drop any Greek phrases to anybody that would not be expected to already know the language anyway, even though they often do so with Latin.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Warlocks are the progeny of couplings between humans and demons. They are themselves generally infertile.
  • Happily Adopted: Jace, by the Lightwoods. Clary Lampshades this when Jace is angsting about his lack of a last name and she points out that he's always been Jace Lightwood.
  • Harmful to Minors: Although Shadowhunters, like most of modern society, do not consider children to be adults until they are eighteen (which is the youngest age at which they can even attend Clave meetings), it is apparently acceptable for children much younger than that to participate in Demon Slaying without adult supervision. At the start of City of Bones, Alec is the oldest of the protagonists being only one that is eighteen years old. The movie seems to try to avert this by making all the characters a few years older than they are in the books.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Jace Wayland and Alec Lightwood. Alec's sexuality and initial attraction to Jace notwithstanding, the two share a "parabatai" bond which is explicitly stated as being a permanent bond of partnership even stronger than that of brothers.
  • Hidden Elf Village: Idris and the Faerie Realm.
  • Holy Hand Grenade: The Heavenly Fire. Also the skeptron developed by the Shadowhunters of the parallel Earth now known as Edom.
  • The Hunter: The Shadowhunters protect humanity from supernatural creatures. Subverted somewhat in that the Shadowhunters are themselves supernatural in nature.
  • 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.
    • Though considering what happens it causes Jonathan to come back to life and create an anti-nephilium group, this might not be a bad thing
    • 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: Subverted.
  • Informed Attribute: The parabatai bond. Although it supposedly makes two Nephilim "closer than brothers", Alec and Jace usually seem to have little or no ability to read each other. Alec often fails to get when Jace is being sarcastic (despite the fact that Jace is almost always sarcastic). Jace had no idea that Alec was just pretending to side with the Inquisitor in order to keep her from suspecting that he intended to help Jace. Despite the alleged combat advantages of the bond, they do not really seem any more effective when fighting together than they do with others, such as Isabelle. Cassandra appears to have noticed this problem and plays up the bond considerably in City of Heavenly Fire as compared to the earlier books.
  • Interspecies Romance: Played straight with Magnus and Alec. No pun intended. Every warlock is the offspring of a human and a demon (though Word of God says that most of these cases are rape, not romance), in City of Ashes Isabelle is dating a faerie knight. The fey themselves are the offspring of demons and angels. Jocelyn and Luke and Isabelle and Simon, as of City of Lost Souls, are in the same vein as, with their lycanthropy and vampirism respectively being more like diseases than a genetic trait, though there are born werewolves in-universe. Helen and Mark Blackthorn are half-fey as well.
  • Invisible to Normals: Idris and the rest of the Shadow world.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: In the film adaptation of City of Bones, Simon confronts Clary about her decision to associate with Jace when Jace steps out of the room:
    Simon: *whispering* Your mom is gone, and you're hanging out with some dyed-blond-wanna-be-goth-wierdo?
    Jace: *re-entering room with a phone* You need to check this. Oh, and for the record, my hair is naturally blond.
  • It's All About Me: So pervasive that listing all the characters this trope applies to would be natter.
  • Jesus Taboo: Judeo-Christian mythology and characters are extensively used in the series. Except for Jesus, who is never mentioned as a real character.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: Don't even get us started. Almost every single blurb in the series spoils at least one reveal from the previous book.
  • 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.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Clary falls for Jace. Long time best friend Simon has always loved Clary, but Clary doesn't find out until later. Alec has a crush on Jace, who doesn't realize it for quite a while. Simon has a crush on Isabelle, Alec's sister. She loathes him when they first meet but he grows on her. By the end of the first book, Jace has fallen for Clary as well. Oops. Later, Maia is introduced. She likes Simon, and he likes her back. But we can't let anything in this story be simple. Sorry Simon.. By now, Magnus Bane has been introduced. Guess who ends up with him? In City of Glass, yet another player is introduced, Sebastian. Clary has a short fling with him. Oops again. Only it turns out that Jace and Clary aren't actually related. But in Sebastian aka Jonathan's case, it's for real. And he knew it. And this is to say nothing of Jocelyn's love history, which is simpler (Lucian / Valentine), or other side love interests like Isabelle's fling with Meliorn or Maia's ex Jordan.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Valentine is Clary and Jace's father
  • MacGuffin: The titular Mortal Instruments: A cup, a sword, and a mirror
  • Magical Society: The Shadowhunters most definitely, complete with their own magically-concealed country located on the border of France and Germany. The Fair Folk likewise count for much the same reasons. Vampires and werewolves are a less organized variation, being organized into local clans and packs respectively, and they live within mundane cities. The warlocks are an aversion, being mostly free agents bound primarily by individual relationships.
  • Magitek: The flying motorcycles the vampires ride, which are powered by "demon energies". Also, those who look closely will notice that Magnus Bane's television is not actually plugged in. The Shadowhunters have Magitek home conveniences in Idris.
  • Magic Versus Science: The extensive wards that conceal and protect Idris also appear to interfere with technology. Hence the Shadowhunters do not use things like automobiles to get around within the country, even though those that live elsewhere are quite familiar with them. Witchlight is used to provide things like illumination that would normally be powered by electricity in other countries. Elaborate mechanical devices, possibly related to phonographs, are used to play music. There is no cellular coverage or internet access naturally, and the only working phone in the country was enchanted by a warlock. It is also noted that Runes interfere with the proper ignition of gunpowder, which is why Shadowhunters do not make use of firearms.
  • Medieval European Fantasy: Idris positively screams this, and thus City of Glass could be seen as fitting this genre, whereas the rest of the setting is Urban Fantasy, especially being focused mostly on New York City.
  • Mind Rape: Lilith to Jace in Book 4
  • Mixed Ancestry: Technically anyone of note in this series. Shadowhunters are half-angel half-human, Warlocks are half-demon half-human, Faeries are half-angel half-demon, etc etc.
  • Moment Killer: Every time Jace 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? note 
  • Naginatas Are Feminine: In City of Ashes Isabelle walks in with her trademark whip and a naginata. When Alec asks if the naginata is for him, she tells him to get his own weapon, promptly giving it to their mother.
  • Nephilim: Descendants of angels that slay demons and look beautiful doing it.
  • Not Good With Rejection: 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.
  • Not Listening to Me, Are You?: In the first book. Simon does this to Clary, who's looking at a good-looking mystery man
  • Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering: The Clave more often than not.
  • Official Couple: Jace and Clary
  • Official Couple Ordeal Syndrome: To put it mildly. All the more notable considering that Jace and Clary have only known each other for months in-universe. Alec and Magnus seem to have gotten ensnared in this as well, as have Isabelle and Simon. It all works out in the end, more or less.
  • 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.
  • Orange/Blue Contrast: The 2013 movie poster.
  • Our Angels Are Different: In many ways.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: They're able to pass for normal humans.
  • Power Glows: The seraph blades, the angels and Magnus' hands all do this.
  • Power Trio: Jace, Alec and Isabelle start out the series as this. However, the group dynamic changes when Clary and Simon come along, and still further when Jace and Clary become an Official Couple, as do Alec and Magnus Bane resulting in a more complex set of relationships.
  • Purple Prose: Clare's writing is on the borderline of this. She seems to be completely aware of this, and occasionally uses it for comic effect or to skirt around curse words. Prime example:
    "Jace suggested that the cast of Gilligan's Island could go do something anatomically unlikely with themselves."
  • 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.
  • Shared Universe: As well as the Infernal Devices prequel series, this seems to be set in the same universe as the Modern Tales of Faerie by Holly Black. Val and Luis from Valiant are the homeless kids Clary sees in the first book and Simon listens to Stepping Razor, Ellen's band from Tithe.
    • Ironside references the Mortal Cup
  • Shouldn't We Be in School Right Now?
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Herondales are a Shadowhunter family with a birthmark of a star. Jace's is on the back of his shoulder. Now, where have I heard of that before?
    • 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.
      • In City of Glass, Max is also seen reading Angel Sanctuary, a manga about a reincarnated angel who is in a romantic relationship with his sister. It has a case of Does This Remind You of Anything as well as bringing to question why a nine year old with fairly strict parents would be reading it. But then again, his parents have quite a lot of marital issues. So his reading choices likely passed largely unnoticed. Besides, they probably thought that that something called Angel Sanctuary would be clean and proper.
    • 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".
    • Church (the Persian cat from the New York Institute) shares his name with another famous cat.
  • 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.
  • Spell Book: The Gray Book is dedicated to the Angelic Runes used by Shadowhunters, and the Book of the White with spells affecting life and death among other things. Shadowhunters and Warlocks are prone to collecting spell books, the former to keep them under lock and key, the latter in order to use them.
  • Straight Gay: Alec. Generally the only way gays could be without being expelled from the Clave. Interestingly, homosexuality is not in fact prohibited by the Law. Shadowhunters just tend to look down on it, possibly as a reflection of their slightly archaic culture.
  • Summoning Artifact: The titular Mortal Instruments.
  • Summoning Ritual: The 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. Or rather, he won't smite them the moment he appears and might consider granting that single wish. Well...
  • Supernatural Elite: The Shadowhunters tend to see themselves as this and act accordingly. The Downworlders are not especially happy about it, but lack the necessary unity to do much about it.
  • Sword of Plot Advancement: Much of the action in the first three novels involves locating and recovering the titular Mortal Instruments, one of which is literally a sword, "Maellartach". Some other items, like the Book of the White, are also the subject of quests. Then in City of Lost Souls it is again literally a sword, in this case "Glorious", the sword of the Archangel Michael.
  • Tangled Family Tree: All over the place.
    • Clary is raised by her mother Jocelyn, and thinks of her mother's devoted, if platonic, boyfriend Luke who is really a Shadowhunter named Lucian Graymark that was turned into a werewolf as her stepfather. He later gets a Relationship Upgrade with Jocelyn. She believes her biological father was a soldier killed in action, but he is really the Big Bad Valentine Morgenstern.
    • Jace is supposedly the son of Michael Wayland. But then it turns out that Michael was murdered and the man who supposedly fathered him was really Valentine Morgenstern, leading to a Brother-Sister Incest problem with Clary. It later turns out that his actual biological father was Valentine's right-hand man Stephen Herondale. Needless to say, Jace goes through a great many surname changes, although he often uses Lightwood after his adoptive parents and siblings. Worth noting that Stephen had previously been married to Luke's sister
    • Valentine did in fact have an actual son with Jocelyn, Jonathan, whom he raised in secret. Jonathan disguises himself as Sebastian Verlac, a cousin of the prominent Penhallow family. Later he magically coerces Jace into regarding him as a brother. Jonathan also has a Brother-Sister Incest vibe with Clary.
  • Teens Are Short: It is called out repeatedly that the main characters whose biological parents are still running around look very much like their parents, only shorter.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: A common quandary for Shadowhunters. The Clave is often rather clueless, even about the actions and motives of its own members. As a result the heroes must often struggle with deciding whether to follow the Law, or do what is necessary and/or right.
  • Token Minority: Simon is Jewish, Maia is biracial, and Magnus is part Asian.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Clary and Isabelle. Played with in that Clary starts out as The Chick and evolves into a Badass while Isabelle is a Badass Action Girl.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Simon. 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 TMI 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.
    • It has far more than tripled now. In addition to the Mortal Instruments and the Infernal Devices, there are three new trilogies in the works; The Dark Artifices, The Last Hours and The Wicked Powers. Note that all of these (Infernal Devices included) are separate series within the same universe, and each trilogy (not including the double-trilogy of the Mortal Instruments) is written so that it can be read on its own.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: Jace Wayland, Clary Fray and Simon Lewis.
  • 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: Shadowhunters, warlocks, werewolves, vampires and fairies, all in modern day New York City.
  • Vampires Are Sex Gods: Averted, as Jace makes clear to Simon:
    Jace: There’s no such thing as vampire mojo.
  • The Verse: Clare is also publishing a prequel series. The first book was recently released.
    • As of 2014, there are The Mortal Instruments, The Infernal Devices, The Dark Artifices (first book to be released soon), and then the secretive The Last Hours (a sequel to TID) and the even more secretive The Wicked Powers (a sequel to TDA), all taking place in the Shadowhunter world.
  • Viral Transformation: Common from exposure to angelic or demonic influences and/or bodily fluids.
    • The Shadowhunters received their special abilities from drinking the blood of the angel Raziel given to them in the Mortal Cup. New Shadowhunters can also be created this way, although the process is risky. Jonathan Morgenstern arranged the creation of the Infernal Cup, tainted by the blood of Lilith, which can turn humans and Shadowhunters into Endarkened Shadowhunters.
    • Consumption of angel or demon blood generally, even in dried form, can result in changes to a person or their offspring. Valentine, Jocelyn, Clary, Jace and especially Jonathan were all altered to some extent in this way due to Valentine's experimentation with the blood.
    • Vampires and werewolves are the descendants of two different species of demons. They can transmit their condition to humans, and even Shadowhunters, via bite.
  • Weirdness Censor: A standard attribute of mundanes. They simply do not possess the necessary perception to notice most supernatural phenomena, and supernatural beings can evade detection with little or no effort.
  • Welcomed To The Masquerade: It's brooding, experienced love interest Jace that first demonstrates Clary's Shadowhunter capabilities. Later, Hodge Starkweather expounds on them.
  • "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?: Luke 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: Granted, most of the protagonists are teenagers.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Subverted by Sebastian.
  • You Killed My Father: Subverted. Jace initially believes that Valentine killed his father, until a declaration of Luke, I Am Your Father. Double subverted when it's revealed that Jace is not Valentine's son and that he really did kill Jace's father.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: How Luke becomes the new werewolf pack leader.
    • And how Maureen becomes the leader of the vampire clan.

The MediatorParanormal RomanceNightshade Trilogy
More Than ThisYoung Adult LiteratureMorganville Vampires
Mortal EnginesLiterature of the 2000sThe Moth Diaries
Morris and Chastain InvestigationsFantasy LiteratureMoses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman
Monsters UniversityFilms of the 2010sMovie 43

alternative title(s): Mortal Instruments; The Mortal Instruments; The Mortal Instruments City Of Bones
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy