Book Review – City Of Bones (The Mortal Instruments #1) by Cassandra Clare

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments Book 1)

Author : Cassandra Clare
Series : The Mortal Instruments
Volume : 1 of 6
Published By : Simon & Schuster
Year Published : 2007
Genre / Tags : YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
Formats : Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook
# of Pages : 485 pages (Paperback)


When Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder. Much less a murder commited by three teenagers covered with odd markings. This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons–and keeping the odd werewolves and vampires in line. It’s also her first meeting with gorgeous, golden-haired Jace. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in an ordinary mundane like Clary? And how did she suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know….


I read City Of Bones last year around October, but I still remember it quite vividly and figure I should write a review now or never.

At the time I read this book, I had been trying out the first chapters or first couple of chapters of several books. Just as a sort of preview, not DNF’ing the titles per-say, but just trying to decide what seemed interesting. This was one of the very few that stuck with me almost instantly. The first chapter, or the first couple of chapters, have a certain distinctive “it factor” that made it clearer to me why this book was successful. I loved the colorful and vibrant descriptions of an almost otherworldly club, followed by the the first introduction of the mysterious group of shadowhunters.

There are a lot of fantasy races in this book. Vampires, werewolves, witches, fae, various types of mythical beasts and ghostly demons, etc. Some of the best moments of the book by far are the frightening descriptions of monsters that pursue the heroine, Clary, and her efforts to just barely escape or defeat them. Those segments lend a surprising sense of action and adventure to this otherwise standard coming-of-age fantasy title. There are a lot of exhaustive descriptions of Clary exploring places, getting to know people, what she thinks of them, what her goals are, etc.

My most central problem with the book was the heroine, Clary. She reminds me vaguely of Dorothy from The Wizard Of Oz and my gripes about that character. Here you are, realizing that your boring little world has expanded to include all kinds of mythical creatures and races and locations full of wonder and creativity, but you want to go home? Really? I get that sense from Clary. I love that she wants to save her mother, and is so determined to do so. But I often had the sense that that is all Clary cares about, saving her mother, and then going back to her ordinary life. I get no sense of her being interested in exploring the unknown. Which is made further puzzling but how she is constantly making references to being a geek and into all kinds of geeky things. I was always just a bit irritated by Clary, though she was not a terribly offensive character.

The other characters of prominence are Simon, her very likeminded and very down-to-earth childhood friend. Jace, the eventual love interest and a powerful shadowhunter who struck me as reasonable but standoffish. Alec, Jace’s sort of partner in crime who has a firm dislike of Clary, and his sister Isabelle, who seems a bit snobbish. Clary, in my view, was not a very sociable character so her interactions with all these people came off as kind of awkward and not very friendly in this first volume. There was one section where she does/says something in regards to another character and I was vehemently against her actions. She later apologizes and tries to make amends which shows some character growth.

So one major thing I want to mention. A factor that had two effects. I’ll give the non-spoiler version.

  1. It made me want to read this series, and willing to go through multiple long volumes to do so.
  2. Completely spoiled the major and surprising plot elements of this book.

I had read spoilers of the series that made me extremely interested in the storyline and future developments, sadly, those revelations resulted in parts of this book not hitting the notes they would have had I went in blind. There are some really great plot twists toward the end, but unfortunately I can’t say much of their general impact as I went in already knowing about them. I highly recommend NEVER googling this series if you decide to start reading it because there are massive spoilers virtually everywhere online with even the most innocuous googling of “City of Bones.”

I like the adult characters and slowly emerging and surprisingly deep back story involving them. Clary’s mother, Jocelyn, has a dark, shrouded past. And a childhood friend and ambiguous companion in the form of Luke who is sort of like Clary’s adoptive father. He is one of the most enduringly likable characters of the series. And finally there is Valentine, the antagonist who has a tangled and extraordinary back story. Maybe it’s because I’m older, but the vague back story involving the previous generation was much more interesting than the current/young generation. I found this book ambitious for having so much going on, both old and new plotlines.

About Cassandra Clare’s writing style, I feel that it is sufficient enough to make this series enjoyable and readable but not artistically intriguing or particularly distinctive. Most of the fantasy elements are very familiar and not imaginatively reworked in notable ways. They’re all just kind of standard approaches. Overall, this was fun enough and a fast read.

Overall Rating – 7.5/10

Why You Should Try It / What I Liked – While the fantasy elements can seem like window-dressing, it’s often nice and aesthetically pleasing window dressing. The characters are distinctive and there are multiple plot threads spanning multiple generations. Clary’s family situation is a tangled, intriguing mess. Some good plot twists. Low key enemies-to-lovers main couple. I feel an “it factor” from earlier chapters, I can see how this can be an appealing and approachable YA fantasy.

Why You Might Not Like It / Critiques – I didn’t like Clary as a main character and feel that she drags down the potential of this series. She’s prone to long bouts of complaining and just is not at all compelling. The writing style is average and I’ve seen several other YA series aim higher on that end.

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments Book 1) (Amazon Link)

Have you read The Mortal Instruments series or anything else by Cassandra Clare? Even though I have mixed feelings about the first two books, I very much liked City of Glass and will be continuing the series and reviewing all the volumes I end up reading. As always, I appreciate your comments and thoughts and likes.


11 thoughts on “Book Review – City Of Bones (The Mortal Instruments #1) by Cassandra Clare

  1. I had similar feelings about this book but because it was selected as a group read (I’m the moderator!), I knew I’d be continuing. I liked the second and third books much more and then the author recommends you pause and read the three The Infernal Devices series, which I did. I really enjoyed that series and recently finished the 4th book in TMI. It was okay, not great. Overall, I’m liking the series, not loving, but it has some spectacular moments.

    I hope you do continue. I don’t google this series because the TV series created so much spoiler content. Thankfully, I’ve not read any.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for this comment! My goodness I had no clue about that recommendation to pause and read Infernal Devices, I think I’m going to do that. Lucky that I have only read the first three of Mortal Instruments so far. I agree with liking and not loving. I hope I like the main character of Infernal Devices more. Thanks again for this in depth comment. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review Kitty Marie 🙂 You’ve pretty accurately summed up my thoughts on this book (a sentimental favourite read), especially those on Clary. She had so much potential to be an inquisitive, strong character that sought out more knowledge on the ‘new world’ she’s just discovered. As a young adult I skimmed over this, but re-reads have definitely made it quite apparent. I found that Cassandra Clare’s other series, The Dark Artifices, was a lot more enjoyable. There’s a stronger heroine and overall better developed characters. It reads more like your typical YA novel and doesn’t have much additional world building than already established in the Mortal Instruments however, the characters are more likeable. Especially the main protagonist Emma Castairs. If you enjoyed this but were left wanting just that little bit more, I’d recommend you try Lady Midnight (although beware…there will be spoilers as it continues on from the Mortal Instruments series). Happy reading!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for such a long and insightful comment i love these. ❤ Clary is my main issue with the books indeed and I am beyond happy that Clare has made more interesting heroines in her other books! I'm quite motivated to continue and looking forward to that and meeting Emma. I'm finding the protagonist voice increasingly so important in fiction, especially when first person perspective is employed. Thanks again for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I read the whole series about …. 10?..years ago I want to say. I read the first three books and had then caught up to having to wait for the remainder to be published. I really should have re-read the entire series once these other volumes were released because I found myself kinda lost in the last couple of books and not really remembering what was happening, or why. I definitely recommend this series though and I’m looking forward to re-reading the whole thing again since reading The Red Scrolls of Magic which follows Alec and Magnus after the big battle. I completely agree with you about Clary, I found her incredibly grating at times and the complaining just made me want to throttle her!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes Clary is a handful! Thanks so much for this comment, I am definitely going to prioritize trying to finish the series this year before I forget too many things. I didn’t know there was a series following Alec and Magnus I’m definitely interested in that probably more than Clary’s story. Thanks for your comment!


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