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.
- It made me want to read this series, and willing to go through multiple long volumes to do so.
- 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.