Sunday, September 22, 2013

Review: City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments: Book One) by Cassandra Clare

How I Came To Know About This Book: I don't remember actually. And it doesn't matter! Who on earth doesn't know about this series?

Format of The Book: Ebook (epub version)

Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal.

Length of The Book: 485 pages (hardcover).

A Short Synopsis: When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder -- much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It's hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing -- not even a smear of blood -- to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary's first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It's also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. 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 ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know. . . . 

Exotic and gritty, exhilarating and utterly gripping, Cassandra Clare's ferociously entertaining fantasy takes readers on a wild ride that they will never want to end. (Goodreads Description)
Characters of The Book:

  • Clary
  • Jace
  • Simon
  • Isabelle
  • Alexander
  • Luke
  • Valentine
  • Magnus Bane
  • Hodge
  • Jocelyn Fray

My Review: Clary Fray is a regular fifteen year old, living with her mum, Jocelyn, an artist, in Brooklyn. Her father, she has been told, died before she was born. One night at an underage club with her best friend Simon, she witnesses something no one else can see: three teenagers kill what looks like a boy, but is really a demon. She shouldn't have been able to see anything - she's a "mundane", and doesn't have the Sight. Or does she? Has her mother been lying to her about who she really is? When her mother disappears and Clary is attacked by a demonic creature, the three kids - Jace, Isablle and Alec - are the only ones who can help her find her mum and explain this new, frightening underworld to her.

Comparisons to Harry Potter are unavoidable, mostly because of the author's background in writing HP fanfiction. I don't care about any of that, or any controversy surrounding said fanfic. I read and review books based on their own merit, as often as possible. You do get "mundanes" instead of "muggles", and the evil Valentine instead of Lord Voldemort, but there aren't many more similarities than that, and those are pretty superficial.

The "mortal instruments" are three artefacts with magical properties, including a cup that turns humans (mundanes) into Nephilim: Shadowhunters, those with the Sight who fight and kill demons who come from other dimensions. The cup has been missing for fifteen years, and Valentine wants to get his hands on it because with it he can create an army and kill not just demons but "downworlders" - the fairies and elves and ifrits etc.

It's not a powerful story, though there are some telling comments and descriptions about the Shadowhunters, especially Valentine and his "Circle", touch on racism and superiority issues - that cleansing thing that was also a theme in Harry Potter - but it is a good story, fast-paced, full of adventure and a couple of twists - one of which was predictable, though the reasons for it weren't so obvious. 

The characters could have done with more depth and development - Clare has fleshed them out well enough, but then they became static. Hopefully in the following books they'll grow some and move away from stock character traits. Clary's a solid protagonist, with a firm head on her shoulders, but Jace was a bit two-dimensional and Isabelle and Alec weren't really explored at all. 

The pacing is cracking and rarely lets up - we're flung from one predicament into another, facing off vampires, gay warlocks and traitors. It's a lot of fun, but the character development suffers for it. It's not bad, it just could have been better. I loved Magnus Bane, he was a real character, but that just proves my point.

As for plot, there was one glaring plothole that I noticed - I can't give the details without spoiling it, but if you're reading it or have read it, check page 375 - did she ever give Jace his stele back? Yes she did, on page 358. But look, here it is in her pocket just when she needs it! It was a bit glaring, and I'm surprised her pre-publishing readers, and her editor, didn't spot it - it could've been easily fixed.

Despite what looks like a lot of criticism, this is an enjoyable fantasy story with engaging characters. I recommend YA lovers to read it.


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