“City of Bones” by Cassandra Clare

City of Bones (Mortal Instruments)
City of Bones (Mortal Instruments) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On a random day when I was off work early, I ran into a classmate from college in the bookstore. I hardly knew her and we hardly spoke when we took various English classes together in college but I walked up to say hi and ask what she was reading/looking for. Nosy me. My inquiry turned into an hours-long conversation on books during which Cassandra Clare’s name popped up. I had expressed my desire to read the City of Bones because of the intriguing title, attractive cover, plus the movie was about to come out. But my classmate tried to dissuade me from the book. She warned that it was just a rip off of many other great works and that Clare was a horrible author with a bad temperament. Of course, I was intrigued and wanted to read the novel even more.

I did a bit of research when I got home, meaning that I hopped on Google and looked up Cassandra Clare. I came across many rants and reviews that discounted her work and, as my classmate claimed, stated she plagiarized her work. My curiosity rose and I decided to purchase the e-book to see for myself.

Quick summary: (Spoilers here and beyond)

The City of Bones is based in a world where humans and supernatural beings co-exist. The supernatural beings, mainly demons are hunted by an advanced human race called Shadowhunters or Nephilim. The novel begins with the protagonist Clary Fray and her friend Simon at a club called Pandemonium, where she witnesses a group of teen-aged Shadowhunters attacking a boy. She is confused by this and tries to stop it but then she realizes that the boy being attacked is actually a demon. No one else is able to see the teenagers and the demon. When Clary returns home, she has a tiff with her mother, who is upset at Clary staying out late. The next day Clary goes out with her friend Simon and again sees one of the teenagers from the club, Jace. She receives a strange phone call from her mother and runs home to find it in ruins and her mother Jocelyn vanished.

Clary’s adventure begins here. With the help of her friend Simon and the teen-aged Shadowhunters—Jace, Alec, and Isabelle—she tries to find her mother and discover who she is in the process. Clary hardly knows anything of her past and what she does know is hardly true. To protect both Clary and herself, Jocelyn often had a warlock called Bane place a spell on Clary’s mind to prevent her from seeing the shadow world (demons and such). Clary also learns that Jocelyn was protecting the Mortal Cup, one of the Mortal Instruments given by the Angel Raziel to the first Nephilim Jonathan. An evil Shadowhunter called Valentine seeks the Mortal Cup so he can make an army to supposedly defeat the demons and monsters. The more the spell wears off Clary’s mind, the more she learns about her past and abilities and the closer she gets to finding the Mortal Cup and meeting Valentine.

My reaction:

It’s an okay story. I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it too much either. I enjoyed the world building and the plot is engaging. It’s like a darker, older version of the Harry Potter world. I like how Clare mixes in a bit of myth and certain Christian elements in her world building. The story is fast-paced so it held my curiosity and often I would stay up just to find out what will happen next. However, I can see why people say it is a rip off of other works, especially Buffy: the Vampire Slayer though Jace’s reaction to the concept of angels reminds me of Dean from the show Supernatural.

movie poster
movie poster

The characters aren’t my favorite especially Clary. She’s annoying. Despite all that has occurred—seeing a demon; being attacked by demons and vampires; learning she’s a part of the Shadow world—she doesn’t grow or gain much insight since the beginning of the novel. She finds it hard to like anything about herself despite the strong affections she receives from Simon and Jace, and she continues to compare herself to the other women in the text, focusing on what she lacks in comparison to the other female. I was okay with this in the beginning and middle of the story but by its end I thought she would gain some confidence. I didn’t see the point of Isabelle. She didn’t do much in this installment. Jace is a stiff and broods too much. I think he needs someone to give him a good smack and tell him to get over himself (Clary smacked him once but that doesn’t count). Simon is okay I guess. I just wish he would get over Clary already and Alec is aight.

Speaking of Alec, I like that Alec is in love with Jace and feels threatened by Clary. Like Simon, who is in love with Clary, Alec pines after Jace but Jace seems to ignore him and shakes off the affection. I think Clary threatens more than just Alec’s love interest in Jace. I think she threatens the bond that connects them as parabatai. I interpret parabatai as warrior brothers (“a pair of Nephilim warriors who fight together as lifelong partners, bound together by oath”). For some reason, I think of Achilles and Patroclus whenever I think of Jace and Alec. I have no idea why. Maybe it’s because they’re fighters.

There are two things that almost made me stop reading. One is the dialogue. The dialogue is witty at times but I mostly found it awkward and a bit contrived. Sometimes it didn’t fit the teen-aged characters. The second thing occurs close to the ending. It’s a spoiler. We end the novel thinking that Jace and Clary, who are falling for each other, are possibly brother and sister. What?! I didn’t hate this surprise but it was a downer for my reading experience. It’s a sucky cliff hanger. I felt played. Still, I am curious of how the story ends so I might continue with the series.

City of Ashes (book 2) ->

2 thoughts on ““City of Bones” by Cassandra Clare

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