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YA Book Review: 'City of Bones' by Cassandra Clare

By Pocketfulofbooks @PocketfulofBooks

City of Bones
(The Mortal Instruments #1)by Cassandra Clare
YA Book Review: 'City of Bones' by Cassandra Clare
Published: March 27th, 2007Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Source: Bought From AmazonFormat: E-BookPages: 485
Cover Art

This cover doesn't do a lot for me; I quite like the city at night/ dark urban feel, which is what these books are all about after all, but the tattooed angel man rising up behind is laaame. Not as lame as it could be but still laaame.

Plot 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.
My Rating:

YA Book Review: 'City of Bones' by Cassandra Clare

First Lines:

"You've got to be kidding me," the bouncer said, folding his arms across his massive chest. He stared down at the boy in the red zip-up jacket and shook his shaved head. "You can't bring that thing in here."

Pocket-Size Review

Holly Black's quote emblazons the cover describing this book as 'sexy'. It is not sexy but it is good fun. Embarrassing to admit, perhaps, but I couldn't put it down.  Highs: I think Clare is a good world builder and, for me, she manages to make the dialog and twists just good enough to make this book work.Lows: I know Clare is prone to plagiarising and it did not feel original...calling normal people 'mundanes' is just laame. In fact, many things were lame and the tattoos, vampires and motorbikes made this feel like a teenage girl's wet dream.

I want to acknowledge the claims of Cassandra Clare's plagiarism before getting into this review. These things don't affect my reading and reviewing of books, which I judge by my enjoyment of them and not through outside influence, but I just want to put it out there so other people can read about it as well- it is fascinating! And not on her Wikipedia page. In my opinion it should be. These books started life as Harry Potter fan-fic. That is a fact. So why is it not even mentioned on the Wiki page? Even under 'Background' it says she was inspired by a tattoo shop. Whilst that is probably true, it is a half-truth and not giving people the correct information, which annoys me. Surely Clare should have learnt by now to acknowledge her sources ;-). Anyway, TO THE REVIEW!

I know that this is probably going to be embarrassing to admit in a few months when the film comes out and The Mortal Instruments is inevitably hailed as the new Twilight and all those who read and loved it will deny it venomously, but I have to admit I was glued to this book from the very start to the very end. It is trashy and silly but it is intriguing and surprising enough, with enough fast-paced content, to make me keep picking it up at any opportunity I got. 

This book is urban fantasy, the world-within-a-world kind. Somebody called Nikki Gamble divided high fantasy into three distinct sub categories, and this falls into the third, 

'A distinct world-within-a-world as part of the primary world (e.g. Gods of Pegana,Percy JacksonHarry Potter...In the case of a world-within-a-world, the secondary world co-exists with the primary world; however, the mundane inhabitants of the primary world are unaware of the secondary world.' 

In the case of The Mortal Instruments, normal humans (mundanes) live alongside the demon world, but they are unable to see it and are therefore unaware that it exists. I assume this is the case for the entirety of Earth, but I can't be sure because this book took place in New York. Which brings me to my first criticism of this book; how small the world felt. There wasn't really any mention of any other countires (other than Idris, the Shadowhunter capital...what that means I'm not entirely sure. Is that where they come from? Do the others all live there? Why?) so the world felt incredibly tiny, with all the action happening in one city. It all felt very convenient; the warlock they need to cure them lives in Brooklyn, the witch with the portal lives downstairs from Clary...I know the world of Harry Potter is small but it seems to make more sense because there are hints of other domains and glimpses of life outside England. To me, that is bad world building and, in fantasy, that is always the most important thing. 

I have seen a lot of negativity directed towards Clary in other reviews. I think it's a little unfair to call Clary one-dimensional and vacuous based purely on this book. I have now read the second book and it is fair to say she is in THAT one, but I think she is a fairly decent character in City of Bones. Yes, she can be annoying, and I did despise her in moments like this:

'Clary turned instant traitor against her gender. "Those girls on the other side of the car are staring at you"

'Clary realised with a sharp stab of annoyance. Isabelle was exactly Simon's type-tall, glamourous, and beautiful. Come to think of it, maybe that was everyone's type. Clary stopped wondering about the peanut-fish-olive-tomato soup and started wondering what would happen if she dumped the contents of the pot on Isabella's head.'

Lets face it, no-one likes a girl hater because it makes us all look bad. Plus, Isabelle never does anything to warrant these negative thoughts at all, other than being attractive. She is actually a nice person, which makes Clary's dislike even more infuriating. Aside from that, I didn't find Clary too bad. She is confused and scared and does come up with some genuinely witty comebacks to Jace's constant teasing, and has some cute banter with Simon (her regular human friend). Simon is quite adorable, but gives off a definite gay vibe to me and I couldn't shake the feeling I got from the first chapter that he was gay and take his and Clary's chemistry seriously. Jace was OK too. He really reminded me of Sawyer from TV show Lost. Every time he spoke I imagined him lying back with his feet up, chewing a piece of straw, speaking in a Southern drawl and ending every sentence with 'darlin'. He is a sarcastic flirt, and does manage to pull it off without looking misogynistic which is an achievement in itself. 

Speaking of Jace, I am guessing he is the main reason that these books have been labelled 'sexy'? I would honestly love a fan of this series to tell me where the sexy bits are, because I couldn't find any and, trust me, I was looking. Hard. Can 15/16 year olds legitimately be called sexy? Tattoos and whips and motorbikes and vampires and werewolves are elements which have the potential to be sexy, but in Clare's hands they felt as asexual as your brother eating spaghetti. Then again, I think Clare finds inspiration for sexiness by analysing the brother/sister relationship so perhaps I am merely narrow-minded ;-). 

Personally I really liked all the references to hell-related literature, with a particular emphasis on Dante's Inferno. Well, I liked the little quotes that began each section of the book, not when characters randomly recited quotations in Italian...that was plain embarrassing and completely unbelievable. Teenagers quoting classic literature is alway a toe-curler for me, and something I wish authors would STOP DOING. Even John Green. 

I feel as though I've been pretty negative during this review, I did genuinely (and perhaps a little guiltily) enjoy this book. I though Valentine was a good villain, and I didn't see most of the plot twists coming. These books are definite book crack and just what I needed to get me out of the reading slump I have been suffering recently. Also, I know they are aimed at teenagers and not cynical 24-year-olds, so I reckon Clare did a decent job of taking a fantasy trope and creating an action-packed, fast-paced, slightly lame series of books which I will continue to read and scoff at whilst also holding my breath. Mixed emotions, people, mixed emotions.

P.S- I really love Robert Sheehan. He is Simon in the film. Tu chez, whoever is making these films, you have my interest. Other Thoughts
This Book has Inspired me to Read: The rest of them. And feel dirty afterwards.
Three Words to Describe this Book: Shallow, Surprising, Addictive.
But Don't Take My Word For It...

  • Blog Reviews of  'City of Bones': 
Narratively Speaking says:

'City of bones is a truly awesome read and part of one of the best book series I have ever read. I still can’t believe that this was Cassandra Clare’s debut novel and you know what? BLOODY WELL DONE GIRL. Nephilim, demons, vampires, werewolves, warlocks and faeries - you name it and this book has got it! Do yourself a favour and don’t wait like I did, if you haven’t read these books yet, pick up this series like NOW.'

Kirkus Reviews says:
'Complicated romantic triangles keep the excitement high even when the dramatic revelations tend toward the ridiculous. Lush and fun.'

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