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

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. And she’s more than a little startled when the body disappears into thin air. Soon Clary is introduced to the world of the Shadowhunters, a secret cadre of warriors dedicated to driving demons out of our world and back to their own. And Clary is introduced with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is almost killed by a grotesque monster. How could a mere human survive such an attack and kill a demon? The Shadowhunters would like to know…

Pages: 485

Rating: 7/10

Overall: I imagine, had I never read Harry Potter, I would have loved this book. It has all the ingredients necessary for it to be a book I love: action, plot twists, supernatural stuff, bit of romance... but there were too many moments which smacked of similar ones in Harry Potter and others to fully immerse myself.
City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1)

I've caved to morbid curiosity reading TMI. I am fully aware of all the controversy surrounding Cassandra Clare, and have seen many people talking about it in not overly complementary ways... But I've also seen people raving over the series, and the excitement over the forthcoming film. So, yeah, I caved.

Good points first.

I did enjoy it, first and foremost. The whole premise of a girl discovering a whole new underworld of magic and myth is one I liked the sound of. The world of the Shadowhunters is, I think, quite well established, with lots of scope for further exploration and discovery down the line. Although some things were left so unexplained, I felt like I had missed something earlier on, even though apparently Clary knew what something was... I even liked the characters, including the female protagonist (which, as you know, is always a difficult one to nail). See below for some issues... but first...

I really liked Jace, with his snark and, of course, bad boy looks. As well as Simon for being a bit of comic relief as he follows Isabelle around like a lost puppy. I think I definitely lean towards shipping Clary with Jace, but I'd be happy with either at this point.

I initially wondered what role Alex had to play in the book. I mean, Jace and Simon were blatantly there to create a bit of a love triangle, and Isabelle was also there to throw a spanner in the romantic works as well as show some girl power. Alex was like a spare part. But in the end I found myself liking Alex more and more as a role got carved out for him, giving me cause for worry at a few points for his character!

The story itself was, on the whole, gripping, and I found myself wanting to know what happened next. Always a good sign. The action was pretty thrilling too, with fast-paced, heart-in-your-throat moments which led to feverish page turning. There were also a few good plot twists thrown in for good measure. Love a good plot twist!

So yeah, the not-so-good points.

There were lots of things that reminded me strongly of Harry Potter. Especially is, like me, you've read Clare's fanfiction back in the day. Like many of the characters. Jace is Draco Malfoy swirled with Harry Potter's orphan-ness. Simon is Ron, in so much as sometimes certain characteristics smacked me in the face with how Ron Simon was. And of course, if Valentine isn't Voldemort, I'll eat my metaphorical hat!

Character references weren't just limited to Harry Potter though. I got a strong whiff of Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer from Hodges.

This is not to say that all these characters (and some of the others) were completely unoriginal, because they did have original character traits, just that the references were sometimes overwhelming the originality.

The references don't stop at characters, but bleed into the plot itself with the whole Hodges plot twist (Quirrell anyone?) and the Luke non-betrayal (Sirius with a dash of Lupin).

Taking inspiration from other authors and their works is not inherently a bad thing and referencing it, even obliquely, can be like playing a game of I Spy. Unfortunately, I did find it quite distracting from the actual story and getting to know these characters, when things would jump out and poke me in the eye.

As a first novel of a series, it definitely sets the scene and establishes its characters well within the world Clare builds. Despite the issues, I will be picking up the rest of the series. And I'm now looking forward to the film!

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