Book Review: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1)City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

City of Bones is the first book in the successful ‘The Mortal Instruments’ series by Cassandra Clare. The cover art features a city skyline representing New York (that is where the story is set), with the muscular torso of a man in the background. There are suggestions of angelic tattoos on his skin. The cover gives a fair clue of what to expect in this book.
The story opens with Clary, the protagonist of this novel, and her friend Simon trying to get into a night club called Pandemonium. There they encounter Jace, Alec and Isabelle, three Shadowhunters, descendants of the original Nephilim, i.e. part-man, part-angel, out slaying a rogue vampire. The next time Clary encounters Jace, she recieves a concerning phone call from her mother telling her to stay away from home. Of course, Clary doesn’t listen, legs it home only to find that her mother has disapeered and their home has been ransacked. There she is attacked by a demon, which she manages to slay through dumb luck but is poisoned. Jace arrives on the scene and takes her to Shadowhunter HQ, the Institute. Here she learns that her carefully constructed view of the world is false and that the world is made up of three species, Mundanes (humans), Downworlders (vampires, werewolves and other part-demons) and Nephilim. She also learns that her mother has been kidnapped by a fascist Nephilim called Valentine, who everyone thought was dead but isn’t and wants to wipe out all Downworlders, and that he will eventually kill Clary’s mother (who also happens to be his ex-wife) unless he gets his hands on the Mortal Cup (not the Holy Grail). Clary’s mission then is to find the cup first and try and get her mother back.
Now as I said before, this is a hugely succesful series with a big following so obviously Cassandra Clare is doing something right. Structurally and grammatically it is well-written though there seems to be a terrible case of Theasaurus raiding going on. This is supposed to be aimed at the YA market and yet a lecturer in English (or a writer in my case) would struggle with some of the words that litter the book. Luckily, I have a built-in dictionary on my Kindle app and was able to negotiate my way through, though these slight but often detours threw me off from getting into the story proper. As a result, the dialogue comes across as a tad unnatural, with the teenage cast mixing slang with six syllable words.
The lead characters seem like they’ve been lifted from Twilight, with Jace coming across as Edward Cullin and Alec and Isabelle as his snooty sister and her boyfriend. Plus, apparently, werewolves and vampires hate each other, almost as much as they hate Shadowhunters. The plot also resonates with Percy Jackson and there is a reveal towards the end that stinks of Star Wars (check one of my earlier comments if you want to spoil it for yourself) that made me groan aloud. Aside from the conceptualisation of the Nephilim/Shadowhunters, there doesn’t seem much that is original (despite what Stephenie Myers jacket quote states). Tim Waggoner does the whole demonic world thing better in his Nekroplis. There is plenty in the way of plot going on, but those clangers don’t help situation and I didn’t ever feel the burning need to pick up the story and read it.
My honest opinion is that there is plenty of independantly published novels out there that are better than the City of Bones, as well as a stack of traditionally published YA novels that are more worth your reading time. But then there’s still that big huge following that this series has which may suggest that I’ve got it wrong. I guess you’ll have to make your own mind up.

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About noorajahangir

Author of the Changeling King and Adventures of Some Kid. Writer of fantasy and sf fiction.

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