Title: City of Bones
Author: Cassandra Clare
Release Date: 2007
Book Description: City of Bones is a Shadowhunters novel. 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…
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After avoiding The Mortal Instruments for over a decade, I finally decided that it is time for me to give Cassandra Clare a chance. Earlier this year, I pointed out that she is one of ten authors that I would like to get around to reading eventually, and I finally did so with City of Bones. I’ll admit that I avoided this book for a long time due to negative reactions upon its initial release, but even with, or perhaps because of, my lowest possible expectations going in, I actually enjoyed this much more than I expected.
Let’s get the bad out of the way first: City of Bones is not Shakespeare. In particular, I found a lot lacking in the characters, as most of their personalities rely entirely upon clichés. The protagonist, Clary, is the most trope-laden person I have seen in a long time and I wasn’t sure how many times I could listen to her whine incessantly about how average and boring she is compared to everyone around her. Keep in mind that, as she complains, two male characters are constantly throwing themselves at her because this book was published during the era where every young adult book needed a love triangle. These two guys are, obviously, polar opposites of one another, with one being a stereotyped geek and the other an archetypal “bad boy” type. While some characters are fairly interesting, such as Luke and Bane, a number could just be referred to by the stereotype they are fulfilling and it wouldn’t change the story in the slightest.
I don’t blame anyone who believes that Clary and the gang sound insufferable, but I would still encourage people on the fence about starting this series to consider giving it a try in spite of this. In particular, the world-building here is intriguing. The concept of living in a world infested by all manner of demons and otherworldly creatures lends itself to a fast-paced plot that hooked me immediately and wouldn’t let me go until I had finished the last page. Additionally, I did find the plot twists to keep me on my toes, though some are more predictable than others. I had a lot of fun reading this book, in spite of its flaws.
Now, I can’t discuss Cassandra Clare’s writing without addressing her controversy. Over the years, The Mortal Instruments series has gotten a bad reputation for reading like Harry Potter fan-fiction. Everyone will likely have a different take on this, but for my own personal view, I don’t agree here. I do believe that City of Bones is exceptionally trope-heavy, but none of this crossed the line into full-on copying. Moreover, the plot eventually manages to take the tropes and twist them in order to get more creative in the second half of the story, giving me hope for future books. How much I enjoy this series as a whole will ultimately rely upon whether Clare can distinguish herself from the multitude of other young adult fantasy books on the market.
Since reading City of Bones is a part of my author list of shame, it’s time to answer the big question: Will I read Cassandra Clare again? In short, yes. While I have some major issues with the writing style on display, I have two reasons for continuing on with this series. First of all, I’m impressed by the overall world-building and want to see where Clare goes with this. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, this was published in 2007 and Clare has written a number of books since. I have every belief that her writing quality will improve with each book I read and I’m curious to see how she evolves as an author. Overall, don’t go into this expecting the best book ever written. Instead, read this for a fun and quick adventure that will fit well between heavier titles.
Final Score: 3/5
Have you read Cassandra Clare before? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!