I have made it quite clear before that I am often guilty of judging a book by its cover – If I like the cover art I am more likely to read the blurb and if the cover art annoys me I will likely not give the book a second glance – but I have not admitted that I also judge a book by the quoted people on its cover. If an author I like or admire has said something glowing about the book I am much more likely to read it, and likewise if an author I dislike is quoted I am more hesitant.
This was the case with City of Bones. On the front and back covers as well as in the page of praise inside, Stephanie Meyer of Twilight fame raved about the series, and the cover and blurb have been fashioned to appeal to the same demographic (teenage girls who like girl meets supernatural being styled romances). Now, I have been quite open with my disdain for the Twilight Saga in this blog so it will come as no surprise that I had a few worries about this book, and the series in general. However my brother (who has no interest in Twilight-esque novels and whose taste in YA is similar to my own) greatly recommended The Mortal Instruments series, and I have heard great things about them in general so I suspended my doubts and dove in.
What I found pleasantly surprised me. Yes, there was an element of Forbidden Love that has become such a cliché in YA literature lately, but it was not of the breed that really irks me, and was more true to the reality of puberty so it could easily be forgiven. Besides the Forbidden Love (which was less prevalent than the very brief blurb insinuated) I was quite impressed with what Clare has created. Her world is a clever combination of the real urban environment of New York paired with the hidden world of Downworlders (Werewolves, Vampires, Warlocks and a fascinating array of demons and half-demons) and the Shadowhunters that are trained to kill any Downworlders that break the Accords (a treaty between Downworlders and Shadowhunters). Her descriptions of the physicality of different demons and locations hidden by glamour were evocative and fit perfectly into the urban setting. The settings are clever with a certain cheeky logic to them: from a diner that serves such delights as locusts with honey, whole raw fish and blood of various beasts, but then had a perfectly normal human menu on the back; to an abandoned building adopted by werewolves as a makeshift hideout with a glamour proclaiming it Jade Wolf Chinese Cuisine that is so complete that sometimes fledgling lycanthropes even deliver the occasional order of mu shu pork.
The plot moves very quickly from the set-up into the full-on action sequences. Clary Fray is the book’s leading lady, an ordinary teenager who knows nothing of the city’s secret underworld until she follows a couple of suspicious looking teens into a back room of the Pandemonium Club because she sees one of them draw a knife. Upon following them she sees a very strange altercation between the group and a blue-haired boy their companion (a gorgeous girl) lured into the room and subsequently witnesses the boy’s murder. When she tries to alert someone she discovers that no one besides her can see the mysterious trio, and at least one of the apparent murderers (a gorgeous boy with tawny hair and golden eyes called Jace) is very interested in her ability to see him. Meanwhile Clary’s mother has been acting cagey and after forbidding her to go out the next night (which she disobeys) calls her in distress, warning her away from their apartment before the line is cut short. When Clary, accompanied by Jace reaches the apartment it has been ransacked, her mother is missing and a monstrous beast attacks her.
From that point onward Clary is thrust into the world of the Shadowhunters (or Nephilim) a race of humans with angel blood that use runes inscribed into their skin and enchanted weapons to fight malevolent demons and other Downworlders. From Jace, his companions Alec and Isabelle and their tutor Hodge, Clary learns about the way of the Shadowhunters and her ingrained but forgotten connection to them while they try to uncover the whereabouts of her mother and the evil actions of a rebel Shadowhunter thought to be long dead.
There is plenty to like in this book (and hopefully the rest of the series), especially for teens and lovers of supernatural action, but unlike some tales in the same vein it isn’t simply love and action scenes with some filler masquerading as plot. The characters are well-developed, with true-to-life teen issues of identity, friendship and hormones making them seem more than just attractive teen warriors. The relationships and interactive dialogue between the characters are believable and there are some great witty one liners.
ultimately it’s not an intricate piece of literature, but it is a very well-constructed example of a genre that is growing from strength to strength, and it is highly enjoyable. I hope I enjoy the continuing installments just as much 🙂
I give City of Bones by Cassandra Clare: