City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments 1) by Cassandra Clare
I did it. Finally. I started The Mortal Instruments, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t enjoy it.
Clary (though I hate that name) thinks she’s a normal, everyday human being, but when she sees something unexpected and horrific at a club, her world starts to unravel before her eyes, and she must search through her forgotten past to discover who she really is and how she can save those she loves.
Put like that, it reads just like every other YA novel these days. And in some regards, it is. There’s a YA formula for a reason: it works.
The fact this book came out in 2007 and I just read it in 2015 probably taints my perspective on this series as well, as I would have been a lot closer to the characters’ ages in ’07 (I would’ve been 20) as opposed to now, when I’m 27 and have read a lot more similar-sounding stories since. That being said, here are my thoughts:
I enjoyed the Supernatural elements of the book (though I don’t watch the show), with the Shadowhunters and the demons and the Downworlders; I liked the concept that “all the stories are true,” which means beings like vampires, werewolves, faeries, mermaids, etc exist. I even enjoyed the slight political-class drama between the Shadownhunters and the Downworlders, though some of the backstory was slightly confusing.
I also really liked Jace and Luke. Clary wasn’t particularly my favorite, though it was nice to have a heroine who wasn’t automatically an amazing fighter, though her skills with the runes did come super fast to her at an advanced level, which I’m not sure I totally buy. Jace, however, is brooding, funny, admittedly narcissistic, and broken – just the way I like my book heroes – and Luke reminds me so much of Lupin (and not just for the obvious reason), and I do love Lupin.
What I didn’t enjoy was that I felt Clare tried to make the backstory and the history of the Shadowhunters too complex, and parts of it were confusing. I also thought that some of the twists were tired and expected, and the relationships wrapped up too neatly at the end. These are teenagers, after all, teenagers can be flighty, sure, but they also hold grudges and aren’t always so quick to forgive. I also wanted more from Alec. It’s rare for there to be a LGBTQ character in a series such as this, and I wanted him to have more to do, more to deal with, and I thought it was a cliche for him to take that out on Clary,.
But that just points to another of my issues with this, and that’s the characterization. Other than Jace and Luke, and perhaps Valentine and Simon, I didn’t really feel like I got to know the characters. It wasn’t until halfway through that I realized Clary had red hair, and Isabelle and Alec were just kind of there to fill space most of the time. Other characters were in place purely for plot points, and Simon’s devotion to Clary didn’t really seem to waver, even after she broke his heart and then continued to use him (and the whole Jace-Simon-Clary thing was just laughable and so teenage, ugh).
Also, I’m not in love with the whole twist at the end regarding Clary and Jace. It’s a bit weird for me, and I know that’s the point, but… Jace is more of Han to me than Luke, and this is all a bit too Luke and Leia. And Jace seemed to get over that shocker a bit faster than I would have anticipated, especially since he went all psycho-brainwashed only days before.
The plot, once it got going, went, and was a fun read. I like unraveling mysteries when reading, and even though I predicted it, it was still fun to uncover.
Even though I didn’t love it, I liked it enough that I flew through it in a manner of days (and being almost 500 pages and a super busy week at work, that’s impressive for me), and I’m curious enough to continue on with the series and see where the story unfolds.