I’ve been hearing people rave about Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series for awhile now. Part of this is probably because I follow Cassandra Clare on tumblr. Even aside from her posts, though, fan art and references to Clary and Jace, two of the main characters, have been ubiquitous. Despite all the hype, I still wasn’t sure it would be my cup of tea. After all, the first book is called City of Bones. While I love fantasy novels, I tend to shy away from grittier, creepier fantasy and paranormal books. And how can book with a title like City of Bones be anything except creepy? Reservations aside, I decided to go out on a limb and try it. After all, I hadn’t thought The Hunger Games was “my thing” either, and I loved those books.
Trailer for the Upcoming City of Bones Movie:
City of Bones revolves around Clary, a fifteen-year-old girl prone to arguing with her horribly overprotective mother. One night at an all-ages club, Clary happens to be the only witness to a murder… except that the body vanished in a puff of smoke, and Clary seems to be the only one who can see the murderers, a group of three teenagers with strange weapons. The next day, Clary’s mother is abducted and her home ransacked, leaving Clary to navigate the dangerous world of demons, vampires, and werewolves on her own. Well, not completely on her own. Though her mother is gone, Clary finds she has plenty of friends, both old and new, ready to fight on her side.
My self-control is not what it should be when it comes to books. I did not just ready City of Bones last week. I also read the next two books in the series, City of Ashes and City of Glass. I won’t give plot synopses for the latter two books, as each would contain spoilers. I was surprised, however, at the ending of City of Glass. Two other books have been published in the series, and the sixth and final book hasn’t been released yet. However, City of Glass resolves pretty much all of the ongoing plotlines, making the first three novels in the series seem like their own separate trilogy.
I think what I enjoyed most about this book was the characters. Clary’s best friend, Simon, may have no connection with the shadowy demons and creatures that have come into Clary’s life, but he doesn’t let that stop him from being there for her. My other personal favorite character is Alec, one of the teens staying at the Institute where the Shadowhunters, or demon-hunters, of New York City stay. Alec does not take well to Clary, someone uneducated in demons, magic, and fighting, barging in on all their missions. To complicate matters, Alec and Clary are both interested in the same guy, the arrogant Jace Wayland. I always enjoy characters who manage antagonize the main character without actually being antagonists.
On the downside for the novel, while the books had very fast-paced plots (leading to the series’ somewhat addictive, can’t-put-it-down nature), some of the plot twists were predictable, particularly in City of Glass. I also was frustrated by Clary’s love interest and the male main lead, Jace. Jace certainly had a troubled enough childhood and adolescence to cause some behavioral problems, I still don’t think it excuses the way he treats other people. I found him overwhelmingly self-absorbed and hypocritically overprotective of Clary. While he often urges her to stay out of danger – to the point of lying to and about her, at one point – he shows little regard for his own life. To me, Jace seemed like your stereotypical alpha male. This really escalates throughout the series.
Overall, I’m on the fence about whether or not I’d recommend the series. I’d probably give the first three books a 3.5/5 rating. The novels are packed with action and interesting characters. However, I find Jace’s character problematic, and think Clare should’ve foreshadowed some of the plot-twists a bit more subtly. I also found the writing level to be slightly disappointing. I would have preferred if Clare left more to subtext, rather than directly telling readers what every character was feeling. While the omniscient third-person narration with many POV-shifts contributed to the dramatic tension, by creating a gap between what the reader knows (everything) and what the characters know (bits and pieces), it sometimes left me knowing too much too soon, making it occasionally predictable. On the whole, I nevertheless found the series engaging and compelling. I would probably recommend the books with the stipulation that one is looking for a gripping, fast-paced action novel, rather than a more meditative, expertly crafted book.
Are there any books you’ve read just to see what all the hype was about? Did they live up to your expectations? Let me know in comments.