The Mortal Instruments

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.

City of Bones on GoodReads
Cassandra Clare’s Website



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7 responses to “The Mortal Instruments

  1. Donna Steiner

    I resisted the Harry Potter hype for a good year. EVERYONE was reading the first book, and I was certain I wasn’t going to like it. Finally I decided to read just the first chapter of the first book… Loved it. (Usually when I read a really hyped book, I’m not crazy about it. HP was a true exception.)

  2. As someone who knows close to nothing on YA literature, I’m glad you related the books to other, more mainstream books I am more familiar with. Continue to do that, as it will definitely draw in a bigger audience. Also, nice video embedding. Adds a bit of life to the post.

  3. iannead

    To be honest, I wasn’t sure how interested in a post on a book I would be. However, after reading yours, I’m super interested. You did many things in great ways:
    1) You spoke of the books excitingly and engagingly. By the end of this post, despite your rating, I want to give the books a read. What do I have to lose knowing what I do after this post?
    2) You related these series to other books. That made the review a lot more worthwhile, especially for someone like me who enjoys reading, but not necessarily reading about other reading.
    3) You included a trailer to the movie, which can bring its own wave of support with it.

    I really enjoyed this post. It was inclusive, informative, and interesting. I can’t wait to read more reviews. How does this book relate to the public? Is it a Harry Potter, centering around one heroic character and open to all genders? Or is it a Twilight type of book, where only a specific gender would be engaged? Do you think there is a current literary trend for heroic series of books? (Harry Potter, Twilight, City of Bones, Hunger Games)

  4. You give a great in depth review of the series, and it tackles a few issues that not everyone would think about immediately. You’ve peaked my interest in the series. Also, your voice comes across clear and strong in your posts, and offers humor. It really makes the blog stand-out. I also enjoyed the video, the added interaction kept my interest. As for suggestions, maybe have a post that compares two similar series? Or perhaps a “how to” for discovering an awesome new series? That would offer some variation to your posts if you were looking for any.


    I thought this post was super informative, especially since I really don’t read much YA literature. I thought you did a good job of relating the books to other books that readers (or myself) might be more familiar with. I also think your theme is quite pleasant!

  6. This review was very informative and engaging at the same time. I always feel like book reviews either give someone too much information in the synopsis so that they don’t even need to read the book anymore, or they’re too harsh and don’t give the author any credit at all. Your review was balanced and critical. I liked that you compared in to a book that I have read and also loved, so now I’m even more interested in giving this book a shot. I also completely related to the part where you said that this book had a “very fast-paced plot” which can lead to a “series’ somewhat addictive, can’t-put-it-down nature.” That always seems to happen to me and I rush through the book just to find out what will happen next.

  7. I personal LOVE the Mortal Instruments (it’s one of my current favorite YA series) but I loved your 3.5 review. I’m always disappointed when readers review something, but they don’t truly explain the dynamics of positive/negative effects. Your ability to dive into the details and analyze the effects is phenomenal! I really respect that. Thank you.

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