Review: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

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4 out of 5 Shadowy Stars

So I’ve decided to re-read The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices before I read Lady Midnight. This is my third read of the City of Bones.

I’ve got a lot of history with urban fantasy, but I think this is the first urban fantasy YA series that I read. In this, we meet Clary Fray and her best friend, Simon, going to an all ages club in New York. There, she witnesses a group of teenagers (that no one else can see) commit a murder that leaves behind no body. It starts with a bang, that’s for sure!

Clary has stumbled into the realm of the Shadowhunters, a world where all the stories are true. Shadowhunters are descendants of men and women blessed by the angel Raziel, who had them drink his blood from the Mortal Cup. This gave them the ability to withstand runes, which give them all kinds of superpower-like abilities. This allows them to do their job – which is to kill demons that have come into our world from their other demonic-dimension. Besides the Shadowhunters, there are humans sickened by demon illnesses – the vampires and werewolves. But that’s not all! Combinations of human, demon, and angels are also roaming around – the Fey and the Warlocks. They’ve been there all along, but Clary hasn’t been able to see them. Shortly after meeting the Shadowhunters, her mother disappears, and she’s pulled farther into this world. All the things she thought she knew about her life unravels.

The Shadowhunters have a rich world and a long history. The settings in these books are amazing – each place cooler than the last and always richly embellished. Same thing with the characters. The first lot of Shadowhunters we meet are Jace, our local hottie, and the Lightwood siblings, Alec and Isabelle. Jace is snarky and hysterical. The best bits of the book are his dialog. He’s arrogant, flippant, and seemingly, untouchable. He believes that “to love is to destroy, and to be the one loved is to be destroyed.” But he and Clary are still inexplicably drawn to each other, much to Simon’s disgust. He’s the friend we met at the beginning – a perfectly mundane human dragged with Clary into this strange world. But he’s an outsider, and their relationship really gets dinged up while she’s off with the Shadowhunters and running into demons and vampires.

Despite his feelings about Jace, Simon is drawn to Isabelle, who is not only a hottie (all these kids are hotties) but a full on, club-dressing, demon-killing bad ass. I love her. She doesn’t have much of a job in this book, but she really comes forward later in the series. The author wasn’t trying to make her “likable” – she just made her… Isabelle: a girl who loves tight clothes and won’t take any shit. At one point, Clary even tells Isabelle she doesn’t have to be nice, that she likes her better when she’s herself. “Bitchy, you mean?” she replies. She’s been the only girl in this squad and she has to get used to another girl being around. Her brother Alec is thorny, too. He hates that the “mundanes” (meaning non-Shadowhunters, Clary and Simon) are dirtying up the Institute with their presence. He and Jace are partners, but it’s closer than that, they are a sort of blood-brother,  a term Shadowhunters call Parabatai. He’s jealous of Clary barging in on that relationship. So there’s lots of conflict between the characters as well as against the shadow world.

The main thrust of the story is around the disappearance of Clary’s mother. That’s all she cares about, and I don’t blame her. But it also involves the Mortal Cup, the return of an old baddy from Shadowhunter past, and the signing of the accords that keeps the peace between Shadowhunters and the Downworlders (which is all the fey, vampires, and werewolves.) It’s a whole mess of stuff, but the story is full of action, it doesn’t seem like the plot is too busy or was bogged down.

I know a lot of people complain about this series. It has its foibles, but for me, those don’t show up until we get later in the series. Even when it makes me mad, I still love it because of the side characters. I will discuss, only briefly and without spoilers, on the things people complain about that I understand… but these things don’t bother me.

For the first book, I really liked Clary. She’s impulsive and makes some dumb, seat of the pants decisions – but they were decisions that I  understood, for the most part, or when she did something impulsively stupid, I felt like it was heat of the moment. Later on, yes, she makes a bunch of dumbass decisions that Nick Fury isn’t there to ignore.

As for info dumping- the only one I had involves Luke, who is Clary’s pseudo-uncle. When he goes into his backstory with her mom, he starts sounding like Gandolf, which didn’t really fit his character. I felt it needed better editing. Other than that, I don’t see huge batches of info dumping that are boring. I wonder if it’s because this series is so heavy fantasy based. It is very much like an epic fantasy squeezed into an urban setting, and that requires worldbuilding. Which requires information to be given to the characters new to the world. I don’t know. It never bothered me like it seems to bother others.

And I guess this is my only real problem – there is a sudden character change at the very end of the book that doesn’t make sense to me. One character is all gungho for what is going on and then changes his mind at the drop of a hat. I didn’t think he had enough impetus for either thing – the being gungho OR the changing of his mind. Sorry that was so vague, but NO SPOILERS!

Other than that, I really enjoy this series. I’m looking forward to continuing the re-read. I will be posting reviews of every book.

Happy Reading!

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