Tuesday, July 16, 2013

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Release Date:
March 27, 2007
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Source: Bought


When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder -- much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It's hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing -- not even a smear of blood -- to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary's first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It's also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace's world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know. . . .

Exotic and gritty, exhilarating and utterly gripping, Cassandra Clare's ferociously entertaining fantasy takes readers on a wild ride that they will never want to end. (courtesy of Goodreads.)


Can you believe I've never reviewed City of Bones for the blog? I sure couldn't. With the movie coming out next month, now's the perfect time!

I read City of Bones a few years ago ago. I liked it so much that I immediately went to the store and bought the rest. My husband devoured them. What did I do? Let them sit on the shelf. I always intended to read the other books, but just never got around to it. I finally decided to rectify this failing. First though, I wanted to re-read City of Bones. I'm so glad I did. I remembered the bare bones, but not the details that made the book so fun.

The Mortal Instruments is a controversial series, for reasons I think are understandable. I love the books, but agree that they are not perfect.

The Good:

World-Building: The Shadowhunters are a world to themselves. Cassandra Clare does a fabulous job of immersing us into this new world. There are detailed descriptions of the architecture of the Institute, the City of Bones, and more. We get great creation stories and even Clave politics. There's tons of great fighting, complete with a unique choice of weapons: a whip, a stele, a dagger (well, that's not unique), and more. Add to that a whole series of other supernatural creatures, like warlocks, vampires, and werewolves, and you are constantly bombarded with new information.

Pacing: With so much detailed world-building, you'd think City of Bones would be overwhelming and confusing. I didn't think so at all. Everything was laid out with perfect timing. The book never lagged. We got a steady stream of new information, but not enough that the reader didn't know what was going on. Even better, the action was consistently spaced throughout the book. Jace, Clary, and the others were always encountering danger, either of their own making or by some evil force.

Jace and Clary: Well, mostly Jace. How I love thee. Jace is smart, arrogant, handsome, antagonistic, and funny, with a well-hidden vulnerability. The stereotype of every bad boy hero.

Clary has a backbone. I loved the scene where she slaps Jace, because he saved her life even knowing there was a 10% chance he'd kill her by doing so: "'What the hell was that for?' 'The other ten percent.'" (p. 85). Like Jace, Clary is funny and sarcastic. She fiercely defends those she loves. She's willing to risk her life for her mother and for her friend Simon. She's a little too curious, daring, and brave.

Other Characters: The secondary characters are all fully developed. Simon is one of my favorites. He's a funny, nerdy D&D loving boy who frequently worries about what his mom thinks. He is head-over-heels in love with Clary. Clary is, not surprisingly, oblivious. Simon the Mundie (regular human) gets caught up in the Shadowhunter world out of loyalty to Clary, jealousy, and curiosity. Isabelle and Alec are Jace's adoptive siblings, living in the Institute while their parents and younger brother are away. Then there's Hodge, the wise, scholarly tutor who educates this upcoming shadowhunter generation. And there are other characters to fall in love with...especially Luke and Magnus Bane.

Dialogue: This is where the entire Mortal Instrument series really excels. There's always a witty comment. I don't think most people are smart enough in real life to always come up with the little quips that these characters can do on the fly, but that's why reading is often more fun than reality. Here's a little excerpt that exemplifies that quick, funny dialogue:

"Simon grinned. 'You've never heard of Dungeons and Dragons?
'I've heard of dungeons,' Jace said. 'Also dragons. Although they're mostly extinct.'
Simon looked disappointed. 'You've never killed a dragon?'
'He's probably never met a six-foot-tall hot elf-woman in a fur bikini, either,' Clary said irritably. 'Lay off, Simon.'
'Real elves are about eight inches tall,' Jace pointed out. 'Also, they bite.'
'But vampires are hot, right?'Simon said. 'I mean, some of the vampires are babes, aren't they?' (p. 118)

The Bad:

Stereotypes: I really only have one problem with The Mortal Instrument series. For all of its originality, it also plays up every theme and character type you've read in movies and books.

(1) All the teens have absent parents. Technically, Simon's mom is in the picture, but she doesn't have any real effect.

(2) Someone Clary loves is in danger and she'll do anything to save her. In this case, it was Clary's mother (and Simon at one point), but it might as well have been a boyfriend, brother, father, cousin, you name it.

(3) Love triangle: Hot, dangerous new guy. Destined to be with the girl. Sweet friend pining away in the corner. Friend sticks around. Boy 1 and Boy 2 hate each other. Triangle intensifies. Clary, Jace, and Simon is a great plot point. There's a reason this theme is so common, but still...it's overdone.

(4) Love Interest: Arrogant and dangerous with a hint of vulnerability and passion. Meet Edward Cullen, Daniel of the Fallen series, Path of the Hush, Hush series, Ash of the Iron Fey series...even Mr. Darcy. The list goes on. I can name a few love interests who are different, but they almost all follow this model. I can't blame the author. These are the characters I'm attracted to as a reader. But another stereotype.

There are other things you could criticize if you want to be picky. Clare loves her adverbs and similes. The descriptions are overdone to the point of silliness at times. But mostly, I thought the writing was fabulous. I was completely absorbed into the Shadowhunter world. The book flowed seamlessly. The flaws in the writing never dragged the book down.

Rating: 4 / 5

Here's How to Buy the Book! 


  1. I liked the first three books in the series back when I read them, too! But all of the negative aspects you listed are what would keep me from ever re-reading or liking them now :)

  2. I have mixed feelings about TMI. They're fun but the whole twist in Jace/Clary's relationship really annoyed me when I read City of Bones!

  3. I have read it twice. The first time I struggled to finish it, the second time was magic. Yes it is cliche and I don't like love triangles, but if you don't take the book, or the series seriously they a wonderful :)

  4. I've never reviewed this one either Alison but it's one of my all time favorite books! Pretty much for all the reasons you listed:) I love the banter between Jace and everyone else, he's just hilarious though of course he's brooding and dark at times as well. You do make some good points about familiar YA tropes, but I think all the positive things you listed far outweigh those and I simply cannot wait to see what they do with this movie!

  5. I'm so excited for the movie to come out! I don't think I ever reviewed COB either since I already read it before I started blogging. Great review.

  6. I'm currently finishing up Clockwork Princess and I'm in a debate about TMI. I've heard they're not as good as TID, so I'm kind of flip-flopping on whether to read them or not.

    Though what I have noticed about TID, much like you mentioned about TMI here, is there are kind of cliche in terms of YA novels, but I think Clare handles that nicely and puts just enough spin on the stories, that I give her clicheness half an eye roll.

    ~Andrea @ Beauty but a Funny Girl

  7. I got into the first 3 books of the series, but after that lost interest. It just got frustrating and boring. Although, I hear TID is better.

  8. I gave this book the same rating when I read it a month ago. I especially loved teh witty dialogue, I thought it was extremely well done. For me the love triangle worked because the two guys were such different characters and personalities. It seemed a lot more realistic than a girl suddenly loving two guys at once who are both gorgeous and funny (and pretty much the same character in every YA romance with different hair colours).

  9. Great review! I absolutely love the TMI series, althoug h the 4th and 5th book were a bit less good than the first three. I had no problem with the love triangle and love interest, but I understand what you said about them:)

  10. I'm glad you enjoyed it! I agree with you on the bad, but I still love the series! :D

  11. I completely agree regarding the world-building (so good), dialogue (very amusing), and stereotypes (not so good). I remember enjoying this as a teen...I'll have to reread it and see if I still like it!

    Fabulous review!

  12. Despite all the stereotypes, the stories are fun and fast-paced. I can deal with cliches (since that's what a lot have become now) as long as the story keeps me interested.

  13. I have been wanting to read this book from all the great reviews. I gotta say yours was the most detailed and thorough I have read. You really make me want to read it before the movie comes out! Thanks for the recommendation and the great review!

  14. I loved what you wrote about the dialogue - people in real life aren't smart enough to come up with the retorts we see in this book haha. Half the time I was like..man! I wish I sounded this awesome all the time! As much as I have come to really dislike Cassandra Clare (primarily for her second series and most recent Shadowhunters book), the first book really was engaging.

  15. The original trilogy is so, so good. I love it! Also, the "triangle" takes a HUGE unexpected twist. I think you'll enjoy it. It's not what you think it is.

  16. I really liked the original trilogy. The twist with the romance story had me on edge and I kept doubting myself. I absolutely adore Simon and thought Jace was just okay. The last half of the series hasn't been as strong but I *loved* the Infernal Devices (prequel series) so much more.

  17. I've got to read this before the movie. How am I gonna do that? Ugh so much to read!

  18. It's been so long since I first read this book. Looking back I know I enjoyed the books, but it' hard for me to say I loved them compared with books 5 and 6 (which I remember dragging), and the Infernal Devices, which I thought were amazing. And as cheesy as the previews make the movie seem, I'm still really looking forward to it


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