on November 12, 2010
This review was written for my blog, so the hyperlinks and strikethrough text got erased when I posted it here, but I think you get the gist.
I'm finally getting around to reading Cassandra Clare's City of Bones (first book in the "Mortal Instruments" series) and I have so many conflicted feelings about it, I'm actually having a hard time just reading it. Nevertheless, this post is actually a review of City of Bones. IT HAS SOME SPOILERS. Not that there's much to spoil.
First of all, I've been familiar with Cassandra Clare's work for quite a few years now...of course, what I mean is that like thousands of other people, I knew her from her LOTR and Harry Potter fanfiction days, under the penname "Cassandra Claire." She would probably be the most stellar example of what's known as a BNF, or a Big Name Fan. She wrote the "Very Secret Dairies" for LOTR and the "Draco Trilogy" (Draco Dormiens, Sinister, and Veritas) for Harry Potter. They've been translated into various languages and most likely if you read any Harry Potter fanfiction at all, you've probably heard of Cassandra Clare. Unsurprisingly, there was also some controversy and accusations of plagiarism involved, since she paraphrased or "forgot to cite" a lot of phrases and quotes that she used in her stories, which she'd taken from other famous works/fandoms. You can read all about it at her very own Fanlore page <here>. As I recall, she may or may not have been gifted a laptop by fans when hers was stolen - though this is apparently one of the myths that got deleted off websites like Fanlore.
Anyway, all this is just background context, but it's important context, and you'll see why. So basically after this highly successful fanfiction stint, Cassandra Claire became Cassandra Clare, the best-selling author of the YA "Mortal Instruments" series, which finally brings me back to City of Bones. With that said, City of Bones is more or less the Harry Potter world reimagined, and what I mean by that is that basically almost every single concept and phrase and description in this book seemed oddly familiar... But that's kind of to be expected, since naturally a writer's style can't change overnight. Still.
Here's now the series works. Clary Fray is your normal teenage girl - for about fifty pages, anyway - and basically she starts seeing things that other people can't see. No, it actually isn't a book based off the ever popular faerie mythology. Clary sees three teenagers covered with weird markings kill someone they claim is a demon. Turns out, there's a whole "Shadow world" out there, where there are vampires, werewolves, faeries, and so on. One of those marked teenagers turns out to be a young Shadowhunter named Jace, who happens to have all the same mannerisms and characteristics as Draco Malfoy, especially the Draco Malfoy portrayed the Draco Trilogy. In other words, he's arrogant, wealthy, sarcastic, blond, and he even comes with a back story with some kind of stern father who teaches him that "to love is to destroy." The father spoiled his son with luxuries (they live in the Malfoy - well, a manor - after all) but the father also died. Jace is a Shadowhunter, meaning he's been trained since birth to kill demons and whatnot. A Shadowhunter uses a stele (which is a wand-like object, Clare's description, not mine) to draw runes, i.e. they use this "tool" to do magic. Cool, right?
Okay, Jace is actually pretty appealing (well, why not? He's basically Draco) but the similarities don't stop there. See, about 16 years ago in this magical world, this guy named Lord Voldemort - er, I mean Valentine - decided to get rid of everyone who he felt wasn't pureblooded enough, which in this case means anything nonhuman. There's actually quite a bit of snobbishness going on between the Shadowhunters and the Muggles - er, I mean mundanes - that don't know about this magical world that's hiding in plain sight. Anyway, 16 years ago, "Valentine" failed and everyone thought he and his wife and child died. His supporters, the Circle (okay, fail, Death Eaters sounds so much cooler), either died during the Uprising or turned themselves in and are somewhat co-opted back into the government, but exiled.
Clary, of course, turns out to be mysteriously connected to He Who Shall Not Be Named, who turns out not to be dead. Like you didn't see that one coming. Anyway, Valentine sends demons after Clary and manages to kidnap Clary's mom. Clary's dad conveniently died around the time she was born. Hmmmm. Valentine used to be this popular and handsome Shadowhunter who, you know, didn't start out evil but gradually became obsessed with killing all the Downworlders (those nonhuman, part demon whatevers) and using this thing called the Mortal Cup to create more Shadowhunters from regular humans. Problem is, only like 20% of the converted humans survive, but Valentine's not going to let that stop him. He builds up his followers - the Circle - which basically consists of the parents of all of Clary's new Shadowhunter friends. By the way, the Shadowhunter names are all things like Blackwell, Pangborn, Lightwood, Fairchild. Just so you know. No sense of deja vu, of course.
Also, in a twist you so couldn't see coming, Valentine turns out to be Clary's mom's husband, which makes Clary...right, his daughter. Oh no! To help you (and Clary) keep track of everyone, there's this old picture of the Circle when they were young, y'know that group of friends who were all together...too bad the picture isn't animated, right? Let's keep going though. So V's after the Mortal Cup, which Clary's mom has hidden, so Clary and Jace try to find it while some action and unrequited love pads the story. The relationships are painfully similar to what was in Draco Trilogy, but I guess you can't really plagiarize from yourself. On the romantic front, I won't spoil it completely, but just think Leia and Luke Skywalker. Uh huh, another classic. Jace also has an "I am your father" moment.
All right, all this said, despite all of the above, City of Bones is a pretty good book, in the same way that I thought that the Draco Trilogy was pretty fun to read. Incidentally, the Draco Trilogy can be downloaded as a PDF from a variety of places. Both the Trilogy and this "Mortal Instruments" series have lots of Latin inscriptions, lots of references, and lots of funny moments. It's only irritating because the whole thing constantly makes me think "wow, I've seen this before," to the point that it was really distracting. There wasn't a single part that I felt was all that new, but everything was pretty well done and well written. Clary is almost unbearably a Mary Sue, but I was way more distracted by the shoutouts to Jaida Jones (another famous fanfic writer turned published author, who actually did write a novel I liked, Havemercy) and Holly Black. Regarding the Mary Sue issue, though, can we please get rid of all these fantasy heroines who never seem to realize they're beautiful until their romantic interest tells them? Cliche much and annoying much? Please, you're telling me a 16 year old girl somehow never realized her own level of attractiveness. Really, now.
Unsurprisingly, the "Mortal Instruments" series has been a big hit and might be being made into a film. Lots of people are saying it's the next Harry Potter. In my opinion, it's more like a Harry Potter rehash, but given how much HP has sold, if Cassandra Clare can take even 5% of the market share, that would be a pretty big success. Would I recommend it to others? Hmmm. I think as an avid reader of YA novels, I have far better series to recommend to my friends. You could definitely do worse, but you could also definitely do better. For those who like fantasy and heroic fairy tales, try Kristin Cashore - though her books are very well rounded and definitely deserve all the YA awards they've won, so try her even if you don't usually go for fantasy. For those action-minded, try Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy or Ann Aguirre's Enclave. If you're looking for a more grown up, but still teenage epic action/romance series with vampires, try Richelle Mead. If you like stories about futuristic technological dystopias, try Scott Westerfeld or Robin Wasserman. Leaning toward epic fantasy or consider yourself a fan of Tamora Pierce? Try Allison Goodman's Eon.
Update: The "MI" series ARE being made into films and the hype is already that it'll be the "next big thing" when Twilight ends. All I can say is, that's almost as predictable as the book.
on May 29, 2012
First, a word about the rating. This deserves five stars for understanding its audience and delivering exactly what that audience wants to see. This deserves one star for its execution and style. So I gave it three.
Cassandra Clare understands teenagers. She knows what they want: ordinary heroines with a special destiny, attractive, caustic boys with a burning urge to protect said heroines, love triangles, monsters, magic, and so much more. She gets teenagers in a way that few of her YA compatriots do, and for that she deserves all of her success.
As an author, however, she is middling. City of Bones, her first novel, is embarrassingly purple and overlong. It succeeds in understanding its core demographic, in creating an interesting mythology, and in constructing a couple of very memorable characters (Magnus Bane, etc.) It fails in its language, its style, which careens from painfully hipper-than-thou to melodramatic and back again, and its two leads.
Quick word about the story: this is the tale of sixteen year old Clary Fray, an ordinary girl who one night stumbles upon a group of Shadowhunters, demon killers if you will, as they dispatch a hellspawn. Before long, she and her best friend Simon are on the run with the Shadowhunters, including closeted Alec, haughty Isabelle, and the dreamiest dreamboat snarky angel tortured soul Adonis wot is dreamy, Jace. Clary runs around with these folks looking for her kidnapped mother, discovers a world of supernatural creatures and a surprising heritage she never suspected, and engages in a 'love triangle' that holds no tension because we know whom she'll pick. Though there is a nice twist at the end. More on that later.
The good: I felt like a teenager again while reading this. The overdramatic angst, the wonder, the flush of first love/infatuation, it all came right off the page. And I'm serious, for that Ms. Clare deserves much praise. Also, I enjoy the deep incorporation of everyday Manhattan into the story.
The bad: the logistics of this world make little sense. I have a problem with Urban Fantasy worlds where there are a myriad of strange, immortal, powerful supernatural creatures who hide out from the much weaker humans. It seems like Manhattan alone is teeming with supernaturals, which begs the question: why aren't they running the show? There isn't any reason, really.
I get the feeling that Ms. Clare is a fan of Joss Whedon. I'll tell you why. The hipper-than-thouness I mentioned earlier? That is classic faux-Whedon. The man has pretty much perfected the art of the pop culture quip and savvy snark merging with supernatural banter. But Mr. Whedon is easy to imitate and hard to imitate well. The constant, CONSTANT quips and quirks and snarks will exhaust you after a while. Why don't these people just talk to each other?
And then they do.
The purple prose, good lord, it is so very purple and so very, very melodramatic. Apparently all Shadowhunters come from this place called Idris. I could not figure out 1. if Idris was in another dimension or off the coast of Scotland or something; 2. how everyone got there; 3. why they all apparently dressed and spoke like Shakespeare in the Park, and if moving from Idris to Brooklyn makes for a culture shock. Nobody speaks; they DECLAIM. Especially the villain, who pops in at the tail end with, admittedly, a great plot twist.
The ugly: meet Clary Fray and Jace Wayland. They might call to mind another famous YA couple, Edward Cullen and Bella Swan, except that Edward is more charming than Jace, and Bella has more personality than Clary.
I am not kidding. At. All. For all Edward's stalker creep mode, at least he treated Bella with courtesy (when not treating her like a child). Jace gets points in the 'doesn't keep Clary from her friends' department, but he's rude, inconsiderate, charmless and aggressive for no real reason. And Clary...likes to paint and has red hair. I have never in my life read a heroine who made less of an impact. Even if Bella Swan is warped and twisted and psycho, I REMEMBER her. Sure, Clary is a better, more independent person than Bella and can live her life without a man...mostly. But Clary is a cipher, a paper mask of a human face with the eyes cut out, so that the reader can put the mask on and listen as Jace lovingly berates her.
Love, it is so twu.
I am going to stop this review a moment for a quick chat about this particular couple, and why romances like this and Twilight really irk me.
Ladies, I know we all love a rogue. A madman. Someone self-possessed and witty, someone who wants to verbally spar with us, someone passionate and intense. Mr. Darcy, Heathcliff, Mr. Rochester, Benedick, all those great classic heroes. Except that Mr. Darcy wasn't really a jerk, he was just shy, Heathcliff was a real psychopath, Rochester had...issues, and Benedick was really a nice guy. But I digress.
There's this weird thing going around in some of these YA couplings where abuse and unhealthy obsession are seen as the goal. Maybe Jace isn't a psycho a la Cullen, but he's rude, he's mean, he's not particularly witty or funny or charming (some character calls him 'charming' at some point and all I could think was WHEN?!), he treats people badly for no real reason, he's self-obsessed, and he and Clary 'fall in love' after snarking at each other for forty eight hours. Remember that love triangle? The other contestant is a handsome, good-hearted, funny guy who loves Clary, and has since they were kids. And she treats him like he doesn't exist when the Angel appears.
I know it's the female fantasy to redeem a bad boy/change his world/be wanted by a smoldering, passionate man. But let's switch roles for a second. Our story is about a handsome young man caught between two women. One is a girl he's known forever, his best friend, maybe not the best looker but bright and funny and warm and genuine, who knows him and who loves him for who he is. The other is a supermodel looker who's sooo good at everything, treats him badly, treats his friend TERRIBLY, and makes the boy forget all about his friend after he and the supermodel start making out...in his room, because he forgot his lifelong friend was there. He forgot all about her. Broken-hearted, the smart girl realizes their friendship means little, and the hot mean girl wins the guy because she is hot and mean.
Is this a yummy romance? Or an utter tragedy? Food for thought, that's all I'm saying.
The cool plot twist at the end, that Clary's real father and Jace's real father are the SAME EVIL VILLAIN MAN, MAKING THEM VILLAIN SPAWN AND *BROTHER AND SISTER* definitely puts an interesting spin on the developing relationship. I just hate this kind of romance, folks. I'm not going to go overboard and say things like 'think of the children, the developing female minds, oh no!' You're not going to end up married to an abusive jerk because of this book. And I know that what looks good at sixteen and what looks good ten years on will be vastly different. Cards on the table: I just don't get it. I take it back. I get why, at sixteen, Clary would be into this guy. But the author's presenting him as HER ONE AND ONLY, and that is where I get lost. Inexperienced teenage hormones so rarely lead to the one true love. Really.
And...that's it. If you like this, this is what you will like. It's not terrible. I like some of the world building, some of the characters, the use of Manhattan. It IS a first novel, and I'm sure Clare's style improves. But I don't get how this world really operates, it's too long, and I hate Jace and Clary. I mean, HATE them.
Still, different strokes for different folks. But the next time you pick up a delicious romance with a girl choosing between a hot jerk and a kind guy, and you're going for the jerk...switch the genders for a minute. See if it still holds the same oomf. I'm just saying.
on March 25, 2007
In an underage Goth club where kids openly are handing out pills without fear of conveniently missing bouncers, the "shy" fifteen-year-old NYC native Clary charges unarmed and alone into a confrontation where strangers with knives are trying to kill each other, where she intends to stop them by talking them down. Some may call this suicidal; the reader is supposed to see it as heroic. This scene is exemplary of what you're getting into if you pick this book up.
This isn't Clary's first stupid action: she makes a habit of putting herself in harm's way by doing things she has little or no reason to, especially when there's others around telling her to stop. Other characters also do unreasonable things, if only to further the plot. A character is caught hiding in someone's bushes because he decided THEY were suspicious while he was sneaking around their house, but never gives a reason for his initial trespassing. He later drinks a magical potion with unknown effects for no good reason whatsoever, despite having someone who'd know better at his side telling him not to.
The book has no sense of continuity. Characters' eye colors, voices, abilities, and builds change, sometimes within paragraphs of their initial descriptions. (Clary's mother goes from "compact" to "tall and willowy" in paragraphs on page 24; Madame Dorothea's voice goes from familiarly "shrill" to familiarly "gravelly" on page 95; Alec's eyes go from blue to black and back again throughout the course of the book; Isabelle's skin is as "unblemished as the surface of a bowl of cream" on page 58, but all Shadowhunters are later described as covered in scars from their Marks.) A character puts himself and his love interest in mortal danger without hesitation, but later blames his poor performance in a fight on his worry for her. A fire hot enough to melt metal and turn bricks to ash (bricks melt at about three thousand degrees and don't contain enough organic material to burn to ash) doesn't reduce any bones - even an infant's bones - to ash, and manages to leave cloth fragments behind as well. Clary can do magic with runes that she literally should not be able to know, and Simon is able to see a magical glow to things and the invisible Shadowhunters even though he's supposed to be a magicless human.
A good editor would pick these problems out - but unfortunately, upon comparison with the "uncorrected proofs" of the Advance Reader Copy, it seems that the most basic problems haven't even been touched. For example, screaming characters still switch indiscriminately between italics and ALL CAPS, and the missing quotation mark from page 449 of the ARC is still missing on page 452 of the hardcover. Other words and descriptions still stand out as extremely out of place. Horses "snarl." Arrows make "hot buzzing sounds, like a huge bumblebee." Octopuses have "tendrils" instead of tentacles, and antifreeze and spring grass are somehow the same color. Another world's sun is described as hanging "limp in the sky like a burned cinder" - I don't even know where to start with that one. Water is described as being "the color of lead, churned to a whipped cream consistency." What feels like whipped cream again - the water, or the lead? And how would that even work?
Also, very few things in the work hail as original. Clary Fray (not Whedon's Slayer Melaka Fray) goes to Pandemonium (not The Bronze from Buffyverse), sees something she shouldn't, and is taken in by the Shadowhunters (not Dark-hunters), who call normal humans "mundanes" or "mundies" (from the set-in-NYC-comic Fables) and who power up and do magic by carving or drawing runes on themselves or other objects, just like in Weis and Hickman's Death Gate Cycle. They do this with a particular wand/knife hybrid called a "stele" - which, unlike the Stiehl of Terry Brooks's Shannara series, is a real word...for a headstone. The secret group of Shadowhunters is trying to rescue a magical relic before the big bad guy Valentine (whose past is Voldemort's, only without any character depth whatsoever) gets it, a plot that's been done completely to death. Finally, the "twist" of this book comes straight out of Star Wars and is guessable from chapter two.
The characters are also terribly flat, cliché, and inconsistent. Clary is "shy" but slaps people she barely knows; she's "clumsy" but the reader never sees her act that way. Jace is the stereotypical snugglebug in a jerk suit, straight out of a bad romance novel and so blindingly beautiful that absolutely everyone must comment on it. It frequently seems that cast of characters doesn't have personalities; only unbelievable dialogue, redundant and clunky metaphors, and little tics that are supposed to identify them.
Granted, there are some hilarious parts. Clary's makeover sends her out on the streets of New York City in a shirt (worn as a dress) that barely covers her rear, with high-heeled boots, fishnet stockings, lots of makeup, and no bra. Then she fights vampires while dressed like this. Later on, no one can figure out why her mother's won't come out of a coma.
(I'm not sure if those two events are related, but I'd like to think they are.)
The sheer number of errors, derivative ideas, and pages of copy & pasted fanfic bits is hideously sloppy and exemplary of lazy writing and lazier editing. It's as if no one cared to check things over before putting the book on the shelves. It's insulting to the reader to not try to fix any of these problems, and then to expect the consumer to shell out their money for something that isn't new, isn't different, isn't even coherent, and frankly just isn't very good. Don't waste your money on it.
on July 11, 2012
Originally posted on my blog: [...]
I have SO many favorite quotes this time over, you guys, I just HAD to share some :D
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."
He squinted at her. "Do you remember back at the hotel when you promised that if we lived, you'd get dressed up in a nurse's and give me a sponge bath?""Actually, I think you misheard", Clary said. "It was Simon who promised you the sponge bath." Jace looked involuntarily over at Simon, who smiled at him widely. "As soon as I'm back on my feet, handsome!" "I knew we should have left you a rat."
"That's why when major badasses greet each other in movies, they donn't say anything, they just nod. The nod means, 'I am a badass, and I recognize that you, too, are a badass.'"
"Have you fallen in love with the wrong person yet?'
Jace said, "Unfortunately, Lady of the Haven, my one true love remains myself."
..."At least," she said, "you don't have to worry about rejection, Jace Wayland."
"Not necessarily. I turn myself down occasionally, just to keep it interesting."
Don't." Clary raised a warning hand. "I'm not really in the mood right now."
"That's got to be the first time a girl's ever said that to me," Jace mused."
Plot: Quite amazing. Fast-paced, thrilling with enough romance and mystery to keep anyone and everyone in its grip. And what an iron-fast grip it is! You are entranced from page 2 and you don't want to let go for the world. I started reading this the day before my final exams (yes, I know that was the stupidest thing ever) and I just couldn't stop. I finished my tests fast just so I could keep reading. Lol
Characters: All of the characters in City of Bones are really well-written and easily lovable. Isabelle is such a strong person and I would personally love to meet her and Alec, well it's awesome Clare gave the gay population some voice! I just wish that Clary (I'm guessing that's a twist on Clare) was a little less dependent on Jace and the others; hopefully she'll learn more by the next book - I'd like to see her as a stronger female lead. My favorite character was definitely Simon. You can see why in my favorite quotes lol. I know you're wondering why I left Jace for last. Well, it's because I don't much care for him. (Don't hit me!) I was really liking him until the end. To be so credulous to blindly throw away all his beliefs just because his "father" turns out to be alive and well shows how undependable he isI find it slightly disappointing and I pity him. Well, I'm sure he'll have plenty of time to redeem himself in the next few books, but so far, that's how I feel.
World: Ah, Clare creates such a crazy yet believable world! She's like Rowling that way (yes, I'm comparing her to Rowling). Both writers have the ability to create amazing worlds that invite you to step right in and make yourself at home.
Romanciness: I loved Jace and Clary until...well, if you've read the book you know what I mean and if you haven't...no spoilers for you! I have no doubt that this *ahem obstacle* will turn out to be not true because that just ruins the chances for these two and I kind of doubt any author would do that in the first book. On the other hand, I do NOT like Simon and Clary. To be honest, I feel like that was just thrown in and there's really nothing there. Please, Cassandra, don't turn this into a Twilight-y love triangle! Isn't one person enough for you? And Please please please tell me Alec and Magnus Bane have a chance!! That's something I'm rooting for even more than the others. I know there's probably a huge age difference, but it's not insurmountable right?
So overall, I'm just beating myself up for not reading this sooner! City of Ashes, where are you???
More About the Series: All you Clare fans probably know more about this than I do, but with some research, I have found that after City of Bones comes City of Ashes, City of Glass and City of Fallen Angels. The 5th book, called 'City of Lost Souls', will be published May 8, 2012 and the last book entitled 'City of Heavenly Fire' comes out Sept 2014. Yeah, you have to gnaw your nails that long, hard-core fans.
But not to worry. There is a spin-off series called The Infernal Devices with Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince out already, and Clockwork Princess out Sept 2013.
Question for you,
Recommended for: OMG Everyone!!
I borrowed this from my local library to read and post an honest review.
on December 31, 2011
I have not read Cassandra Clare's fan fiction, although I do know that she started in fanfic. You can tell. For a fanfic, I would consider this to be very good, but I expect more out of a published novel.
Clare's writing style is nothing to get excited about. It moves the story along, but does nothing to add to it. I give her props for not abusing fragments (a pet peeve of mine) as a lot of YA writers do these days. However, she writes like someone who has just started getting into creative writing--she has figured out how to string words together, but she hasn't figured out how to use them to tell a story. Instead, she tries to find out clever ways to describe something or pulls out a thesaurus where none is needed.
However, everything in this book--plot, characters, settings--is cliche. This book has been written many times before and better. Since you know how everything is going to play out from page one, there's really nothing to get excited for in City of Bones.
She goes out of her way to reference things in anime and fandom which I assume is supposed to be cute, but I find it obnoxious. In fanfic, that might be acceptable, but not in a published novel. She also distracts from the plot by having her characters have a lot of "witty" banter. For the most part, I didn't find it particularly witty or funny, and it's never a good sign when another character in the book has to remind the other characters (and you) that the plot is still happening. That's very sloppy writing.
I really did not care for the main characters. Jace, the Love Interest, is one of your typical "Bad Boy" types who we are repeatedly told is "charming." Over and over, Clare will tell you that he is charming, oh so charming. To quote The Princess Bride, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." Perhaps as a 14 year old I might have been fooled into believing Cassandra Clare that her character is, indeed, just so charming, but as an adult... His actions, his attitude, and the way he talks do not make him a charming or attractive character. If I met Jace in real life, I would think he was a rude, obnoxious brat.
Then there's Clary. It is painfully obvious that Clary is a self-insert of the author herself. This is not inherently a horrible thing. I would be perfectly willing to overlook it if the book and character were better written. The trouble is, Clary is not a sympathetic lead. She comes off as being jealous and hateful. Important, plot-related things might be going on, but Clary can always find the time to be jealous of and "hate" someone for having nicer eyelashes than she does. There is only one other female character in the book, Isabelle, and of course the two of them don't get along because they're so jealous of the other's beauty (but of course Clary doesn't think of herself as beautiful) and because they have to compete for all the boys' attention (naturally). Like Jace, I have a feeling I would not like Clary Fray at all if I met her in real life.
The biggest thing that bothered me about City of Bones and the character of Clary was the constant bashing of people who aren't thin and/or conventionally attractive. Of course, all the main characters are thin and conventionally attractive--that goes without saying. But Clary spends an inordinate amount of time in the book picking apart her and other people's physical flaws (or more likely being jealous of their perfections and hating them for it). Then, of course, there's the lovely quote, "She wondered if there were any ugly vampires, or maybe any fat ones. Maybe they didn't make vampires out of ugly people. Or maybe ugly people just didn't want to live forever." I realize Clare is going for humor, but that's still a very offensive line and definitely not the kind of thing I want to see in a YA novel. The implication is that people who are "fat" or not conventionally attractive have nothing to live for. Considering most readers of this book are likely to be young girls who may already have problems with their self-image, is that really the message they should be receiving?
Perhaps she's going for some kind of realism. Maybe there are a lot of teenage girls who spend a lot of time focused on the physical looks of themselves and those around them and are jealous of others and hate them for looking better than they do. I was never one of those girls, and I don't find that to be a sympathetic trait in anyone--fictional or not. Had Clare written the story as if she were aware of Clary's mental/emotional flaws rather than just her physical ones, that would have been acceptable. Instead, Clary is portrayed as the Every Girl and we are meant to sympathize and agree with her. Unfortunately, I don't.
Cassandra Clare is a capable writer, and she could even be a good writer. Unfortunately, in City of Bones, she is too self-indulgent, and too lacking in originality and self-awareness to pull off a decent novel. I have no desire to continue this series, but I would hope that her later works show improvement because thus far the talent is there, just not the ability.
on August 24, 2009
When I first started reading The City of Bones by Cassandra Cla(i)re, I felt a tiny inkling of Déjà Vu. I ignored it, not being able to put my finger on exactly what it was, until some time towards the middle when it hit me- reading this book felt like reading a shallow Harry Potter Star Wars crossover fanfic. It had all the recognizable parts of the two stories without having any of the amazing writing, positive messages of love, friendship, and tolerance, strong overlapping plots, great characters and great analogies to mythology and human history. None of that would have bothered me so much if not for this book's other glaring flaws.
I'll start off with the characters, mainly Clary and Jace. Clary is the average, everyday girl, except that she's gorgeous (of course she doesn't know that though), geeky despite never doing anything that would qualify her as a geek, shy despite all evidence to the contrary, and clumsy despite being graceful fighter and showing no signs of clumsiness. Basically, we are told everything about her but never shown anything. Because of this Clary is a very vague character that we know very little about. She's like a catalyst used so that everything can be explained, but she's not really given an identity. Because of that she becomes a Mary Sue. She has a ton of strengths, but no weaknesses that we can see. She barely knows what a Shadow Hunter is and suddenly she can fight, draw runes, and do everything it takes years for the average Shadow Hunter to learn, without any kind of real training. It was annoying. I know it's small but it's one of my biggest pet peeves. It takes years to learn how to effectively use a weapon; it takes months to build up the kind of muscle needed just to lift some of them. She shouldn't be able to just pick it up and use it.
Then there's Jace. He's an arrogant jerk who looks good and always has a snarky come back. He was another thing that really triggered a strong sense of déjà vu. Everything about him seemed so familiar and so annoying for some reason and it really started to bug me. Only when I read who the author was did I realize why he was so familiar. He was exactly like Cassandra Cla(i)re's Draco from her infamous Harry Potter fanfic The Draco Trilogy. He was fanon (fan canon) Draco, a Draco in leather pants- an extremely out of character Draco that is nothing like in the books, but still wildly popular in Harry Potter fanfiction. He was absolutely interchangeable with Cla(i)re's fanfic Draco to the point that the same passages used to describe Draco in the fanfic were used to describe him here. I know there is nothing really wrong with that, but I hate fanon Draco and seeing him outside of Harry potter Fanfiction didn't make me like him anymore than I already did.
Then there's the main villain-Valentine. I half expected him to have a top hat, cane, and twirled mustache. He seemed so cheesy to me. He was like the love child of Darth Vader, Sean Connery, and Lord Voldemort without any of the background, depth, or motive. He simply hated all the downworlders. That's the only motive I could gather for him. I understand that this is the first book, and I should wait for him to be fleshed out some but I felt like it was a very shallow, even for a debut book.
The dialogue felt off in this book. I kept feeling like I was supposed to be reminded the banter between Elizabeth and Mister Darcy, or something like that, but I never was. Instead I found myself rolling my eyes thinking no average teenager would talk like that. The language is too mature for the average teen. I could understand Jace, and maybe Isabel and Alex talking like that, but not Clary and Simon.
The plot was boring. I could see every twist coming a mile away. The moment Jace mentioned not knowing his mother I knew what was going to happen. Just like I knew Clary was going to be bad guy's daughter the moment she said she didn't know who her father was. Cla(i)re might as well have installed a giant neon flashing sign that said "SIBLINGS, VALENTINE'S KIDS!!!!" across the page. It was too easy to see coming. Nothing surprised me so I had no motivation to keep reading other than my stubbornness.
The writing also made this book hard to finish. It was so overly descriptive and prosy I half expected the book to start leaking purple goo. We were being bombarded with so much information, from the guys hair color to the info dumps we would get telling us about the shadow hunters, their history, their mythology, what color underwear they wear, etc. There was just too much of it. I felt like I was digging through a mountain of descriptions and back story to find a needle of plot.
Then there's the "shout outs" in the book. Cla(i)re had this really annoying habit of giving her friend's characters small cameos, or naming minor characters after her friends. It was like watching a movie and in the middle of some important scene Brad Pitt just starts yelling "Hi mom! Hi Dad! Hi Angie, BFF's forever!" It was stupid. It's fine to give shout outs in fanfiction but not in real books. Save that kind of stuff for your blog, don't put it in your published work. Cla(i)re needs to stop giving secret signals to her friends, and start focusing on how to not make her characters Mary Sues.
Over all I didn't like this book. I felt like too much of it had been done before and that nothing was original enough to keep my attention. Maybe Cla(i)re will improve with her next couple of books, I don't plan on finding out though.
on August 14, 2013
Let me be very clear: whenever I buy a book, I *want* to love it. I will ignore almost any weaknesses in a story if the story itself is good enough. A couple of plot holes, a ridiculous romance, irritatingly similar characters - these things register, but are (for me) easily overlooked.
I could not make it halfway through this book before I just gave it (and the other Cassandra Clare book I was reading alongside it) to someone else. Apart from these, there has only been one other book in my entire reading career that I couldn't finish.
This book was not smart, it was not funny, and failed absolutely to capture any kind of atmosphere (which is what matters the most to me). The characters were boring and immature and *so* predictable. To put it in perspective, let me say this:
To my slight shame, I've read all the Twilight series. They weren't my favorite - and I definitely did not enjoy Bella as a heroine - but for all Stephanie Meyers' authorial shortcomings, she did a very good job with creating and maintaining a tone. The environment, Bella's voice, character interactions: they all painted a distinct picture, and the series had a definite *feel* to it. No matter how good or bad the story was (and let's be honest...it was pretty terrible), when you started reading it, it removed you from your surroundings because the atmosphere was solid. And when a book does that well, how they do it is indescribable; you can't pinpoint any one thing that makes it that way, because *everything* is that way, and it is that way seemingly effortlessly.
But this book was trying way, way, way too hard to succeed at anything. When you're relying on something like four or five long, dark similes and/or metaphors per page, while the main characters are supposed to be crisp and edgy - the whole thing comes off as contrived and unnatural.
What I'm saying is that while it's true that I do read snotty intellectual books, I also have no problem reading and enjoying absolute trash - and this book was so forced and not thought out, even I couldn't enjoy it. Though it is worth noting that if someone made a movie out of this, I'd totally go see it because I know the kind of movie it would be, and it would be loads of fun to watch. Just not to read.
on February 19, 2011
I am a teenager and I love reading and writing fantasy. With that said, one may expect I would like this book. No, not at all. I had to force my way through this book and I still didn't get to the last chapter and epilogue (Why should I? I know how this is going to end). The characters are unsympathetic and unlikable. The plot often progressed because one or more characters were holding the Idiot Ball. The writing is just plain bad.
Our heroine, Clarissa (Clary) Fray, is one of the book's worst characters. She is headstrong and is determined to save everyone herself. Her loyalties change at the drop of a hat. She's described as being an average girl and yet her love interest says she's beautiful (I assume the Idiot Ball was in his possession at the time). Oh, and she's a very talented artist. And we're supposed to like Clary throughout the entire book, and the following books.
The rest of the characters aren't any better. Jace is a narcissistic jerk and yet Clary is smitten for him. The author loves describing his looks in every possible kind of light. Over and over she talks about his golden hair and golden eyes and how the moonlight makes it paler and the sunlight makes it goldener blah blah blah.
The villain is nothing more than a cardboard cutout. Basically, he wants to commit the genocide of anything that isn't human. Why? Because the author willed it to be!
Plot? I thought there was some in chapter one. Nope. The story starts with Clary seeing some teenagers about to kill another. Clary is told by the author to follow. She finds out the killers are Shadowhunters and the kid they killed was actually a demon, and the demon *had* to be killed because demons are Always Chaotic Evil. The Shadowhunters are the invisible saviors of everyday humans. The hunters are surprised to find out that Clary can see them and thus decide to put a stop to the plot by dropping a load of exposition on you and our blissfully ignorant protagonist. The plot is moved once again because someone decides to do something stupid, illogical, or unnatural.
Plot twists? Yeah, right. This book is painfully predictable. *"SPOILER" Alert* In part 1, we find out Clary's mom was married to the bad guy. "Clary, I am your father!" is what I heard in the distance. Then we find out one of the Hunters, Jace, is the son of the bad guy too. WHOA! The author blew me away with that one! Yeah, right.
*End of "SPOILER" Alert*
The writing itself is distracting. Characters shout in all-caps. Every page has at least two similes, many of them sounding forced. The endless descriptions get in the way of the plot. Paragraph breaks are often used improperly. The author often uses them when there is a time skip of 2 seconds, and often in the middle of dialogue. You will also notice that the author even divides this book into parts, and often in the middle of dialogue. And as I've said, there are a lot of long, drawn-out passages of exposition and backstory. There is even a full chapter where the point of view switches from 3rd person limited to 1st person view of a supporting character. And he tells you absolutely everything that was already dropped throughout the story. But wait, there's more! The characters even reiterate what was said in the chapter before!
Yes, it's a debut book, but one with lazy writing and lazy editing. Maybe she will improve, but I will make sure I avoid anything else with her name on it.
But if you have a high tolerance for bad fantasy, maybe you will like this.
on March 16, 2015
Very nicely written book. Lots of adventure, action, romance and more. Cassandra Clare did a great job with all the fantastic races in the urban fantasy world she has created.
This story is focused on a teen heroine, Clarissa (Clary for short) Fray. It starts off with her and a friend going into a club and she sees a small group kill what the called a 'demon.' The problem? No one else can see these people except her. When later talking to one of them, trying to figure out who he is she gets a frantic phone call from her mother saying to not come home. So what does she do? Goes directly home. All I have to say to that is one word: Teenagers.
When she gets home her mother is gone but a strange creature is there and tries to kill her. By a stroke of luck she gets it before it gets her. From this moment on, her world finished it's 180 degree flip. She learns her mother was what is called a Shadowhunter (which is what the 3 she met at the club are) and that a man named Valentine took her hostage in his mission to find the Mortal Cup. As Clary learns of the other, true reality she is now forced to see, she questions her relationships, friends/family, loyalty and her own self.
This novel is filled with fights, romance, and self-discovery. I look forward to the second book in the series.
on August 15, 2008
What can I say that hasn't already been said? Clare is definitely able to write an exciting story that keeps readers flipping the pages and her world is certainly interesting. However, she brings nothing new to the world of urban fantasy. Ideas are recycled, recycled and recycled some more. Cliches abound. References are far too easy to spot. But that's just the beginning.
Supposedly normal characters react to surreal situations in unrealistic ways. Twists in plotlines are telegraphed beforehand to the point that I find it mind-boggling that the characters couldn't figure it out themselves. If the characters really are that stupid or oblivious for a legitimate reason justified by the narrative, then that's fine. But this just came off as a very amateurish act by the author to make sure that the big twist isn't revealed until a crucial moment at the end - all at the expense of the reader's willingness to suspend belief.
Her writing style is also pretty annoying. Her similes are ridiculous and overused. Her dialogue tries too hard to sound like an episode of Buffy and ends up sounding like a cheap knock off. Joss Whedon was able to create dialigue that was snappy, hip and yet still seemed to fit his young characters despite the fact that there are maybe three teenagers in the entire world capable of speaking with such wit. Clare couldn't pull it off and as a result it made her characters seem both dubious and pretentious.
Characters barely break the second-dimension in terms of personalities. Isabelle has no personality and her skankiness does NOT make her awesome -just creepy (as she's apparently only about fourteen). Simon is the geek, this book's Xander, so we're supposed to laugh at him. Clary is also supposedly a geek but never does anything particularly geeky so as to not compromise her Mary Sueness. Clary is also supposed to be clumsy, but performs graceful actions when in a fight, even after only supposedly being introduced to this terrifying world for a few days. I also do NOT appreciate the entire 'oh she thinks she's plain, but people say she looks just like her mom, who just happens to be gorgeous!' gimmick. If she's beautiful, just say she's beautiful. Don't try to make her more endearing to young normal female readers by feebly pretending that she's nothing special in the looks department. Then there's Jace, who's your typical snarky pretty boy with a Tragic Past. Sexy at times, but mostly a yawn. If you want to make your pretty boys complex, do more than just paste on some angst. Really, Alec is the only one who seems to have some semblance of depth. Too bad he was pwned to make Mary Sue Clary look even better, and beaten up to provide Jace with more angst.
The plot itself didn't seem to be carefully crafted. We were introduced to the world rather blandly (pages of forced exposition yay!), given a premise (Big Bad Guy wants to do a Big Bad Thing and needs this Special Item to do it). Then after that the story just meanders, jumping from misadventure to misadventure without any real purpose until the story's last stretch, climax and ending. Plots have to be created so that events lead into each other and build upon each other. Of course sometimes 's**t happens'; random events occur. But ultimately it all has to work together to bring the story to its climax. This just felt like a bunch of stuff thrown together to fill up pages. Mildly entertaining, but kind of pointless and very shallow.
All in all, Clare seems to do only the bare minimum that might endear her to her target teenage audience: she successfully delivers a fun story with pretty characters, lots of action and plenty of melodrama to spare. But she didn't seem to want to bother with improving on her story by fleshing out her characters, thinking more deeply about her plot and creating a more original world. Everything about City of Bones remains on the surface, almost defiantly so, which obviously yielded half-assed results.