Sunday, June 16, 2013

City of Bones [Review]

Title: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
Series: The Mortal Instruments, #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
What They Say:
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?

What I Say:
(sidenote: when I returned to this blog, I found this incomplete gem waiting in the Drafts folder, like a sign that I should start here. Plus, with the Mortal Instruments film coming to theatres this August, it's perfect timing! So some of the information in these first two sections is dated because it's from 2011 haha) Okay, so maybe I've read this book a hundred times over the last two years. Aaand maybe I'm at this point entirely biased when it comes to rating this particular series. But. With exams coming up and all, I won't be able to read a new book for at least a week or so. Solution? This. City of Bones peels back the glamour of the human world, revealing a dark underworld of demons, warlocks, vampires, all that just under our noses. This book is a fast-paced, snark-filled adventure that will shock and amaze and bend your mind just a little. That said...

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Plot: wow
Clary Fray is fifteen and totally normal. Her best friend Simon is also fifteen and totally normal, though more nerdy than not. That is, until the day she sees three teens murder a boy at a nightclub. At least, she thinks that's what they were doing. Except they had odd marks on their bodies, and the killed boy could change his shape and they called him a demon. But that's silly - demons don't exist, right? Clary tries to forget it, but keeps running into one of the killers, Jace. Jace is snarky and arrogant and beautiful and calls himself a Shadowhunter - a trained demon killer. Curious as to why Clary, an average "mundane", can see Downworlders, he keeps tabs on her while becoming an endlessly frustrating pain in Clary's side (though she's a pretty big thorn, too). Then, without warning, Clary's mother begins acting strangely, insisting that she and Clary leave the city immediately. And then her mother disappears. Jace’s vigilance saves her life when she returns home only to be attacked by a demon lurking in her ransacked apartment. And when Jace draws a healing rune on Clary’s arm – runes are deadly to the average person, but I guess Jace just isn’t thinking? – it works on her. Clary, Jace decides, isn’t a mundane at all. She’s a Shadowhunter. And that’s only the half of it.

So I remember way back in 2008 when I first picked up this book at the library. From the summary and thickness of the thing, I wasn't impressed. Buzzwords like Shadowhunter and Nephilim were big turn-offs, because it sounded like try-hard fantasy nonsense. But it wasn't that! Cassandra weaves intrigue through the story like individual threads in gorgeous hipster hoodie. Masterful storyteller that she is, each chapter feeds into the next, presenting new mysteries but considerately solving old ones along the way - so the reader never feels hopelessly lost. The book's equal parts action/mystery and Like Story, easing non-fantasy-fans into the world gently, padding the random new words and monsters with a classic albeit predictable love triangle that - in turn - isn't presented as the Most Important Thing In Clary's World, which I appreciated.

Characters: WHOA
I like Clary well enough. She's artsy and likes to read and fights with her mom and probably mirrors most of the girls reading the book - so she's very relatable, especially as the first-person audience-insert character - but most of the big events in the book seem to happen to her, rather than because of her. Granted, it's the first book in a series, so character development is sure to be a long and dangerous journey (hah).

Jace Wayland is one of the few YA characters I've ever gone really daffy over. At first, his over-inflated ego brought on a few fond eye rolls, but over time you start to realize he thinks he's so great really just is that great. And everyone else begrudgingly knows it, too. Jace's main point of intrigue stems from his attempts to appear flippant and cool in this state of Jerkass Perma-snark, a fact he actually lampshades at one point when he jokes "I use my rapier wit to hide my inner pain." And whoa, does he have some inner pain! And serious Daddy Issues! Lastly, I truly appreciate how True Like doesn't dilute his personality into love-soup, as often happens in books where a Good Girl Fixes a Bad Boy. This shows that while some of his snark is just bravado, it's also deeply embedded into his very soul. Jace Wayland is the true Snark King, is what I'm saying.

The things I would do for a best friend like Simon! Brooklyn-born, huge personality, clever and nerdy, and kind of a massive hipster if I'm honest, Simon has got it all going on. He's thrust into this amazing world of magic and intrigue that turns its massive nose down at him because he's a "mundane" human, but does he let that get him down? If his best friend Clary's going to be fighting monsters and getting into trouble, he's going to be right there with her, no matter how little anyone wants him around. He's especially interesting to me because he's the only one who, when things get too weird or dangerous, can walk out and go back to his normal life. Only he chooses not to. Yeah, Simon's the best.

Relationships: wow
Clary and Jace - I like the Darcy Phase in this book, because at no point do these two necessarily dislike each other. It's more of a drawn out Snark-Off between two people so clever and proud and just waiting for the other to blink. And by blink I mean tumble headfirst into Like, of course. However, because of Rule #3 of YA: Happiness Doesn't Last and OH MAN does it not last in this story. Star-crossed lovers to the max.

Clary and Simon - They should make sad Sarah McLachlan commercials for lovesick best friends like Simon Lewis. Except instead of the SPCA phone number, the screen would flash Rule #2 of YA (Under no circumstances can best friends end up together) and Rule 2 Subsection B (The Girl must be completely oblivious to said best friend's love until the most devastating possible moment). Subsection B is here attributed to Clary's teenage self-absorption and Simon's general selflessness and thing for red-heads. Never had a chance, poor kid.

Special Features: WHOA
This series focuses around the Shadowhunters. Said to be descended from angels, the Shadowhunters were created to protect the human world from demons, who slip between dimensions and do nasty things on earth. Aside from the obviously exciting action aspect of the Shadowhunter world, fighting monsters, completely unknown to humans and being general hardasses, you get hints here and there that the society of Shadowhunters is inherently flawed as they move into the modern age, full of prejudice and a constant attitude of supremacy over humans and Downworlders. It's cool to see the "new generation" (Jace, Alec, and Isabelle) start to challenge some of those old-timey social norms that mirror our own more closely than you 'd think!

Parting Quote:
"Don't touch any of my weapons without my permission."
"Well, there goes my plan for selling them all on eBay," Clary muttered.
"Selling them on what?"
Clary smiled blandly at him. "A mythical place of great magical power."
Ooh a book with an even distribution of snark between male and female characters yes!

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