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Book Review: City of Bones – Book One of The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare

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I spend a lot of time in the young adult section at my local bookstore. I will be the first one to admit to a fantasy addiction – all kinds of fantasy but lately I’ve become rather partial to the urban fantasy that has made such a splash with teens across the United States.

There are many names out there producing some great fairy adventure at the moment. And a new name has joined the ranks – Cassandra Clare, author of City of Bones, her first book as well as being the first in The Mortal Instruments trilogy.

A blurb on the back of the book from Justine Larbalestier, Magic of Maddness, claims that City of Bones has it all. While Holly Black, Valiant, says this book is ‘Funny. Dark. And sexy.’ Can one book live up to all this great press? Yes it can.

Clary Fray, short for Clarissa, is a normal girl in a normal world. When she sees a blue-haired boy in a night club attacked and killed by a group of three strange-looking teenagers, things change. But when a bouncer is called and no one can see the three but her, Clary starts to wonder what exactly is happening.

When Clary receives a strange phone call from her mom she rushes home to make sure that everything is alright. What she finds is an apartment in ruins and a demon waiting to eat her. But Clary isn’t a normal girl and she is able to, barely, hold her own against the demon. Soon enough she is rescued by one of the strange teenagers. Jace takes her to the Institute, a place of safety for his kind.

What is happening is that Clary is starting to regain her ‘Sight’, the power that enables her to see the world, and the things in the world, as it really is. Soon she learns that the three teenagers are Shadowhunters: men, women, and teenagers created by mixing the blood of angels with that of men so that they can hunt and kill demons. Alec and Isabelle, the other two strangers from the club, are brother and sister, and Jace came to live with their family when he was ten years old, after the horrific death of his father.

There is a lot happening in City of Bones. Featuring a full cast of characters, twists jump out with every turn of the page as Clary moves through the discovery of herself and the truth that is locked in her memories. Clary’s best friend Simon is one of the more human and believable characters in this novel; his awkwardness is easily recognized from any boy you went to high school with, making him even more lovable.

The Shadowhunters and their world is fantastic. Clear and all too believable, next time I go to a club I know I will be searching the dark corners for the things that go bump in the night. I might even find them.

If any of you are fans of the Modern Faerie Tales of Holly Black, Cassandra Clare’s writing group buddy, you will instantly recognize the small cameo some of her characters have in chapter ten of  ‘City of Bones.’

    Clary saw a girl about her own age with a smoothly shaved head leaning against a brown-skinned boy with dreadlocks, his face adorned with a dozen piercings. He turned his head as the carriage rolled by as if he could see it, and she caught the gleam of his eyes. One of them was clouded, as though it had no pupil. (page 174)

The appearance was totally unexpected and completely wonderful. I was thrilled to come across this small bit that ties a world of several authors I love into one.

But there are many things to love about City of Bones, including a cat by the name of Chairman Meow. The adventure can only get better as this trilogy progresses and I will be waiting eagerly for the next installment.

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About Katie T. Buglet

  • Gina Ruiz

    Wow. Great review. I have to buy this now.

  • This article has been selected for syndication to Advance.net, which is affiliated with newspapers around the United States. Nice work!

  • John Smith

    Given her history of writing her friends into her fan fiction and her plagiarism, how can you be surprised that she’d reference Holly Black, Star Wars, the Very Secret Diaries, the Draco Trilogy, Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Dark Hunters, Anita Blake, The Death Gate Cycle, Diane Wynne Jones, the Fable comic, Harry Potter, Inkheart, Spiderman, The Terminator ant Terry Brooks in her work? For some one who has a sig line claiming to be well read, you’re certainly demonstrating what a lie that really is.

  • John Smith. Don’t be nasty.

  • Holly

    I know, I saw how basically Jace IS Draco (falcon backstory and all) but what’s wrong with her using her OWN work in this book? it’s hers, she can do what she wants with it.

    And she gives credit where credit is due—what’s wrong with borrowing from your surroundings if it’s used with taste?

    I love Clare and can’t wait for the next 2 books…I’m hooked!!

  • Cali

    okay what are the name sfor the next to books i have to get them!!

  • ‘City of Ashes’ is the next one (I think)

    click on the link in the text and it takes you to her website with all the book info.

  • Another dissident

    Not cool that you’re promoting a proven plagiarist who can’t even keep the basic descriptions of her characters straight and who has to rip pages of her fanfic off to supply backstory.

    Or did you not catch when her characters changed heights, eye colors, so on? Or when they didn’t even get physical descriptions, just descriptions of their clothing?

  • ‘Proven Plagiarist’

    I don’t understand how you can call her a plagiarist if the stuff she is using is her OWN fan fiction. Writers rehash stories all the time. Writers use the same characters for different things. Not all but a lot out there, a lot on the bestseller list too.

    and proven? Proven where? Did someone sue her? Was it in the news and I just haven’t seen it? Where is the court order telling her to pay a fine of 10 million to some writer somewhere for stealing someone else’s work?

    it’s a book. BOOK. not world war three. get over it. if you didn’t like it so be it but don’t ruin it for me because I did enjoy it. I thought it was great. It’s not Tolkien or the freaking classics but it’s not bad for what it is.

    all over the net I’ve read how she took something from her own work and rebuilt it to fit her novel. So what? Why does it put your panties in a twist?

  • OH! and ‘John Smith’ Terry Brooks?! TERRY BROOKS! You’re telling me you haven’t noticed that his stuff is all cheap knock-offs of Tolkien?!

  • Janey Jones

    I have to admit that when I first started to read City of Bones I really did want to hate it. I will admit that I do not/have not enjoyed most of the writter’s fanfiction and the whole plagrisim issue. Dispite that, I did enjoy the book. Really, I did. And know I’m kinda excited about the upcoming books despite the mindset I had when I started the books.

  • I haven’t read any of her fanfiction and I don’t think I’ll ever read any of it. I still don’t understand why everyone is talking about the pagrisim thing…. she didn’t take anything from anyone.

    I’m glad you liked the book. I did too. I think the next one is going to be really fantastic. There is going to be so much going on. I’m really looking forward to it.

  • jennymarie

    I was never a huge fan of DT, though VSD made me laugh out loud many many times. Though I found CoB to be quite predictable and Jace to be, as Holly said, Draco, I still enjoyed the book.

    John, I would ask you to check your spelling and to remember that what she wrote in DT/VSD was a long time ago. She’s done a lot of growing up since then, and as Black and Clare are friends, I’m sure the cameo was fully approved by the owner.

  • David Godwin

    I’m from england and have read the book. i found it very good but it gave me a shock when i read the chapter title shadow hunter. you see i am writing my own book and in the planning i had a team called `the shadow hunters` before i read the book. and also i had the name jace who works for them. i dont know when she wrote it but should i change the team name.

  • haley

    i really loved the book, i just hated the fact that they turned out to be brother and sister =/

    i cant wait til city of ashes comes out! i think it out in march, right?

  • I just read the book, City of Bones and I had a hard time putting it down. I love the fiction books with creatures lurking around!! The book was fabulous and I have already passed it on to two friends who thought it also to be a great book. We can’t wait for the second one to come out. What a great cliff hanger. Yes it totally sucks that Clary and Jace are siblings but hopefully it will turn out that they are not in the end.Keep up the great work.

  • gaby

    I really liked the book, and I’m definitely eager to read City of Ashes, but a few things annoyed me overall. The use of ‘witty’ and sarcastic humor throughout it, especially in scenes where usually there would be no humor at all, was annoying- it seemed like it was trying too hard to be funny and witty. Jace would spit out a sarcastic remark at perhaps life-threatening scenes, the ideal time not to joke around. It made it seem a bit unrealistic. But still, it was a pretty great book and the characters, especially Magnus Bane, were amusing. Looking forward to reading the next one.

  • Mary

    Actually, I think that the fact that Jace was constantly making sarcastic comments at pivotal moments was there as more of a comment about his personality. He’s arrogant and he plays down danger, and that’s just how he is, so using the constant sarcasm was a way of playing that across. I found all the sarcasm and witty comments to be well placed and very funny. Maybe because I am constantly making sarcastic comments like that. On second thought, I don’t regularly find myself in life threatening situations.


    Anyway, I really enjoyed both books, and I look forward to the third.

  • Anand S.

    I’m not sure if I really liked this book or not. This book had me interested most of the time I was reading it, but it is true that a lot of it was predictable. I’m not sure if we were supposed to realize Simon wanted Clary, and Luke wanted Jocelyn early on in the book but it seemed all too obvious. It would of been better if maybe the little crushes were saved untill the end. I also didn’t like the idea of Jace and Clary being siblings, but as someone previously stated, I hope they reveal that it’s not true in the next installment. =)

    All in all, rather well written book. I recommend reading it.

  • emilyyy

    These are, honestly, two of the best books which I have ever read. I love the whole clary and jace thing In city of ashes you can tell that jace is definately going to be the grandchild of the clave inspector woman, as she did die for him and you could tell that he had something to tell him before she died!!! Also clary wanted to tell him that she loved him at the end but he said all about them never being able to be together- ohh i was annoyed- in a good way tho!!!

  • Reader Gal

    The book is interesting and does keep you hooked. Its well thought out and you can see that all the hard work paid off. It was predictable and the personalities need more development. The author may build up or fix these problems in her next novel.

  • Chelsea

    I loved this book for at least 400 pages, but in the last two chapters it started going downhill. I mean I honestly thought it was going to be my favorite book until then. I was so creeped out when you find out there siblings!!!! I hated it!!! I was like awh man you’ve got to read this book until that last part. I mean for gods sake, they kissed! Plus they love each other and it’s just eww. Borders of being incest. I donno. Ill probably read the other books because they are Xtremly well writen and Im hoping to find out they are not related. ((Reason I got on this site, in hopes there would be a comment “THERE NOT BROTHER AND SISTERR!”))

  • Ladytealjade

    Thanks for the review and comments… I can’t wait to buy the books=)

  • Vikki

    quote: and proven? Proven where? Did someone sue her? Was it in the news and I just haven’t seen it?

    Answer: check out fanhistory dot com and fandomwank dot com for her history of proven plagarism. She ripped off wholesale some passages from a few books while writing fanfiction, changing only the names and gave no credit. This ended with her account being removed from the hosting website, which sent her fans into an uproar.

    That being said, I haven’t seen any evidence that she’s plagarized anyone but herself in her professional writing. I’m glad for her, because while she pretty much got away with plagarism in the unprofessional writing ring, she would certainly have not managed the same now that she’s turning a legitimate profit.

    There is no denying that something about her stories offers a base appeal to young readers. Personally I found her professional published books, like her fanfiction, to be overbearing, pretentious, and trying too hard.

  • Shelbi

    wow i have to buy this now:)

  • balckplates

    I have to weigh in on this, the ENTIRE story “pretty bones” including the title was lifted directly from a C.J Cherryh novel called “Chernevog” she changed the name from “pretty bones” and the whole plot is a small part of a Cherryhs work

  • balckplates

    I have to weigh in on this, the ENTIRE story “pretty bones” including the title was lifted directly from a C.J Cherryh novel called “Chernevog” she changed the name from “pretty bones” and the whole plot is a small part of a Cherryhs work

  • Abbie

    I LOVE all of the books! But I dont like the people cast for the parts in the movie. So I made a list of the people I thought would be good for the parts in the books 1-3.
    Clary-Molly C. Quinn
    Jace-Alex Pettyfer
    Simon-Kristopher Turner
    Hodge-Michael Caine
    Alec-Tom Sturridge
    Isabelle-Megan Fox
    Magnus-Adam Lambert
    Luke-Oliver Hudson
    Valentine-Simon Barker
    Jocelyn-Melinda Clarke
    Maia-Jurnee Smollett
    Raphael-Steven Strait
    Robert-Bradley Cooper
    Maryse-Kate Beckinsale
    Max-Chandler Camerbury
    Inquisitor-Meryl Streep
    Sebastian-Ben Barnes
    Aline-Christian Serratos