CITY OF BONES by Cassandra Clare, 485pages, $ Prices Vary at Amazon
Fifteen year old Clary Fray is about to make a discovery about herself. One night in an all ages night club, she sees a cute blue haired boy who’s followed to a back room by a group of older teens; one of them has a knife. She sends her best friend Simon to get the bouncer while she follows the group in to the back room to make sure the boy’s alright. She has walked in on a group of Shadow Hunters, humans who have the blood of angels in their veins.
Clary’s what Shadowhunters condescendingly call a mundane: She shouldn’t be able to see them or the blue haired boy she’s there to save. Why she’s able to see them is the catalyst for this story of Demons, “Down Worlders” (that’s vampires, werewolves and faeries to us mundanes) and the elite class of Shadowhunters who have set themselves above the others as rulers and enforcers of the law.
This is a Young Adult Book written for teen girls and it delivers on love triangles, conflicted choices between bad boys and good, lots of jealousy and inferiority complexes. The protagonist, Clary is a young girl who’s a bit of a loner except for her nerdy best friend Simon. She’s forced into a world with kids she’s not sure she likes, and who don’t really like her. Her new cohort is a group of elites, privately tutored and well turned out, snobbish and finicky about everything from clothes to social background. Clary’s just an average girl trying to get through high school and past the over protectiveness of her single parenting mom. She has the requisite inferiority complex that she over compensates for by being in turns outspoken and moody.
And of course, true to the genre Clary falls in love with the arrogant, brash and impossibly beautiful Shadowhunter whose name is just the name a guy like him would have: Jace. His hair is blond, his skin is golden and scarred with whorls of fighting runes,(see the enticing cover of the book) with eyes amber like a lion’s.
But writer Cassandra Clare should be given some applause for budging the lungs of a genre that most are grumbling has had the last yipe squeezed out of the last werewolf. She has given the reader young characters who are more complex than is often found in the genre, introducing personalities that might have gone on as cliches without her talent for imbuing each of them with an arc that keeps the dynamic between them engaging. They grow in their relationships with each other, not with convenient speed, but slowly the way it happens in life. Some of the relationships don’t improve until late in her second book, “City of Ashes” and others not until her third book “City of Glass”.
While the story has enough twists and turns to keep the reader turning the pages, more experienced readers may be disappointed to discover their powers of clairvoyance at the turn of the page however. And while her younger characters are well written, giving us an eye into Ms Clare’s apparent erudition and gift for wit, her villain in chief named Valentine falls dishearteningly short in development. Meant to be a man of aristocratic breeding, intelligence and misplaced passions, he comes off like a construction worker with ideas too big for his vocabulary, a man lost in self delusion.
An obviously gifted writer, Ms Clare can at times disappoint the reader with too many cliches repeated often about tasting “blood in the mouth, like copper”, city air that tastes like copper, and that chestnut of many YA books, “she could feel her heart pounding in her ears”. And all too often, when danger is at its height, her characters break a kind of fourth wall by choosing to be implausibly witty as blades are swinging and vampires are swooping for the throat: Used once this device is entertaining, used many times it calls attention to itself.
These weaknesses in her work aside however, Cassandra Clare has managed to tell a good story without a single foul word written, with scenes that are sexy and tortured by a restraint that Jane Austen might have been proud to write in her day, if only the said restraint didn’t prove too sensational. Even by today’s standards, what keeps these two lovers apart can create a war between the readers heart and gut. Oh delicious turmoil! And of course the action never stops.
Teenage girls from fourteen on up to women working on Wall Street who enjoy this genre of fiction will find this a fun “I don’t want to stop” read. Jace may be just the boyfriend a lot of girls dream of. Those who enjoyed The Twilight Series of Books will find Ms Clare’s “City of Bones” a work of genius by comparison. We give this book 3.5 stars out of 5 stars and recommend it as a fun beach read to our readers. We at Yaroos! look forward to following a talented writer in her career.