City of Bones

July 26, 2016
City of Bones Book Cover City of Bones
The Mortal Instruments
Cassandra Clare
Paranormal Fiction
Margaret K McElderry Books
April 14th, 2009
March 27th, 2007

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...

(via Goodreads)


Well, that’s a book I read.

If you are a regular reader of my reviews, you know that I thrive on character development. City of Bones CastDon’t get me wrong, I love a good plot, and I adore well-turned phrases. But, at the end of the day, I fall in love with books that are about growth and change and learning something about yourself. Not just all that, but doing it with others. You can’t solve all the world’s problems on your own. It helps to have a friend or two involved. Characters are the driving reason I keep reading. I learn more about myself and the people I care about by observing others. I also adore subtle world-building in the books I read. I love how worlds appear around me without being lectured to. Suddenly, I can go from laying in bed to being in a swamp. It’s magic.

And all this lead me to my gripes about City of Bones: Inconsistent writing, incredibly flat characters, predictable plot and world building by telling me about things. (At least I wasn’t lectured at, like in Blood Bound).

Sarcasm is the last refuge of the imaginatively bankrupt.

Inconsistent writing: I struggled to become engrossed in this book for many reasons. But I believe the primary reason is inconsistent writing. city of bones magnus baneClare’s writing jumps from dull to hilarious to repetitive to intriguing to lazy to puzzling within five pages. I found myself bored with dry dialogue used purely to push the plot forward and then suddenly giggling to myself. It made me feel a bit schizophrenic, actually… I often found that I was distracted by how wordy sentences got, or how repetitive information was shared. Once or twice, I was even a tad insulted that Clare didn’t think I would be able to remember some of these critical plot points. And the similes… oh God, the similes…

“The apple tasted green and cool.”
“Leaving the Institute was line climbing into a wet, hot, canvas bag.”

I’ll just leave it there. There are thousands more in the book.

Flat characters: We have a fairly diverse cast of characters for paranormal fiction, honestly. city of bones alecAnd yet they all fit very carefully into a mold. Each character has their perspective, and there is not subtly to how those perspective change or provide nuance. In fact, this is the most self-aware set of characters (other than Clary, whose role as the Katniss or Bella-type is to be clueless and have things explained to her the whole time) I have ever encountered. Particularly for teenagers with minimal social interaction. It also makes the moments when characters drastically change completely unbelievable. For example, when Jace suddenly is fawning over Valentine? What is with that 180-degree change of character? Honestly, the character I found the most intriguing was Alec. I really hope he gets a more prominent role in future books!

Declarations of love amuse me. Especially when unrequited.

Predictable Plot: The first major twist I figured out right away when city of bones full castClary’s mother was attacked in the first 30 pages of the book. However, the twist that Clary’s mother was a Shadowhunter, making Clary one too, duh isn’t actually revealed until 25% of the way through a 485-page book. It took a while for that reveal. The next major reveal is EVEN FURTHER in. And even MORE predictable. Really, this book is a series of clichés, one predictable plot point after another culminating in a mostly predictable final twist that no one wanted to have happen. It’s painful.

World Building Through Explaining: Jace is supposed to be the swoony romantic lead; the quintessential snarky sexy loner bad boy. And yet, he really just feels like a plot device for establishing this world. He was constantly telling us what was happening and why. City of Bones Jace ClaryInstead of providing us characters whose actions drive the creation of the world, we are given mini-lectures. It actually can come off as insulting, occasionally. Yes, Clary just had her world turned upside-down, but the reader can follow along without you repeating everything that just happened, or paraphrasing, or calling out the subtleties we might not have noticed… It’s like Jace is a gigantic LOOK AT THIS THING sign. Frustrating, Paired with the repetitive nature of Clare’s words, I wanted to kill Jace frequently. He is just an info dumper. It makes me hate him not for being him, but for being poorly written.

The boy never cried again, and he never forgot what he’d learned: that to love is to destroy, and that to be loved is to be the one destroyed.

That said, the premise is promising: Half-angel half-human ninja warriors fight demons to co-exist in a world with humans and the paranormal, while a Hitler-esque renegade is trying to bring their world crashing down (for some reason I am unclear about). I like the idea of this world and the direction Clare is taking things. And honestly, this sort of YA paranormal fiction is all the rage. This is apparent by the fame of this entire series in all its media forms: There is both a TV series AND a film, both with completely different casting (yeah, I don’t get it). I mean, I do love the sass that characters provide, and the sense of humor throughout. There is a bit of the dry British thing going on. But the writing leaves something to be desired.

Your friend’s poetry is terrible,” he said.
Clary blinked, caught momentarily off guard. “What?”
“I said his poetry was terrible. It sounds like he ate a dictionary and started vomiting up words at random.”

In the end, I did not think this was a complete waste of my time, and I will probably some day read the other books. But I finished this, closed my Kindle and said to myself: “Well, that’s a book I read.”

Those of you who like The Mortal Instruments series— what do you like about it? Should I keep going?

1 star


  • Sarah July 26, 2016 at 9:06 am

    I agree. I tried reading this book and I could not convinced myself to finish reading it. It was, as you described, very flat and predictable. Nice review!

    • Jackie B July 26, 2016 at 10:31 am

      Thanks, Sarah! I really need to allow myself to give up on books more frequently. I tend to push through if I find even the smallest redeeming quality. Oops.

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