City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (The Mortal Instruments #1)

Hurrah! Book 1 of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series is MINE. Unfortunately I spoiled myself with the film first but as usual there is a wealth on the page that did not make it to the screen.


Sixteen-year-old Clary Fray is an ordinary teenager, who likes hanging out in Brooklyn with her friends. But everything changes the night she witnesses a murder, committed by a group of teens armed with medieval weaponry. The murderous group are Shadowhunters, secret warriors dedicated to driving demons out of this dimension and back into their own. Drawn inexorably into a terrifying world, Clary slowly begins to learn the truth about her family – and the battle for the fate of the world.

I didn’t enjoy City of Bones quite as much as I had hoped after reading and watching various rave reviews. Some earlier scenes between the main and supporting characters felt really petulant and while I wasn’t particularly fond of Clary, at times I actively disliked Alec. I had no feelings for Isabel apart from the party scene where she annoyed me. I wanted to fall in love with Jace like so many other people have but, although I sense he might grow on me, no stirrings as yet.

All in all I’d say the world building saved this book for me and, given the amount that happened, it’s not surprising that I didn’t really have time to bond with the characters. Many authors shy away from action scenes (*cough*Stephanie Meyer*cough*) but Cassandra Clare does not. The ‘ending’ seemed to begin somewhere in the middle and it was relentless until the last page.

Starting City of Bones straight after the delightful Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell may have been a disservice but this time I was struck more by the efficiency of the writing than the beauty of it, which again is probably owing to the pace of the plot. Cassandra Clare started out writing Harry Potter fanfiction – and that’s no slur because I wrote reams of fanfiction myself – and at times that shows. Certainly this book would have been a lot longer if she had decided to get flowery with the language but she still could have been more original with many of the descriptions. The one Spanish character in the book, Raphael, was a walking cliché.

“Dios mío.” The voice was male, amused, speaking a liquid Spanish. “You’re not from this neighborhood, are you?”

I was anxious at first when I observed a penchant for defaulting to a particular character biting her lip as the universal indicator of anxiety. Fortunately that tendency vanished with the character so perhaps it was a her weakness rather than the author’s.

Overall I’d say the word for the writing in City of Bones is functional and unobtrusive which is not a negative. It just took me a while to switch modes from my previous read. I did highlight this part on my Kindle though:

The road followed the curve of the high chain-link fence, the top of which was strung with curlicues of razor wire like festive loops of ribbon.

Aside from a long monologue from another character, the narrative is told in the third person from Clary’s perspective (perhaps first person would have endeared her to me more?) Then, on page 323, it switches for a mere two pages to Jace’s perspective. Multiple viewpoints are fine but one isolated change smacks of pure convenience and it was jarring for me.

The urban New York setting gave the story some real grit and the confidence as she described the fascinating world of Shadowhunters and Downworlders assured me that Cassandra Clare has every detail of it mapped out for us. That being the case, and despite saying quite a lot of negative things about City of Bones, I will be reading the rest of the books. I am very curious about where this is going.

Hank Rating 3.5 Stars

By the sounds of it, Cassandra Clare’s other series set in this world, Infernal Devices, may be even better.


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