The Mortal Instruments Series (City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass) – Cassandra Clare
Clary Fray thinks she’s a normal teenage girl living with her mother in New York City–until she begins to see the world of angels and demons, Shadowhunters and Downworlders, that’s been hidden right in front of her eyes. When trouble finds her, the arrogant and charming Shadowhunter Jace takes Clary under his wing, setting Clary and everyone around her on a dangerous and winding path. Rumor tells that Valentine, a Shadowhunter gone bad, is back in action; demons kidnap Clary’s mother; tensions between the Shadowhunters and the Downworlders are rising. War is brewing, and it will be up to Jace and Clary to stop it.
Wow, I was just today thinking that maybe I would start saving myself some time by pulling synopses of books straight from the publishers’ websites, but the description of The Mortal Instruments Series was so short and vague that I decided I had to do it myself–and now I really like how it turned out! Lol. But this letter isn’t about me, it’s about you, and your trilogy, which I decided to tackle all as one rather than book-by-book. It’s a rather continuous story anyway, and I read them all in a row, so it seemed logical. So here we go!
City of Bones was clearly intriguing enough for me to pick it up, and for me to continue on and read the second book, but I also came away from it feeling like it had been done before. You’ve got a Twilight-meets-Harry-Potter vibe going on, but it may be that I just picked up on it because Twilight copies are popping up like weeds and I’m familiar with your background as a writer of some beloved and/or fiercely hated Potter fanfiction. That’s not to say that the book wasn’t good, don’t get me wrong. Your prose is appealing, you write battle scenes far more clearly than I’ve ever managed to do, and thank the Lord in Heaven, there are some gay characters. Still, this first book is kind of like a salad. Really, bear with me. You take a bunch of winning formulas and combine them in such a way that I can still see the chunks. Like Valentine, the fallen Shadowhunter whose secret circle of followers wrought havoc years before your story begins, and whose name is spoken in fearful, hushed tones. Or like the Shadowhunters’ general disdain for “mundanes,” the ordinary humans who can’t see the hidden world. Or the darkly charming Jace, who quickly captures Clary’s heart, while best friend Simon hates Jace and starts to realize he loves Clary too. See what I mean?
Still, I’m not trying to say that you haven’t created something cool. Sometimes I’m in the mood for salad. I just wish this first book had been a little more totally new, and a little more subtle in its homages to the two biggest YA phenomenons out there. So, hoping for exciting new twists, I moved on to the second book.
City of Ashes is better on the salad issue. You’ve got some crazy stuff going on here, like temptation toward incest and evil fathers and weird family history. Jace pulls a Snape for a little while, though I never believed he’d go over to the Dark Side, and you get more into the complex Downworld and its levels of non-human-ness. I like it when vamps and werewolves and warlocks and fairies can all exist along with angels and demons, in the same…maybe dogma is the word I want. They don’t usually mix, but you do it well here, pleasantly reminiscent of the anything-goes dogma of Buffy. I took some issue with dialogue in this book, and with some reactions to things that seemed out of character or too overly dramatic to feel real, but at this point you had me pretty well hooked. Alex and Magnus are TOO ADORABLE FOR WORDS, and Simon is pretty great too, and I’m quite fond of Lucian. So yay for you, book two was an improvement! Now let’s press on, because this post is becoming unwieldy in length.
City of Glass continued to improve on the previous two books. You had me by the balls at this point, eager to find out if my many theories about what was going to happen would pan out. Many of them did–you didn’t manage to surprise me, but I didn’t mind. Sometimes I really like it when I can feel smart, and I do a little dance and cheer when my predictions end up true. 😉 I like the way you heated things up here, and you created a fairly gripping sense of threat, which is sometimes hard to do. Valentine was as scary and disturbing as he needed to be, betrayals were heart-wrenching, triumphant kisses were delightful, and all in all it was quite a finish. I don’t want to say much more, for fear of getting spoilery, but I will point out that it was this third book that convinced me to recommend the series to my friends. That was partly because I fell helplessly in love with Magnus, but also partly because the payoff felt worth it to me. Improvement is good–a writer should always be honing her craft–and you showed it by the end of the series. I’ll happily pick up whatever you might write next and give it a go. Overall, you get four stars!