Sunday, September 16, 2007

City of Bones

City of Bones

Author: Cassandra Clare

This is the first in a planned trilogy – the series title The Mortal Instruments referring to three magical items that can grant power over life and death.

Clary Fray is a normal teenager in every way, until she realizes that she can see things that others around her cannot. As she begins her journey to reclaiming the heritage that has been denied to her, her view of the world expands to include the existence of demons, vampires, werewolves and Shadowhunters. Clary’s clueless-but-loveable friend, Simon, gets caught up in her adventures; and she meets the brooding-and-mysterious Jace, who is adored by his brother-in-all-but-name Alec; and Alec’s gorgeously-beautiful-but-tough-as-nails sister Isabelle.

It is the cast of characters that carry this first novel. Interestingly intriguing, they are worth the effort of trying to determine their place in the plot, their various motivations and simply enjoying their moments of uniqueness. And the gothic, urban, New York setting gives such a gritty realism to the fantasy elements of the story.

In the end though, the novel is let down by the unoriginality of the plot. It is so derivative of so much else – more than simply reminiscent - the worlds of Buffy, Dr Who, Harry Potter, and Star Wars, are all echoing around in there. I’m mindful that this is the first in a series, so there’s hope that Clare is using these worlds as a springboard to her own ideas in the next two books. The nod to Holly Black’s Modern Faerie Tales is nicely done, and aims for that ‘insider’ feeling for readers following two authors writing in the same urban fantasy genre.

I was too disappointed with the plot device revealed at the end of the story; it’s so cliché now, it would take a writer with extraordinary skill to make that type of plot-line fresh and believable. Unfortunately, Clare is not there yet, and it made the ending anti-climactic and wince-worthy.

Nonetheless, I will be looking forward to reading the next part, The City of Ashes, to see where Clare takes her story and these characters. I have hopes that this will be one of those series that improves enormously with each new installment, building to a trilogy seen, as a whole, as a Great Read.

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