Cassandra Clare’s novel, City of Bones follows a girl named Clary Fray as she discovers the supernatural world of “Shadowhunters.” They are a group of individuals blessed with Angel blood who destroy demons, and try to keep peace with various other mythical races (fairies, werewolves, warlocks…etc). Clary has grown up mortal, but is gifted with the “Sight,” a talent that allows her to see the Shadowhunters (who are normally invisible to ‘mundanes’) and to interpret their healing runes. (Intricate tattoos they give themselves in order to heal or defend).
I will begin by saying that it’s taken me months to gather my thoughts on this book. I’ve begun this review several times and scrapped it because I couldn’t articulate myself in the way I wanted. I actually debated whether or not to write this review, but I found out that some of my middle and younger high school girls read this series, and I decided I needed to share my views on the novel.
I began the book with high hopes. It came recommended to me by some friends who I trust when it comes to literature. I trust their judgment, but City of Bones was not what I’d hoped it to be. The story was highly entertaining, but I felt myself bored with many of the main characters, and felt the dynamics between Clary and her two love interests (Jace the mysterious Shadowhunter, and Simon, the sweet and quirky best friend) overdone and far too dramatic.
The premise of the story was fascinating to me, and I did enjoy the plot. I was saddened by the author’s portrayal of the main character. Clary had all the potential to be a unique and fascinating heroine, but she reacted to situations in juvenile, predictable ways: stomping her foot, rolling her eyes, or storming out of a room when she did not like what was going on around her. Yes, the author is writing a YA novel, but these actions made Clary seem younger than the author intended. Maybe this changes as she grows as a character during the rest of the series, but in the first book, these actions took me out of the story.
The style of the book, to me, left something to be desired. Sentences like “a small flower of apprehension began to open inside her chest,” and similes such as “the moon hung like a locket in the sky” felt as if the author were trying a bit too hard to find her voice. Now, don’t get me wrong, there were beautifully constructed sections of this story, but the overly decorated language distracted me, rather than adding depth to the story. I’d be interested to see how this progresses in the other novels. Cassandra Clare definitely has a knack for story, and I’d be curious to see how the writing style matures as the series progresses.
One aspect of the novel that did not sit well with me as I thought of my younger students reading it was the way in which most of the characters are so focused on whether or not they have a significant other. Many of the emotions in the novel were authentic, but there was one point when Clary’s crush Jace thought that Clary was cheating on him with Simon(which she was not), and instead of letting her explain the situation, he slinked off like a wounded animal. There is not much honest communication in the story. Maybe that comes later in the series as the characters develop…but it was severely lacking in the first installment.
Also, parents of teens might shy away from the moral ambiguity that many of the characters possess, plus the flippancy with which modesty is treated in the story. Clary, encouraged to bloom out of her ‘mundane’ self, gets a makeover and ends up in a short, tight dress that truly impresses her crush.
Overall, the story had potential but I felt that it stayed ‘safe’ in choosing to rely on surface level dialogue and character stereotypes instead of digging into the meat of the story and developing rounded characters. I do not like to write off an entire series by only reading one book, so I will read the rest.
Things to be aware of before reading:
There are many references to angels and demons, but instead of a Biblical account, the theology of the story is more of a “universal” church which involves many truths that come together to create ‘good.’ There was not much discussion of this, but the moral ambiguity has the potential to become spiritually threatening to younger readers who aren’t as grounded or familiar with different worldviews.
Also, the book does show open flirtation between two male characters. Again, as I said in another review, it is not just the fact that the author choose to include this, but what she did with the characters that I found inappropriate. The character in question was angry because the one he loved did not return those feelings. He only became less antagonistic when his feelings drifted to someone else. The message that our feelings dictate our actions is one that I did not appreciate. Yes, unrequited love is unbearably painful, but romantic love should not be the guiding factor in finding happiness or joy in life.
That wraps things up for now. The second book in the series will not be my next post but if you’re curious about the series, stay tuned and I will review it in the coming months.
I also take requests if there is a book you’d like reviewed, let me know in the comments section.
Thanks for reading,