City of Bones
Published 2007 442 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
It’s after dark in New York City, and Clary Fray is seeing things. The best-looking guy in the nightclub has just stabbed a boy to death – but the victim has vanished into thin air. Her mother has disappeared, and a hideous monster is lurking in her apartment.
With her life spiralling into darkness, Clary realizes that she has stumbled into an invisible war between ancient demonic forces and secretive Shadowhunters – a war in which she has a fateful role to play…
City of Bones is the first part of The Mortal Instruments, a Young Adult (YA) urban fantasy trilogy, as well as Cassandra Clare’s first full length novel. Set in New York City, the story opens with fifteen year old Clary witnessing the murder of a blue-haired teenage boy in a nightclub - the only problem is no one else can see what she has seen…
Events in Clary’s life just get stranger when her mother disappears without warning and monsters start to infest her home. Suddenly Clary is seeing odd and unusual things everywhere as demons, vampires, werewolves, faeries and warlocks start to be apparent all over New York City.
Luckily Clary’s path seems destined to cross with that of Jace, the good looking teenage boy that Clary first saw in the nightclub (murdering the blue haired boy) and he introduces her to the hidden world of the Shadowhunters. A world where werewolves roam the streets of Chinatown, faeries live in Central Park, and vampires ride demonically powered motorbikes…
The Shadowhunters are Nephilim. Traditionally Nephilim are the children of angels who have bred with mortal humans but in City of Bones the Nephilim were created when the Angel Raziel mixed his blood with human blood in the Mortal Cup. The Shadowhunters exist to fight demons and are trained from birth for this purpose, the Mortal Cup can be used to create more Nephilim - making it a dangerous weapon in the wrong hands.
The vampires in City of Bones have most of the traditional vampire weaknesses and strengths (including being able to turn into bats) but they are the results of a demonic viral infection rather than the more traditional evil undead. The Shadowhunters refer to them, and all other races not of pure human origin, as Downworlders - but they do not hunt vampires unless they turn rogue and start to kill humans. The vampires only have a small part in this story but they make their presence felt with both humour (drunk vampires have an unfortunate habit of spontaneously turning into piles of dust until they sober up) and menace (drunk vampires seem more likeable than sober ones)!
City of Bones is a YA novel so much of the story revolves around the relationships and group dynamics of Clary, her human best friend Simon, and the three Shadowhunter teenagers that aid Clary when her mother goes missing. Much of the action in story is related to an uprising lead by a Shadowhunter called Valentine, who has approximately the same political views as Hitler - just with Downworlders taking the place of the gypsies and Jews.
City of Bones is written in third person, almost entirely from the perspective of Clary and one of my criticisms of this book would be that, although she turns sixteen during the course of the book, the narrative sometimes seems more like the thoughts and actions of an adult in places rather than an adolescent. The story suffers from uneven pacing too. The world building is laboured in places and the occasional over florid descriptions jar readers out of the story rather than drawing them into it.
That said, once you get into the story, City of Bones still makes entertaining reading and is a fairly imaginative addition to the YA urban fantasy genre. The length of the novel, combined with the pacing and content, will perhaps be a deterrent to younger readers but I can’t see the average fifteen year old fantasy fan having too many problems. Certainly I enjoyed reading City of Bones, even though I am much older than its target audience!
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