Monday, March 6, 2017

[Book Review] City of Bones by Cassandra Clare


City of Bones is a well loved urban fantasy series about our main character Clary Fray who is thrown into this world that coexists with our own without us knowing. She learns about Shadowhunters, assassins trained to kill demons, and she also learns that vampires, werewolves, faeries, and many other dark myths are real. If you've been around the YA bookish world for a while you know about this series, not only because of its fan-base but also because of the few spinoff series that have branched off The Mortal Instruments series, the movie, and the television show.

This was a really entertaining read. It has a lot of great moments that I really enjoyed. The best thing about this book is its characters. I particularly really enjoyed Clary's interactions with Jace, Simon, and Luke. The dialogue between the characters is really well done, and hold most of the humor that I really appreciated reading. It kind of gave me Buffy vibes when it came to the dialogue and the sharp witty responses from each of the characters. Honestly, it's really the characters that keep me invested in reading the next books in the series. Because so far we don't know too much about Idris or the world of the Shadowhunters, the characters are what need to be good to keep the reader hooked. And I personally think that is definitely the case.

I did have a couple problems with City of Bones overall. One being the writing. It is so weird, because some of the writing is really well done (the dialogue and action scenes specifically) and other times, the writing is really bad. There are so many descriptions and similes that do not make any sense and feel like they come of nowhere. I highlighted so many of them on my kindle version, but I'll use two as examples because I don't want to bash the author. A couple will be enough to prove my point.

"The apple tasted green and cool" 
"Leaving the Institute was like climbing into a wet, hot canvas bag." 

It just comes out of nowhere and don't make any sense. I find it so weird that these descriptions went through editing and survived. It is really unfortunate because there are moments where you can tell that Cassandra Clare has writing talent, and then you stumble on a simile like the ones above and you feel like you're reading a parody of an actual description. It reads so badly it doesn't even feel like a real sentence but instead a joke. I think this book has more similes than any book I have ever read, so the fact that they're poorly written made it a bit too much at times. My other problem with this story is that you can tell that it was previously a Harry Potter fanfiction. There are distinct parallels between City of Bones and some of the main events in the Harry Potter series. I think the characters themselves were written well enough to be their own entities that are distant from the characters that Cassandra Clare pulled inspiration from, but the events in the stories and the way things were worded seemed so familiar to the wizarding world I grew up with.You can just pin point the parts in City of Bones where the author had taken specific scenes from Harry Potter to write her fanfiction about. Which made it harder to love, because it's obviously not as good as the original.

One thing I just have to point out (little tangent/vent ahead) because I hate this trope so much is that the "she doesn't know she's beautiful which makes her beautiful" moment had me so annoyed. I did let it slide more than I would have originally because the book was written in 2007 and that is around the time every book had this annoying trope. At the time it was just popular for the main woman character to be this beautiful goddess, but find herself ugly even if every heterosexual male has the hots for her. I am just hoping that ten years later this trope is one that is harder to find in newer releases, because it physically hurt to read that section. I stopped reading, explained it to my boyfriend, and he broke out into the famous One Direction song. Which made it much better, but I am just excited for the future of stories where this trope is non-existent.

Another problem I have with the writing is the massive amounts of info dump the reader experiences while reading this book. I understand that because it's a fantasy story and that it takes a lot of time to build a world, I wasn't the biggest fan of how much info dumping there was. I think it's because there is so much backstory when it comes to Valentine and The Clave that the readers need to know to understand the motives behind Luke, Valentine, and Jocelyn's actions. There are so many details and depth into the backstory it honestly could have been its own book. So I understand the struggle in packing in the backstory while writing the story that is happening present moment with the main cast of characters. However, the massive amount of info dumping did hinder on my reading experience enough that I found myself trudging through those areas. Not that the information was bad, I did really enjoy all the drama and action that happened in the past, but I felt like we were being told instead of shown when it came to those moments, which slowed things down.

However, I was entertained throughout the entire present story. I never felt bored or that things were too slow. If things did slow down in between the more action packed scenes, I was content with getting to know the main characters more. I think that the author used those slower scenes wisely. Granted, there was a moment or two where I think some of the character's focus was on things (relationship/crush type things) that didn't matter when they were trying to save Clary's mother and save the Shadowhunter world. But other than that I enjoyed the story whether it was the action packed fight scenes or the slower character building scenes.

City of Bones is technically a re-read for me. I actually tried starting this series back in college and read the first two before getting distracted and forgetting to continue on with the series. I read the first three (Bones, Glass, and Ashes) about two years ago with a friend. We read them to complete a challenge in the yearly reading challenge we had signed up for that year, and after we finished the third book I was so busy trying to complete the challenge that I totally forgot to keep going with the series. Because the television show has kept my interest (I was okay with season one, but I am really enjoying season two) I decided to give the books another try. So I am hoping to read City of Ashes sometime soon. I have a handful of books I need to read first, but City of Ashes is definitely happening in the near future. I just felt like I needed to give the series another shot, especially when I have been hearing so many great things about both of the spin of series. Plus I am hoping that after catching up maybe if I re-watch the show everything will make more sense.

One thing I found interesting is that I enjoyed the characters much more this time around than I did the other times I have read the series. I wonder if the television show had an influence on how I imagined the characters, or maybe I have changed as a reader. I remember not enjoying Clary as a character, and getting pretty annoyed with Jace. And although there are moments where Jace really did drive me insane, I understood his motives more. I do picture the actors and actresses in the show, so maybe that has something to do with it. Either way I am really surprised and interested in my change as a reader when it comes to this story.

Thanks for reading!

I am really excited I am really excited to start City of Ashes soon. Have you read this series? I know people who hate it, and others that love it, so I'd love to know what you think. Also who is your favorite character? I oddly really enjoyed Jace during this re-read, which is so strange because I absolutely hated him when I read these books previously. I was so shocked!