Tuesday, 4 September 2012

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare.

I'm a bit older than the target market for this (read, a lot older) so I didn't have high expectations. It started with a good scene of Clary meeting the shadowhunters. However, that served up my first niggle. Simon (Clary's awkward, nerdy best friend who is in love with her, but of course she doesn't realise that as it would spoil the plot) can't see the shadowhunters, but for the whole rest of the book he can. OK, so she lampshades it by having them able to cast a "glamour" so he can see them or not as they prefer. But given how much they seem to dislike Simon (Jace in particular), I'd have thought they'd have used the glamour more often than they do, if only to bug him. But I digress...

As others have said, the plot reminded me a lot of Harry Potter to begin with, and it didn't surprise me to learn that the author cut her teeth on Harry Potter fanfic. We have Valentine/Voldemort with his circle of followers, some of whom defect on him when his dark intentions become clear and some of whom stay with him and are punished accordingly. The parallels do become less noticeable the further in you get, although I did facepalm at the flying motorbike!

Characterwise, the author clearly likes to write Jace and Simon. They are both well-developed and get most of the best dialogue. Clary is fine too, although I did find her apparent lack of concern for her mother (the occasional mention and vague hints that she's worried about her) a little unbelievable. She also turns against Luke pretty quickly. One minute he is the closest thing to a father she has known and the next she has totally turned her back on him, despite the fact that what he says to turn her against him is said while being leaned on by two of the other side's heavies.

I was cautiously optimistic when it turned out that one of the young characters is gay, as I was interested to see how YA fiction is portraying gay characters, but it was scarcely alluded to again. Maybe it becomes a bigger deal in the later books?

The adult characters are weaker than the teens. Clary's mum spends most of the book captured and/or unconscious and Luke appears near the beginning only to be rejected and then shows up for a lot of the end. Trouble is, Luke's dialogue struck me as poor where the teen dialogue had been snappy, and he gets a whole chapter's worth of backstory infodump, poor guy.

The story is clearly designed around a series arc, so to get any sort of satisfying conclusion you need to read on. I know it's to get you to read the rest, but I always have a cheated feeling when I get to the end of the first book in the series and it's 1-0 to the bad guy. Harry Potter actually handled this much better. Voldemort hadn't gone away and we knew that in subsequent books he'd be back to bother Harry and co, but Harry had *stopped* him getting the Philosopher's Stone. It was 1-0 to Harry at that point. This series leaves you 1-0 to Valentine and it just leaves me with an uncomfortable feeling of being manipulated to read on.

Oh, and the big reveal? Telegraphed a few chapters out. Shame.

I would read on, but I'll be borrowing the next one from the library, rather than buying it. 4 stars because it's a decent example of young adult literature and the kids obviously love it, but it's not without its flaws.

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