Sunday, August 16, 2015

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare book review

When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder― much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It's hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing―not even a smear of blood―to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary's first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It's also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace's world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know...

Exotic and gritty, exhilarating and utterly gripping, Cassandra Clare's ferociously entertaining fantasy takes readers on a wild ride that they will never want to end.

My rating: 2/5

“City of Bones” by Cassandra Clare had been one of those books that I had heard about everywhere. People loved it, others hated it. Some had pointed out it’s fanfiction origins as something troublesome, complete with some plagiarism claims, others praised its originality in including characters not seen before in common YA novels such as POC and LGBTQ. I had always stood by and watched as the discussions developed but, having not read the books myself, I only read one or two discussions out of curiosity, never really going deep into the matter.

But then, my friend loved it. Her eyes would just light up when she told me a thing or two about the plot, how she was hoping to have time to read so she could finish the series and see if a certain plot twist was true. She catch on some of that enthusiasm to me, and so of course I to read it! It would have been awesome if we could had fangirled together. I love fantasy, and especially series. As much as I love standalone books, I always end up with a little empty feeling, knowing that that is the last time I’ll see those characters and worlds. I need more, and there is a consolation in knowing that the stories will continue, hopefully even improve and we can stay with those worlds for a long time.

Unfortunately, the City of Bones universe and its characters are not things I want to keep with me.

The book is about fifteen year old Clary Fray, who after her mother disappears under mysterious circumstances, she discovers that she is a Shadowhunter a person who can see and kill demons. It will be up to Clary to find out what happened to her mother and the answers might be more dangerous than she ever expected.

Warning, the following is a negative review of the beloved City of Bones, if you do not wish to have your vision tarnished, I suggest you stay away from this opinion of mine. If you don’t care, carry on.

The first thing that called my attention was the writing style. Even though I had heard about its fanfiction’s origins, it didn’t keep me from reading it. I have nothing against fanfiction inspiration, though I do have some problems with plagiarism. Regardless, as I started City of Bones I was taken aback to those summer days when college was over, and I had free time to mess around and read whatever I wanted. Fanfiction of my favourite shows/movies/books was usually my cup of tea. I don’t want to sound mean, though whenever people say that they usually accompany it by something mean… but City of Bones didn’t remind me of those excellent works with fluent writing style, amazing plotting and character development no, it reminded me of those Fanfics were characters are so OCC you wonder how someone could have gotten things so wrong, Mary Sues and Gary Stues are the “it” thing and there are a lot of problematic stuff such as abusive love interests, rape as plot device, etc.

The writing style was incredibly slow, and I soon began annoyed by it. Every action had an adjective “Clary said, curiously.” “Said Jace, sarcastically.” “Clary chew pensatively.” It’s perfectly alright to describe a few actions of course! But EVERY single verb was accompanied by an adjective, it became annoying and I began to predict what adjective would be used next compared to which ones had been used before. Soon we start to notice a pattern; an adjective would be used, after five or so descriptions later when another variety had been used, it would resurface again. I read the same word repeated SIX times in the same sentence, SIX! Not even when I’m writing at 3AM I let those mistakes pass, what was the editor thinking?


Besides that, there were a bunch of misspellings and name changes that belonged more to an uncorrected reader’s copy rather than a finished book.

There was a need to describe everything, from the surroundings to the clothes, to the very littlest detail when there was no place for that. It reminded me of Fanfiction when authors do this to up their word count. It didn’t help with the plot or to develop more the characters or the settings, those descriptions only helped in making the reading drag along endlessly.

The world-building was something that I really liked, you could see that there was a lot of thought put into it. Sure it wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t mind it. But as great as it was, the way it was delivered did not help in my enjoyment of the book. The explanations on the Shadowhunters’ world, it’s elements and history consisted of various info-dumps. Basically a character (usually Clary or Simon, but sometimes Shadowhunters themselves, as if they didn’t know their own history) would ask how something worked or why was it like that, to which someone would reply “Well, it actually is…” and then ten paragraphs of mindless info dumps of the “copy-and-paste-wikipedia-article”. 

Usually, when explaining the world, especially in fantasy when authors are creating new cultures, rules and history it is better if the explanations are incorporated with the action, if we can learn what we need for the story to continue and for us to make sense of it as the story develops. Instead, in City of Bones we would learn the rules of, I don’t know, rune making when a character sneezed, it was dumb and out of place.

“Demons,” drawled the blond boy, tracing the word on the air with his finger. “Religiously defined as hell’s denizens, the servants of Satan, but understood here, for the purposes of the Clave, to be any malevolent spirit whose origin is outside our own home dimension—”
“That’s enough, Jace,” said the girl.
“Isabelle’s right,” agreed the taller boy. “Nobody here needs a lesson in semantics—or demonology.”

Now on with the characters, and what other character to start with than the Main one, Clary Fray!

Oh Clary, what fun times we had together! Slut-shaming Mary Sues are just my favourite kind of characters.

Ok, seriously now, what the heck?! To say Clary was the least favourite part of the novel would be an understatement! Actually, no, scratch that because Jace was close enough (Yes, to my surprise I disliked the “witty and sarcastic” character but I’ll get on to that later.). 

When we first meet Clary she’s waiting in line to enter a club on a Sunday evening, which is apparently the busiest night of the week. Do people in the US don’t need to go to school on Mondays or work? I knew people who would go out on Sundays back in high school, but only once in a while because it was freaking Sunday!

Anyways, she’s standing with her best friend who is, oh so clearly in love with her, in a kind of creepy way because he gets jealous of every boy she looks at, and then Clary looks at a boy with some really weird eyes.
We are half page in, and there is already something bugging me. If you have read my reviews you know I’m not really picky when it comes to the writing style unless I absolutely adore it (Like Daughter of Smoke and Bone) or find it odd like Shatter Me. It is very strange for me to hate a style since I tend to focus on the characters and plot, so it takes something really especial for me to divert my attention to it. In this case, it wasn’t good. The imagery that these two words present are extremely different and yet they are presented to describe the same thing. Antifreeze sounds synthetic, doesn’t that just make you think that the guy has contact lens that make his eyes of an electrical green? And then we have spring grass. Just think about it, doesn’t it just make you feel relaxed? Don’t you think of the warm sun and lying on the grass? 

It’s just weird and confuses the reader on what to think about those eyes. But this, unfortunately is not an isolated incident and we’ll soon find more and more sentences when the word uses make no sense.

But wait, I was supposed to be talking about Clary. Well, Clary is in the club where she sees the guy with the confusing adjective use being followed by two guys with knives and, even though she yells it, nobody really seems to care that there is someone in the club with a knife. Still, her friend decides to do something useful and look for security while she decides that it’s smart to follow the two guys with knives to an isolated place where nobody would hear her scream and she’s not only outnumbered but has no weapons herself… we begin to see the signs of Clary’s intelligence.

But then, after she conveniently waits for the “Shadowhunters” to explain everything in a bunch of infodumps, during which Clary allows them to tie up and torture a seemingly innocent dude, she steps up when they are about to kill him… just… says “stop” and… doesn’t really do anything. Seriously, what the hell was she thinking? So they then give a whole explanation on how she shouldn’t see them and we hear about the name Valentine. Apparently, lately every time they have captured a demon they all say that Valentine is coming, and even though he was a Voldemort-like villain nobody gave two craps about this fact, they would just go “Oh you sassy-lassy demon! Why are you all saying in this last couple of months that an evil guy capable of doing anything has come back from the dead? Even though we never really saw him die, just found his burned corpse-which could have been anybody’s- and he is clearly dead?” It was pretty obvious that this Valentine guy was actually alive and was going to be the bad guy, so imagine my surprise when this happens to be the great revelation of the book! That’s right folks, the evil guy that everybody said was alive, was actually ALIVE!

I was talking about Clary, damn it! There are just too many things to complain about, sorry. 

After the incident, she goes back to her home, wondering why she was the only one who could see those people but not telling anybody, because why tell your mom or friends of symptoms of mental illness?

Ok, I know I still haven’t said much about Clary but it’s just that after finishing the book, there was not much to say about. She was the MC and yet she had no development, no depth. We know that she likes to draw, that she’s not very bright and can’t pick a clue even though it slaps her in the face but all the characters in the book are like that so… yeah, Clary was our typical Mary Sue, a girl that was especial because of reasons, who everybody loves… because of reasons, and who always needs saving… because of reasons. I saw no reason for Clary to stay with the Shadowhunters except that it was convenient for the plot.

She is also one of the most horrible people I have ever had the displeasure of reading about, which didn’t help with the rating on this book. Clary is incredibly sexist, the second she meets another girl, Clary judges her based on her looks. If she’s pretty then she is surely a “slut” (which is a bad thing, because all girls with self-esteem are clearly evil) and nothing like good, pure Clary who is obviously so much better because she… she was… Screw it, there is nothing. Just look at this:

“There's always Sheila 'The Thong' Barbarino," Clary suggested. Clary had sat behind her in math class in ninth grade. Every time Sheila had dropped her pencil—which had been often—Clary had been treated to the sight of Sheila's underwear riding up above the waistband of her super-low-rise jeans.

Ugggh what the hell are you even doing watching your classmate’s butt, Clary?? That’s just plain rude. Everything in this paragraph is so wrong, why the need to clarify that Sheila dropped pencils often? Nothing more than to bang us over the head how terribly “slutty” this girl is. Not to mention she wears “super-low-rise” jeans, WHY?? Why the need to say all these horrible things?

To Clary's surprise, Simon said nothing to this. He was too busy staring at Isabelle, rapt and openmouthed. Of course, Clary realized with a sharp stab of annoyance. Isabelle was exactly Simon's type—tall, glamourous, and beautiful. Come to think of it, maybe that was everyone's type. Clary stopped wondering about the peanut-fish-olive-tomato soup and started wondering what would happen if she dumped the contents of the pot on Isabella’s head.

Why? Because she’s beautiful? How can someone be so petty?

She seemed to shimmer in the lamplight—she was wearing a long silvery skirt and a sequined top, and her nails were painted like glittering coins. Strands of silver beads were caught in her dark hair. She looked like a moon goddess. Clary hated her.

My God woman! You are awful, no wonder you have only one friend if you treat everybody like that.

There was no depth to Clary’s character, this is the person that will drive the story forward and yet, what do we know about her? That she likes to draw, kind of, though it’s barely even addressed in the book. She’s dumb, but again, the whole writing style was really dumb. Clary had lots of evidence that her mother was a Shadowhunter and yet she cried out every time somebody mentioned the possibility, then we are supposed to be shocked when it is revealed that she is, in fact a Shadowhunter, same thing goes for the entire plot. It is kind of like if I gave you this for Christmas:


And the big mystery would be finding out what it is.

Clary’s plot in City of Bone is finding her mother, I think because she never really cared where her mother was except when it was convenient for the narration. I don’t know what it is that she is supposed to be doing besides antagonizing girls, being oblivious to Simon’s attraction toward her, acting jealous toward his relationship with Isabelle and denying stuff that were clearly true. I didn’t care for her, because she was nothing but a plot device. She had no personality (slapping people when they are trying to help you doesn’t count as “personality” to me) and no agency.

Nothing to care about.


Sarcastic, smart-mouth characters are my favourites, there is no question. I don’t know why, maybe it is because they speak to my rotten, evil soul that I try so hard to keep hidden? I don’t know and I don’t care, which is why I was particularly excited to meet Jace. He was described as the epitome of sarcasm, surely I would like him? But imagine my surprise when I meet him and find an asshole who can’t say something funny to save his life. The humour was so basic, it was not sarcasm, it was stupidity. 

Jace is a Shadowhunter, born and raised between the Shadowhuner community to hunt (duh) and kill demons. But he’s more than that, he’s also a brooding idiot with daddy issues who treats everyone like crap, but he also plays the piano which is irrefutable proof that he’s a wounded soul that needs love. 

Because playing the piano and liking poetry instantly makes you deep and complicated.

I kept waiting for something to happen that would change my mind about him, but he remained the same. I didn’t care about him and his relationship with Clary, mostly because I didn’t see what they saw in each other that was so great. The end, it was funny I’ll admit it. At least it had to cut the angst between the two of them even though it’s obvious they are not what it seems.
Isabelle was an interesting character, or at least she could have been if there had been more effort put into her. While Cassandra Clare spent pages and pages describing exactly why Jace and Clary are such a great fit, she put little to no effort in developing the secondary characters, not even their romantic relationships which seem to be all that matters when it comes to these peeps.

Alec had no personality, no agenda besides being the “gay guy” and I hated it. You can’t just throw a character that has a different sexuality, skin color and/or cultural background for the sake of saying “I’m different!” they are not props to use and make you look good, they are characters and should be treated with the same respect as everybody else. Instead we get a few mentions here and there but nothing else.

If anything, I loved Magnus Bane, what little we got from him was worth it.

I wish the story had been different, it had so much potential but it was wasted! Why instead of making Clary and Isabelle instant enemies they could become allies? If I were Clary, I would want someone as awesome as Isabelle helping me find my mom, just imagine that; two girls becoming friends (and maybe something more) and Jace can go and suck a lemon for all I care. Unless he has better character develop, then we’d see.

Overall, the writing was dull and mind-blogging, the characters were flat, the plot was predictable and boring. I did not enjoy it and I’m not planning on continuing with the series.

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