June 6, 2009

Book Review: "City of Bones" by Cassandra Clare

Title: City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments: Book One)
Author: Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster)
Published: February 2008 (paperback)
ISBN-13 978-1-4169-5507-8
Pages: 485
Genre: Urban Fantasy (Young Adult)

As one of my Christmas gifts, I got to go on a bit of a shopping spree at the nearest independent bookstore, The Inside Story. After finding three titles I'd been longing to read, I had some coin leftover to get a fourth book. As I let my eyes wander over the covers and spines of various books along each shelf, I recalled a podcast by Guardian Books--I'm pretty sure that was the website--with a brief interview with Cassandra Clare and her second book in the series, City of Ashes. No sooner did the thought enter my mind when I saw the cover for City of Bones on a shelf at eye level. I had my fourth book.

The Library of Congress' summary will do: "Suddenly able to see demons and the Shadowhunters who are dedicated to returning them to their own dimension, fifteen-year-old Clary Fray is drawn into this bizarre world when her mother disappears and Clary herself is almost killed by a monster."

It's pretty much at this point where I finally had a name to my appreciation to this sub-genre: urban fantasy. It's all over the place now, I am slow to learn, and as an unwitting fan I am pleased to put a name to the face.

Sufficed to say that I liked this novel. Clary's best friend, Simon, reminded me just a little of Buffy Summers' friend, Xander--a healthy blend of loyalty and cynicism. And while, I might have been content to read a derivative piece of Buffy-esque literature, I was pleased to see Clare created a universe she can uniquely call her own. Jace, the brooding young bad-boy of tale, and the rest of the Shadowhunters made up an entertaining brood … especially during moments of down-time at their headquarters. Simon's budding crush on Isabelle, the lone female Shadowhunter of the group, was particularly amusing. Been there, buddy.

The action is paced well, with plenty of entertaining characters through-out. There is enough life and substance to each character, I would think it unfair to call the story clich├ęd and hackneyed. Clare did a fine job weaving a tale for kids and kids at heart. The only criticism I have about the book was the infernal cliffhanger ending, surrounding the fate of Clary's mother. But, it is the first tale in a trilogy, I suppose. Some leniency needs to be afforded there.

I'm not sure where all of these UF authors rank--there is an absolute litany of them when you look closer--but I will say my two samplings so far, from Cassandra Clare and Jaye Wells, have me feeling very optimistic about reading titles from other authors in the genre. And, if I happen to come across a few names hailed by Clare herself, I think I can take her word for it.

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