Review: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Publication Date: March 27, 2007
 

Synopsis:
Clary Fray saw them. She saw a group of teenagers with strange tattoos and weapons kill a boy. And she saw the body disappear.

Thrown into the world of Shadowhunters when her mother suddenly disappears, Clary is forced to learn about a world she never knew and trust a boy who acts more like a jerk than his good looks would have you believe.

Now, nothing is what she knew. Clary should never have been able to see demons and Shadowhunters, but she does. And everyone wants to find out why.

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Rating: 3 stars
Thoughts:

Let me be honest with you, the main reason why I started this is because I wanted to watch Shadowhunters on TV.

This has to be one of the most popular series out there, and I’ve had so many people tell me to read this. A number of my own friends have read this and recommended it as well, one even squealing and grabbing me in excitement when I mentioned the series. So I’m sure you can understand my hesitation when it came to starting this book. I mean, with all the hype surrounding it, I didn’t really know how that would influence my opinion of the book. Since I had heard many mixed reviews about the first book, I decided to jump in with the lowest expectations.

Okay, when I say “lowest expectations,” I mean that I did my best to ignore everything I’ve heard about the book. Which was fine in the beginning, but after I got about 1/3 of the way through, I began questioning why I saw so many 5 star reviews on Goodreads. In a way, I could understand why people liked it so much, but throughout the book, I stayed on the other side with the people who didn’t feel like this was really that special.

The simplest way to put it is that I’m not impressed. Of course I’d heard a lot of mixed things, and like I said, I did my best to ignore it, but that didn’t change the opinion I had once I got a couple of chapters into the book. From all the hype that the series was getting, I had expected something better out of the first book. Sure, many people say to push past the first two before things really get interesting, but that made me wonder why there are so many 5 star reviews on Goodreads of this first installment. Are those the opinions of people who have re-read the books? Or do some people really love the series from the first book?

Maybe my prior knowledge of people’s opinions affected me more than I initially wanted, but with such a popular book, how could it not? There’s also the fact that I have been mildly spoiled on the series (don’t worry, I won’t spoil you) that just changes how I view the story.

Info-dumping is easily one of the biggest pet peeves a reader can have. Being force-fed chunks of information at a time to either extend the plot or explain something conveniently before battle or an epic reveal makes it so easy for one to just put a book down and leave it forever. Personally, I don’t have as much of a problem with info-dumping as a lot of other readers do, mostly because I love learning about someone/something’s backstory in detail, but there are cases when that can be too much for me too. About 1/3 of this book was just info-dumping from one character or another. Sure, there’s plenty of explanation necessary for this urban fantasy world, but did all of that really have to happen in the first book? It’s already well over 400 pages, and now a third of it is going to be relatively boring?

I can understand that info-dumps are necessary at certain points of the story, but it doesn’t all have to happen in one book. Very much like the mistake present in Allegiant, most of the world-building, backstory, and info-dumps happened all in one book. I mean, if that book is one of George R. R. Martin’s infamously intense and long books, then by all means, go ahead; but this is a YA urban fantasy that doesn’t even begin to have a political system that’s as remotely complicated as Game of Thrones (Disclaimer: I have not read Game of Thrones or watched the show, but I’m aware of how extensively complicated it can be). Heck, this first book isn’t even as complicated as the Pretty Little Liars TV show (which I still can’t fully map out after watching the show for 3-4 years) and yet we’re constantly thrown so much information that I can’t even remember it all.

On a similar note, Clary, our protagonist, is somehow just okay with being thrown into the Shadowhunter world literally minutes after finding out vaguely what it is. She doesn’t freak out, panic, or even take a split second to think about how absurd it can all sound, she just accepts it and the plot moves on. And for some strange reason, she just knows stuff about the Shadowhunter world (kind of explained as the book goes on, but not really) that a Mundane shouldn’t know. Clary has this wild ability to just pick things up at the drop of a hat, despite having zero experience with anything Shadowhunter-related. I mean, I know some really smart and talented people who can pick up instruments, academics, languages, or Rubik’s cubes and learn them with ease, but understanding a whole hidden world takes more than just a few minutes to grasp. It took me over a week to read this book and I don’t think I’ve even grasp half as much as Clary has.

There’s also this strange phenomenon that keeps happening throughout the book where Clary just knows something without any foreshadowing, logic, or prior knowledge. She connects the dots like a teenager working at a toddler’s activity book and just has this ability to know and reveal things that don’t actually make sense considering there was no prior indication. One example is when she reveals something about one of the other characters without there being any hint of that revelation at all in any other part of the story. She just knows this random thing without the reader being able to see it, and then it’s just left as a plot point. Isn’t that just a little extreme?

Often times, in YA literature, it’s common to find a female protagonist who is stunning, yet has no idea that she is so beautiful. The protagonist will look at another girl, wish longingly that she looked like a model, and spend the rest of the series being told how beautiful she is. That’s pretty common, and unfortunately, I’m somewhat used to it, but this is different. There’s a line from this book that specifically says, “She knew she wasn’t beautiful like her mother was. To be beautiful you had to be willowy and tall. When you were as short as Clary was, just over five feet, you were cute. Not pretty or beautiful, but cute” which really pissed me off. Take this from someone who is just about 5’3, I’m not cute. I may not be as tall as a model, have legs that stretch for miles, or be “willowy,” but I’m sure as hell not “cute.” Ask any one of my friends, I typically look like I’m either a college student or in my early-twenties. Being short doesn’t make me cute, in fact, for someone my height, I’ve been told that I’m both scary and intimidating.

But I’m getting sidetracked (slightly). What the heck is that standard of beauty? What kind of description is that? Sure, society gravitates towards women with small frames, tall bodies, large breasts, and toned muscles, but what the hell is wrong with being short? Why does that mean that short girls have to opt for being cute instead of beautiful? I know some women (like my mom) who aren’t even close to my height and yet they’re absolutely stunning! I’m sure I could list about twenty different female celebrities who are shorter than I am and yet considered to be some of the most stunning women in the world. So why is it that Cassandra Clare keeps saying that to be considered beautiful, one has to be tall and thin? Why is it so difficult for Clary to see that she has a beauty of her own without having to be told by a guy? Why the hell is this description of “beauty” even in the book? Yes, I am clearly very pissed off by this because I don’t believe that it’s true.

Okay, maybe I’m being too harsh, but these are the things that stood out to me when I read the book. What did also stand out was the writing style, which was incredibly flowery. Now, I don’t have a problem with that, and I think it can be really great in some cases, like the Lord of the Rings, but sometimes, authors need to take a chill pill when describing stuff. I get that giving readers a vivid description is a great thing, and I’m sure every reader appreciates a good description, but it can be a little…extreme every once in awhile. Like when Jace shrugged philosophically. Yes, he actually did that, not that I know how one is supposed to do that. I’m actually going to ask several of my guy friends to attempt to shrug philosophically so that I can understand what that would look like.

That aside, I did appreciate the vivid descriptions as I think it helped me with picturing a lot of the places that were mentioned. As someone who has a powerful imagination, it was nice to have details to rely on instead of making something up in my head that would later turn out to be the complete opposite of what the author intended.

The plot of the book was simple enough to grasp, but it didn’t do it for me. I wasn’t able to get invested or really care about anything that was going on. There was plenty of action and romance sprinkled about, but nothing really jumped out at me. Somehow, I just couldn’t connect with the book or its characters enough to make me really want to continue reading. I was able to predict many twists, but for the most part, nothing actually surprised me. Even with the big twists that shocked most people, I just kind of went “ehh” mentally and continued reading.

It goes to show just that this book was really easy for me to read. Maybe not the most enjoyable or intriguing thing I’ve ever read, but it was easy enough that I didn’t feel like it was a chore to get through the book. Though I didn’t find myself wishing to find out what was happening next, I did find that it was really easy for me to get back into the world and read chunks of the story at a time. I think that ended up being one of the reasons why I’m giving this book a 3 star rating.

Character(s):
Clary is so annoying. I don’t understand the appeal of her as a character, though I understand that many other people feel this way too. I don’t like how everything comes so easily to be for no apparent reason and I don’t like her mood swings. Along with that, her treatment of other people pisses me off. If I ever met someone like her in person, I’d have a few slaps and a long lecture ready.

People keep talking about how Jace is such a swoon-worthy guy and how amazing he is, but I found him really annoying. He’s narcissistic, cocky, and such a smart-ass. Now, to be fair, there’s an extent of that which I am okay with. I have a friend who has all those traits, but he’s joking 98% of the time. I don’t have a problem with cocky people as long as there’s someone there to bring them down a couple of notches, but no one ever did that with Jace. Everyone treated him like this amazing prodigy who was so skilled that no one would ever compare. So no, I don’t think he’s cute, attractive, swoon-worthy, or really worth fangirling over. Though, of course, that could change as I continue with the series.

Simon is such a sweetheart. Yes, I know that people often find him annoying, but I love him. His quick-wit, sarcastic comments, and overall willingness to help made me love the scenes where he was present. He may have sulked a little, but I can totally understand why. I get that most people found him annoying because of how he feels about Clary, but I also understand how Simon feels. And I think that because I understand how he feels, I don’t find him annoying. In fact, I don’t think Clary even deserves to have a friend like him because she treats him so badly.

Isabelle is perhaps the other element of comic relief, aside from Simon, in this book. I feel like there’s a lot more to her than what we got in this book, but it wasn’t developed. Hopefully, we’ll get to see more of her character development as the series progresses. I do enjoy reading about her and I want to see more of her in the future. She may not be well developed at this point, but I think she has a lot of potential to be a really great character by the end of the series.

Alec. Dear, sweet Alec. I love him. Is that wrong? I feel like people don’t really talk about him. I think he’s great. I want to see so much more of him. Aside from him, Magnus and Simon are the only other characters that I’m more invested in. There’s just something about Alec that appeals to me so much. I think it’s his protective nature, or maybe something else I have yet to see about his personality, but I really love this guy.

I’m actually really confused as to what role Luke is supposed to play. He’s kind of like a father-figure in the beginning, but then he’s not. For most of the book where he’s present, he just kind of flops between a bunch of different roles like a fish out of water. It’s like there isn’t one specific role he was meant to play in the book, so he was just thrown into several to see which fits him best.

How do I begin to talk about Hodge? I liked him in the beginning, but by the end of the book, I actually forgot that he really existed. I wouldn’t say that I was really annoyed by him, because that would imply caring about this book, but I can’t deny negative feelings towards Hodge.

Overall:
3 stars. I know I had a lot of negative things to say about this book, but it’s mostly just that I don’t get the hype around it. This isn’t the first series with a lot of hype around it that I’m disappointed in, but I just don’t get it. If you still want to pick up the series and give it a shot because so many people love it, I’d say that it’s not a bad idea. Just try not to expect too much out of this if you do decide to read it.

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