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. (Synopsis from Goodreads)
City of Bones seems to be for Harry Potter what Shannara is for Lord of the Rings. It’s something written with an obvious deep love for the series, its characters and its themes. It’s certainly not a direct copy, and I’d say less derivative than Shannara, but the influence is clear. It’s something that the fans can devour when they’ve finished the original and are desperate for more. It therefore came as no surprise to me to learn that the author, Cassandra Clare, began by writing Harry Potter fan fiction.
This is the kind of story that Harry Potter fans will most likely love, but I think it’s very accessible to anyone, and because there’s no magical school or lessons, the focus is more on the action and the secrets that Clary is trying to unravel. Clary has a similar sense of ‘specialness’ about her that can grate in the same way that Harry’s does, but thankfully she does not appear to be the centre of any prophecies. The magic also has a very different feeling; it’s not wizards learning spells and fighting other wizards, but more paranormal and rooted in old folklore and legends. There are werewolves, vampires, nephilim, faeries, demons and other similar things (all the stories are true, we’re told), and there are Shadowhunters who protect the world from demons and forces of evil. Add to this a ‘dark lord’ character who has gathered a group of supporters to help him rid the world of the creatures he despises, and we basically have Harry Potter meets Buffy.
Being a big fan of both Buffy and Harry Potter, I found this a lot of fun. The book is very easy to enjoy; it reads quickly, there’s a lot of things happening, some great weaving of the magical world and the mundane world, and intriguing relationships between the characters. Clary’s companions are an interesting bunch. Isabelle at first appears to be the bitchy girl who’s jealous of Clary, but thankfully her character is more complicated, and the tension between them is addressed in quite an honest way. This is nice, though it’s a shame it didn’t happen much earlier in the book, as groups of friends in children’s and young adult novels rarely seem to involve two girls who actually get along.
I’m intrigued to see what will happen between Isabelle’s brother Alec, and Magnus, who has the potential to be a great character if he joins the team. Jace is obviously supposed to be the sarcastic jerk who we can’t help but love, but he’s pretty tame compared to others of his type, and I actually found him quite sweet a lot of the time. His tough-guy act is as transparent as glass, to both Clary and the reader. I found Jace and Clary’s relationship believable and endearing, and I’m sceptical that the ‘twist’ at the end is really what it seems, although I would be impressed if Cassandra Clare actually sticks to it. (I say ‘twist’ because I thought it was set up very obviously from quite early on, so it certainly wasn’t a shocker for me).
There isn’t really anything new here, but all the typical elements of paranormal urban fantasy are used well, and the story is exciting, well-paced, and extremely compelling. City of Bones is a fun book with a lot of potential to be a great series. I’m looking forward to catcing up on it and seeing where the series goes!