City of Bones – The Mortal Instruments #1

City of Bones

Author: Cassandra Claire

Publication: 2007, Simon Pulse

Pages: 485

Overall Rating:  bth_5-star-rating_zps467d5332[1]                      

Rating for Action: bth_3-star-rating_zps73bdba73[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_3-star-rating_zps73bdba73[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary:  Clary thinks she’s just an average kid until one night she witnesses a group of armed teenagers that no one else can see kill a blue haired demon.  Soon Clary finds herself and her friend, Simon, caught up in the world of the Shadow Hunters or Nephilim – a race of half-human/half-angels who serve as the police of the underworld, protecting the human race and keeping order among the vampires, werewolves, fairies, mermaids, kelpies, and demons.  But Clary is more than just some random human who happens to have seen through the glamors that normally hide Nephilim.  She is Nephilim – descended through her mother, who fled the world of the Nephilim before Clary was born.  And when her mother goes missing, Clary and her new found friends – Jace, Alex, and Isabelle – will be tossed into a deadly battle as they struggle to keep the evil Valentine from capturing the Mortal Cup and taking over the Nephilim.

Age of Main Character: 15

What I Liked the Most: Claire has created a wonderfully imagined, full and complex world of vampires, werewolves, fairies, warlocks, demons, and shadow hunters.  She goes to great lengths to flesh out this world and make it real and unique, with everything from vampire motorcycles to the runes that shadow hunters ink into their skin to give them power.  The world of the shadow hunters is particularly well drawn, with plenty of allusions to their long history, cultural taboos, and even their home country of Idriss – a tiny nation, unknown to humans, that straddles the border between France and Germany.

Even though Clary is an outsider, new to the world of the Nephilim and completely untrained, Claire has managed given her a unique skill that helps her carve out a role for herself.  She only begins to develop the skill in this book, but the fact that it’s there at all is important because the Nephilim begin training as young children.  Clary can’t possibly match them in speed, strength, or fighting prowess, and it would have been easy for her to become little more than dead weight – something to be constantly saved and rescued by her more experienced friends.  Claire hasn’t made her into a warrior – which is good, because with no training she could never compete on that level – but she has given Clary a skill all her own, and I like that.

Finally, Clary is a great main character, with a lively and authentic voice.   I felt drawn into her character to a degree that’s unusual among third person narratives.  But Claire has done a fantastic job of bringing her to life and giving her just the right touch of humor, especially in her interactions with Jace and Simon.  And that’s important, because let’s face it, this is a dark story.  And if it weren’t for those touches of humor there might have been times when the book could have gone off the deep end into despair.  Lucky for us, that never happens.

What I Liked the Least: My only complaint is one that comes up fairly often in YA fiction.  There were simply too many times when Clary (and sometimes Jace) had to be saved by an adult – in this case an adult werewolf.  Now, the fact that he’s a werewolf plays nicely into the story and helps make it a little less obvious that Clary is being saved by an adult, but that’s still what happens.  And, like always, I’d have preferred it if the author could have found a way for Clary and Jace to escape some of those situations on their own.

How Good was the Action?  It’s not bad.  This is a story with a female lead and strong romantic elements.  Not surprisingly, the main focus here is on developing a tense, emotionally laden story.  But for all that the action scenes are fairly well done.  They rely mostly on tension and emotion rather than blow-by-blow detail, which makes sense because in most of the fight scenes it’s Jace  or the werewolf leading the action, not Clary.  But the tension and emotion work well, and there were plenty of times where I was glued to my seating trying to figure out how Jace and Clary were going to survive.  It might not have been rip roaring action, but it drew me in, got me excited, and held my interest, which is was what all good action scenes should ultimately do.

How Engaging was the Story? Claire did an amazing job of bringing Jace, Clary, and Simon to life and making me care about them.  She quickly pulled me into their world, with all its dangers, conspiracies, romantic longings, and labyrinthine plot twists.  Suffice to say, this was an extremely engaging read.

Overall Assessment: City of Bones is a fun, dark, wildly inventive story, full of vivid characters, with enough plot twists to keep you glued to the page.  It’s a wild ride that left me hungry for more.  I’ll definitely be checking out the next book in this series.

Profanity: None

Sex: Some – mostly just kissing and a bit of sexual innuendo

Violence: Some, but it’s not particularly bloody and the fights are not very graphic.

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