Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Review- City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1)
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.

(Cover and description taken from Goodreads)


As City of Lost Souls, book five in the Mortal Instruments series, has just been released (a curse on Lancaster University post for me not getting my pre-ordered copy on time!), I’ve decided to review the other four books in the series- which remains one of my favourite fantasy series of all time- starting with City of Bones. Cassandra Clare creates an inventive fantasy world in which supernatural creatures exist alongside humans, the majority of whom are unaware of them. The series follows Clary Fray, who thinks she is a normal teenager until she witnesses what appears to be a murder- except that both the murderers and the victim are apparently invisible to everyone but her. This is her first encounter with the Shadowhunters, ruthless demon hunters who believe she must be one of them and not, as she believed, a ‘mundane’, a human. The Shadowhunters, also known as the Nephilim, are rumoured to be the offspring of humans and angels, the angel blood in their veins giving them the ability to fight demons. Tattooed with various symbols which enhance their powers when activated, Shadowhunters live to defend our world against invading creatures from infernal dimensions.

Overnight, Clary’s ordinary life is shattered. Her mother disappears leaving no trace; a demon attacks her when she returns to her apartment; and Luke, a close friend of her mother’s, refuses to help her. Clary is forced to turn to the Shadowhunters for answers, discovering that there was more than one secret buried beneath her seemingly ordinary life. Her mother was a Shadowhunter in hiding, a secret Luke was apparently in on; and her father never died in an accident. Instead, as Clary learns in horror, her father was none other than Valentine, leader of the Circle, a group of extreme Shadowhunters dedicated to destroying all Downworlders- creatures they deemed to be ‘impure’, such as vampires, faeries, werewolves and warlocks. Believed to be dead for fifteen years, demons whisper that Valentine has returned, and it seems he has taken his former wife captive in the search for an object known as the Mortal Cup.

But there is more at work, for someone has placed a block in Clary’s memories, which is why she had no knowledge of her true nature. She is taken into the City of Bones to seek answers about the memories she has hidden, only to find that even the sinister Silent Brothers are unable to remove the block- she will have to find the warlock who put the spell on her in the first place. Her loyal friend Simon is dragged into this world also, and seems to be entranced by Isabelle, a beautiful but cold Shadowhunter, much to Clary’s annoyance. The other Shadowhunters are equally unfriendly: Jace irritates Clary with his constant sarcasm, and Alec is openly hostile towards her as a supposed ‘mundane’. Meanwhile, the various plot strands weave tighter, revelations abound- and the twists at the end are truly shocking.

This is far and away the best urban fantasy series I’ve read. The idea of an invisible magical world existing alongside ours is of course one that has been used a million times, but Clare creates something truly unique here. We learn early on that the Shadowhunters are not magic-users; that itself is in fact what makes them human. Instead we meet some truly gruesome demons, a warlock who throws lavish parties for his cat’s birthday, and vampires who turn into rats when intoxicated. Humour and horror abound in this melee of fantastical mayhem- and thankfully, there are no sparkly vampires in sight. Clare has a real gift for writing vividly and her world comes to life through enviably beautiful prose. The characters step off the page, and you can’t help but love the majority of them. The plot mirrors the classic journey into the Underworld, an appropriate touch given the demonic schemes at work. A brilliant start to an addictive series: be warned, the descent into hell is easy, but getting out is another matter…

Rating: *****

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