October 10

City of Bones: Critical Review

City of Bones opens at a dance club called Pandemonium. Inside, a demon searches for prey among the dancing humans. By slowing this scene down and choosing the correct words, Clare turns a simple walk across a crowded club into a sort of dance that also raises the tension in her novel.  This is seen in passages like:

His hand tightened on the blade he carried and he had begun to step out onto the dance floor when a girl broke away from the mass of dancers and began walking toward him. (…) She smiled, passing him, beckoning with her eyes.  He turned to follow her, tasting the phantom sizzle of her death on his lips. (3)

Despite the demon’s unsavory intentions, this passage has a clear flirtatious feel to it, at least from the girl who is later identified as Isabelle. She is acts almost predatorily with the way she moves around him, makes sure that he sees her and he watches.  We know she’s constantly moving but readers may not realize how much it’s mentioned because Clare wisely chose her words carefully. Instead of several “walks” and “moves,” readers instead encounter “step out,” “broke away,” “neared him” and “passing him.”  Keeping their constant movement from feeling repetitive as it would have if Clare had used the same set of words repetitively to tell the actions.

On the next page, the constant walking continues with the following passage but Clare’s choice of words only adds to the tension that the author has already started to build:

The girl was a pale ghost retreating through the colored smoke. She reached the wall and turned, bunching her skirt up in her hands, lifting it as she grinned at him. Under the skirt she was wearing thigh-high boots.
He sauntered up to her, his skin prickling with her nearness. (…)
A cool smiled curled his lips. She moved to the side and he could see that she was leaning against a closed door. No Admittance—Storage was scrawled across it in red paint.  She reached behind her for the knob, turned it, slid inside.  (…)
He slipped into the room after her, unaware that he was being followed. (4)

Here the words that Clare uses to show the girl’s movements up the tension in the same way that simply slowing the scene down does. The word “retreat” has connotations of fear and prey attached to it.  However the word sauntered is the opposite. Someone who saunters is confident, perhaps even a predator. And as readers are aware that the boy/demon wishes to make a meal of the girl, the tension is raised with those word choices.

In two pages, with the two above passages, Clare describes the boy and girl walking at least ten times and only actually uses the word walking once.  Instead Clare uses descriptions like “retreat,” “sauntered,” or “pass” to add more tension and keep redundancy at bay.

Works Cited
Clare, Cassandra. City of Bones: The Mortal Instruments #1. New York: Simon Pulse, 2008. Print.
October 1

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

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. . . .

I felt…wronged by this book. It started off with so much potential and then it backslid, reverting to already popular story lines to tell the rest of the story, namely Harry Potter and Star Wars. It made the book entirely too predictable for my taste. However, the way this first book is written, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some of the plot lines established in this book are reneged on later,  “Oh, yeah.  We told you that.  But it wasn’t true.  Surprise!”, which would suck and I really don’t like books that do that to you.

I did enjoy the banter found in the book. However everyone in the story seems to have been blessed with a repertoire of witty comebacks, which is a bit unrealistic but I was willing to let it pass. The action scenes had a lot of potential, but I don’t think they moved along fast enough or had enough tension to really keep my interest.

There were a lot of plot conveniences. Clary’s mother is kidnapped, kept unconscious but otherwise, from what readers are shown, left unharmed. In effect, Clary no longer has an adult she needs to worry about.  The information her mother could have provided her is  revealed until a more dramatic moment. There really weren’t any adults in the book.  One is stuck inside the Institute forever and the Brotherhood does basically nothing. Lupien…I mean Luke (that’s his real name. But he also has similarities to Skywalker and to Snape) “saves” the day after being absent for most of the book.

At one point, Jace takes Clary to a restaurant and they discuss the menu.  “That food is for werewolves, Kelpie, Zombies, vampires, Sirens.”  Honestly what was the point of that scene? As far as I could tell they were naming every mythological creature they could to show they were a part of the world Clare built but some of the creatures listed are so rare, I’m sure not everyone would know what they were talking about and there was no explanation for the creatures they named. So if you didn’t know what a Kelpie was, well, look it up.

A lot of Clare’s similes and metaphors are awful.

“Leaving the Institute was like climbing into a wet, hot canvas bag.”

Um.  How does one fit into a canvas bag, wet or otherwise?

“Her face felt like one big bruise, her arms, aching and stinging, like raw meat.”

I think there would be a lot more vegetarians out there if raw meat stung upon contact.  I could be wrong, however.

Clary is whiny and, other than complaining and getting mad at other people, doesn’t seem to do much. She does manage to find the cup everyone is looking for but that doesn’t help her case much as it was a small thing. She does punch and hurt a few people, but considering they were all on her side can’t really be attributed to her doing something in the book. She got credit for killing a demon but a frightened two year-old could have done what she did. So apparently ravener demons aren’t that hard to kill.

Very few of my friends would find value in reading City of Bones. It’s very much an introductory novel that could have been significantly trimmed down and a little less Star Wars-esque. If I read any of the sequels to this book, it’ll be because I’m hoping the storyline gets better. However, if you don’t mind a do-nothing-female protagonist and a predictable storyline it may have some entertainment value.