There’s been lotta hype surrounding the Mortal Instruments series and its author, Cassandra Clare, over the years. Some of the hype is good, some of it very, very bad. Clare has been accused of plagiarism in relation to this series, and I’ve read articles which reinforce those accusations and others which write them off as nonsense.
So what do I think? To be honest, I haven’t really read enough YA supernatural fantasy to really offer an opinion on which bits of City of Bones might be ripped off from somewhere else. However, I was keen to read a book which has sold millions of copies and been transformed into both a movie and a TV show – clearly there’s something about it that has people hooked and makes it such a talking point. I wanted to know what that something is.
And I still don’t know.
I didn’t like it. I haven’t been so disappointed in a book since I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
From the end of the very first chapter of City of Bones, I saw almost everything coming from a mile off. I knew who was in love with who, who was going to fall in love with who, who was going to betray who, and who was going to help save the day even though they said they wouldn’t. Each plot twist was so heavily foreshadowed that I didn’t find myself surprised in the slightest. Instead, I was just waiting to see when my predictions would come true.
My other big issue was that so much of the plot was slowed down by the fact that everyone fancied each other. I know YA typically drives the romance really hard, and I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s just not something I like, but in City of Bones it felt like the crushes and the flirting and the cheeky (read: cheesy) banter was the main plot, with the demon-hunting a mere side quest. It was too much, and it was all oh, so predictable.
And then there’s the cliched appearances of every character ever. We’ve got Isabelle, the hot girl who everyone must fancy, and Clary, the “plain” girl that apparently nobody ever looks at. Oh but then, lo and behold, it seems that everyone actually has the hots for the plain girl instead of thegorgeous one – what a surprise! Then there’s Simon, the nerdy guy who has glasses, because all nerds have glasses, right? And then Jace, the arrogant cool guy who is in dire need of a haircut because his hair keeps flopping into his eyes and he’s forever sexily flipping it out the way.
Look, I could ramble on for a while, here, so I’ll switch to bullet point form to try and keep it short:
- Every detail of each character’s appearance was described almost as soon as they entered a scene, which slowed down the pace and, quite frankly, bored me to tears.
- We’re reminded of the fact that the Shadowhunters have pale scars up all over their bodies from old runes about fifteen thousand times. Dude… I got it after the third time; they’re all covered in scars because of their demon-hunting jobs, they’re marked for life, isn’t it tough, yada yada, OKAY.
- The amount of times Clary “can’t believe” her mother could be or do X, Y or Z is infuriating. We get it, it’s all a bit of a surprise for Clary to discover her mother has a hidden past, but to flat-out refuse to accept revelation after revelation just becomes tiresome for the reader.
- There are lots of strange similes and metaphors and descriptors. For example: “The apple tasted green and cool.” Okay? So, you mean that it’s a little sour and refreshing? JUST SAY THAT THEN. Fucking hell. I don’t know why that one bothered me so much, but it just did. For a start, the way the apple tastes offers nothing to the scene, and secondly it just seems like a naff way to add some pretentious description and make the boring action of eating an apple seem more deep and meaningful than it really is. And this kind of thing is done over and over again throughout the book.
- The whole thing could have been at least 150 pages shorter and not been any worse for it. It could easily drop a tonne of mindless back and forth dialogue and repetitive description without the main plot being affected in the least.
Phew. I feel better now I’ve got all that out of my system.
It’s safe to say that I won’t be reading more in this series. And I know that as a 27-year-old, I’m not Cassandra Clare’s target audience, but that doesn’t mean to say I’m incapable of enjoying young adult fiction. Sure, my tastes lean further towards adult fiction, but there have been plenty of YA books I’ve loved over the years (The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Book Thief, and The Lovely Bones are just a few favourites that spring to mind). This just happens to be one that went straight over my head.
I hate writing negative book reviews because I feel like every book has redeeming features somewhere along the way. But in this one I just couldn’t find any. If anyone can tell my why the Mortal Instruments series has been so spectacularly popular, please enlighten me in the comments.Follow Ellie Scott on WordPress.com