A few nights ago, I couldn’t sleep. So I picked up one of the books I’d checked out at the library and gave it a whirl, hoping it would keep me occupied until I could finally shut my eyes. The book was City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, a New York Times bestseller soon to have the aformentioned book made into a movie. (I’ve seen the preview. It looks relatively neat except Lily Collins looks nothing like Clary and Jace has no snark. What?)
Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series has been a smash-hit among the Young Adult fantasy-loving crowd, and I was curious to know why. It sounded like an awesome idea – I mean we’ve got hunters, Silent Brothers, vampires, werewolves, villains, and the supposedly swoon-worthy Jace. I had heard a lot about Jace.
This book let me down. In fact, it let me drop about a thousand feet from the top of a cliff without a safety rope and with no mattress/trampoline/moss bed to catch me. After everything I’d heard, after all the raving reviews, City of Bones was so bad I didn’t even finish it. Not because the content was so horrid, though I did have a few bones to pick. I didn’t finish it because I didn’t want to. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was a big surprise.
City of Bones was worse than Eragon. It made Eragon look like a piece of classic literature. It made the characters in Eragon look deeper than the Mariana Trench.
Let me break it down for you exactly why I disliked this book so much – and how you can avoid falling into so many of the traps Cassandra seemed to enjoy hanging around in.
– Jace –
The boy every girl was supposed to fall in love with at first sight. The boy who was supposed to sweep the entire female species off their feet. The boy who was said to be as sexy as all get-out. Okay, my first peeve – the guy is sixteen years old. Sixteen. I’m almost nineteen, and having a sixteen-year-old constantly described as hot or sexy or swoony made me feel practically creep-worthy. This book is popular among the 14-20-year-old range, and all I could think about was his age.
Also…um, I got 7/10ths through the novel and Jace never did anything remotely hero-like. He was, in fact, a jerk. The entire foundation of his character was his sarcastic, snarky wit – which he pulled out every time he opened his mouth. Clare tried to give some deepness to him, but it fell flat and he ended up being a smart-aleck teenager who has supposedly had a tough life we’re supposed to sympathize with and who can’t say anything nice. Seriously, the nicest thing he does is take Clary to the greenhouse on her birthday to show her a flower.
Uuhhh. I’m sorry. But Jace’s character had little to no substance. While his snappy remarks were entertaining and funny, a person is not entirely made of rapier-wit. Jace lacked everything but a sharp tongue and gold eyes.
– Predictability –
Excuse me, Ms. Clare, but your plot twist is showing. Or was that supposed to be a plot twist? One thing that super annoyed me about this book was the way she ‘foreshadowed’ things (and I use the term ‘foreshadow’ in the very loosest sense). It was as if she assumed the reader was stupid and could not figure things out for themselves, so she would dangle a five-pound ‘hint’ in front of them and say “HEY LOOK DOESN’T THIS SEEM LIKE *WINKWINKNUDGEWINK* IMPORTANT? DOESN’T IT? HUH? HUH?”
What were supposed to be clever ‘leads’ were actually signposts giving away every plot twist before it happened. Oh, your mother was married to Valentine? That’s nice. Oh, Simon likes Clary? Yeah, we could see that from the first page. Oh, that dude’s a vampire? Really? Shock. No way.
– The Political Correctness –
I should be expecting this more in YA literature, but it the gay-friendly movement still takes me by surprise. Now, I don’t hate gays, neither am I a homophobe. But I do believe that homosexuality is wrong – and so having the good guys be gay irritates me and turns me off to books. Depending on how blatant it is, it even completely turns me off to the novel (I know homosexuals in real life and I enjoy their company. We talk. We have fun. This is a ‘love the person, hate the sin’ situation.) So while I could have dealt all right with a homosexual villain, having one of the main good guys be discovered as a homosexual was a gigantic “Oh, come ON, just NO” to me. It was pretty soon after this little ‘discovery’ that I just put the book down.
– The similes –
I like similes. Similes are cool. I have fun writing similes.
I do not stick them in. every. bloody. paragraph. in. which. a. simile. could. possibly. be. squeezed. in.
– The spiritual side of things –
So I was okay with the demon thing here, because the demons weren’t actually demons. In this novel ‘demon’ is a term given to any creature that is not human – any dark creature that the demon hunters like Jace and Isabella are supposed to track down and kill/send back/what have you.
But then you go and find out that the demon hunters are supposed to be part…angel? And there’s a Cup you can drink of that had angel blood in it with which you can make more demon hunters?
…Whaaat? Okay. I can see the author was just trying to be creative but as a Christian, this was just too incorrect. And then Jace, who is supposed to be part angel, says he doesn’t even believe in God.
….I’m trying to compute this, but I suppose it’s the way a liberal author deals with angels and demons without wanting to mention or give credit to their Creator. Definitely seems like the hard way to go about things, but maybe that’s just me.
*rubs temples and sighs*
This book was, as I said, a disappointment and I’m fairly surprised that so many people love this series. The writing style itself wasn’t bad – in fact, it had some very nice moments – and the snappy dialogue was entertaining. But City of Bones read more like something fresh out of NaNoWriMo – unpolished, lacking plot, dialogue-heavy, and by all means unfit for publication – than a real hot-off-the-presses novel. I don’t hate the author or anything like that. And I do completely adore the covers for her books – seriously, they’re pure eye candy and they’re some of my favorite book covers in YA literary history. I know this post probably came across as a bash-fest for Cassandra Clare – and honestly, I think she could do better. A LOT better. But I don’t hate her.
I hope that one day she will improve, and I hope that other writers can learn from her mistakes. Thank you, and goodnight.