Review: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

November 1, 2009 Review 6

City of Bones (Mortal Instruments, Book 1)
by Cassandra Clare

imageBook Description:

When 15-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.

If Harry Potter and Wicked Lovely had a book baby it would be City of Bones. I had been looking forward to reading this book for a long time, and I really have no good reason for waiting as long as I did.

Good world building is paramount in urban fantasy, and City of Bones, if a little small feeling at times, doesn’t disappoint.  In the Bible, Nephilim are the children of humans and fallen angles, but in City of Bones (COB), they are the result of the Angel Raziel mixing his own blood with human blood together in a magical Mortal Cup. Nephilim, known as Shadowhunters, are demon hunters that exist (along with angels, demons, vampires, werewolves, faeries etc.) in an alternate New York.

15 going on 16 year old Clary Fray accidentally stumbles into this world when she witnesses  three teenage Shadowhunters kill a demon in human guise.  Clary and her mundane (basically muggle, or human) best friend Simon are soon swept up into a race to find the Mortal Cup before it falls into the hands of the villainous  former Shadowhunter Valentine.

Packed with lots of action, and young romantic angst, COB is not groundbreaking in any way, but it is a fun read for lovers of paranormal YA. There are some lengthy explanatory passages that feel out of place given the urgency of the situation in which they appear. Some of the glib/pithy dialogue falls flat, especially when uttered when other characters were near death etc.  Pulled me out of the story a bit.

I’ll also admit, without revealing any spoilers, that the ending revelation made me extremely uncomfortable. I’m still kind of mad about it.  I haven’t read the rest of the series yet, but I hope the author addresses the implications of that revelation, or better yet reveals something that negates that revelation.  I’m not holding my breath on that one though.  On her website, Cassandra Clare offers these words:

“At the risk of spoiling anyone, all I can say is that it’s more than just a twist; if you’re really invested in Jace and Clary, you shouldn’t give up on them yet — there’s still a lot to come in their future, a lot of surprises about their history, and plenty more developments in the Jace/Clary/Simon love triangle.”

Jace was easily the most interesting character.  I found his behavior, given his upbringing, to be very authentic.  I also enjoyed how his character and motivations were revealed slowly throughout the story.  I’ll be reading  the rest of this series just to find out more about him.

Sexual Content: Some talk about about sex from minors.  Kissing.

Author Comments:

“When I sat down to sketch out the book, I wanted to write something that would combine elements of traditional high fantasy — an epic battle between good and evil, terrible monsters, brave heroes, enchanted swords — and recast it through a modern, urban lens. So you have the Shadowhunters, who are these very classic warriors following their millennia-old traditions, but in these urban, modern spaces: skyscrapers, warehouses, abandoned hotels, rock concerts. In fairy tales, it was the dark and mysterious forest outside the town that held the magic and danger. I wanted to create a world where the city has become the forest — where these urban spaces hold their own enchantments, danger, mysteries and strange beauty. It’s just that only the Shadowhunters can see them as they really are.” –Cassandra Clare

Click here to read Chapter 1 of City of Bones


imageForeign covers


Product Details


  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry (March 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416914285

6 Responses to “Review: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare”

  1. Danielle87

    I must be the only person who didn't like this series. I think I went into it with really high expectations (I judged a book by its cover – these covers are really, really pretty!) and I just wasn't all that impressed.
    I agree that the 'twist' ending was disturbing, and a total curve ball! Hate to say this, but there is more discomfort to come…

    I did like the fact that Clare explored a variety of teen angst problems, especially when it came to the sexual preference of her characters.

    Nice review.

  2. Britt

    Hey, I read this series (there's a 4th one coming out in 2011) and while the first one ends in a twist..and the twist keeps twisting, in my opinion it all works out FABULOUSLY (the way I wanted LOL) in the end! Just hopefully no more twists with that in the fourth book. 😀

  3. Casse AKA Catholic Kittie

    No Danielle, you aren't the only one. I found it hard to get into. For half the book I wanted to kill myself rather than read it and the end made me sorta want to upchuck @ the twist. Which I know will be resolved but still. Jace was the only semi likeable character. Though Alec was whom I sorta liked most. Clary was too stupid to live and Simon was who I thought would come out as the gay bff! I recently reviewed this book and I have the rest but haven't decided to torture myself further yet.

  4. Anonymous

    i love this book 😀 dont know why everyone else didn't like it , considering city of fallen angels is now currently #1 on simon and schusters list, i thought it was awesome !!!!!