City of Bones by Cassandra Clare - book coverCity of Bones is the first book in Cassandra Clare‘s “Mortal Instruments” YA series. It sets a fast-paced, engaging tone with strong characters, a fascinating urban fantasy world, and a very thorough back-story.

The Paranormal world is hidden in plain sight within the Regular world, which reminded me of Harry Potter and the Magic/Muggle situation. In my mind, it adds a sense of intrigue that there could be Shadowhunters in my every day life and I just don’t know it (yet).

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. . . .

From the publisher, Simon & Schuster Canada

I enjoyed that there is a good balance of female and male characters, both of which run the spectrum of character types. There are far fewer novels out there with strong female lead characters, and I think that Clary is a great character. Cassandra Clare has written her lead as hot-headed, impulsive, smart, and still sensitive to her friends’ needs. Jace is also a well-rounded character but not quite as developed. I hope to see more of Simon’s development as the books progress; I feel like a lot of his story took place out-of-scene.

There are themes of antisemitism (the ‘bad guy’ Valentine has specific views on those with mixed blood) which adds a serious undertone to the normal focus of YA books: the relationships and group dynamics of the young characters. Some other themes deal with parent/child relationships, young love, and challenges the idea of a typical ‘family’.

I commend the author highly for including LGBTQ content without the stereotypical situation or reactions. In fact, I loved that there are indications in the text, but when the story addresses the fact that one character is gay, it is not considered a “problem” or even a big deal, it just ‘is’.

Many reviews recommend readers of other fantasy series such as Twilight, Harry Potter, Wolves of Mercy Falls, et al. will enjoy the Mortal Instruments series. In my opinion, Cassandra Clare’s writing is stronger than Stephanie Meyer and the reading level is more advanced than Maggie Stiefvater. However, sometimes the vocabulary seems a little forced for the tone and reading level. However, it is clear that the characters are smart—brilliant in some cases—and I take no issue with ‘big words’ being used in YA novels.

In criticism: Some of the dialogue does sound a bit forced and out of place for teenagers. I’m unsure if the series has that ‘timeless’ quality. The plot was a little predictable at times, but most YA tends to be that way for me as an adult reader. If it didn’t have such an intriguing and well-developed back-story, I don’t think I’d be as engrossed in the series.