Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Book review: City of Bones

Young adult fiction isn't an area of expertise for me, but I've found myself enjoying some of the more popular sci-fi/fantasy series that have popped up over the last few years. I think the appeal for me is emotional, as there's an intensity to the protagonist that drives the story. Not that adult fiction can't be dramatic and emotional, but there's something about young adult fiction, some hook that you don't always find in adult novels. On the other hand, I also usually can't read one YA novel after another. I need a serious break from the teenage mind to read and think like an adult again. I'm currently rejoining the adult world with Richard Matheson's I AM LEGEND after blowing clear through Cassandra Clare's CITY OF BONES in a matter of days.

CITY OF BONES is the first book in Clare's THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS series, and is about to be released as a film on August 21st. MORTAL INSTRUMENTS is a good example of urban fantasy, as it's set in an alternate New York City that has a hidden, supernatural side. Fifteen year old Clary discovers this secret by accident, after witnessing a group of teenagers killing a boy who wasn't as human as he seemed. The teens are Shadowhunters, warriors who protect the human world from demons. After her mother disappears and Clary is attacked by a demon herself, she and the Shadowhunters find themselves on a quest to discover why Clary can see the things she does, and what secrets her mother has been hiding from her.

The one thing I can guarantee about this book is plenty of fantastical action and adventure, which is probably why I flew through it so fast. I'm a fast reader in general, but I kind of surprised myself with this one. This is a 512 page book, and I basically read it over a weekend, give or take. Not only does it read fast, it's addictive, so once I started I really didn't want to stop.

That said, if you want depth and complexity, you might find CITY won't satisfy that need for you. There will be some eye-rolling, some urges to knock characters' heads together. There is a high level of sometimes unnecessary detail and the occasional awkward insertion of backstory, so it's not the most brilliantly written YA novel out there. And from what I hear, Clare was a fan fiction author who has allegedly plagiarized a bit of Harry Potter in this series. I wouldn't know, as I haven't touched one single Harry Potter book.

Still, it's a fun and entertaining read. I can see this working well as a movie, maybe better than it does as a book. I liked it just fine, but there are plenty of readers who absolutely hate it, hate Clary, hate the other characters, etc. Strangely enough, I understand why– some of the things the characters did and said were ridiculous, but for some reason it wasn't a deal-breaker for me like it was for other readers. Maybe because they're kids, so I attribute their faulty thinking and drama to immaturity. But I think you have to gauge for yourself what you are and aren't willing to put up with as a reader, and the annoyances I came across were minor for me, where they were major for others. Your mileage may vary, as they say.

Frankly, I plan to keep reading the series. Getting sucked into fantasy worlds is like crack for me, and CITY OF BONES accomplished that, whatever flaws it may have. At the rate I can zip through them, it's worth the small time investment. In the meantime, I'm going to savor Matheson's I AM LEGEND like the fine, gourmet-meal level story it is; The rest of the more burger-and-fries quality MORTAL INSTRUMENTS series can wait.

The City of Bones via Goodreads

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