21. “City of bones” by Cassandra Clare

Publisher: Walker Books, 2007
Page count: 448 pages

“City of bones” is the first part of The mortal instruments trilogy by Cassandra Clare. It’s the story of 15-year old Clary Fray who leads a perfectly ordinary life with her mom Jocelyn in New York. One night while she is at a punk club with her geeky friend Simon, Clary sees a stunningly attractive boy, Jace, on the dance floor. Following after him into a back room, she watches as Jace and his two friends Alec and Isabelle slay a demon right in front of her eyes. While Clary understandably is shocked to see a demon in real life, Jace and the others are equally stunned that she could see them and the demon, since normal people (“mundanes”) are not normally able to see through their disguises. The three teenagers are in fact Shadowhunters, a secret underground society whose purpose in life is to rid the world of demons. They do this through a combination of rigorous battle training, martial arts, and tattooing magic runes on their skin to enhance their natural prowess. And Shadowhunters are not the only secret society invisible to mundanes; they share the underworld by other downworlders such as vampires, faeries, warlocks, and warewolves.

Returning home, Clary finds her apartment wrecked and her mom missing. Searching through the flat for clues, Clary is attacked by a demon, but manages to kill it by shoving Jace’s steele (a tool for drawing runes) down its throat. No longer safe at home, Jace brings Clary to the Institute, a former gothic church now turned into a Shadowhunter sanctuary, where she meets Hodge, tutor and teacher for Jace and his adoptive siblings, Alec and Isabelle. Hodge calls for Jeremiah, a munk of the Silent Brothers order, to probe Clary’s mind in order to discover why she can see through magic disguises, but Jeremiah hits against a mental block in her mind. Clues in Clary’s fragmented memory identify Magnus Bane, the high warlock of Brooklyn, as the one who placed a magic spell on her memory. Clary, Simon and the three shadowhunters therefore crash a party that Magnus is hosting, but rather than getting the answers they are looking for, more problems arise as Simon is turned into a rat by a magic drink and is taken to a former hotel now inhabited by vampires. With the help of a teenage boy, Raphael, who lives next to the boarded-up hotel, Clary and Jace sneak into the hotel to rescue Simon, only to face a horde of angry vampires tipped off by Raphael, who is in fact the head honcho among the vampires…

In this trilogy Cassandra Clare employs a traditional fantasy story line in which the protagonist one day wakes up to who she really is, discovers her unknown magic abilities, and then sets out on a transformative journey accompanied by a few trusted friends in order to reach a goal. However, despite the formulaic storyline (which makes the twists and turns in the book fairly predictable to an experienced fantasy reader), City of bones succeeds because it does exactly what it sets out to do: it is a young adult fantasy novel, fast paced, and highly entertaining, with a loveable set of teenage heroes, an incredibly evil villain, and a modern, urban setting. What more can you ask of a fantasy novel to while away a Sunday afternoon?


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