Monday, October 4, 2010

Book(s) review: The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare

Mr. Mouse can roll his eyes at my reading material of late all he wants to. I stand firm in saying that The Mortal Instruments series - at this point consisting of City of Bones, City of Ashes and City of Glass - a YA urban fantasy series by Cassandra Clare, is fantastic: smart, funny, sexy and scary. These books have with complex characters, most of whom develop from the first page of Book 1 (CoB) through to the last page of Book 3 (CoG), and a well-paced plot, both in the individual volumes and over the course of the series’s arc. One of the book jacket blurbs promises that BtVS fans will enjoy this series – this BtVS fan says it’s true.

One night at an all-ages nightclub in NYC with her best friend Simon, sixteen-year-old Clary witnesses a murder. Except that the victim is a demon, not a boy, and the murderers are teenaged Shadowhunters (think: Vampire Slayers with support and funding), siblings Alec and Isabelle, and their foster brother Jace. All three are beautiful, strong and deadly, their powers enhanced with rune tattoos, but it is the arrogant, sarcastic and impatient Jace to whom Clary is drawn (to poor Simon’s dismay).

Clary is suddenly thrown headlong into a world she never knew existed, filled with werewolves, vampires, faeries, warlocks and demons. Her apartment is trashed and her mother kidnapped by a rogue Shadowhunter and sunk into a mystical coma. On the run, as she seeks to save her mother, she grows closer and closer to Jace and the other Shadowhunters. In City of Bones, they attempt to keep the Mortal Cup from the hands of Valentine, the rogue Shadowhunter, who seeks to use its powers to compel demons to his bidding. In the second book, City of Ashes, Clary and her compatriots fight Valentine for the Mortal Sword which, if drenched in the blood of Downworlder children – one werewolf, one warlock, one faerie and one vampire – will allow Valentine to summon demons to earth. In City of Glass, the third volume, Clary travels to the Shadowhunters’ homeland, Idris, to continue the battle against Valentine – and to continue the battle against her feelings for Jace, which are more complicated than I would spoil for you here.

Cassandra Clare does a really nice job with these books. Along creating a whole new fantasy world, she peoples it with great characters, all of whom are complicated and heart-breaking and experience character growth throughout the series (with the exception of Isabelle who gets short shrift compared to everyone else) – everyone has relationship issues and parentage issues, and it’s all imminently relatable, werewolves and faeries notwithstanding. The dialogue is – for the most part – snappy, clever and age-appropriate, perhaps a little too Buffy-esque in places but I took that just to be overly familiar and not a bad thing. The battle scenes are eloquent and don’t drag on forever; the love scenes are hot without ever getting to be more than PG-13.

I borrowed these books from a coworker whose love of YA urban fantasy far exceeds mine. Since the next volume in the series, City of Fallen Angels (apparently told from Simon’s point of view – which gets QUITE interesting as of CoA), doesn’t come out until spring 2011, I’ve borrowed Clockwork Angel from her now, a new prequel series by Clare, The Infernal Devices. I’ll let you know how that one goes … I’ve got terribly high hopes for it, based on how much I enjoyed the first three Mortal Instruments.

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