Show Me the Romance

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Book Review: The Mortal Instruments series

The Mortal Instruments series
(City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass)
Novels by Cassandra Clare
Buffy-esque urban fantasy with strong romantic elements

There are more books in Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments, but these three are the original sprawling, wise-cracking, romantic trilogy. The story told in City of Bones, City of Ashes, and City of Glass is dark, fast-paced, and satisfying. It seems to me that anything more would dilute the product (see Wars, Star) but what do I know?

The Premise

Fifteen-year-old Clary Fray thinks demons and supernatural warriors lurk only on the pages of her comic books until the night she sees a bunch of kids kill another kid in a New York City nightclub. When those teenagers turn out to be Shadowhunters—humans with angel blood who protect the world from demonkind—Clary falls headlong into a world teeming with vampires, faeries, werewolves and warlocks. With her mother missing and the scent of demons everywhere, Clary has to ask the Shadowhunters for help. Unfortunately, that includes Jace, a boy her age who “looks a little like an angel and a lot like a jerk.” (That line comes directly from Clare’s own jacket copy. It captures the book’s modern tone perfectly).

The Pain

Cassandra Clare is the quintessential fangirl (if her name sounds vaguely familiar, she is the pen behind the brilliant “Very Secret Diaries” of various Lord of the Rings characters). In The Mortal Instruments, she riffs on everything from anime to Spiderman, and even references her own VSDs. I love that stuff, but unfortunately the fangirling also translates into a little derivativeness in the plot department—especially when it comes to the villain.

And “Clary” as a character name is a little too similar to Clare to avoid feelings of Mary-Sueism.

The Payoff

Romance doesn’t get more impossible or torturous than the chemistry between Jace and Clary. I’m not even sure how Clare pulled it off so well, but she lights the fuse in City of Bones, twists the cord in City of Ashes, and detonates it in City of Glass. After all that, and a satisfying ending to boot, what more is there?

No really, what more is there to fill three whole books?

—Books 4, 5, and 6 in the series are City of Fallen Angels (2011), City of Lost Souls (to be released 2012), and City of Heavenly Fire (to be released 2013). There’s also a movie in the works, featuring actors Lily Collins as Clary and Jamie Campbell Bower as Jace, pictured above.


4 out of 5 arrows

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One thought on “Book Review: The Mortal Instruments series

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