The Mortal Instruments

Ms. Cassandra Clare's trilogy encouraged me that the paranormal teen romance might have some readability after all.  She's been accused of purple prose, but following Meyer's plastic prose (have I coined something?!), her writing was a sweet reward.

I have to say, though, that it was really hard for me to buy the first novel of the series.  There's a bare-breasted teen boy on the cover.  I felt like a perv.  Luckily, the barcode's on the back, so I just slid it at the clerk front cover down.

The trilogy's subtitled as City of Bones, City of Ashes, and City of Glass.  I got the Glass reference, kind of got the Ashes, but have to go back to figure out the Bones.  Sometimes it takes me a while.  It's an urban fantasy with (apparently) touches of steampunk.  Steampunk is a word that I'm still not 100% sure of.  Sort of like emo.

City of Bones
Clarissa's kinda funky, and her best friend, Simon, is kind of not.  They're at a goth club one night--funny descriptions of gothical dancing--when Clary sees some murderous mayhem.  She meets some kids called Shadowhunters, some kind of Nephilim warriors whose charge is to protect the humans from demons and Downworlders--nasty creatures like werewoofs, vampires, and faeries.  After watching a demon fold in on itself and poof away, Clary meets Jace.  Sexy egotist Jace.  Kick ass Jace who taunts her and calls her "little girl."  What ensues is a lot of demon blood (ichor), weird weapons, sexual tension, betrayal, and strange names.

City of Ashes
Clary and Simon are deeply involved with the whole Shadowhunter world.  Clary's discovered that she's one of them, Simon's a special vamp, Jace is half-evil, and the human world is still constantly at risk.  Very exciting stuff throughout.  Clary and Jace's relationship is deliciously strained.  It's like "The Scarecrow and Mrs. King": you want them to get together, but if they do, there'll be no point to reading on.  We begin to sense Clary's unique among Shadowhunters, and the mystery behind various lineages unfolds well.  The subplots (more below) are relevant and woven cleverly.

City of Glass
This is where all the craziness happens.  It's war on so many fronts--between demons and Shadowhunters, between families, between lovers, between realities.  I don't usually go for action-packed stuff (though I've had to get used to it with this new genre), but the so-called purple prose adds a lush dimension that transcends blood and ichor.  There's a sexy new dark horse character--the guy on the cover--who proves to be everything the reader figures he'll be.  The novel ends with fireworks. Literally.  But what they're truly celebrating is up for debate.

  • Relevance.  The urban backdrop provides the author a perfect playground for themes of socioeconomic disparity, race relations, gender defining, sexual exploration, identity, alternate realities, modern family, initiation...very rich.
  • Characters.  I actually like them--even the evil and bitchy.  I found myself afraid that certain secondary characters would die or be unsuccessful in their quests.  I enjoyed watching Clary suffer and overcome, though she might've been a little more forthcoming with her feelings.  (I tire of the whole "silent girl" scenario.)  Jace is wonderful.  I love his ego, his downfalls, his Phoenix-like identity.  Alec (and older bisexual lover, Brooklyn High Warlock Magnus Bane) = awesome way to explore teen struggles with homosexuality.  Isabelle = excellent sex-positive young woman whose untimely emotional revelations fit plot demands.  Luke = nice mix of father-figure and rebellious heart.  What does that mean?  Don't really know.
  • The Clary-Jace controversy.  Are they brother and sister?  Why, yes, apparently.  Does that stop them from throbbing their groins in each others' general direction?  No.  Do they fantasize about sleeping with each other?  Constantly.  Do they give in?  Read it and see.  I loved that part. 
  • I wanted more about the Nephilim.  It seems to play such a big part with the conclusion of the major action that I'd have liked a bigger development throughout the first two.
  • The stele.  One of the most important parts of a Shadowhunter's powers.  It's a conical metal wand thing that they use to carve tattoo-like marks all over the damn place.  Huh?  Three books later, I still don't really know how to pronounce it, and I don't know its history or limits.  
  • Hollywoodish ending.  The fireworks.
The author has written a prequel called Clockwork Angel, which starts a trilogy called The Infernal Devices.  I haven't read it because it's always sold out, but it goes to paperback this month, so hopefully I'll snag a copy.  I also read in an interview that there are going to be three more The Mortal Instruments books.

Six more books?  Cripes.

The author has said that the ideal way to read them is in the order of publication.  It's apparently going to zigzag between the two series.  She's also said, however, that you can read them separately.

That sounds like math.

As testament to my actually liking these novels:  a few days after finishing the trilogy--despite having a pile of other paranormal teen romances to attack--I started re-reading City of Bones again.  I've liked gaining perspective and recognizing foreshadowing and events/dialogue that seemed insignificant before.  In the past, I've reserved re-reading for works to teach in class:  1984, The Great Gatsby, Being There, Raymond Carver short stories, and the like.  While I wouldn't rank The Mortal Instruments as canonical, they certainly kicked the shit out of Twilight.

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