Cassandra Clare,
The Mortal Instruments #1: City of Bones
(Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2007)

Fifteen-year-old Clary Fray's oh-so-ordinary life takes a dramatic turn when she witnesses a murder in a nightclub called Pandemonium. Unfortunately, her best friend Simon can't see the body. Nor can he see the three teenage perpetrators. And then, right before Clary's eyes, the body vanishes into thin air.

But the weirdness is just beginning. Soon Clary's widowed mother is kidnapped and Clary herself is attacked by forces from beyond this world. But an unlikely hero steps in: Jace, the mysterious, tattooed, sword-wielding murderer from Pandemonium. Now Clary finds herself pursued by the forces of darkness and pulled into the world of the Shadowhunters, a race of warriors whose duty it is to kill demons.

The rogue Shadowhunter Valentine has sent his demon army searching for the Mortal Cup, and the path to the Cup leads straight to Clary. If the Cup, one of the Mortal Instruments, falls into evil hands, the balance of power will tip. Can Clary and her newfound allies find the Cup before Valentine does?

Author Cassandra Clare has taken a blend of fantasy and horror characters and mixed them liberally with the spice of Goth and a dash of urban myth, then dropped them into a gritty New York setting. In some ways, Clary's story seems a classic fish-out-of-water tale, but it is so much more than that. It is, in actuality, a quest, with Clary cast in the role of hero. She must venture out into the wilds of New York to find a modern Holy Grail -- the Cup -- and return it in order to save the Queen, her mother. Her companions, the Shadowhunter brother and sister Alec and Isabelle, and the mysterious and sexy Jace, fight side-by-side to protect Clary from the wrath of Valentine. Simon, her ubernerd friend, tags along and even saves the day once or twice.

Highly entertaining and well-written, City of Bones is a blend of adventure, high and urban fantasy, with a smidgen of romance thrown in for good measure. I breathlessly breezed through the book, drawn in by Clare's unique world. But an unexpected turn at the end of the book had me the book left me so devastated that I nearly decided to give the rest of the series a pass. In the end, I chose to complete the series, a decision that was rewarded time and time again.

The story arch unfolds over three books, including City of Ashes and City of Glass. Clare recently announced on her website that a fourth book in the series will be released in March 2011. That book, entitled City of Fallen Angels, will focus on Simon, Clary's best friend, and the adjustments his live must undergo as a result of having been exposed to the underground world of the Shadowhunters.

[ visit the author's website ]

review by
Belinda Christ

14 November 2009

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