Book Reviews

City of Bones: Spoiler-Free Review

“All the stories are true.”

In December, I decided I’d be re-reading the entirety of Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter Chronicles over the course of 2018. And I just finished City of Bones for the second time ever. Admittedly, I was not the best at critical reading when I first came upon this book, so I had some new thoughts about it.

For anyone who has somehow passed over the Shadowhunter craze, City of Bones tells the story of Clary Fray, as she discovers a world she never knew existed. After her home is raided by demons and her mother kidnapped, she takes refuge with a group of Shadowhunters, warriors trained in the art of hunting and killing demons. With their help, she attempts to track down Valentine, the Shadowhunter responsible for taking her mother. In their efforts to find him, Clary also discovers just how much of her past has been hidden from her over the years.

There are a lot of great things about City of Bones, and of them, my favorite is probably the pacing. With the exception of a few chapters at the end that involve a lot more showing than telling, this story never slows down. It’s a constant beat of cause and effect, action and consequence. There aren’t many lulls, and I think that’s the reason people get sucked into Clare’s world so easily.

The world itself is another reason to adore this novel. Urban Fantasy can be hard to pull off, but Clare does it well. The idea of Shadowhunters, vampires, and werewolves hiding in plain sight on the streets of New York City is not necessarily an original concept, but the atmosphere Clare creates is about as authentic as it gets.

Investment in the characters is another reason so many love these books. Each character has a distinct voice and personality, and it’s nearly impossible not to care what happens to them. Even the “side characters” have their own narrative arcs, and I love stories that don’t just overlook their supporting casts.

Even during my first read, my biggest complaint about City of Bones is the writing itself. This is Clare’s first published work, and that she’s was an amateur at the time shines clearly through the pages. There’s plenty of corny dialogue and repetitive description. That said, I can say with certainty that her style improves from book to book. It’s not worth dropping the entire series because of the flaws in City of Bones.

Reading this a second time, I also found the ending to be a little cringe-worthy. I always knew that the Valentine twist was ridiculous, but reading it again opened my eyes to so many holes in this narrative. I mean, honestly, how the characters so easily accept certain things – things aren’t even explained particularly well – is beyond me. But I can’t say much more without spoilers.

So because of my ending revelation, I dropped my Goodreads rating of City of Bones from 4 stars to 3.5. I still adore this world and everything that it’s created, but I do completely understand why people can’t get into this book. I will say that it’s a shame. The quality of her newer books makes plunging through the earlier ones worth it, at least in my opinion.

What are your thoughts on City of Bones? I know most of you have read it. Let me know in the comments below!

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