City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
|City of Bones by Cassandra Clare|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A derivative Buffyverse cum Whoniverse cum Xenaverse urban fantasy that has little new to offer. It's full of plot holes and spends far too long on exposition. However, fans of the genre may enjoy it as fun and light summer reading.|
|Buy? No||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 496||Date: July 2007|
|Publisher: Walker Books Ltd|
When Clary Fray witnesses a murder in a New York club, you'd think she would call the police. But without a body, who would believe her? And there is no body, because the murdered boy simply shrivelled and disappeared before her very eyes. Not only that, but to her shock, Clary realises that the perpetrators are walking around the club freely, invisible to eveyone except her. Unnerving as this is, it's nothing compared to going home, finding her mother gone and a vicious, horrifying monster lying in wait. Clary soon discovers that she is not like other humans - she is a Shadowhunter, a race of demon-hunters living in a world of vampires, werewolves and warlocks slap bang in the middle of New York. And Clary will need their help if she is to find her mother.
Um.... ok. I didn't enjoy City of Bones very much. It's not that I don't like this kind of urban-horror fantasy, although if I'm honest, I'm not that keen. But if it's fresh and original, if the characters grab me, if the world building gives way to the plot, then I'll enjoy it as much as anyone. But City of Bones is none of these things. It's tiresomely derivative - yes, we enjoyed Buffy, but not that much - and one of the plot lines is a direct borrow of one of the most famous Star Wars plot lines of all. The world building and backstory isn't woven into the story - it's just plonked down into pages and pages of dull as ditchwater exposition. The villain isn't that villainous. The characters are inconsistent and fluid, so you don't root for them. And there isn't even a cursory resolution at the end - you're just left with everything up in the air as you are after an episode of a soap opera. But this isn't a soap opera, with the next episode on Thursday - it's a book, with the next one coming out lord-knows-when.
End of hatchet job.
I want to say nice things about City of Bones, I really do. I don't like writing unadulterated criticism. But honestly, with this book, it's hard work. Its main strength is New York, which rises wonderfully from the pages as a dark but vibrant colossus - imposing, urban, powerful and with a life of its own. You can certainly imagine vampires and werewolves patrolling its dark streets at night. The action sequences are great and if the book tied them together a little better, attached them to some reader emotion, they'd be stupendous. And there's a couple of minor characters who have been invented with great wit - the camp warlock Magnus Bane in particular.
Ultimately though, I'm afraid City of Bones is a rather unsatisfying book. I could certainly recommend it as a holiday read for teenagers heavily into this kind urban fantasy, but beyond that I feel it has little appeal.
Teens looking for a more satisfying urban fantasy could look at Kelley Armstrong's Otherworld series - although parents should note it has plenty of sex!
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