Cassandra Clare’s (pseudonym for Judith Lewis (neè Rumelt)) 2007 debut novel City of Bones is the first book in the six book series The Mortal Instruments. It kicked started the Shadow Hunter Chronicles which has seen three other series with a fifth on the way.
There are a number of reasons as to why this book launched an international best selling series, but one stands out above all. Clare has a world building ability that all fantasy book readers were looking for since J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter Series. The way she was able to blend the supernatural world within that of the real is unparalleled, and in what may be an unpopular opinion, I believe it surpasses that of Rowling’s. I say this as I believe it breaks away from similar stories with supernatural worlds hidden within our own (like the Harry Potter or Percy Jackson series) in that she really dives deep into the world of demons, vampires and magic. She creates places outside of the initial setting of New York city as she moves her characters into the titular realm of the Silent Brothers (basically immortal doctors who are mute). You see her develop and add to her world as the series progresses, but for now let’s stick to book one.
Clare’s characterisation of the key players in the book is another reason as to why this series has seen so much success over the years. Each character is introduced in a way that allows the reader to immediately have a good understanding of their personality, and despite being all being quite different, each individual is relatable in one way or another.
Keeping with the theme of characters, the author was brilliant in portraying their relationships with one and other. As the reader you could feel the deep sense of familial duty and friendship amongst the Lightwood siblings and Jace, as well as the closeness between Clary and Simon – showing that friendship between the different genders doesn’t always have to be sexual (well at least from Clary’s point of view anyway…)
Clare’s ability to write a believable and entertaining love triangle plays a significant role in both this book and the remainder of the series. Romance is an important theme to tie into young adult novels and often the author can miss the mark, (the Twilight series is a prime example of this). But Clare manages to tap into natural human emotions, especially those displayed among teenagers, where she is able to evolve the romantic feelings between two key characters (I won’t name them for those who are yet to read the book), from a place of pure sexual chemistry to one of genuine care and love. She allows the journey of the novel to shape these two characters feelings all while trickling in a complicated yet entertaining love triangle.
Clare creates a strong plot that drives the book forward as the characters deal with the sins of their parents past leading into three major plot twists that have you ending the book screaming for more. Luckily however, if you’re only picking up the book for the first time the series is complete so you don’t have to wait a year to find out how they deal with the planet sized cliff hanger she leaves you dangling on.
All in all, based on a strong page turning plot, brilliant world building, as well as believable and relatable characters this book rates 9/10. If you haven’t read this book yet, you definitely need to find yourself a copy, it’s one of the few book series I’ve read and reread over the years.