So, I like to read. And I like to read… opinionatedly. In fact, here is the beginning of an opinionated reading of the (appalling) Harry Potter fanfic, Dumbledore’s Army and the Year of Darkness. I’d give you a plot summary but I can feel the bewildered rage rising in me just by typing out its title, so I won’t. Read it if you dare, or if you have hours of free time you desperately need to fill. Sorry for my old LJ by the way. We were all self-important once. Some of us still are.
Anyway, I read this book recently, and I just need to share it with the world. That means spoilers, so beware. I also do these things in huge detail, if you didn’t check out my DAYD critique.
This book is called City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare.
No, before we get into that, here are the things I promise in this… critique? Spork? Incoherent rant?
1. I WILL NOT focus on Cassandra Clare’s plagiarism debacle. I know she didn’t exactly apologise or admit to it, and her career certainly hasn’t suffered, but let’s judge her (presumably) own work on its own merits. Besides, it looks like plenty of people have written on that already. Also, I can’t comment on the intriguing hints that her characters are basically her Draco Trilogy characters, because I never read it. Soz.
2. I WILL NOT focus on Cassandra Clare’s involvement in fandom, except insofar as it directly affects her writing (and it does, trust me).
3. I WILL comment upon, and praise effusively, the things I liked about the book.
So, with that over with, have a plot summary. The super ordinary Clary Fray meets some sexy demon hunters, only to learn that – gasp! – she’s one of them herself (SPOILERRRRR)! Also, magical items and bad guys!
That is pretty much how the plot unfolded for me.
Let’s start. Chapter 1. Pandemonium.
Our intrepid hero, Clary Fray (make of that name what you will), is waiting outside a club called Pandemonium with her BFF (her only F, actually, but we’ll get to that later) Simon. All you need to know about Simon right now is that he’s Xander from Buffy, but less witty. It’s an all-ages club (Clary is fifteen btw) and right now some crazy-looking goth kid with blue hair and green eyes is trying to get his fake sword past the bouncer. After sufficiently demonstrating its fakeness, he’s allowed in. Clary is like ooh, so insouciant! and Simon gets pouty.
“You thought he was cute,” said Simon, sounding resigned. “Didn’t you?”
From this we can immediately tell that SimonXander fancies Clary but Clary does not return his feelings. Keep this in mind for later.
So Clary jabs him in the ribs like, whatever, don’t cramp my style.
Now we’re in the club, which is colourful and clublike, and also in the mind of the blue-haired gothling, whose thoughts are entirely about how stupid and sheeplike people are (I’m only gutted he never actually used the word “sheeple”) and the fake sword was actually a knife. Yeah, turns out he’s a demon who wants to kill people. Whoops. Also, it’s never explained why. He just seems to enjoy it, serial-killer style. He doesn’t eat people, or demonstrate any hunger for, idk, ~life energy~, so I dunno, but he wants to kill people anyway. We also learn that in this world Muggles are called “mundies”. Because “mundane”. Yeah. Kind of makes them sound like LJ RPers. Just sayin’.
Just at that moment, a sexy lady breaks away from the crowd (beautiful, thinks Blue Hair, FOR A HUMAN. ZINGGGGGGG) all dressed up and clearly interested to see if his hair is blue all over, wink wink, if you know what I mean, except that was terrible so you probably don’t, let’s pretend this never happened.
He notices that she’s wearing a red pendant the size of a baby’s fist (personal thing: I just hate that as a size indicator. Not Clare’s fault, just… baby fists. Ack.) and is like “Whoa it’s totally real.” Real what? Real ruby? Real garnet? Real… supernatural artifact? Don’t get hung up on it – it’s never mentioned again.
She lifts up her skirt to show him her thigh high boots (don’t ask me) and leads him off to make the kissing in a storage room.
Then we cut back to Clary and Simon, moshing (described as “a lot of swaying back and forth with occasional lunges toward the floor as if one of them had dropped a contact lens“) and Clary is staring at the blue-haired demon boy. Simon complains sarcastically about how he hates being here, and Clary thinks about how he only comes because he knows she likes it. She doesn’t know why she likes it, except the atmosphere is all dreamy and surreal and whatnot, and she’s too shy to talk to anyone, but Simon comes with her anyway, like a faithful hound. Like her Nice Guy best friend who thinks that if he accompanies her to enough club nights, however ungraciously, at some point she’ll realise, “Wow, you know, I really like that Simon guy. I didn’t notice it before, but after he came with me to things I enjoyed while making it as clear as he possibly could that he hated every second of it, I suddenly came to appreciate his sacrifice. We will have many beautiful children together.”
Simon, you are kind of a douchebag right now. That or an idiot.
(I’ve been to things I loved with people who didn’t have a good time and went out of duty, and it’s really uncomfortable. Don’t do that, ok?)
Clary, moshing absently, ignores Simon’s whining and is thinking about how to get into the demon boy’s pants, but then she sees him slope off with the one who is beautiful BUT ONLY FOR A HUMAN OKAY, HE’S A DEMON, HE DOESN’T LIKE MORTALS LIKE THAT, I MEAN EW WHY WOULD YOU EVEN SUGGEST IT, and thinks, well, that’s that. Her first impression of the beautiful FOR A HUMAN girl is that she’d like to draw her. So, Clary likes drawing. Yay for her. No really, remember this. She notices the girl’s mysterious pendant as well, which now seems to be actively pulsing, and ignores more of Simon’s whining.
To be fair, Clary, you are also kind of a douchebag. Come alone to the things you like and he hates. You’ll both have a better time. I promise.
She watches, voyeur-like (seriously it’s pretty creepy), as the couple go into the storeroom, and there are “flowers of apprehension” involved so we know it’s serious. Simon tries to get her attention by claiming to cross dress and sleep with her mam (classy!) but Clary doesn’t give a shit. She wants to watch these poeple make out, and Simon’s whinging won’t stop her. Then she sees the knife! OMG! Club drama!
Simon goes to get the security guards, and Clary, being super smart, runs after the knife-wielding teenage boy (as she thinks).
Back to demon boy, he’s flirting with the beautiful FOR A HUMAN girl, who’s called Isabelle, and then he sees that she has a tattoo on her wrist, which shocks him, and then she’s beating him up and gets out a whip. He’s all “aaaa the hated metal!” (what is this metal that works against demons? NEVER. EXPLAINED.) and some other teenager comes out of nowhere and is like “ARE THERE ANY MORE OF YOU?” and the demon’s like “WHAT DO YOU MEAN?” and calls him a Shadowhunter, and then we’re following Clary again.
At first Clary thinks she’s come into the wrong room, but then she notices there are people here, and the kid who had a knife just a minute ago is now all bloody and tied up, and everyone’s talking about demons. One of them even defines demons, specifically so Clary will hear mention of ~home dimensions~ and ~the Clave~ and things she isn’t supposed to. Naturally, she’s like “WOW, THESE GUYS ARE PRETTY CRAZY”. And seriously. To an outsider, it must all look like some insane religious cult. The reader, of course, knows that this kid is a demon and therefore the Sexy Demon Hunters are probably legit, but you know.
The demon starts talking about Valentine, who is apparently dead (so the reader immediately knows that he proooobably isn’t really) and the Infernal Worlds, which are also never explained, and Jace, the most irritating of the Sexy Demon Hunters, gets impatient and prepares to kill it.
Now Clary is not going to stand for this, bless her heart. What she thinks she can do against knives and whips and people who obviously know how to use them is beyond me, but by Jove her dominating personality trait so far is Impetuous Do-Gooder, and she will stick to it no matter what. The Sexy Demon Hunters are like “omg you can see us” and Clary’s like “well duh!” which is a cue for the supremely obnoxious ~Jace~ to talk about “you just don’t know you’re blind, silly mundie!” which is the number one way to turn me off a character. At this point, it’s clear Jace is the love interest. He’s blond, and his eyes are like ~chips of tawny amber~ and he moves like a lion. I am not sold on Jace. In fact, in a competition between Jace-the-arrogant and Simon-the-Nice-Guy, I would choose eternal celibacy.
Actually, that’s a lie. I’d choose Isabelle. I love Isabelle. She doesn’t get nearly enough screen time in this book.
So Jace seems confused as to why she’d care if he killed (what appears to be) a human being in front of her face, and starts to talk too much, making Isabelle and Alec (her brother) uncomfortable, and the demon takes advantage of the distraction to attack. Clary trips over while running away, so she can see what happens, and Jace stabs th demon, which bleeds black and says ominous things.
Isabelle is bitchy at Clary for causing the distraction in the first place, and Clary, observant Clary, who can see supernatural things that no one else can see, is like “omg are you guys crazy vigilantes?”
Not “Holy shit that kid ADMITTED TO BEING A DEMON and HAS BLACK BLOOD and DISAPPEARED WHEN YOU STABBED HIM!”
No, Clary has her priorities straight.
So Jace runs his stupid mouth again, and Clary sasses him, and then Simon is back with the bouncer. Of course, Simon can’t see anything. Clary looks like an idiot, so she makes some excuse, annoys the bouncer, and Isabelle giggles behind her.
Outside the club, Simon tries to get her to tell him what happened, and Clary dodges the question, dreaming of Jace, and they get a taxi home, in which Simon doesn’t confess his love and Clary doesn’t confess her supernatural experience.
End of Chapter 1.
So far, so generic YA urban fantasy. Nothing really wrong with it, but nothing particularly outstanding either. What I did notice about this book as I read it was that it seemed quite a lot like a first draft in many ways. There are mentioned things that go nowhere, and things that don’t quite join up. Isabelle’s pendant, the Infernal Worlds. There’s a chance that these things will be explained in one of the later books, I guess. Or that they aren’t important at all. WHO KNOWS.
Like, what mostly annoys me about this kind of thing is how the supernaturals regard and react to the ~mundanes~. They all have these huge superiority complexes (“We can do magic and fight with obsolete weapons!” YEAH, WELL WE INVENTED EVERYTHING, SO SUCK IT) and when some mortal strays into a complex situation they never, ever explain anything. They just act like what they do is common knowledge, even when they live in fucking New York and they cast glamours all over the place to hide themselves. It’s infuriating and inefficient and leads to the demon you thought you had in a headlock getting up and punching you in the face. You’d think supernatural things that live among people would have specific cover stories, or ways to mess with people’s minds or something. And sure, you can argue that they were under a glamour and the fact that Clary could see them was unique, but you won’t catch a demon being all “omg have you walked with the NIGHT CHILDREN?” to some unsuspecting human. No. They’d be like “I’M A DEMON, LOL!” and eat them. It’s only ever the good guys who do it, and when they do, I honestly can’t really believe that they hate humans and want to be left alone. They lead on these hapless mortal protagonists so shamelessly.
I mean really, when someone asks you if you’ve walked with the Night Children, you’re not exactly going to go on with your life and forget everything happened. At best you’re going to be doodling in your schoolbooks, little hearts with “MRS JACE SEXY-DEMONHUNTER” all over them. At worst you’d actually go and seek out the Night Children, who probably aren’t good guys.
So yeah, supernatural organisations. Stop being so goddamn mysterious and you won’t have so many stray teenage girls scratching at the door.
Anyway, tune in next time for Clary having a fight with her mam and being invited to a gig by one of Simon’s friends!
No, really, that’s what happens in the next chapter.