OK, so let’s get back to my obsessive need to pick apart anything that kind of annoys me. City of Bones, wheeee!
I repeat, if you haven’t read City of Bones and plan to, don’t read on. I’m not kidding about this need of mine being obsessive. Though I’m sure there are none of you who fit this description, right? Especially no one who’s refusing to read City of Bones until I read Insurgent. Hahahahaha why would you even think that?
Chapter 2 opens with a cute little device that I did really like. A melodramatic description of a Dark! King! on a Dark! Steed! that turns out to be Clary trying to draw something that isn’t going so well.
Then: “Already the floor was littered with discarded balls of paper, a sure sign that her creative juices weren’t flowing the way she’d hoped.” Really? Why did you feel the need to elaborate on that? Like the reader couldn’t see Clary being unhappy with a drawing and the floor covered with balls of paper and put two and two together?
THIS is “show, don’t tell”. Not the “ZOMG YOU NEVER SEE DRAGONS POOPING IN FANTASY NOVELS” or “WHY DON’T YOU DESCRIBE YOUR CHARACTERS GOING TO THE TOILET, HOW UNREALISTIC” or “I PREFER TO DESCRIBE EVERY THOUGHT GOING THROUGH MY CHARACTER’S HEAD IN THREE DIFFERENT WAYS” nonsense you see on places like the NaNo forums, places where amateur writers gather together to talk about how they’d do it better.
Incidentally, what makes me different from that?
Nowt. I’m fully aware that I’m just another opinion on the internet.
So yes, this is “show, don’t tell”. Give us an image, let us interpret it. Don’t tell us things we already know.
So Clary is failing at expressing her vision, and wishes she could be more like her mam, who’s some kind of famous artist and seems to draw effortlessly.
She gets prank-called by SimonXander, who pretends that he’s one of the knife-carrying demons from the night before, and Clary tells him her super-protective mam was not happy that they got home so late, and she got an earful. Simon invites her to his friend’s poetry reading. It’s quickly established that this friend’s personality trait is “terrible poet”, and he and Simon started a band which practises every week (ok? Yay?). He is not Clary’s friend, particularly. In fact, Clary has no friends besides Simon.
So Simon says he’ll pick her up on his own to soften her mam’s temper (she apparently loves him? The Nice Guy puppy trailing her uninterested daughter? Ok then), and Clary looks around the living room so we can get a look at her mam’s artistic talent. Velvet throw pillows and paintings.
Then the sob story – Clary’s dad died in a car accident before she was born, and there’s a framed picture of him above the mantelpiece. In addition, her mam keeps a box beside her bed with some of his war medals and stuff in it, engraved with his initials, JC. Sad times.
Bam, the door opens. Clary pretends she wasn’t… looking around her own living room? and pretends to be reading, but it’s not her mam, it’s Luke, her mam’s friend! She has to stop herself from calling him “Uncle”, which apparently reminds him of Uncle Tom’s Cabin for… some reason. I really don’t know.
So they get talking, and then Clary asks him what he’d do if he started seeing things no one else could see.
Like the only witness to a crime?
No, like something that literally seemed invisible to other people.
And good ol’ Uncle Luke is like “Well, Clary, that just means you’re special and artistic like your mam, nothing to worry about here! It’s just about seeing the beauty and horror in things that normal people can’t!”
Really? That is your answer? Clary basically comes right out and says “I think I had a hallucination” and he’s like “no you’re just an artiste!” Not “well hopefully it’s nothing but you’d better keep an eye on things and let me know if you keep seeing things”? Nothing? Just a big, fat “I AM AN ADULT AND DO NOT UNDERSTAND YOU YOUNGSTERS”?
And you know what, fine, he has reason to think that he knows what she’s on about and is trying to deflect her questions, but at this point in the book, the reader has no idea of this. It honestly reads like
“I think I had a hallucination, please advise.”
“Oh, you mean you see the world in a different way to other people?”
“No I actually saw people that appeared not to be there, and they talked absolute fucking nonsense to me and killed a guy they said was a demon but he looked just like a normal person.”
“IT’S JUST YOUR ABSTRACT ARTISTIC VISION!”
Frankly, his answer wouldn’t reassure me at all. Especially considering he probably suspects something about what she’s talking about, his answer is terrible. Would it be that hard to come up with something plausible?
Clary, however, just thinks “Man Isabelle was pretty LIKE BEAUTY and the blue-haired demon boy dying was awful LIKE HORROR. Cassandra Clare has really penetrated to the depths of the human soul here. That’s totally how anyone would react to that.
You know what, maybe it is just her artistic temperament making her see things differently. Actually, how about we use that as an excuse for every time she does something out of character for a normal human in the book? Awesome.
So, hallucinations forgotten, she asks Luke if he thinks her dad would have been an artist too, if he’d lived. Like… how young was her dad? Old enough to have war medals, and yet not old enough to have developed a personality yet? “What would my dad have been when he grew up?”
Luckily, Luke is saved from answering this bizarre question by the entrance of Clary’s mother. Pretty, tall, ginger, covered in paint, hair twisted up in a knot with a pencil through it, you know the drill.
People always told Clary that she looked like her mother, but she couldn’t see it herself. The only thing that was similar about them was their figures: They were both slender, with small chests and narrow hips.
They’re also both ginger, so, you know, there’s that.
She knew she wasn’t beautiful like her mother was.
Oh, here we go.
To be beautiful you had to be willowy and tall. When you were as short as Clary was, just over five feet, you were cute. Not pretty, not beautiful, but cute.
CRY HARDER, CLARY.
Throw in carroty hair and a face full of freckles, and she was a Raggedy Ann to her mother’s Barbie doll.
Of course she doesn’t think she’s pretty. Of course. She’s petite and skinny. She has red hair (Exhibit A). She has freckles. Are you telling me freckles aren’t gorgeous now? Freckles are gorgeous and everyone knows it. Screw you, Clary. Sure, she’s Raggedy Ann, if Raggedy Ann had the figure of a Barbie doll.
Oh also Jocelyn is super graceful while Clary is – wait for it – CLUMSY. It’s almost like we’ve heard this before, somewhere! Like, someone with perfectly pretty features who doesn’t think they’re pretty and are also terribly clumsy? Where would we have seen someone like that before?
Anyway, Clary finally notices the boxes Jocelyn and Luke are carrying, and is like so, what’s up?
They hedge a bit, and finally Jocelyn is like “CLARY, THIS IS HARD FOR ME TO SAY, BUT… WE’RE GOING ON VACATION.”
DUN DUN DUUUUUNNNNN!
Anyway, Clary’s like “but I was gonna hang with Simon!” because she really needs to see Simon every! single! day! and she was going to meet up with her art group (we never see this art group, because it was created solely to make it look as though Clary interacts with human beings other than Simon) and she had expensive art classes booked! Well, OK, I’ll give her the last one.
So she’s like THIS IS SO NOT FAIR TELL HER LUKE and Luke’s like don’t drag me into your crazy family antics, and her mam’s like I JUST NEED THE PEACE AND QUIET FOR MY PAINTING.
Oh sure, drag your whiny teenage daughter along to your silent painting retreat. Foolproof.
So the conversation turns to money, implying that Jocelyn will be painting to basically keep a roof over her family’s head, and Clary demands that she sell some of her dad’s stocks instead like she always does, and for some reason this sounds like an accusation and Jocelyn is really hurt? I don’t know why. I don’t understand anything these people do.
So Clary tries to bargain, saying she’ll stay behind and get a job, but Jocelyn is like NO YOU ARE FIFTEEN COME WITH US.
Wow, can you even get a job that would actually support you on your own for months at the age of fifteen? Does Clary not know how paycheques work? They don’t pay you by the day, honey.
So Luke is like “Ima knock some stuff over and then awkwardly take my leave” and Jocelyn talks to him just loud enough for Clary to hear some MORE mysterious baffling stuff about someone called Bane who’s in Tanzania or something and Luke is like CLARY ISN’T JONATHAN, JOCELYN.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
WHY ARE THEY TALKING ABOUT CLARY’S DAD?
WHY COULDN’T THEY HAVE DISCUSSED THIS IN ANOTHER ROOM?
OR BY LIKE TEXTING OR SOMETHING? COME ON NOW, PEOPLE.
This is exactly what I was talking about last week. I’m sorry* but if you really want to keep your mysterious past or secret gang of demon hunters or demonic fraternity secret, then you wouldn’t keep leading the hapless mortals on with your half-heard nonsense and overt secrecy. You just wouldn’t. If you act this way, I am going to continue to believe that you want to be found.
Anyway so then Simon shows up like “What up” and Clary’s like BYE MAM. So now Jocelyn wants to talk, seemingly only so Clary can be like NOPE, and they leave. Simon is polite to Jocelyn and Clary yells at him.
Clary marches off, her green Skechers slapping against the wooden stairs with every angry step, because we sure needed all those adjectives, and as they leave the building Clary thinks about the weird old psychic lady who lives downstairs, Madame Dorothea, and Simon makes some half-arsed witty remark about it being hard to get steady prophet work these days.
Then a guy comes out of the psychic’s place, and Clary sees a guy and feels funny (LOL PUBERTY?) and Simon’s like what? and she’s like “oh I saw Dorothea’s cat, it spooked me or whatevs.”
They go to get nachos and Clary bitches about her mam, and Simon is like would you stop shouting at me plz it wasn’t me who decided to take you on holiday for the rest of the summer, and he says “well I know your mam, and she’ll change her mind.”
So Clary’s like actually my mam is super weird and has no trace of any life before she had me, no wedding photos, nothing.
Apparently, Clary’s mam just plain comes out and says that her life started when she had Clary. Yeah, that’s not weird or curiosity-piquing at all. It’s not like she could have made something up if she really didn’t want to talk about her life.
In fact, Clary claims not to even know any of her family on either side.
Simon’s like “Well, your mam does have those scars…”
What scars? Clary never noticed any scars.
CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER.
And yet Clary doesn’t seem to think so?
Her mam calls and she ignores it, and she asks Simon how the band is doing . Apparently, even though they practise faithfully every week in Simon’s parents’ basement, they spend all their time not producing any music, sitting in Simon’s parents’ living room, and arguing over band names and logos. OK then. You’re the author, Clare.
Of course their suggested names are super quirky and wacky and random, because of course they are.
They talk about one of the band members and Clary sees a toddler with a pixie doll whose wings she thinks are fluttering.
a) They can make dolls do that now.
b) Another possible hallucination that Clary does not give a damn about.
Simon is complaining that he doesn’t have a girlfriend even though that’s the whole point of being in a band,
AND THE PROM’S TOMORROW! and soon it’ll just be him and the school janitor who are single :((( Clary suggests a girl who wears thongs and low-rise jeans, but aw no, even she’s taken! Bitchcakes!
Simon’s slutty bandmate suggested he pick the girl “with the most rockin’ bod” and just ask her out when school starts again, and Clary is like UGH SEXIST PIG.
Sorry, Clary, but you were suggesting that the girl who wore thongs and low-rise jeans would be easy and also single. Not exactly a paragon of feminism.
She ~suddenly doesn’t want to know~ who Simon thinks is pretty – IMPLIED: BECAUSE THE ANSWER WILL BE HER AND EVERYTHING WILL BE AWKWARD BETWEEN THEM FOREVER AND EVER AFTER – and changes the subject. Luckily her mam rings again right then, so she makes a show out of ignoring it even though she knows she’s being a jerk, and they head off to the
Vogon poetry slam.
END OF CHAPTER.
A little aside: I read in a few places that people seem to think that her characters in City of Bones are basically her Draco Trilogy characters, and maybe the story’s somewhat similar or something? I have no idea. But anyway, it wouldn’t surprise me if she used at least some of it in her first published original work, because that seems to be the way fanfiction authors-turned-real authors work. If she did reuse these characters, I have no problem with it.
Why? Because none of these characters read to me like they come from the Harry Potter universe. If Jace The Obnoxious is supposed to be Draco, then by god, Draco was OOC. Who was Clary? Ginny? Hermione? I can’t tell. The characters read mor like Buffy tropes than Harry Potter transplants. And if her characters in the Draco Trilogy were this OOC, then I’m glad she took the advice we so often give to OOC fanfiction authors, and wrote her own damn story, regardless of my opinions of it.
*I’m not sorry