I love me a good urban fantasy. It’s these kind of books that made me fall in love with storytelling, from the light and fluffy Rainbow Magic middle grade series to Percy Jackson and Brigid Kemmerer’s Elementals series. Those last two novels even got me into my love writing and motivated me to become an author!
So I decided to take on the next big young adult urban fantasy series of our time. And honestly, I am very confused after reading that first book.
City of Bones takes place in New York, in which young Clarissa “Clary” Fray has recently starting seeing things going on. Fae, lycanthropes, demons. And the Shadowhunters, a group meant to keep the nastiest of them from wreaking havoc on the mortal realm. After her mum gets abducted from such demons, Clary discovers her hidden lineage and connection the Shadowhunters and must unlock her inner potential to save her.
Except, she doesn’t. Everyone in the book says she goes out and does stuff, crediting her for four times as much as what she actually does. For the protagonist of this series, I’d assume, Clary doesn’t do shit! She spends more time looking at her crush Jace defend her than she actually does trying to help out. She claims she is so desperate to help her mother out, but not desperate enough to stop spectating and actually do something. Furthermore, she would be considered a Mary Sue if it weren’t for her sharp tongue, grudges and hypocritical help-outs. Otherwise, she is barely considered a personality. I couldn’t tell you anything about her except her barely touched on hobbies of reading and drawing.
I don’t think the plot helped her out either. It seemed to rely on other people doing things for her – information from this warlock here, having these celestials help her out there, making sure Jace is always protecting her… Some of the things this plot did felt very bizzare in terms of narrative, and boy I have a big one. They literally pulled a Star Wars. What part of it? Well, that’s spoiler territory, but if you read it then you know what I mean. When this happened in the book, when the “Star Wars” was revealed, I literally laughed out loud. This was supposed to be one of the most dramatic parts in the book, apparently, and I burst into giggles behind my mask on the bus. It literally felt like a joke and Clare took it so seriously!
But one thing it sort of had going, maybe the novel’s only redeeming quality, was the worldbuilding. You could tell this was where the most attention was put into, the careful thoughts about which areas and cultures of New York would feature which kind of magical creatures living in plain site. Even the creatures themselves had potential. I really enjoyed seeing how each parts connected, the mundane with the magical. And they featured very interesting takes for sure.
Too bad it was hidden behind a mediocre writing style. It was laced with filler words, pop culture references that will date it, and poor attempts at picking apart Clary’s mind deep enough. The style just doesn’t feel like it’s making an effort enough. It is such a shame because I know this works! I’ve seen concepts of this nature done really well, and City of Bones is in its shadow because its writing style among other more terrible things let it down. Dimension 20’s D&D campaign, The Unsleeping City, shares similar vibes with City of Bones and yet outdoes it in all aspects. If you want fairies and demons in New York, just go watch that. It is very easy to watch even for people new to D&D.
Apparently the rest of the books in the Shadowhunters series are far better, but book one has left me completely unmotivated. I am left genuinely wondering how this series got so loved from such a poor start.
City of Bones gets a score of 2/5. I’ve never read a more average book than this to date. And then Star Wars happened.
Yours in writing