narfna’s #CBR5 Review #86: City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

city of glassHOO BOY.

So, I finished this book over two months ago, and that means that this review is not going to be as, er, detailed as I had originally planned. It’s also going to be much, much shorter, so either boo or cheer as appropriate (personally, I do enjoy a good long review, especially when the book in questions is contentious). And, oh boy, is City of Glass contentious.

City of Glass picks up where City of Ashes left off, with Clary and Jace in the throes of misery due to not being allowed to bone one another otherwise INCEST. All the men in her life also insist on trying to ‘protect’ her with their ‘masculinity.’ Everybody ends up in the Shadowhunter city Alicante (in the magical, mythical country of Idris), even poor vampire Simon. Forgive me for my incomplete summary, but I do not remember why everybody was going to that stupid city. I’m sure there was a reason, but it’s not important. What is important is that nobody wants Clary to go, so of course the first thing Clary does is break laws and rules, and go to the city. Anyway, once everybody finally makes it to the city, Valentine breaks the city’s wards (which should be impossible!) and warns all the Shadowhunters even though he doesn’t want to kill them and waste their pure blood, he totally will if he has to, and it’s totally not at all exactly like Voldemort and the Battle of Hogwarts. Nope, not at all. Then this guy named Sebastian shows up and a bunch of shit starts happening, and Clary and Jace are even mopier and lovestruck than usual, and they make out in her bed and also on a hill, even though they think they’re brother and sister at the time, which is . . . I can’t even . . . GAG. Then more stuff happens, and Sebastian is really Clary’s brother! And Jace isn’t! And Valentine dies! And Clary can do special things other Shadowhunters can’t! And other stuff!

Damn. Lost opportunity here. I really should have written this review two months ago. My snark would have been epic and cleansing to my soul.

Before I start on what I didn’t like about this book, I do have to give Clare credit for the few bright spots. The mid-book angel-in-basement thing was surprising and really interesting, mythology wise, and Simon’s storyline continues to be the most interesting of everything. This one also had a much faster moving plot, with even the Clary/Jace moping scenes having the extra benefit of being wackjob certified crazy (seriously, making out all the time), and things actually happen! The main villain (aside from Valentine, who remains underdeveloped and not frightening) is actually really creepy and effective. Idris was pretty cool as well, but either because it’s YA, or because she chose to focus on other stuff, it wasn’t as developed as it could have been.

Actually, that’s one of my main issues with this book. Clare and I differ vastly on what’s interesting in her story. All the things I found really interesting (Simon, etc.) were underdeveloped and in some cases ignored almost completely in favor of other, more melodramatic and rather stupid developments (so. much. melodramatic.moping). Clary is still nothing but a cipher, with Jace continuing be neutered by his love for her, and Clare’s incest obsession borders on the perverse. Her prose is still middling to bad, but is disguised by the presence of an actual plot. She also telegraphs her ‘plot twists’ a mile away. Anyone who didn’t know after page fifty or so that Jace was not actually Clary’s brother, and Sebastian was, is basically an idiot. Sorry if I just called you an idiot. The only truly surprising thing that happens in this story is the stuff with the Angel, and it’s not a coincidence that’s the only bit I really *liked*.

And yes, she still steals things from other stories like mad. From front to back, this trilogy has been an exercise in pastiche writing, but in the worst way possible. I’ve seen everything that’s in these books before, and I’ve seen it better. If you’re going to do pastiche and steal people’s stories and ideas, at least do your own take on the stuff. (Clare didn’t.)

And of course, I have a nagging suspicion that she has a tendency to steal her best lines from other people:

Aline was the first one to break the silence. Fixing her pretty, dark gaze on Simon, she said, “So – what’s it’s like, being a vampire?”

“Aline!” Isabelle looked appalled. “You can’t just go around asking people what’s it’s like to be a vampire.”

I’m not going to lie. This sentence gave me a rage blackout and I woke up to find I’d hurled the book across the room and maybe screamed too, I think, because my throat hurt afterwards.

Look, you can tell me all you like that this is an “allusion” or “homage” but what it actually looks like to me is an author who can’t come up with clever things to say on her own using a quote from one of the most clever movies in the past decade, and changing the words just enough so that people who aren’t as intimately familiar with Mean Girls as I am think it’s something she came up with on her own. And that is not okay. Not to mention, her use of the construction completely misses the sly greatness of the original. This is probably something I would be annoyed about with anyone else, but it makes me genuinely angry with Clare because of the entire context surrounding her writing, which I’ve already written about ad nauseaum. She has already used up all her free passes with me. And who knows what other things she’s paid ‘homage’ to in this book? I could have read many a lifted line and not even known it. And that pisses me off.

Overall, I don’t think I will be be going on with this series for its cash grab ending ‘second trilogy’ (when this one ended just fine), or its five million prequel and sequel series yet to come. So, goodbye Cassandra Clare. Goodbye Jace and Magnus. Goodbye Lupin Luke. Goodbye Clary, you incestuous fucko. I shall not miss you.

[2.5 stars]

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #85: City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

city of ashesCity of Ashes is the weakest installment in Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments Trilogy,* and that’s saying something. I’m not giving it one star, because I did rush through it in some enjoyment, but as discussed in my previous review of City of Bones, it was enjoyment based mostly on seeing what nutbag thing was going to happen next rather than enjoyment based on good characters, good plot, and exciting developments. Book one had the advantage of introducing the world, and book three (as problematic as it is) has a crazy amount of plot development and action. This one mostly felt like filler to me.

*I’m not counting books 4-6, which sound mostly like cash cows to me.

The basic plot of City of Ashes is that Jace and Clary believe they are brother and sister and they are also in love with one another, so this causes them angst. That is 75% of the content of this novel. Jace basically turns suicidally depressed and Clary decides to try her best friend Simon on as a romantic partner, mostly because she wants someone to mack on, and she can’t mack on Jace. 95% of her thoughts surround Jace, how beautiful he is, how tragic, how much her DNA wants to be with his DNA forever BUT IT ALREADY IS BECAUSE THEY ARE BROTHER AND SISTER WAAAAAHHH. There’s also some stuff in there about Simon turning into a vampire, Jace’s adopted family rejecting him because they think he’s working for Valentine (?), and Valentine causing trouble by stealing the Mortal Sword, killing all the Silent Brothers, and threatening to call up a shit ton of demons to overrun the Earth. Clary also seems to be developing SUPER DUPER SPESHUL MAGICAL POWERS that no one has ever seen before, and Alec continues to deny that he is gay for Magnus Bane.

The stuff with Jace and Valentine is probably the most interesting, or at least it had the most potential to be interesting. Jace’s desire to be a good person and his love for Valentine as his father conflict with one another in a way that could have been mined for content, but Clare mostly just uses it to cast suspicion on Jace that the reader never believes for a second. The stuff with Simon, again, also interesting, although I laughed out loud at the scene that pushed Simon to finally visit the vampires. They all visit the faerie underworld or whatever it’s called and because Clary tastes faerie food, the faerie queen won’t let her go until she’s been kissed with the kiss she truly desires. I will give you three guesses as to whose kiss that is, but you will get it in one. Simon witnesses this, er, display, freaks the fuck out, and then goes and gets himself turned into a vampire.

Really, though, I don’t blame him. I might even sort of understand the impulse for Clare to milk the Jace/Clary tragedy for all its worth, as long as she didn’t cross the line between conflict and exploitation. All the pining doesn’t cross the line. It can easily be interpreted as both characters coming to terms with their awful circumstances. But that kissing scene? WAAAAAY crosses the line. She doesn’t just manufacture a moment for her to characters to kiss. That would be bad enough. And she doesn’t just have them kiss each other quickly and be done with it. She doesn’t even make it a lingering kiss filled with regret or whatever. No. What does she have Jace and Clary do? FULL ON FUCKING MAKE OUT PASSIONATELY IN FRONT OF EVERYBODY AND EVERYONE THEY KNOW. WHILE THINKING THEY ARE BROTHER AND SISTER.

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Lady Cordelia #CBR5 Review #87: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

3I am definitely starting to get my YA paranormal and dystopian fiction confused.  Hunger Games I’m pretty clear on, but things start getting fuzzy with Divergent and now City of Bones.  This one came up on my radar because the teen girls of my acquaintance are currently all about the new film version.  While I was reading, it all seemed incredibly familiar, though I’d definitely never read it before.  It’s just got so many of those familiar characters and themes that there really wasn’t anything new.

Clarissa “Clary” Fray is our heroine.  She’s a slim, quiet, occasionally clumsy 15-year-old girl (shades of Twilight here) who suddenly gets drawn into the world of the Shadowhunters, a secret society of demon-fighting warriors.  Oh yes, one of the main hunters is a dishy young thing named Jace.  But she does have a faithful best friend, Simon.  Uh-oh….   After her mother goes missing, Clary joins up with the Shadowhunters as clearly she’s a part of their world, rather than a “mundie”, the rather annoying version of “mundane”, the term for regular folk (should have just gone with “muggle”).  There’s lot of similar themes here to Harry Potter (the deposed dark leader and his inner circle waiting for his return) as well as Star Wars (doesn’t take a lot of insight to figure out whose Clary’s real father is).  But anyway, I’m aware that I’m not the target audience here, and it’s solid enough though not exactly original.

‘The Mortal Instruments’ series goes another 5 books, plus a prequel series and subsequent series set in the same world with different characters.  Don’t know if I’ll bother with any more of the books, though I may stretch to watching the movie.

narfna’s #CBR4 Review #74: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

CITY OF BONES: A REVIEW IN THREE PARTS

In order to fully process the experience of reading the first book in Cassandra Clare’s ever-expanding Mortal Instruments series, I found it necessary to split my review into three sections. Please feel free to skip around from section to section if the whole review is too long for you, but bear in mind it makes the most sense as a whole review. I apologize in advance, because if you’re anything like me, thinking about this book and the shitstorm surrounding it will consume your mind for days on end. If you need evidence of that, please note that it took me nine. hours. to. write. this. post. (Leslie Knope GIFs included because why not?)

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1. The Book Itself
In the spirit of full disclosure, I devoured this book. I read it in about a day and a half, neglecting things I was supposed to be doing (important things) just so that I could see what crazy thing would happen next. Also, the story was jam packed full of tropes and story arcs that appeal to me. Why was it so full of those things? Well, more on that later, but to be starting out with, all that’s important was that it was ridiculousy readable.

From this point, be warned, SPOILERS AHOY:

If you’ve read much YA, you probably already know the basic plot of City of Bones. Clary Fray is our supposedly normal teen of choice, and she lives in a fictional version of New York City with her artist mother. Her father is dead (. . . OR IS HE?) and her best friend Simon is secretly but obviously in love with her. She’s pretty, but unaware of it. Her farts probably also smell like roses. Then one night when she witnesses a handsome blonde stranger seemingly murdering someone in a club, she finds herself falling into a hidden world where demons are real, and because she can see them (and the people who hunt them) that means she must be part of that world as well. The young man is named Jace, and he is a Shadowhunter/Nephilim, a half-angel being whose mission is to hunt down demons and keep Earth safe. And Clary is a Shadowhunter as well. Surprise!

But Clary’s not just ANY Shadowhunter. She is the daughter of the feared Valentine, a psychotic Master Race kind of Nephilim whose dream it was to cleanse the Shadowhunter world of Downworlders (anyone not Shadowhunter or human, i.e. vampires, werewolves, etc.) and to convert as many humans as possible into Shadowhunters, despite the fact that doing so would kill 80% of them. Clary’s mother took her into hiding when she was little but now she’s discovered her heritage, and her mother has been kidnapped by Valentine’s forces, who are trying to find the Mortal Cup, which Clary’s mother Jocelyn stole from Valentine the night she escaped. So Clary joins forces with the local Shadowhunter team (made of teenagers her age, natch) in order to track it down and rescue her mother. Of course she falls in love with Jace, and there’s a bloody love triangle (actually, a love pentagram). From there, other stuff happens, too, but the important takeaway here is that Simon loves Clary and Clary loves Jace and Jace loves Clary but Jace thinks Valentine is his father and Valentine IS Clary’s father, and also Isabelle hates everyone and Alec is in love with Jace because he’s gay, and there’s also a handsome bisexual Asian Warlock in there as well, and some vampires and werewolves and Simon turns into a rat. And that’s, like, 0.07% of the crazy that happens in this book. (Please do note, however, that no book will ever top the crazy that is Breaking Dawn.)
So what did I think of it? Well, like I said, it’s readable. If you read it really fast with your brain on autopilot, you might even be fooled into thinking Clare has a way with words (and characters). But upon closer inspection, most of Clare’s turns of phrase don’t actually make any sense. For example, after the scene where Clary and Jace rescue Simon the rat from the vampire nest and she’s taken a hefty fall, Clary thinks,

Is that blood? She opened her eyes hazily. Her face felt like one big bruise, her arms, aching and stinging, like raw meat.”

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Lisa Bee’s #CBR5 Review #41: City of Glass by Cassandra Claire

Or as I like to call it: City of Why Can’t You Guys Just Communicate a Little Better?

City of GlassAnd so, after a strong first novel and slightly less-engaging sequel, this installment to Cassandra Claire’s Mortal Instruments series hits the third-book-slump for a number of reasons. While the story is still engaging if you have become invested in these characters from the previous books, there is a definite increase in melodrama and love-angst in City of Glass. Furthermore, many of the plot twists and outcomes can be seen coming from a mile away, making it far less exciting than say, City of Bones with all it’s amusing turns. Although I must admit, I did accidentally spoil one of the big twists for myself before reading this book (I was dorking around on the internet, rookie mistake, I know), but I still feel as though you could see where all of this was headed very easily.

[Hold on to your hats, kids, if you haven’t read any of these books before, this plot description is likely to leave you a bit lost…]

Lisa Bee’s #CBR5 Reviews #39-40: City of Bones and City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

City of BonesWhenever I read a young-adult series, I find that I fall in love with the first book, only to be extremely disappointed by each sequel that comes to follow it (I’m looking at you, Maze Runner, a series I still haven’t finished from frustration with the second novel). Because of this, when I embarked on reading City of Bones before the film adaptation is released this week [Jonathan Rhys Meyers film career, back from grave!], I also decided to read City of Ashes immediately afterwards. While City of Ashes does experience a bit of a sequel slump, it’s not nearly as drastic as I feared it would be, and is still quite good.

In any case, the first two books of The Mortal Instruments series have definitely made me want to continue reading to see what happens: I’m enjoying them a lot. Maybe it’s my love of all that fantasy, angels and demons stuff (which we can see in the fact that I never met a Supernatural reference I didn’t want to make). Or maybe it’s that everything seems to have a very distinct purpose and is very planned out; the books are richly detailed, but not so much so that it becomes a chore to read through them. Of course, being that these books are aimed at the young-adult demographic, there are bound to be some young romance plot lines, which vary in their degrees of being seemingly necessary or just plain irritating. City of Ashes definitely hinges more on the slow-paced discussions of relationships and issues of love than the action and back-story-filled City of Bones. 

[Spoilers ahead, ye be warned…]

Rachie3879’s #CBR5 Review #15: Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

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Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Princess is the last book in a young adult trilogy The Infernal Devices. This review is going to proceed under the assumption that you all know the history of the main characters, mainly because explaining the entire world Clare has created would just take too long. The gist of the series is that our young heroine, Tessa Gray, is an American in 19th century London who learns through a series of events in the first book that she is a supernatural being with the ability to shapeshift into anyone whose personal belongings she holds. Will Herondale and Jem Carstairs are Shadowhunters, a race of people descended from angels who are tasked with protecting humans from dangerous things like demons, vampires, fairies and werewolves. Will and Jem are parabati, a kind of blood brother. They are nonsexual soulmates, if you will; their bond is made all the more poignant by the fact that Jem is slowly dying (the cause is explained in the first book but I’ve forgotten the details – he needs some opium-like drug to sustain life but it won’t keep him around forever). Will loves Tessa. Jem loves Tessa. Tessa loves Will. Tessa also loves Jem. Jem proposes to Tessa and she accepts. Will confesses his love to Tessa and she lies and says she doesn’t feel the same way and he vows to never speak of it to either Jem or Tessa again. In the meantime, there is a villain, Mortmain, who is after Tessa for some grand dark plan to ruin all Shadowhunters and basically take over the world. This is where we begin in Clockwork Princess: Tessa and Jem are prepping for their wedding and all seems well. Until it’s not.

Mortmain has bought up all the supplies of Jem’s drug in order to force Tessa to come to him and help execute his dastardly plan. If she joins him, he’ll send the supply of the drug that Jem needs to survive. They don’t follow through and the rest of the novel proceeds with the Shadowhunters and Tessa struggling to free themselves from the terror of Mortmain once and for all.

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Even Stevens’s #CBR5 review #6 – City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

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City of Ashes is the second in Clare’s Mortal Instruments series, so there are spoilers ahead. I’d say consider yourself warned, but honestly I’m probably doing you a favor here anyway.

We pick up shortly after the events of the first book, Valentine has escaped and Jace is now under suspicion of being in cahoots with him.  Jace is to face The Inquisitor to prove or disprove his innonence, while suddenly important magical items go missing and several downworlders have been attacked or murdered. The group soon finds out that Valentine is responsible for all of these events and is attempting to create a demon army in order to basically take over the world.

Sigh. This book. I wanted to like this book. Clare took a few steps in the right direction by splitting up her narrative between different characters, probably in hopes that we would forget how damn boring Clary is.  The events in the first few chapters were actually pretty cool and kind of twisted, and I allowed my hopes to raise up a little bit. Well, that was pretty much all for nothing because Jace continues to be arrogant and perfect, Clary perfect and boring, and Simon is still just plain old annoying.  There’s a big chunk in the middle where not a whole hell of a lot happens and there are some extremely clunky and obvious HEY THIS IS A HINT I BET WE HEAR ABOUT THIS LATER moments. Among them, the fact that Clary and Jace probably aren’t related (because of course they’re not, my reaction to that revelation in the first one was “bullshiiiiiiit!”). Another thing that bugged: no one ever freakin dies. Listen, I don’t need my characters lined up for slaughter but when you have a huge battle and are epically outnumbered, the only logical conclusion is that someone fucking dies, alright?! Ahem, sorry.  Anyways, that only serves to take all the tension out of the story because you know damned well that everyone is magically going to be ok (sometimes literally).

I will probably read the third book (which was originally the end to the series, then a few more got tacked on) because I’m a masochist and want to know what happens anyway, but after that I’m done.  If you need a light, not-too-hard-on-the-brain read, this is definitely a serviceable series, but it’s not anything I’ll be raving about anytime soon.

Even Stevens’s #CBRV review #5: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

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15-year-old Clary Fray lives in New York City with her artist mother, and does just about everything with her best friend Simon. She has a normal life, or so she thinks. One night while out a club with Simon, Clary discovers the existence of shadow hunters, aka demon hunters, as well as the wide world of demons, downworlders (part demons), witches, warlocks and everything else she always thought was make believe. She is drawn into the shadow hunter world when her mother disappears and Clary finds the apartment torn to shreds and simultaneously comes face to face with a nasty demon. Jace, one of the shadow hunters, comes to her rescue and with the aid of Alec and Isabelle, a brother-sister shadow hunter duo, they attempt to hunt down Clary’s mother, while also investigating the rumor that Valentine, possibly the greatest villain the shadow hunter world, is not only alive, but trying to return to power and dominate the supernatural world once again.

This is a series that I had been resisting reading for awhile, mainly for two reasons: 1) That atrocious cover up there reminded me of a Twilight rip off and 2) it got endless comparisons to Twilight, which didn’t help dispel reason #1. I’m a big fan of YA literature, and just because it’s aimed at teens, doesn’t mean it has to be dumbed down. However, its continued popularity kept my attention, and when I saw it was being made into a movie my curiosity finally got the best of me.

On the whole, I would say that I enjoyed this book. Clare is good at writing action packed scenes and despite having a supernatural theme she kept it pretty grounded and believable.  It was a very quick read and kept my attention. However, I did have a few issues. First of all, Clary is a bit of a Mary Sue. Clary discovers this whole new world and at the beginning she is strong and sarcastic, which I loved, but as the book progresses she kind of fades into the background and basically becomes a mechanism for telling the story of the other characters. She wasn’t obnoxious or annoying, just sort of unremarkable for much of the book. It’s a shame too, because there’s glimpses of where she could be useful but then someone else saves the day (for those who have read it, I’m thinking of the roof scene and the last scene with Dorothea).  My other big issue with the book is that there’s a big reveal near the end of the book, one which I actually liked and found refreshingly different, that results in certain characters acting against the personas Clare has crafted for them throughout the book.

I liked the book well enough and hope that the series will build on itself and become stronger. I will give a little cheat and say that I’m already into book two and it is much more interesting thus far, so that’s a positive sign. If you’re a big supernatural/YA fan I say give it a go if you’re curious – it’s great for a light, enjoyable read.