I can’t remember the last time that I could say I liked a movie better than I liked the book it was based on. Not that the movie version of City of Bones was a cinematic masterpiece, but in this case, I think I preferred it… at least in some respects. I’m not sure if my reactions to the written word would have been the same if I had not seen the movie first. I liked the book well enough. The world-building, in particular, was quite good. There were some things, though, that kept the story from crossing the line from good to great.
15 year-old Clary thinks she is just a regular girl. Her mom is an artist. Her best friend Simon is a little nerdy. But for the most part, life is good. Until she witnesses a murder by a band of teenagers who no one else can see. Things go from bad to worse when her mom goes missing in an attack that trashes her home –and one of the sword wielding invisible killers ends up helping her figure out what happened. In the process, he opens her eyes to a world of magic, demons, and the nephalim. And as she learns more about his secret world, she discovers the truth about herself that her mother has hidden from her since she was a baby.
Like I said, the world building is really cool. The nephalim –or Shadow Hunters– fight the demons and their agents on earth. They use magical tattoo-like runes for strength, invisibility, and even healing. Traditional supernaturals like werewolves, warlocks, and vampires are folded in, as well as some unique species, like the ultra-creepy Silent Brothers. It was rich and vibrant and easy to fall into.
But all of that is really just the backdrop for us to witness Clary’s evolution. This book is about her journey from a mundane existence to an exceptional one. With her, we experience discovery, horror, fear, empowerment, jealousy, betrayal, and the first stirrings of love. I think I liked the movie version of Clary better (and her Shadowhunter love interest Jace as well.) Both versions of Clary were good people: earnest, righteous, and brave. But in the book, Clary was a bit more selfish and petty at times. She seemed to both want and not want something more from Simon –while she clearly wanted to pursue a relationship with Jace. She was intentionally spiteful to Jace’s friend Alec. And so on. There is growth for her over the course of the story, but her immaturity was more apparent on the page than on the screen.
By the same token, book-Jace was a bit less appealing than movie-Jace. While there were times I enjoyed his wit and swagger, there were some points in the book it pushed the boundaries past cute and cocky, into straight-up jerk. And while all of it is clearly a façade for his vulnerability, the way things play out at the end make him feel more of a broken child than a young man.
And speaking of the end. Oy. I won’t spoil you if you aren’t already familiar with the twist. But the romance lover in me is totally squicked out by the way this played out. And as much as I am loathe to look up internet spoilers (I never do it!) –I found myself Googling all over the place to reassure myself that this would work out down the road. The ending stinks. Stink, stinky, stinks. But it’s a series and it can’t possibly end this way. So I will read on. I’ll tell you what, though, if I would have had read this when it first came out (without that Google search we talked about,) I doubt I would have wanted to keep going. I’ll keep you posted.
Click to purchase: Amazon
City of Bones
by Cassandra Clare
Release Date: March 27, 2007
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books