Review: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

City of BonesCity of Bones by Cassandra Clare
Read: April 29 – May 12, 2013
Book club selection (Fantasy genre)

Goodreads Book Blurb: When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder — much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing — not even a smear of blood — to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know…

My Opinion: OK. I have put off writing this review for long enough. My mom bought these books for herself a while ago, and then she passed them on to me. I had heard mixed things, and so I didn’t really prioritize them until my book club decided to read it for the fantasy selection.

I am just going to come right out and say it. I pretty much hated this book. I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but I did.

It could be that the characters were entirely one-dimensional. Clary was obviously a failed attempt at the strong female main character. But unfortunately, a strong female character is not made by having her act like a brat. She didn’t treat anyone with respect, herself and her supposed best friend included. She slapped people a lot (which, by the way, doesn’t make you tough) and she just grated on my nerves. I think the name also put me off. The author’s last name is Clare, the main character is Clary. Coincidence? I think not. Other character-based transgressions included talking about everything the character was thinking without regard for if it was realistic, being jealous for no reason, everyone being in love with Clary, etc.

The plot is not original. The world is not original. Clare has taken aspects of many different stories and mashed them all together to make City of Bones. But, as with paint, add too many things and all you get is a muddy mess.

For those who don’t know, there is a very large claim against Cassandra Clare on grounds of plagiarism. She used to write fanfiction, which is of course a derivative work in itself. However, Clare was cited as taking entire chunks of text from other works. TV shows, literature, etc. She just, copied and pasted it. And there are chunks of her fanfiction used in her published works. So where does the plagiarism stop?

There is no such thing as an “original” idea anymore, but that doesn’t mean that plagiarizing someone else’s words verbatim is in any way OK. Though it is also worth noting that I personally don’t know of any straight cases of plagiarism in City of Bones, the whole situation makes me upset as an aspiring author.

The whole tone of City of Bones grated on my nerves. I almost felt like someone was reading the book to me. A very big fan of the book. It exuded a sense of “Check out how clever this is!” and “Isn’t this neat?”… and I just wanted to be able to form my own opinions without being bludgeoned over the head with that of the narrative voice. Also, Clare repeats herself. A lot.

Bottom Line: While I didn’t completely hate the book, I definitely didn’t enjoy it. I own most of them, but I don’t know if I will be reading the rest.


8 thoughts on “Review: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

  1. I agree with this post. I read this book a few months ago now and wasn’t really impressed. There is a lot of action, which could be good, but as you say the characters are predictable and one dimensional, and I read the summary of the rest of the series and it just sounds like the action rambles on. I thought the end of the book was very Star-War-Luke-I-Am-Your-Fatherly, and I have also heard about her fan fiction claims as well. Also I am kind of cynical when it comes to love triangles. While reading it I thought at times it was fun, but overall I am not a fan.

    • Thanks for the comment! I just found so much fell short with this book. The action was fairly well written, and the book was easy to read in that it didn’t take long, and it doesn’t take much emotional or intellectual presence to read… but it was far from a good book for me.

  2. while i don’t share your opinion on this book/series, i think that it’s great that you’re open and honest about what you feel on this. i think that it’s a worthwhile conversation around the depth of the characters and how that goes into the story. what i found with this series is that it ebbed and flowed for sure. there were scenes in different ones that reminded me why i kept reading and other times when i wanted to just put the book down because the characters were a little too un-realistic. too angsty or too paranormal or too blah. but ….everyone’s entitled.

    i look forward to your other reviews!

    • Thanks for the comment! I always welcome discussion and differing opinions on books. I have loved books that others have hated, and I have hated books that others have loved. It is the nature of reading… everyone is individual. I definitely found that there were times that the prose in City of Bones moved more swiftly than others, and overall it was a fairly quick read for me, but I still didn’t enjoy it anywhere near as much as I thought I would, or as I have enjoyed other works.

      Again, thanks for the comment and the discussion!

  3. Fanfiction derivative work? In a sense, but it’s also original work. There is fanfiction everywhere in the publishing world – works and spin-offs of Sherlock, Star Wars, anything and everything based on classics like Jane Eyre, Edith Wharton etc. I can see why you didn’t like City of Bones (I, myself, could not get through a single chapter) but I don’t see how the fact that Cassandra used to write fanficiton is relevant at all, or even the fact that she plagiarized during that time (she hasn’t plagiarized in her published work, obviously). She wasn’t making money off fanfiction and most likely just meshing ideas, worlds etc as part of creative growth when she was young and didn’t know better (again, it brought no harm to anyone and her stories were hella entertaining). I really don’t think it’s fair to hold it against her when it has absolutely no relevance to her work now. Btw, there are awesome published YA authors who used to write fanfiction like Sarah Rees Brenan. I get the feeling you would like her books, especially Unspoken (which you have on your to-read list =P)

    • Thanks for the comment, and for pointing out something I guess I wasn’t clear on. I have no issues with fanfiction. I have myself dabbled in writing fanfiction when my own “original” ideas are not forthcoming, but I want to write something. I think it is a great way to get and keep the creative juices flowing. When I say derivative work, I mean it uses characters and setting already built by someone else. There is an element of originality there for sure, but not as much as if I were to take pen to paper and spit out a story.

      From what I understand, though (and not having read her original fanfiction, this is all coming from what the internet tells me today), Clare copied pretty much verbatim chunks of text from other books, movies and TV shows into her fanfiction. It is one thing to be inspired by say, Star Wars and to take some of the cadence of words, etc. from it. But there were entire chunks of text either copied verbatim or modified only slightly (one or two words, hardly enough to make it original). It is then my understanding that she used that fanfiction as a basis for her published works. Again, I am not claiming she has plagiarized anything in City of Bones, just that the whole situation makes me uncomfortable with the book as a whole. I am fully willing to own that that is part of why I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I could have.

      As for no one getting hurt etc, I suppose monetarily speaking no one got hurt, but it still seems like creative robbery to me… which is why I have trouble just dropping it. I would feel the same if I found out an author I loved to the ends of the earth had been plagiarizing others’ works…

      • City of Bones is not really based on any of her fanfiction. I think this myth has been going around because Jace is somewhat similar to fanon!Draco (and she wrote a lot of Draco-centric fics) but that’s just an archetype of blonde, leather clad hero that she is using. I saw some of the things she plagiarized, it was literally a turn of a phrase from some movie or a book (how do you plagiarize chunks of text from TV?) and she later would own up to it saying she should’ve mentioned it in the story notes (it’s akin to me naming a chapter with a song title but not clarifying that it’s a song title). I really don’t feel like taking cultural references, turn of phrases from tv and popular fiction and integrating that into fanfiction is an offense, or a great enough offense to hold against an author.

      • By definition, I guess you can’t plagiarize from TV, though you can copy the dialogue. Someone wrote that dialogue, so while it isn’t literature, it is still theft. I am not one of the die-hard anti-CC people that seem to be rampant, but I am still really uncomfortable with the whole thing that has cropped up. I think this is something we will just have to agree to disagree on. 🙂

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