In my opinion, ‘City of Bones’ is one of the most controversial books in the young adult genre. A lot of that controversy comes from the author, Cassandra Clare and her never-ending laundry list of baggage from her fandom days. Unfortunately, the reason why this book was so controversial was that this book attempted to address a lot of social issues in which are not often touched upon in the Young Adult genre. I think that is one of the many reasons why opinions about this book are so staunchly divided among its readers.
I will admit outright that I was already pretty biased against it, because of my own issues with Cassandra Clare. But I also thought the book’s detractors were slightly exaggerating when they talked about how problematic this book was. As, it turns out I was so very wrong, and I owe every one of those people an apology. But before I discuss those problems, I would like to talk about the things I loved about this book.
What I Loved About This Book
The thing I loved most about this book was the worldbuilding. I do admit the word building was greatly flawed, but for me, it was still one of the biggest highlights of this book. This book really played into one of the greatest things that continues to draws me into the Urban Fantasy or Urban Paranormal genres. It’s the singular thought that if you would just look hard enough that you can discover a magical world hidden amongst our modern world. And that theme ran heavily throughout the entire book.
What also caught my attention was the obvious allegory between the Downworlders in this book and racial minorities in real life. I do applaud how Clare was able to bring up the conversation of racial oppression and privilege in a way that is both accessible and understandable to a younger audience
I would also like to point out that one of ‘City of Bones’ many strengths (that are not often talked about) is the book’s minor characters. To me, the characters such as Dorothea or even Gretel were the most interesting than any of the main characters. I also found the subtext between characters such as Luke and Valentine and their homoerotic relationship way more interesting than any of the canon relationships. And I personally wish that Clare would have taken the time to explore their complicated history a bit more.
What I Hated About This Book
The most common complaint I heard from other people who have read this book was how boring it is. And to my horror, I found out once again that those people were not at all exaggerating. This book is approximately 266 pages long, and 80 percent of that was often taken up with unnecessary exposition.
At times, the plot and the action would come to a halt, so the characters can explain characters motivations, backgrounds, and to give the audience foreshadowing for future plot twists in the most obvious ways possible. The most erroneous example of this is when Cassandra Clare switched her point of view from Clary in the third person limited to Luke in first person past. All so Luke can tell us his backstory and reveal to an ever oblivious Clary.
Speaking of Clary’s idiocy, I want to point out that Clary Fray has to be the stupidest young adult character I have seen to date. Clary has zero to none common sense, and as I mentioned before, she is ridiculously oblivious to even the most obvious of clues. The biggest example of this is how Clary was told that Valentine was Jocelyn’s ex-husband, but refused to consider that there was even a possibility that she was his daughter. It took Clary almost half the book to finally realize that she was indeed Valentine’s daughter, and even then Luke had to outright tell her for her to finally get it.
I also want to point out how Clary is a mary sue self-insert. Let’s start with the most obvious indicator, her name and how it’s a derivative of the author’s Cassandra Clare’s name. I also want to point out how physically both Clary and Clare are very similar, expect Clary is an idealized version of Clare. But wherein Stephanie Meyer stopped at one self-insert, Cassandra created two. Because Clary’s mother Joceyeln is just as a mary sue as her daughter. Basically, Joceyeln is just an older version of Clary.
Joceyeln Fray is a beautiful Shadowhunter and artist just like Clary. Also similar to Clary she even has her best friend Luke and her husband fighting over her. She even had a scene in the book which was basically ripped out a Disney’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ or ‘Snow White’. And don’t get me started on how Clary creepily idealizes her mother and basically wants to be her when she grows up.
And just like her mother’s relationships, Clary’s love interests are willing to do anything to protect her. They are even willing to put aside any other relationships and responsibilities aside just to help her. The most notable example of this is Jace. Jace has a soul bond with his best friend and foster-brother Alec Lightwood. He was also under oath not to reveal the Shadowworld to a Mundane (a normal person). Yet in minutes of meeting Clary he was very willing to throw that aside because Clary is just that special.
Now, I want to address the Downworlders .I mentioned earlier that the Downworlders were an obvious allegory to minorities, especially racial minorities. I applauded her earlier for bringing racial oppression in a way that was accessible to younger readers. However, I didn’t mention that she all but glorified her protagonists’ horrendous bigotry. Clare painted her protagonists’ racism as right because they are obviously better than the Downworlders and Mundanes. At one point, Clary points this out, to only end up adopting the Shadowhunter’s horrible prejudice herself by the end of the book.
Not only did Clare glorify bigotry, and tried to defend her characters with every straw man argument possible. She also glorifies such things like homophobia, child slavery, rape, and incest. All the though all three things are terrible, the most obvious (and most controversial) theme in this book was the incest. A good example of this was Jace and Clary’s interactions with each other after it was revealed that they were siblings. Cassandra Clare didn’t stop with trying to shove in every bit of incestuous romantic subtext into her book that she could.
The last thing I want to address is the GLBT representation for which not only the author and this book series is often lauded by both her hardcore fans and the mainstream media for. In my opinion, this book in no way should be applauded for its GLBT diversity. The gay main character Alec Lightwood is hardly seen on-screen. And even when we seem him, Alec Lightwood is often portrayed as Clary’s jealous romantic rival. He really doesn’t have a coherent subplot or character arc other than his own gay struggle.
A further example of this is was Alec’s interaction with bisexual warlock Magnus Bane. They have a few interactions with each other that exhibited little to no romantic chemistry. Then at the end of the book, Magnus drops everything to save a relative stranger that he only at most spent an hour or so with. Even though doing this directly contradicts Magnus’s earlier mercenary characterization. And that is the extent Magnus/Alec’s subplot or even Alec’s own personal subplot for the entire book.
The audience doesn’t even get to see that very last interaction between Alec and Magnus first hand. It’s actually told to Clary (and by proxy us) by Isabelle. Even though, Cassandra Clare has had a previous history of switching POVs for no obvious logical reason.
I can and have gone on and on what was wrong was this book. All of this sadly is just the tip of the iceberg.
I would give this book zero stars if I could and I would no way recommend anyone spend any money on ‘City of Bones’. This book in a lot of ways more horrible than even ‘Twilight’, and as someone who has read all four of those horrible books that is saying something. By the way, if you are interested in reading my
*By the way, if you are interested in reading my sporks, here is the table of contents.