Thursday, July 19, 2012

Literature Review: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Clare takes a while to get really get in the water. She spends a long time dipping her toes in the pool, and until she really settles in with the temperature the book is held down by some sloppy phrases, sentences cut short, and needless scene breaks. Some of these still carry through to the end, but they become much less jarring once her writing really picks up and the story has gotten itself off the ground.

City of Bones is best read with the idea that you're "watching" an anime series, or perhaps a supernatural series like True Blood works as well. The real gist is that the story feels like multiple connected stories, and I don't mean that just because of the three individual parts. It genuinely feels like a series of multiple episodes, which isn't a detriment in any way. It makes the book a little easier to read than one that is just a straight 500 pages of one story.

While I do feel this book is worth a read to fans of anime, comic books, things that are really flashy and have lots of combat and end-of-the-world stakes, it suffers from dropped plot threads and Band-Aid solutions when it remembers them. There is one point during the story where a major character is critically injured, and shortly after that our heroine (Clary) is swept into events which forces her to abandon him. Seemingly only for a minute, mind you. Unfortunately that minute becomes days, and during those days she does not once think about her ailing friend. The last she sees of him is an unconscious and bleeding husk in a bed, with no medical attention, and she doesn't give one single sentence to concern that he hasn't dead. This is made even more outrageous when just pages ago she was wracked with guilt because he was gravely injured because of her.

Another--not a plot thread, but I'd call it a thought--shows up in the fifteen (or so) page epilogue which is never resolved by the end. Admittedly, this could be because the scenario will be addressed early on in the second book, as I know this is a series, but it leaves this particular title feeling somewhat incomplete, which kind of diminishes the whole point of having an epilogue in the first place.

The characters are fairly real, for the most part. The family dynamic--and I don't feel I'm ruining anything by saying this, although this may be a tad spoilerific for some--screams of Star Wars. While that does ring up the intensity, it's been a little too Holleywood for some time now, and seems to cheapen things overall. However, despite this flaw, Clary and her supporting cast (in particular regards to the character Simon) are living, breathing human beings. Many of which are far too confident and whose arrogance easily becomes grating, but hey, people are like that and that just shows how well written they are. Of course, Clary occasionally suffers from what I call "Total Idiot Syndrome" which is when a protagonist does something so ridiculously stupid I can't imagine a living person would actually reach those conclusions or perform those actions.

This breathing cast can, however, be disappointing at times. This is most noticeable when two of your favorite characters die off in the same event towards the end of the book. This is even more disappointing when these characters had maybe twelve lines and two or three pages between them, and somehow they were awesome enough to make it onto the top characters list. Which in this book is something, because there's enough characters bouncing around to write an encyclopedia on. Also, my favorite ones died.

The main antagonist and his two lackeys are also afflicted with an identified literary disease. This one I dub "Bwahahaha I'm The Villain Syndrome." In this disease, the villain acts all too predictably like the villain, and all too predictably like a slimy rat. These villains can be replaced with the names Bowser, Ganondorf, Ashnard, Jaffar, Voldemort, Frieza, Lex Luthor... Take your pick, I've got more. You've seen them both before, and when you get to meet them up close and personal... You're just going to wish they'd go away so the original story can continue. They take up far too many pages for characters with far too little... character. Much like how this paragraph has used far too many ellipses for anything... ever.

Clear influences and unthoughtful plot resolutions aside, the book will take you for a pretty awesome ride. You'll meet all sorts of Downworlders you won't soon forget, find your friends becoming all manner of beast before your very eyes, and realize that by the end of it you actually feel like you have five or six new friends. Or, if you're a normal person, that this particular reviewer is a schizophrenic, but do we really want to split hairs?

I give this book three stars for its rocky start, awkwardly ended sentences, and unsatisfying reveals, but also its charming cast, slew of personality, refreshing and easy narrative structure, and the permanent spot it's gaining on my shelf. Once I buy it. This one belongs to the library. But if I were a crappy patron, it'd stay on my shelf!