So here’s the thing. After reading the things that crop up on my Tumblr dashboard from time to time concerning Cassandra Clare and her notorious history as a “Big Name Fan” on the very permanent interwebz, I don’t have much respect for her as a writer. That being said, the trailer for The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones looks pretty good and I’m a huge sucker for young adult urban fantasy centered around female protagonists. Combine these factors with my good friend Lottie’s recent description of the pseudo-incest plot in The Mortal Instruments, as well as her insistence that I’d love some of the queer characters in the novels (which was reiterated by my best friend), and I caved in spite of my dislike for the books’ author.
In the last week, I’ve busted through all five books that have been published thus far in The Mortal Instruments series and made plans to read the series prequel, The Infernal Devices. I can say with conviction that I have never in my life been more torn about my feelings for a book series, most especially a fun and easy-to-read young adult series.
The basic plot of The Mortal Instruments is that within the human world, there is another world that contains demons, greater demons, vampires, werewolves and other “downworlders” (known to Buffy fans as “baddies”), as well as shadowhunters. Shadowhunters were created when a mortal man drank the blood of an angel. (Or something. I’ve actually lost that thread somewhere along the way because I’ve been too busy tearing my hear out over the romantic drama in these books. That part is definitely riveting.) Shadowhunters are meant to protect humankind from demons and downworlders, which of course gets complicated. Enter some sycophants hellbent on destroying either the human world or the shadowhunter world (or both) and a girl named Clary Fray who was born a shadowhunter but never known life as anything other than a mundane (a “muggle,” for the Potterheads out there), and boom! You have a book series. As this book series progresses, you follow Clary and her friends as they fight evil and avoid death (some more successfully than others) and watch them all fall in love with each other.
From a writer’s standpoint? The Mortal Instruments is a mess of overused metaphors and flowery language that’s too heavy even for the incredibly dramatic plot. Add in the fact that Clare has been accused of plagiarism and the writer side of me has to check out every time I open one of these books. From a reader’s standpoint? Well… that’s complicated. Clare has really interesting characters. I’m completely drawn to every single one of her major players, most especially the romantic and platonic ties between all of them. I constantly want to read more about the dramatic interplay between Clary and Jace, between Alec and Magnus, between Simon and Isabelle…
Clare’s writing feels like fanfiction, which means that it’s incredibly easy and fast to read and that it keeps me interested, even when elements of it make me squirm or feel utterly ridiculous. I am so attached to her characters that I keep reading, despite the fact that overall, the books in this series are not that great. They aren’t worth the attachment. But the characters, as well as certain moments between the characters, make all of my irritation and frustration ultimately worth it. I have every intention of reading the sixth book in this series when it’s released, as well as the prequel series, The Infernal Devices. I have tweeted about and shouted about and updated people about my progress in the books, as well as my feelings throughout. I have gotten entirely too involved in this series, despite my lack of respect for Cassandra Clare, and I totally blame my friends for it. Will I be seeing the movie? Yes. Will I hate the casting? Most definitely. Will I see all of the movies after that? Probably.
For now, I’m taking a break from this series (which in the fourth and fifth books has gotten way too cracky for my taste, but is still riveting enough to keep reading — you can read my individual reviews of the books on GoodReads [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]) to read other young adult books that I am also only interested in because of the upcoming film adaptations… But I know I’m going to get just as attached to the characters in The Infernal Devices. I have prepared myself for this downfall.
I have developed a very love/hate relationship with The Mortal Instruments. I love the characters and the relationships. I hate the writing. I keep finding gaping holes in the plot. I can’t picture hardly anyone in the film cast properly filling the shoes of their roles (though my dream cast is quite lovely, I must say). I don’t respect Cassandra Clare or her writing. But I love Jace Wayland (Lightwood? spoiler alert!) and I love Alec Lightwood and I love Magnus Bane. I love Clary Fray. I love Isabelle Lightwood. I hate myself and my friends for convincing me to read this series.
Remember when I said I was torn? I really, really meant it.
Overall series rating (so far): 3/5 stars
Recommended for: fans of young adult fantasy/romance, people who are bored and want an easy but addictive read