City of Bones (part the first), Cassandra Clare

I never do this, but I have to admit I picked up City of Bones because there’s a movie version being released at the end of August and my friend wants us to go see it. We’ve gone to see a handful of films together that were inspired by books we’ve both enjoyed, and I look forward to seeing this one with her. I already know it will involve about three pounds of candy and one of those tubs of popcorn that could be shared comfortably with eight; we will undoubtedly leave the theatre shaky and slightly sick, and it will be marvelous.

However. First things first. I refuse to go to such a movie without first reading the source material. It just bothers me. Maybe film geeks can do it, but my heart belongs to the written word, and I could never skip this integral step. I have to create my own version of the characters before Hollywood comes along and superimposes its ideas over mine.

That being said, I’m about halfway through the book and it actually feels like it was tailor-made to become a movie. I know this series has been around for a while (since 2007, according to Wikipedia), and I also know it’s massively popular, especially with its targeted young adult audience, but so far, it’s not hitting quite the right buttons for me.

I find this particularly surprising because by all accounts, it should fit right into my guilty pleasure niche (YA urban fantasy). The biggest challenge I’m having (and perhaps this is because I’d already seen a  trailer for the movie before I started reading the book) is that the descriptive prose feels custom-made for adaptation. The plot is engaging, and I enjoy the characters, but it lacks the depth I was expecting (and which I often find in this genre). I keep wondering if Clare’s goal all along was to have this brought to the screen, and if so, she’s done an excellent job. This book was made to be seen rather than read. The setting is lush, the costumes highly visual, and the story, while interesting, is simple enough to be highly translatable to that medium.

Of course, this is also her first novel, and I’m willing to give a lot of leeway for firsts. Also, I’m a member in good standing of the “any book that gets kids to read” club. If City of Bones appeals to young readers (it does, and I completely understand why, even at the halfway point), then it’s okay with me that it isn’t perfect. I read so many books as a child and teenager (and let’s be honest, adult) that I wouldn’t even want to admit to; I completely understand the appeal of a book that’s imperfect but also compelling.

I’m curious to see where she goes from the point I’m at, and whether she’ll be able to create a scenario where I feel compelled to pick up the next book (before the inevitable second movie, that is). I hope she manages it because a part of me would really like to see how her writing evolves. She has to earn it though. The never-ending siege of books to be read is poised to push me away from the series if it doesn’t up its game in the next two hundred or so pages…


For more about Cassandra Clare, head here.

18 thoughts on “City of Bones (part the first), Cassandra Clare

  1. I’m at just about this point in this book, curiously enough, and I do find it a serious page-turner but not leaving much trace behind. I read Twilight stuck in airport hell years ago (when it came out) and this reminds me of that. But Clary doesn’t WHINE and I celebrate that.
    Harper Collins took out a memorial ad in the NY times today for Barbara Robinson “Christmas Pageants will never be the same.” I second that with thanks for the author of The Bet Christmas pageant Ever.

    1. It’s true she doesn’t whine, but she also has the attention span of a flea. One thing you can say for Bella – she’s laser-beam focused ;) Honestly though, what I wouldn’t give for a little more Hermione in all my female protagonists…

  2. I attempted to read City of Bones a few years ago – even though it was exactly the sort of thing I loved, I just couldn’t get into it, and I stopped reading after a few chapters. But because it’s so popular, I do wonder if I gave up too soon – please let me know/write a follow-up post if it gets any better!

  3. Love your comments on thisI wasn’t too sure about the first book but liked it enough to pick up the second and then I was still just meh. I can’t even really remember what happened in them but my flatmate wants to go see the film so now I feel like I should read it again. Hmm. Really not liking the casting of the film either. We shall see….

    1. It’s strange to have books like this, where we like it just enough…but ultimately, it doesn’t satisfy. I think I would be a lot less disappointed if I hadn’t heard good things about it in advance. My hopes were probably just too high.

      1. Totally agree. My flatmate loved them and passed them on to me straight away…I just couldn’t get that excited about them though!

  4. I had to stop at book 3, book 1 was the “worst” for me, but it wasn’t horrible. I’ve always felt that if Harry Potter and Twilight had a love child it would be the Mortal Instruments Series. It isn’t horrible, but not great either. The entire time I was reading City of Bones I kept thinking, “This would be SO MUCH better as a movie.” so I agree 100% with you on that.
    At least the movie looks fabulous :)

    1. I see your Harry Potter and raise Percy Jackson! The books probably appeal to a much younger audience, and it’s just my love of YA that makes me annoyed they aren’t perfect for me :) Hopefully, the movie will redeem this one for me!

  5. I really appreciate what you have just said here: YA novels often lack depth! I used to enjoy them a great deal and now I find it incredibly difficult to pick up and truly enjoy. And yet, I feel the same obligation as you to read the book BEFORE the movie, no matter how difficult it may be. (I must confess however, I utterly failed at reading the LOTR series although I think I made a valiant effort. I DID read The Hobbit! Brownie points maybe?) I miss the innocence of YA novels and how new everything felt but I feel like maybe I have become a book snob???

    1. It’s not that all YA books have this problem, but as the genre becomes increasingly popular, the quality of the books wavers. It’s probably for the best because it means there’s an audience of young readers (which makes me happy), but adult fans have to proceed with greater caution.

      Also, I’m totally with you on the LOTR issue. I tried so hard to read those books, and the only one I ever got through was The Hobbit. I still feel a little guilty about that, but I just couldn’t do it!

  6. I picked up this book for the same reason you did, but I actually enjoyed it more than I thought and ended up buying the rest of the series. You’re absolutely right in saying that it lacks the depth I’ve seen in some other YA novels, but it kept me entertained, and gets my mind off reality, so as long as I don’t break out in full on critic mode I find that it’s easy to get lost in the story.

    1. It’s good to know there are people out there who have enjoyed it more than I did. My friend says the same thing, although she only strongly recommends the first three. Maybe I’ll give the second one a try…

  7. I quite enjoyed the series… I was able to fall into the world quite easily, and had my imagination working overtime in providing me with my version of the characters!
    Attention to detail is both a blessing and a curse ;)
    I’d have to agree, it would be well suited on the big screen! It was a little long winded in some books, at times, but apart from that, engaging!
    A definite sight better than the Twilight series… *Shudders* I wanted to jump into the book with duct tape in hand, her whining was incessant. -_-

    1. Interesting – I had a lot of issues with the Twilight series, but I found the plot and world more engaging than this one (although she really is a difficult protagonist for a feminist to accept!). Maybe it’s because I read them long before they were popular so I wasn’t influenced by public opinion, the way I was with these. My expectations going into books can have a huge effect on how I feel about them afterwards. I knew too much about the Mortal Instrument series and I think it spoiled it for me a bit. I am looking forward to the movie though, so we’ll see how I feel after that!

  8. Oh, I loved this review. It was so refreshingly honest and non-boring. I’ve never heard of the shoe or the book, but I’m intrigued to see what a book reads like that would do well as a movie … I might have to pick it up!

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