Book review

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (2007)

Part one of The Mortal Instruments

It’s a dangerous world out there, if you can see it. Not everyone can. You have to relax your eyesight, let everything go softly out of focus and look beyond the glamour. That’s the masking spell. It hides everything the Shadowhunters don’t want the mundanes to see.

Shadowhunters? They are Nephilim, the offspring of humans and angels, created by the Angel Raziel when the human world was overrun by demon invasions from other worlds. Shadowhunters are sworn to protect the human race. Of course there are great Shadowhunter families now but if too many are lost through battle it is possible to create more Shadowhunters. You need the Mortal Cup. And you need to mix the blood of an angel with the blood of a mortal and give it to the mortal to drink. It’s still not easy to kill demons though. Shadowhunters train from the earliest age to fight with weapons and without. And they wear the protective iratzes when they go out hunting. An iratz is a mark like a tattoo which they draw on their bodies. It can offer temporary protection from injury and endow the wearer with temporary powers. When the power of the iratz wears off just the faintest scar remains on the body.

They move among us, the Shadowhunters. We just never see them. There’s an Institute in most important cities all across the world. There’s one in New Jersey for instance. It’s an old cathedral with broken-in windows and doors sealed with yellow police tape. Rubbish is strewn by the railings. Clary lets her mind relax:

There it was: the true vision, glowing through the false one like light through dark glass. She saw the soaring spires of the cathedral, the dull gleam of the leaded windows, the brass plate fixed to the stone wall beside the door, the Institute’s name etched into it. She held the vision for a moment beore letting it go almost with a sigh.

You’ll be wondering how come Clary can see through glamours. She is definitely a mundane. Most likely. Maybe. Well, no, in fact, she isn’t. She’s a Shadowhunter too but her mother has hidden her, protected her, brought her up as a mundane. That’s because Clary has an important part to play in a terrible, deadly rift that has opened up in the Shadowhunter world. The Mortal Cup is lost. It is urgently sought by both the dangerous but charismatic rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, and by the Clave, the official Shadowhunter council.

In the space of a day or two Clary’s mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. She has acquired the Sight but doesn’t much like the things she can see now...except for Shadowhunter Jace. There’s chemistry sparking there between Clary and Jace, if only Jace weren’t so annoying. They have a lot to think through. What does Clary’s mother know about the Mortal Cup? Perhaps Clary herself knows more than she thinks she does. There seems to be a block in her mind...

Clary, she may be small but she is indomitable. And she is utterly loyal. She’s swept along by supernatural events but she never forgets her friends or her family and she moves heaven and earth to keep them safe. I loved every single character in this book and there are all sorts: Shadowhunters, mundanes, vampires, werewolves, faeries. They are all flawed. They make mistakes, misjudgments and they change their minds. But all that, it just makes their successes even greater.

Shadowhunters have a saying: all the stories are true.

What can I read next?

Cassandra Clare has created a brilliant world and you can live in it practically full time. There are more than a dozen titles in this series. Me personally, I’ve read every single one. The Mortal Instruments series:

  • City of Bones
  • City of Ashes
  • City of Glass
  • City of Fallen Angels
  • City of Lost Souls
  • City of Heavenly Fire

The Infernal Devices series, is shadowhunting set in Victorian London and I absolutely loved it:

  • Clockwork Angel
  • Clockwork Prince
  • Clockwork Princess

There’s more, but you can find out the rest for yourselves.

When you’ve read all that and wonder what to do with the rest of your life, you might like to peek into this world of old charter magic created by Garth Nix:

Or you could settle into the Earthsea series by Ursula Le Guin:

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