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This site is dedicated to exploring children's fiction.
I write it, read it, teach it and increasingly feel the need to talk about. Please feel free to join the conversation otherwise it will be a monologue and they can get quite dull.
My current project is concerned with transformations in children's writing.
If you have any suggestions or favourite books which deal with transformation please let me know.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The City of Bones: Cassandra Clare

This is another first book of a hugely successful series. It was an enjoyable read and sits somewhere between Harry Potter in terms of its sprawling and not wholly convincing world building and Twilight with its love triangle and forbidden sexual attraction.
The story contains many traditional elements, the heroine Clary discovers that she can see demons, werewolves, vampires and warlocks and also those who hunt them 'Shadow hunters'.It transpires that she has always had this ability but her mother, a Shadow Hunter herself paid a warlock to regularly ensorcel her to forget what she sees. Her mother has disappeared in violent and mysterious circumstances and so gradually her natural ability reasserts itself. It is a really long book with fairly predictable twists at every turn Clary is the daughter of Valentine, an evil renegade Shadowhunter determined to destroy all non humans.So, much like Harry Potter, she turns out to be rather important without knowing it in this world under the world. There were a few things that didn't make sense. Shadow hunters are made from humans with angel's blood and their talents are inherited. Clary's best friend, Simon, who predictably enough is in love with her, starts to see these other beings just because he is made aware that they exist- an expedient solution to a plot problem that seemed unconvincing.
The book is about the search for Clary's mother and for the cup which transforms ordinary humans into Shadow Hunters, but it is the sexual tension between Clary and Jace, an apparently orphaned Shadow Hunter, who turns out to be her brother, that really drives the plot.
I don't want to be over critical - quite apart from anything else crticising a very successful book can look like sour grapes - the book has some cool ideas, magical rune tattoos which lend power while they last, vampires on specially constructed motorbikes that can fly but cease to work in the light. There is the usual focus on clothes and surfaces but the book seems to belong more to the world of film and television than literature. Everyone is gorgeous and the setting cinematic. 'It's all true' is a bit of a watch word and Clare has thrown in creatures from wildly different traditions including angels and demons, without any underlying theology or ontological rationale. The Shadow Hunters have a world of their own, Idris, which also didn't make much sense to me.
It is possible I missed something: I read it at pace because it is in its way gripping but the world building felt incoherent.
I was also interested in how little the central issue - Clary's loss of her mother drove the plot. The were wolf character was not particularly convincing and it felt as if he were a were wolf only to provide another twist and the other transformation - of Simon into a rat- felt like it had come straight from a Harry Potter book.
It won't be a hardship to read the rest of the series, it is entertaining, but Clare is obviously a competent writer and I had hoped for something with a bit more depth. It is of course quite unjust to criticise a book for being the book the writer wanted to write rather than the one the reader wanted to read. This is sassy and smart and glamorous and its success is unsurprising.

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