“Usually, I’m remarkably good-natured. Try me on any day that doesn’t end in y.”
What with me seeing the 2013 film The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones* for the first time when it had its freeview premiere on TV the other day and the new TV series Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments having not so long ago started, it seemed like the right time to do my Reading List post on the series of books that they’re both based on: The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare, made up of the following 6 books: City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, City of Fallen Angels, City of Lost Souls & City of Heavenly Fire.
I started with just City of Bones on the list along with several other first books from well-known, well-liked YA fiction series. After getting round to borrowing the first one from the library and enjoying it when I read it, I decided to commit to the series and add the rest of them to the list. I finished reading the whole series at the end of Summer last year.
The Mortal Instruments definitely fits into its YA genre; there’s a strong, but lacking in self-confidence, teenaged female lead (Clary) who suddenly discovers a huge secret about herself (she’s a Shadowhunter – bonus points for special powers) and then proceeds to discover more about this world (for which the author has invented history, culture and technical language) and fight the forces of evil with minimal intrusion from parents or standard education but maximum intrusion from tortured romances.Yes it’s trope-y, but don’t tropes exist because they’re the sort of storylines we enjoy reading? I, myself, will always admire an author for creating detailed worlds – the more detail the more you can wrap yourself up in it. It’s how I can be so immersed in the world of Harry Potter because it feels so real, though even that pales next to Tolkien literally creating the Elvish language! Clare’s details include copious amounts of runes and creating customs that reflect the Shadowhunters’ having a different way of life and so a completely different outlook on life as a society from ‘mundanes’ (aka muggles). I also love to read/watch different people’s takes on classic supernatural stuff like werewolves, vampires and magic.
The series does suffer from what I call “the trilogy problem”**, where a series seems to have been originally intended only to be a trilogy but then was extended, so in the 3rd book (here City of Glass) all the major plotlines are wrapped up only a whole new set of problems to arise in the 4th book. Also here, after the 3rd book the titles stop referencing actual ‘cities’ within the story and start just being named thus to keep the pattern going. While I’m all for spending more times in worlds I love but it does tend to make you doubt the longevity of the happy endings described after the books have finished when those you’ve previously been given are so suddenly torn up (see also unplanned film sequels).
It also suffers a bit from “the other trilogy problem” where the quality of the books goes down as the series progresses and (while the books are never under 400 pages long) my first reaction on seeing the the 750+ pages of the last installment, City of Heavenly Fire, was more of a groan at having to get through that much to finish the series than excitement at the long story ahead of me. That said I did enjoy the final book, if more for the secondary characters than the primary ones – who I confess I had tired of a little by the end. Plus as the books go on the story is increasingly divided between different points of view so these secondary characters become more like primary characters. They include the badass Isabelle, the lovable geek Simon, funny (though usually not on purpose) Alec and the fabulous Magnus.
The Mortal Instruments is a good series, typical of its genre, rightly popular but not outstanding.
Going back to Magnus and Alec, The Mortal Instruments is I believe the first book(s) I’ve read with a LGBT+ relationship between such major characters (they may not be the main pairing but by the end they were telling a lot of the story independently of Clary & Jace and I certainly shipped them the most) – so, woo! representation, sorry it took me (and the book market in which such relationships are not common) so long.
* Comments on casting: Having played very peripheral characters inTwilight and Harry Potter Jamie Campbell Bower finally gets a lead role in a franchise as Jace (sadly for him the franchise thing didn’t really work out); Luke is played by Aidan Turner of Poldark fame *swoon*; and Clary’s mum was played by Lena Headey aka Cersei from Game of Thrones which presented some interesting moments. Having the built up familiarity with an actor’s voice and facial expressions that the long exposure of a TV series gives you, I found myself disproportionately wanting to yell “Run! Hide!” to Clary as her mum told her off for staying out late the previous night as my associations with an angry Cersei bled through.
**First really became aware of this when reading the Young Samurai series by Chris Bradford. It has 3 books called Way of ‘Something’ and then 5 called Ring of ‘Something’ that have different cover designs to the original trilogy and follow a different ‘journey’ for the main character. This doesn’t mean I don’t really recommend the series.