Children's Literacy Round-Up: June 8
Growing Bookworms Newsetter: Extra-Review Edition

The Mortal Instruments Series: Cassandra Clare

Books: The Mortal Instruments Trilogy: #1 City of Bones#2 City of Ashes#3 City of Glass 
Author: Cassandra Clare
Pages: ~= 500 each
Age Range: 12 and up

City of GlassCassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments books are an urban fantasy trilogy. The basic premise is that vampires, werewolves, faeries, and warlocks all exist, though their actions are generally hidden from human eyes. A special race called Shadowhunters (people with a hint of angel blood, and a lot of special training) dedicate their lives to maintain order among the other races. They kill demons and protect humans (who they call Mundanes). One day an apparently ordinary Mundane girl named Clary witnesses several Shadowhunters killing someone. Along with her best friend, Simon, Clary soon finds herself drawn into the world of the Shadowhunters. She learns surprising things about her own background, and has to fight to save those whom she comes to love.

I liked this series enough to read through all three thick books in quick succession. I thought that the author demonstrated excellent world-building skills, particularly with the third book. I quite liked the main characters, and the way that their relationships developed, and had conflict. Banter between the characters frequently made me laugh aloud. The hero, Jace, is more vulnerable than Edward Cullen, but perhaps equally appealing to teenage girls. Clary, while occasionally in need of rescue, is brave and loyal, and not afraid to take responsibility upon herself. I can completely see why I was #57 on the hold list at the library for City of Glass.

And yet ... I found these books frustrating, too. A twist in the first book nearly made me throw the book across the room. The only reason that I read the second book was to quiet that voice in my head that kept saying: "Really? Seriously?". And for the entire third book I was waiting for the characters to figure out something that was blindingly obvious.

It's a demonstration of how much I liked the characters, I suppose, that I was so annoyed by these things. I mean, can I really hold it against a book when I don't like the direction of the plot? That's a very different thing from complaining about cardboard characters, or clunky writing (attributes which these books do NOT have). So, I think I can let my issue with the plot twist in the first book go. But my enjoyment of book 3 (and even book 2, to some extent) was diminished by the fact that there were just too many clues pointing to the twist at the end. While I found the ending satisfying, I saw it coming from too far away to be wowed by it. Which is a shame, because it was dramatic stuff.

I'd still recommend the series. Well-drawn characters in a three-dimensional setting, with magic and danger and battles. These are books that will continue to fly off the shelves, and that I would recommend to teen fans of fantasy. I think that they'll stick in my memory, more so than a lot of other books. But, in part, they'll stay with me as those books that I found frustrating. Oh well. I'd be interested to hear what you all think.  

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Publication Date: March 24, 2009
Source of Book: Library copies (all three)

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.