City of Bones a.k.a. haven’t I read/seen this before?

OK so I know it’s been a while since I updated. I’ve been meaning to shred this book for aeons, but I never got around to it till now. Still, better late than never, right?

Cassandra Clare has quite the colorful history in online Harry Potter fandom (where she went by the name Cassandra Claire… why she dropped the i, I suppose we’ll never know). If you’re so inclined, you can read about it here or if you don’t have five hours to spare, the cliff notes version here. Now, I’m not trying to allege that anything in the Mortal Instruments series is plagiarized–it isn’t, although it’s been claimed that she lifted passages from her own fanfic–but given CC’s fandom history, well… how about I just break this down and let you decide. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so:

The Cast

Clary Fray – the story’s young protagonist:

Jace Wayland – the obligatory psychotic jackass love interest:

Valentine – the bad guy:

Some other people:

What, you mean you still want a proper synopsis? Sigh. FINE.

So the heroine, Clary, hits up an all-ages dance club in NYC with her buddy, Simon, where she witnesses a murder. Only it’s not really a murder, it’s a group of teenage demon-fighters killing a demon who’s glamoured himself to look like a normal teen. So Clary finds out she’s among a group of magical humans called the Shadowhunters, who keep themselves hidden from non-magical humans, whom they call “Mundanes.” The Shadowhunters use glamours to hide their places, so they appear to the Mundanes as abandoned buildings and such. Clary also finds out that NYC plays host to a thriving underground consisting of all sorts of magical beings and fairy creatures. In particular, there are demon/human hybrids called “downworlders.” A sect of the Shadowhunters known as the Circle seeks to rid the population of the downworlders. So the Shadowhunters are headed up by this totally evil guy named Valentine. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, K?

WELL TOO BAD. You wanted a synopsis, you got one. OK so most of the book is spent on nicking stuff from other series worldbuilding. Clary is introduced to the Institute, a hidden magical place where would-be Shadowhunters learn to shadow-hunt. There she meets a wise old mentor figure named Hodge who has a pet bird. Then the shit starts really hitting the fan. Her Mom goes missing, she consults a Trelawney-esque eccentric fortuneteller lady, and stuff happens involving flying motorcycles and a gay wizard. Which sounds pretty cool put that way, but so many other elements are so obviously borrowed, it kind of cancels it out. Besides, it’s not like TMI is the only series to ever feature a gay wizard. There’s also a Lupin knockoff in there who does… pretty much nothing but deliver a really long monologue Explaining Everything. And through it all is the teen angst–Simon’s in love with Clary who’s in love with Jace with whom she makes out and then finds out he’s her brother.

Oh, yeah.

Clary’s always wondered about her father whom she never knew, and naturally the story her mother told her was some twee fabrication and her father is really… dun dun dun… VALENTINE! Who also spawned a son who ended up with the Waylands! Who also happens to be… oh, fuck it, I can’t even pretend to be surprised.

So here’s the dealio. It’s not that CC is a terrible writer–her style is pretty no-frills but it gets the job done, and CoB is an entertaining enough read even if it totally lacks any originality. There’s a lot of stuff out there totally lacking in originality but is still a big hit. It just especially bothered me in CoB because the derivative elements are so transparent and so frequent that it’s actually distracting, and completely pulled me out of the story. I couldn’t invest in or care about any of these characters because all I could see were watered-down mishmashes of more memorable characters from earlier, better sagas. It’s that obvious. So if you’ve ever seen Buffy, HP, or Star Wars you’ll either love this book (because it’s just like crossover fanfiction with the names changed) or hate it (because it’s just like crossover fanfiction with the names changed). And if you’ve read/seen neither? Get off this blog and out from under that rock and do so. Trust me, the story was better the first three times around.

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