When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder—much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing—not even a smear of blood—to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?
This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know. . .
I'd never been much interested in reading the Mortal Instruments series. Not so much because it didn't sound interesting as supernatural teenagers are usually totally my thing but because I used to be big into fan fiction (don't judge, you know you love it) and I remember the plagiarism scandal that surrounded Cassandra Clare back in 2006. When she published her first book (this book, in fact) in 2007, all I could think about was how she was that plagiarizing woman and didn't pick it up.
However, with the movie coming out soon and a good friend who wanted to see it (and a nice employee discount at my bookstore), I picked it up for a quick read post-Rathbones.
Oh, I wanted to like it. I really did. My life would be so much easier if I did. I just couldn't do it, though. The characters were so boring, the plot line was so predictable and the whole story just felt like a lump. I think I could narrow my main problems down to two big factors, though.
Number One: Incest. There is an incest-y plot line in this book and it made me uncomfortable. I understand that that's what it's supposed to do (I guess?) and I've read other works that had uncomfortable "we're in love but oh no! we might be related!" plot lines before that dealt with them in an interesting and heartbreaking way. It added depth to the character and tragedy to the plot. This one … doesn't. It mostly just serves to make you feel creepy and icky especially as it does not get wrapped up before the end of the book. If this were just a minor plot line, it could be easily overlooked or even found to be a great addition to add a little tension. Instead, by ending the novel with them still in that uncomfortable in-between phase, it just made the reader (or at least, this reader) wonder why they spent so much time becoming invested in these characters' relationship if it was going to eventually end in inbreeding.
Number Two: Dubious characterization. This comes from my earlier point of Cassandra Clare's fan fiction. She was famous for years before her publications for writing Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings fan fiction which I do not in any way judge her for (because there may be a bit of fan fiction by myself out there on the web.) What does seem suspicious, though, is how closely some characters seem to mirror Rowling's. Let's explore:
Jace Wayland: Jace has fine wavy dark golden-blond hair and dark gold eyes. He has a slim, muscular build, and is about 5'11". His face is described as being pretty and angular, and Clary often refers to him as beautiful and leonine, with a narrow mouth. … For most of the books Jace's sarcastic, cold remarks and behavior hides his tortured and angry soul. (Description from Wikipedia)
I don't know how many of you read fan fiction but this is a classic example of fanon Draco Malfoy. Which is especially not surprising as this was a trope she created in her fan fiction opus, The Draco Trilogy, which took her six years to complete when it ended in 2006.
Clarissa "Clary" Fray: Clary is five feet tall with curly red hair, green eyes, pale skin, and freckles. She is said to look like her mother - who is described as beautiful and small. She is rather petite and very thin. She is described by Jace many times throughout the series as "delicate". (Description from Wikipedia)
Did I mention that in her opus that Draco ends up with Ginny? And we did notice that her name is Clarissa "Clary" Fray which sounds a lot like Cassandra Clare? Good. We're on the same page.
There are so many other little things like her best friend Simon who has messy black hair and glasses and is just not as cool as Jace and the fact that all the main character's parents were in a mysterious club that's basically the Marauders mixed with Death Eaters when they were young but it feels a bit petty going through them all. Although, I will admit, the bookish father figure werewolf seems a bit too obvious, even for me.
Also, in doing research for this review (if you're going to badmouth something, you always need to double check), I found that she had written a fan fic in 2004 called The Mortal Instruments that was Ron/Ginny which I suppose explains the incesty things. The more I learn, the more uncomfortable I feel.
I'd like to end this review with a quote from Cassandra Clare's fan lore page because I think it sums up what I'm trying to say perfectly:
"Though Moral Instruments and the Draco Trilogy do not share a plot, some fans believe that Clary and Jace are based on fanon versions of Ginny and Draco. Additionally, one passage from Draco Veritas, which tells the story of Draco's pet falcon, appears word-for-word in City of Bones: the only differences are minor punctuation changes and the amendment of "Draco" to "the boy" (now referring to Jace).
Wank ... did occur when the published author put out her first novel, which involved both media fandom and science fiction fandom, but in general the allegations of plagiarism and bad behavior against the fan[dom] are not well known among people who interact with the published author."
So I suppose the lesson is, as long as no one knows your story was originally fan fiction, you'll sell. See: Fifty Shades of Grey.