You know you’re in trouble when reading a novel and you can’t decide which of the male adolescent characters you’re more in love with… and no I am not referring to the blood-suckers books, though having just watched New Moon for a bit of a laugh and having never had much interest in reading the novels, I must confess to having been sucked in by a different young adult fantasy series – ‘The Mortal Instruments’ by Cassandra Clare.
The first book in the series, City of Bones, ain’t great literature, but it ain’t bad either. In fact it’s a highly enjoyable read full of demons and shadow hunters, werewolves and vampires, warlocks and weird monk-like silent dudes who can get inside your brain and read your mind…. yeesh.Young spunks (shadow hunters) from a secret land cover themselves with runes to help them in their inter-dimensional duty to protect us innocent Mundanes (a tad reminiscent of ‘Muggle’ innit?) from the demons who want to destroy us all. Clary is an ordinary teen until circumstances throw her into the shadow hunters’ world. Her mum goes missing (of course – can’t have those pesky parents cramping the adventure) and Clary discovers that both she and her mum have ties to this world which her mum kept from her for fairly good reason. Now Clary and her new friends, including romantic interest Jace, and her best friend Simon, must rescue he mother and try to stop the evil ex-shadow-hunter from turning the humans, vampires and werewolves against each other and launching the demons into our world for a last huge bloody feast.
I don’t know what it is that makes stories peopled by smart-talking teens thrown into dangerous, magical or simply adult situations, so darn appealing and addictive – still. What with all the angst, emotions, puppy love, temper tantrums, bad decision-making and try-hard haircuts – you’d think I’d run away screaming. Not to mention the young folks always having to be right about everything, and the whole tendency of the main characters to be star-crossed lovers. Do the kiddies really believe that stuff? Didn’t having to study Romeo and Juliet put them off it?
No matter if we’re all too streetsmart for that kind of thang in our real lives, in our stories I think a lot of us are willing to suspend a little belief to get caught up in the adventure of a fantastical tale, where the bad guys wear black and the heroes have wavy golden hair, and the handsome slightly aloof hotties just need the right girl to love them. And of course our heroine is just an ordinary lass who doesn’t realise how powerful (or how beautiful) she really is. Throw in some ancient mysteries, a bit of sword play and ‘magic’ and some snappy dialogue and I’m a sitting duck, just like all those middle-aged women buying their red-edged Twilight books.
It’s a terrible cliche but adolescence is a time of great upheaval, change, emotion, learning, happiness, heartache, adventure and thrills, however you want to look at it, and perhaps that’s why books detailing fantastical good vs evil stories sit so well in a teenage world, and in those parts of our minds and souls that house that particular time in our lives, or maintain similar thoughts and behaviours.
So yes, City of Bones isn’t leaping out of its genre, it was occasionally predictable and the author has a tendency to over explain simple actions and plot points, as if she’s worried the readers might not be able to engage their own imagination to conjure what is going on. And I did flinch a bit with fifteen-year-old Clary’s romantic storylines. It’s the prude in me but I just would have felt more comfortable if she was sixteen, for some reason. It was all a bit too ‘deep’ for a girl that age. But apart from these ‘issues’ I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It was fun, exciting, intriguing, adventure-packed, imaginative, amusing, heart-thumping (and heartbeat skipping) entertainment. The second book is called City of Ashes… and I’ll be reading it very soon. I have to.