Young adult fantasy series are a dime a dozen these days. Vampires, werewolves, zombies, fairies, angels, dystopias, time travel--they all run rampant. It can be hard to tell the good ones from the bad. Cassandra Clare's weighty Mortal Instruments series is off to a good start with its premier novel, City of Bones. The weighty tome features wizards, vampires, werewolves, angels and many other mythical creatures--some familiar, some less so--show up in these pages, all thoughtfully and somewhat uniquely. While the story begins in a way that seems a little too familiar for readers of the genre--our protagonist Clary gets into a fight with her mother which ultimately leads to her getting wrapped up in this fantasy world she's deeply a part of, yet is a huge part of this world. The potentially tired exposition is justified by a peach-juicy fantasy tale that reinvents some genre cliches while creating a mythology that feels completely new.
The urban, New York City setting of the novel was a brilliant choice on Clare's part. Often in fantasy series, the protagonists are whisked away to magical lands. Grounding the story in NYC lets Clare impart a hipness and edge to her story and characters. Clary finds herself wrapped up in this weird world after witnessing a murder that turns out to be more than meets the eye (of course). Her soon-to-be angel buddies Alec, Isabelle and Jace make great complements not only toward each other, but to Clary and the plot.
While the book is rather long--maybe a little over-long--Cassandra Clare shows a clever hand at plotting, making the pace of the novel overall very quick. Even transition chapters provide great character development. There are simply one or two elements of the plot that could've been trimmed with little to no impact on the plot. Perhaps they will prove important later on. Doubtful.
Bottom Line: A fun and surprising start to what promises to be a thrilling fantasy series. I can't wait to read more after City of Bones.
You can find Cassandra Clare's City of Bones at your local chain bookstore, online, or at an independent bookstore near you (click here for a list).