City of Bones is the first in The Mortal Instruments, Cassandra Clare's first series about Shadowhunters; Shadowhunters are half-angel and half-human and they protect our world from demons as well as vampires, werewolves, fairies, and other Downworlders. A great urban fantasy series, The Mortal Instruments takes us through locations around New York City (and eventually Prague, Rome, Paris, and other major world cities) both in our version of reality and in the hidden reality most of us never see.
The first book starts quickly. Clary Fray is a regular teenager; she and her best friend Simon are out for a night clubbing when Clary witnesses what appears to be a murder. However, when the victim disappears, everything she knew about the world shatters. Clary is brought into a shadow world she never knew existed, where warlocks and angels and vampires and demons fight for control. Suddenly, she is part of a battle between the forces of good and evil and she discovers that she plays a bigger role in the battle than she would have thought.
All of the characters in City of Bones are well developed and they each have endearing aspects to them, even those whom we will grow to hate as the series continues. Secrets and intrigue surround the characters and nothing is ever what it seems. This is especially true in the relationship between Clary, Simon, and bad boy Jace. The ending of the first book is shocking and depressing, but it leads into a series that draws readers into a beautifully crafted world. Cassandra Clare knows how to tease her readers with hope, and then how to destroy everything they hoped for; somehow, each time, the hope returns anew (usually to be broken again).
What makes City of Bones stand out from all of the other paranormal YA is that it is also well written. Dialogue sounds realistic, characters are real people, and the vocabulary is not simplified nor insulting to readers of any age. Finally, there is a wonderful blend of action, humor, romance, and emotion that gets inside of the reader. There are two other Shadowhunter series: Infernal Devices (the final installment comes out in a couple of weeks) and Dark Artifices (which will be published in 2015). However, The Mortal Instruments is the place to start.