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Enter The Steampunk Phenomenon: A Look at 'City of Bones' by Cassandra Clare

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City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

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City of Bones by Cassandra Clare is a masterful young adult title and has gotten a lot of notice which it very much deserves. This is a great kick-off to a fantastic series that pushes boundaries in so many ways. The way chapter one begins with basic teen rebellion that quickly escalates to show this strange world of Shadowhunters, demons and downworlders is so perfect. Clare so succinctly puts the emotion of a scene that is scary and new, especially for the heroine: Clary Fray, but also fun. Her language is fantastic. She really captures that young adult voice from page one, but also uses words that you would not normally find in a YA title, for example: insouciant on page two. Her diction and dialogue is great fun from beginning to end. She does amazing things with language and dialogue in the best friends Clary and Simon as well as teen Shadowhunters Jace, Isabelle, and Alec. While there is obvious overlap in the speech patterns of the characters since they were all written by the same person, they each have a defining quality in their dialogue.
Clare managed to start on such a high note with Clary discovering the Shadow world at Pandemonium and continue to build after that. The arcs of the characters and plot are amazingly well done. Clary Fray is such a fun character for many reasons. She’s a perfect heroine because everything she does is for the love of her mother which is just beautiful. Clary enters a world she doesn’t know and takes everything in stride (with the occasional stumble over her feet) and brings this story together nicely. In the beginning of the story she’s terrified of what she can see, and simply wants an explanation and a rescue. She’d just as soon forget everything she learns about that world from the moment she followed Isabelle, Jace, and Alec into the storage room of the Goth club she frequents with her best friend Simon. In a world of heroes, Clary becomes a heroine, her strength shining through in her persistence and initiative.
After meeting Jace, Simon can tell his affection for Clary would be wasted, but he doesn’t stop loving her, he can’t. Clary being a teenage girl falls for the bad boy, Jace, and almost abandons Simon in some ways. Though she does love him, Clary only sees Simon as a brother, which ends up breaking both of their hearts. Jace is opposite Simon in almost every way as far as Clary is concerned, and she realizes she needs them both for different reasons. There’s not a lot of solo work for Isabelle and Alec, but it builds nicely into the next installment.
Clare wrote this in third person limited which allowed her to jump around from character to character, but her main focus in this book is the relationships of Clary and Jace and Clary and Simon, building them sturdily within the fantasy and steampunk aspects of the story. It’s a character novel, but the myth and folk lore was done with great care and detail. One of the best things about the sequencing is the quotes from great literary works that begin each chapter. Clare is so smart about how she organizes her work, it’s brilliant how amazingly it falls into place so easily.
Readers will love this book! The language, plot arcs, and characters are so much fun you can’t help but get addicted to this world. Brilliantly written. Cassandra Clare takes YA fantasy to a whole new level in this first installment of The Mortal Instruments series: City of Bones. The steampunk phenomenon has begun!

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