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In Theaters: City of Bones

By (August 17, 2013) No Comment

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bonescity of bones original
Cassandra Clare
Simon and Schuster, 2007
After comic books, teen fantasy novels are the next most lucrative source of Hollywood film adaptations. Some, like Hunger Games (by Suzanne Collins) and the Twilight saga (Stephanie Meyer) have impressed moviegoers, while others like Beautiful Creatures (Margaret Stohl) flopped. The nature of these films, however, is to leave readers nervous with anticipation, hoping that their favorite characters and worlds see justice on the big screen. This August, Hollywood plans to spellbind audiences with its version of Clarissa Clare’s City of Bones, which has enjoyed a growing fan-base since its 2007 debut.
First in The Mortal Instruments series, this teen fantasy tells the story of feisty Brooklyn protagonist, Clary Fray (played by actress Lily Collins), and her discovery of a hidden reality. Her adventure begins on a typical night at Club Pandemonium. Clary and her friend Simon make their way through wild costumes and weird dance moves. Sensing danger at the glimpse of a knife, Clary bravely follows a mysterious group into a back room. Astoundingly, she witnesses them execute a demon–not that she even believed in demons.
Appearing deceptively normal, Jace, Alec and Isabelle are actually Shadowhunters–a race of humans with angelic blood (also called the Nephilim). Clary’s presence alarms them because they should be invisible to average “mundies.” Living alongside humanity, Shadowhunters secretly protect us from evil. Unbeknownst to Clary, she is of Nephilim descent. Faeries, warlocks, and demons are no longer myths, but her New York State of Mind.
Her encounter grows more confusing once Clary’s mother, Jocelyn, is mysteriously kidnapped. Who took her and why launches the reader into City of Bones‘ humorous, haunting underworld. The Fray’s vague familial past leaves Clary thirsty for answers; her new-found Shadowhunter abilities and the kidnapping of her mother are no coincidence. Jace, Alec, Isabelle, and a professor named Hodge help bridge the knowledge gap at the Institute, a recreational lodge for Shadowhunters:

“I don’t want tea,” Clary said with a muffled force. “I want to find my mother. And I want to find out who took her in the first place, and I want to kill them.”

“Unfortunately,” said Hodge, “we’re all out of bitter revenge for the moment, so it’s either tea of nothing.”

Moments of sly humor calm both Clary and the reader. We share her desire for an explanation, and sitting down to chat over tea prolongs the suspense. With some prodding, Hodge reluctantly gives Clary a history lesson on Valentine Morgenstern:

“[Valentine] took up arms about his fellow Shaddowhunters and slew them. He and his group, the Circle, killed dozens of their brethren along with hundreds of Downworlders [half human, half demons]. He despised Downworlders, and felt they should be slaughtered wholesale to keep this world pure for human beings.”

Our protagonist can’t help but wonder, “What does this have to do with my mother?” Clare alludes to possible answers, dropping insights skillfully, and always teasing into the next chapter. The reader is squirming with anticipation as a race begins to find the Mortal Cup–an artifact that could help breed more Shadowhunters–or more demons–resulting in the salvation or condemnation of Earth.
city of bones movieClare’s novel is rich in descriptive detail, aesthetically illustrating everything from the sensation of Jace’s hands moving across piano keys, to “a faint and delicate noise, like wind chimes shaken by a storm,” and “glass lamps blown into the shapes of roses.”
Catering to the senses immerses the reader in Clary’s enigmatic New York atmosphere–which should translate beautifully into movie magic, along with werewolves, faeries, and demons.
But what’s more magical than romance? Balancing substance with emotion, infatuations neither undermine nor overshadow the plot. Simmering in the background, flirty entanglements snare the reader in even more suspense.
But City of Bones also speaks a message of dire relevance to teen audiences. Back from the grave, Valentine’s Circle rises to threaten mankind once more:

“Demons come to a world and use it up. They can’t build, just destroy – they can’t make, only use. They drain a place to ashes and when it’s dead, they move on to the next one. It’s life they want – not just your life or mine, but all the life in this world, its rivers and cities, its oceans, its everything. And the only thing that stands between them and the destruction of all this … is the Nephilim.”
A sharp, involving read, City of Bones is only just the beginning–the journey leads next through City of Ashes. Once embarking, there’s no turning back.