City of Bones (Mortal Instruments)

City of Bones  - Cassandra Clare I won't discuss plagiarism allegations much. It has already been done at length elsewhere. I can't compare this to Draco Trilogy much either; I tried reading, but I gave up after a few chapters. It was just too dull and cliched. So I can't make comparisons. I can say, though, that City of Bones shares the identical writing style.Another thing they have in common is that I just don't understand the hype of both. I can understand the appeal of trashy books. Often, the writers of those can make the things intense enough to keep you hooked, even if it's one cliche after another. Not so with either Draco Trilogy or City of Bones. It's a good thing I'd read Fifty Shades of Grey before I even started on this book. If I hadn't, I might have given Fifty Shades two stars on the sole merit of being interestingly bad, at least. Until now, I thought that Vampire Kisses and Breaking Dawn are among the worst pieces of "literature" I've ever read. But Vampire Kisses are at least (unintentionally) hillariously bad. Breaking Dawn did wrap-up the previous three novels in the first couple of chapters (and if they were put at the end of the Eclipse and the rest remained unpublished, I might have felt differently about the series), and the rest was...well, disgusting. But at least it elicited some emotion from me - anger, disappointment, contempt. City of Bones could make me facepalm at worst. It couldn't even induce a proper headwall or a single "I don't want to live on this planet anymore". Nor did it have a single "well, this is a good part, wish she wrote like this all the time".Now let's take a look at a few factors that contributed to my very bad impression of this book.I don't insist on great character development, or elaborate world-building, or deep contemplations. I love James Bond movies. I love westerns, Hollywood and Spaghetti. I like Vampire Hunter D, despite Kikuchi's purple prose in earlier works and the character being Mary-Sue-like.What do these works have in common with City of Bones? They are all supposed to be filled with badass. And, as you can probably guess, City of Bones fails. Why?First thing: badassery is effortless. The author doesn't need to point it out in bright pink huge neon letters. It's shown in subtle ways. The silence when The Badass walks into the room/bar/saloon/whereever. The way others look at him. The way they act when in his presence. D looks like a pretty boy of seventeen, yet men feel nervous and frightened when they face him, even with numbers in their favour. (Okay, you can say it's due to D's unnatural parentage. But Jace has it too. Why doesn't Simon feel nervous in his presence? Or that of other Nephilim? It could have been a great way to establish them as something more, something menacing.)But what do we get as the exposition for Jace? That he loves killing things and is rude. And this is supposed to make him badass and sexy. Any murderous psychopath could possess the exactly same "qualities". It's not cool. Nor does managing to throw a knife perfectly at the first try make Clary a badass. Even with the "weapons come naturally to Shadowhunters" explanation. Being a natural and doing perfectly on the first try is entirely another thing. Also, if being a Shadowhunter means instant success at weapon handling, why didn't they just arm her and let her loose upon the enemies? And no, the fact that she didn't kill the werewolf she hit doesn't decrease the perfection. Because that werewolf was important, and if she killed him things wouldn't have gone smoothly for her. On the top of that, said werewolf (yes, the same one that she hit) insists that it was a great throw. Several times. In short, we are told how Jace and Clary and Shadowhunters in general are awesome - through other characters' mouths, but still - and then we might get shown a little...with them making impossible feats (and I don't mean awesome impossible, I mean eyeroll-inducing impossible). No subtlety at all.Then there are one-liners, which usually go hand-in-hand with badassery. Now, the kind of Badasses I mentioned above are usually taciturn. So when they do open their mouth and say that one line, it has impact. No matter how corny it sounds when you pull it out of the context or try to use it in RL, you can't deny it sounds cool from their mouths there and then. But what makes them effective is their sparsity and timing.On the other hand, when I think of a character that spouts one-liners all the time...I think of one of those TV show characters that try their best to look cool. You know the kind. And you also know how they fail. Which brings us to..."witty dialogue". Now, I love sarcasm as much, if not more, than one-liners. But as one-liners, it has to be used effectively. Not all the time. When character talks like that all the time - and they are talkative, not silent characters that only say something they think worth saying - it sounds like they are trying too hard. Almost all the dialogues in City of Bones are full of sarcasm, one-liners and puns. And not only do they make characters sound like poserurs rather than real deal, they are too distracting. They kill any dramatic tension. The comic relief, from what I know, exists for that very purpose - to make the audience lighten up after an intense scene. But when we listen to wisecracks all the time, we pay attention to them and not the plot. They also ruin the atmosphere, which could have been very dark and gritty - which I used to expect from urban fantasy. Instead, it feels like a bad attempt at sitcom.Which ties in with what I think is the crux of the problem: this book reads like a TV show. Clare said before that she loves them and is inspired by them, and it shows. This book sounds like she had a TV show in her head and was writing it down as she saw it. Which wouldn't have been bad - if she published it as a script rather than a novel. I intended to avoid fanfiction comparisons, but there was a bad piece of it I've read recently where the author basically wrote down the scene from Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes movie. In this scene, a ritual is performed and the person doing it is swamped with memories. Thanks to direction and effects, this scene is very intense in the movie. On the paper, written down verbatim, it falls flat. And the exactly same thing happened here. Even though both are perceived with same sense, text and video are very different media. What works great in one will not necessarily work great in the other. A good example of how this ruined the book is the one I already mentioned above. Many characters, including our protagonists, are part angels. In most TV shows, such characters (as well as part-fae and like) are played by ordinary actors because it's cheaper and making them seem ethereal via special effects would turn out to be corny more often than not. Yet it could have worked in the book. Simon could have felt something odd about Claire and her mother, yet feel attracted to it. He could have ignored it, but then comes Jace and he gives off the same vibe. And it's not just like one TV show. Clare made a mixture of all staples of the genre and all the cliches and then she multiplied them. It feels like a horrendous hybrid of whatever supernatural drama TV shows that were aired at the time this was written. I definitely sense Buffy vibes; not as directly copied parts, just style. But again, while a mix of wisecracks and corny ass-kicking in a drama with a supernatural spice looks good on TV...well, it could look good on paper if author made an effort and wrote it as a novel, without thinking of TV shows. Why not? Besides all I listed above, there is the matter of length. An average episode lasts around thirty minutes without commercials. A novel needs to occupy your attention for a longer time. Structure that works for an episode does not work for an novel. An example of this episodicity in City of Bones is at the ending. Clary's mother is in the hospital and we don't know if she will wake up. This is a great cliffhanger for an episode or even for a season - many will want to see if she will recover. But not for a book. Even if she planned the sequels. We already have enough with sudden shift in Clary's love life and the fact that Valentine is still out there. When you write a book, even if story does go on, you have to wrap up something. Nothing is really resolved at the end of the City of Bones. Okay, keep the things tense, but can we at least have some character growth? Nothing. After all that happened, all the revelations, Clary, Jace and Simon are still the same as before. Alec and Isabelle did change - they realised how horrible they were to our poor Clary and are now feeling very sorry. And she, being the magnanimous creature that she is, forgives them because she understands they couldn't help it, they were just jealous of her. Isn't it wonderful?/sarcasmAnother annoying aspect: SIMILES and METAPHORS. They are so ubiquitous in this book, I even stopped noticing them after a while. After hair coloured like antifreeze, what else could possibly stand out?I love supernatural. Normally, huge amounts of mythology and occult references are enough for me to like a book, even when the other elements are weak. I loved Katherine Neville's books, despite the fact that her protagonists are self-inserts and her descriptions of male physique teem with purple, because of her complex mix of various myths and ingenious way she links them together. I liked Iron Fey more than I should because of how well the author constructed her vision of Faerie.Yet I was completely uninterested in anything in City of Bones. Normally, I'd at least register where she took what from - I barely even spotted anything. The book was that dull. Or is that the "already seen before" thing? I fully intended to read the whole trilogy. I can't. I might read the whole Fifty Shades trilogy, but I can't bring myself to read another Cassandra Clare's book. Not even a novella. Nor a short story. I think that's telling enough.