The Mortal Instruments, as you will see from the image on the right here, taken from Cassandra Clare’s website, is a collection of six books which are set in modern-day New York, chronicling the adventures of Clary Fray, a flame-haired teenager who grew up in a totally normal one-parent household. Only to realise, at the age of fifteen that she’s part of the secret world of Shadowhunters, demon slayers from another dimension, and the world she grew up in is not what is seems.
The synopsis of the first book follows. Including the next five would generally spoil the preceding books, so I won’t include them. They’re easily found on GoodReads anyways.
When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder― much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing―not even a smear of blood―to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?
This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know…
Exotic and gritty, exhilarating and utterly gripping, Cassandra Clare’s ferociously entertaining fantasy takes readers on a wild ride that they will never want to end.
The Mortal Instruments has gotten a lot of flak, from the very beginning, for being derivative, trite, for coasting on the author’s beginnings as a writer of fanfiction, for all kinds of things. I didn’t actually find any of this out until after I’d read the first three books, though, so I won’t give it much consideration other than to mention that, without having read Clare’s fanfiction, I didn’t recognise that the main trio were meant to be Harry, Ginny, and Draco. If they’re written the same way as her fanfic versions of those characters, then that’s a weakness she has (and certainly it would back up my main complaint about The Infernal Devices, that the three main characters were the same as in The Mortal Instruments) but, not having read her fanfic, I don’t know. They’re not instantly recognisable copies of Rowling’s versions of the characters, in any case.
So. I did enjoy the first three books of this series – I thought they were a solidly enjoyable trilogy with some good action, a dastardly villain, a love triangle (puke), incest (urggh) and, generally, nothing terribly offensive. The story was well wrapped up, with one dangling thread left open for a follow-up series.
My issue came with the fact that it wasn’t a trilogy – it’s a hexalogy. Somehow the author managed to squeeze three more books out of these characters, who had resolved all their issues and were well on their way to happily ever after. She did this through a combination of weird and convoluted contrivances and annoyances which really set my teeth on edge. There’s not a new villain, but an old one re-hashed, and many of the same problems resurface as were resolved in the first three books of the series.
There are some interesting and entertaining circumstances, and I’ve read all six books, and given them all a reasonable score, but I was just disappointed that the next set of three books covered the same characters again.
While it’s nice to go back to familiar characters, I really think that after three books these characters’ arcs could have been closed off (with the exception of maybe Simon) and the action could have moved elsewhere. Clare is clearly capable of doing that, as the Infernal Devices stand as three books which close those characters’ arcs, and the upcoming sets of books are all in threes. It seems somewhat forced that these six linger on the same set of New York Shadowhunters for so long.
I don’t have a whole lot of complaints about TMI, though. The acronym is unfortunate, as it’s already widely in use as too much information, but I guess context will explain which I’m referring to.
The sixth book, City of Heavenly Fire, spends a lot of time setting up future book projects in an attempt to hook readers in – The Dark Artifices, especially, but there are also The Last Hours, Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, The Wicked Powers… Lots of series forthcoming. Also a graphic novel about the Circle, the organisation from which Valentine, the villain of the first three books, arises.
Shortly after I read TMI, I also read The Bane Chronicles, which are a collection of short stories about Magnus Bane, a character who crosses between The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices – these were co-written with other authors. They were actually surprisingly entertaining, with lots of little glimpses of moments passed over in the series.
Overall, I quite enjoyed Clare’s books – there were some moments where I rolled my eyes, and I certainly don’t think there’ll be any great literary prizes in her future, but they’re popular for a reason, and that’s because they’re story-driven and fast-paced, with some good character development and nothing which made me want to throw my kindle against the wall at any point. Very inoffensive and at times genuinely entertaining.
Four Stars for
City of Bones
City of Ashes
City of Glass
Three Stars for
City of Fallen Angels
City of Lost Souls
City of Heavenly Fire
The Bane Chronicles