This is a book about a world in witch – I mean – in which – there are Muggles – darn it! I mean “Mundanes” – who don’t realize there is an alternate world full of supernatural beings. You just have to go through a portal, or send a message with an owl, I mean, raven, and then there are these Archivists of Memories possibly on loan from The Giver, and Nephilim guest-starring from some other YA series, and well, it gets complicated. Let’s start from the beginning.
The book is set in Manhattan, where the lights burn “like cold jewels” in a city “spread out … like a carelessly opened jewelry box,” with water “the color of lead, churned to a whipped cream consistency by the steady wind.” It’s not just similar to other popular stories, it’s simile-er.
Clary, 15, is named for a type of sage, or herb, you know, like say, the plant Katniss. This is undoubtedly because there is no plant named Leia as in Princess Leia, which would have been even better. Or maybe it’s because Clary rhymes with Harry, as in Harry Potter, in case we didn’t get all the other allusions. Clary thinks she is a
muggle mundie but quickly discovers she can see things no one else can. Before we can even decide which character is really Dumbledore, Clary stumbles upon Voldemort, I mean, Darth Vader, I mean, Valentine, and well, I don’t want to give the plot away! Ha ha! But suffice it to say, Danger Looms, with Clary often having “the hard beat of blood in her ears.” [I wonder if they make Q-tips for that.]
There’s a sort of a triangle, or maybe actually a pentagon, involving Clary, Muggle Simon, and Shadowhunters Jace, Alec, and Isabelle. There’s a quest to find a magical cup, and each of their real parents, and to get revenge. And while Clary is brave and loyal and true, she is sometimes Too Dumb To Live. However, live she does, since this is only Book One of “The Mortal Instruments”, with (so far) four sequels (a total of six books are planned). The series has been sold in over thirty countries and a movie is on the way. Or probably many movies.
Evaluation: I think I would have liked this a lot more if I were in high school. …and had never read “literature” (which actually I didn’t do until I got to college anyway so I would have been safe). Generally I like to find surprises in the writing itself as well as merely in the monsters that the writer constructs. The author does make some pretty gruesome monsters; I can only imagine the movie costs racking up for costume design. But also, to be fair, there are some very funny lines in this book. Both Clary and Jace have fun sarcastic senses of humor. I may try one or two more in the series, just to make up for the fact that I never completed the Harry Potter books, or the Star Wars movies, or The Giver series, and I never watched all the Buffy shows or the Scooby Doo shows. This way, I could take care of all of them in one fell swoop.
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 2007
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