City of Bones

Author: Cassandra Clare
Walker Books
RRP: 7.99
ISBN: 978 1 4063 0762 7
Available 02 July 2007

Going to a party can often change your life. You may find someone to fall in love with, someone to fall out of love with, what you don't usually expect is to discover something which puts everything you thought you knew about yourself in doubt. When Clary finds herself at Pandemonium, it's just another night, another night of teenage fights with her mother, of wrestling with the mating habits of your peers, that is until Clary witnesses a murder. But this is no ordinary murder, the corpse vanishes and it appears that only Clary can see the killers...

City of Bones is the first novel in a trilogy by Cassandra Clare. It is an urban gothic horror story, which delivers chills and spills but little in the way of actual horror. There's nothing wrong with this as the book is marketed for twelve and above, so what actual horror there exists is placed at a level perfect for this age group.

I read the whole four hundred and forty-four pages in a couple of nights, which for me is a general indication that the story had me hooked. At the end all I wanted to do was pick up the next in the series, City of Ashes but sadly I discovered that it doesn't even come out until next year (2008). Personally I feel that an author who writes such narrative has a duty to her readership and should refuse all offers of a personal life and be chained to their typewriter.

The structure behind the story is the usual one of a child who, with the help of various agencies, discovers that they have both power and a destiny. Nothing particularly new there, but stories are like jokes, it's the way you tell them that matters. Written with a clarity of style and a pace, that barely allows you to catch your breath, this is not an author who is talking down to her audience - in fact Clare has delivered a book that should appeal to all ages, regardless of the fact that her main protagonists are teenagers. Other authors who purport to write for this age group would do well in picking up a copy of the book to see how it's really done.

One of the things which I had to disagree with was the publicity blurb on the back cover, which was trying to sell the book as Buffy for a new generation. No offence to Joss Whedon, great write that he is, but I thought that the mythic world that Clare creates was potentially much richer than that. Certainly on the surface there are similarities, both follow beings that fight demons, and the book contains werewolves, magic and vampires, but rather than a vanilla look at good and evil Clare has produced something more akin to a Lukyanenko book for teenagers, which is no mean feat considering the popularity of the Night Watch books.

Clare has produced characters which are both strong and flawed, allowing for shifting allegiances and a hell of a narrative. For a little less than eight quid, there are few better ways of spending your time. If you feel this might be a guilty pleasure then do a Harry Potter if you like, buy it for the kids but don't forget to steal it for a read.

Charles Packer

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