This is an incredibly difficult book to review. As I hit the 60% point, I will be honest, I was thinking ‘oh dear’. To say this is a bizarre reading experience is an understatement. It’s strange, reading around, this book gets some superlative heavy reviews and I can’t help but wonder if we read the same thing. Apparently, this book is like Marmite. You either love it or hate it. I will, at this point, also make it clear that this is an opinionated piece. My opinion only.
The other thing I will say here is I am being nice. I don’t like poking at something unnecessarily but honestly, this book half the time is just asking for it.
For me, this is a book of two halves, both literally and literary.
Literary first. The story is excellent. It has some weird plot choices, not least the ‘big reveal’ at the end that I can’t help but think is going to hamper both characters involved but for the most part, it is gripping, original and vivid. I love the depth of her world. As regular readers will know, I have a fondness for cross-genre fantasy that mixes a lot of the different components. Clare could give a masterclass, I think, on depth of world. Between her Shadowhunters, Brothers of Silence, Downworlders and all in-between there’s a lot for a reader to get their teeth into. The worlds and layers within them are unique and well thought out. The phrase ‘written for movie’ does spring to mind in places but that doesn’t need to be a bad thing in my opinion. And at the end of the day, that’s why I finished the book. Because I was interested in the story.
However, this book, for me anyway, has one major flaw.
I was surprised when I discovered that an editor had been hired to work on the book. I knew Clare came from a fanfiction background and it made me wonder if she had self-published. Because for the most part, this book reads like a self-pub novel. It’s not that it’s badly written, it’s just not well written. She has a terrible tenancy to ‘flag’ her plot points before they come up meaning there is absolutely no sense of surprise or intrigue in the book as I pretty much guessed the ending after about chapter two. She’s so close to excellence, its just that its handled clumsily. There’s no flow and while there are moments when the prose is beautifully descriptive and visual, it’d say 70% is fairly un-inventive. It was as though it was written from clever element to clever element, not really caring what filled each gap. Like I say, it’s not bad. It’s just not the kind of writing that makes you sit up. If anything, the prose takes away from what is essentially a clever story. It reads like it was written in a hurry. The Kindle version I read was absolutely littered with spelling and grammar issues (I problem I find common across electronic releases), in places sentences just didn’t even make sense. And that is so frustrating because I wanted this book to be good. I’m actually looking forward to reading the sequel because often authors get better as the series builds.
A friend of mine made the comment “too many different supernatural elements coming at you every five minutes” about the movie (which I haven’t seen myself) but I thought it rather eloquently explained why this book was so frustrating. Clare has a habit of forgetting her readers don’t know her world as well as she does. She regularly uses words that I have no idea what mean (in relation to her worlds). Indeed, I think she may be the creator of ‘fantasy babble’. In Star Trek, it is often accused the characters have long speeches of ‘techo babble’ that means nothing and gets the plot nowhere but just exists to remind you ‘WE ARE IN SPACE’. I felt like that at points in this book except I wanted to understand, I just couldn’t because I was given very little information. I came across a review that used the term infodump and she’s exactly right. That is what this book was full of. The story wasn’t handled well, it came in massive chucks that you got to the end of and kinda got to the point of not caring you didn’t understand, just glad that it was over.
In terms of characters, Clare has some massive hits but also some fairly wide misses. I actually love Alec and Isabelle (mostly because I was glad someone was calling Clary out). For the most part, Jace is a good character. I felt a bit battered around the head with his ‘must remind reader I’m up myself’ lines. Some were funny. Some weren’t. (I will also say this for Clare, she has a wicked sense of humour when she gets it right). However to quote the book itself “If you were half as funny as you think you are, you’d be twice as funny as you actually are.” But he’s a likeable enough male interest. For me, the intrigue in his character fell flat as I saw it coming early on. And again, for a character with such a rich back story and unusual view on the world, I felt Clare could have done more with him (But I do understand there are the sequels to think of). Hodge was a lost character. Didn’t like him or loath him. Was minorly surprised when he turned out to be important. SPOILERS: Valentine for me is a very two-dimensional bad guy. A bit of a cliche. (and I agree with a lot of the other reviewers, he’s a total rip off of Voldemort, including his own personal army). But I absolutely adored Luke’s character. The twists in his story line were some of the few I didn’t see coming. As for Simon… well even the author got bored of him, letting him slip out of the plot for an age. A very unconvincing addition to the forced love triangle if you ask me.
I will be honest, Clary only just ranks below Bella Swan in my list of lead characters I love to hate. I think having her aged 15 warped the book into something almost creepy. Particularly against Jace. I took to imagining an 18 year old in my head. Also, it’s really hard to take a 15 year old seriously. I get that this is teen fiction but it just felt like a little girl throwing a tantrum half the time (particularly her tiff with Isabelle over the ‘rat’). She’s painfully slow. Taking forever to realise things that I found blatantly obvious. Frankly, I kept wondering why Jace bothered putting up with her. For the most part, I was reading the book for Jace, not her. There is a reason I love Katniss and hate girls like Clary. I hate authors that write women as damsels in distress. The world is bored of Sleeping Beauty. We want a few more Princess Fionas (and yes I did just use a Disney reference). Clary spends most of this book moaning, whimpering or being indecisive while other people save her life. Clary does nothing for women. Also, she was also one of those plot-convenient ‘perfect’ characters. Never used a weapon and yet hits a badguy first time (and gets praised until you kind of wish she was killed instead). And the constant ‘oh she’s so beautiful but doesn’t know it’ thing is nauseating. Stuff like that should be a subtle thread never spoke yet unconsciously known by the reader. Not proclaimed every second bloody sentence.
And finally, just a quick observation. The Mortal Instruments awfully neatly resemble the Deathly Hallows. Just a thought.
Like I say, this is a very difficult book to review. I loved the story, struggled with the prose. I think I enjoyed it. It’s a guilty pleasure sort of book. You know it’s bad but its harmless, easy reading for a couple of hours of escape. It’s a frustrating book. I wanted to get lost in it but I couldn’t because the prose constantly reminded me it was a book I was reading. Strangely, I would still recommend it. Even for all it’s flaws, it’s still a good read. It’s worth battling through the lumpy prose to get to a clever (if in places stolen) story.
Rating: 6-10: Above average. The story rates so much higher but is brought down by how it’s presented.
Favourite (6) Quotes: “The meek may inherit the earth, but at the moment it belongs to the conceited.”
“Sarcasm is the last refuge of the imaginatively bankrupt.”
“That to love is to destroy, and that to be loved is to be the one destroyed.”
“This is bad” “You said that before.” “It seemed worth repeating.”
“My one true love remains myself.”
“The nod means, ‘I am a badass, and I recognise that you, too, are a badass.'”
Favourite Character: Luke.
Least Favourite Character: Simon.