What’s In A Fairytale? 5 Helpful Starting Points

So, we’ve established (more or less) what a fairytale is and what kind of story we want to tell. Question is, how do we go about telling it? Every genre has its own markers – the key elements that readers expect to see. Fairytales are no different. When we pick up a fairytale, or something that guises to be one, as readers we have certain expectations and, as writers, we have to be careful to fulfil enough of them not to leave the reader feeling cheated.


An important caveat. There are no rules in writing. Actually, a lie. Considering we are in the business of art, people seem in a hell of a rush to bind us in so many rules I sometimes think it’s a miracle anything original ever gets published with all the bureaucratic strangling going on in our market. So let’s change that to…

There shouldn’t be any rules in writing

So while the below listed and explored are common themes, they are not the be all and end all. They are guidelines. Ideas. Suggestions. If  you ask me, our job as writers shouldn’t be a tick box exercise of combining an expected set of conditions into one linear narrative, it should be a challenge so see how many of them we can leave out and still get the same end result. Personally as a reader, I love to be surprised. I love that moment when I actually have to put the book down for a moment to admire the mastery of such a warped imagination that created such an unexpected twist.


But that said, if you want to get published, particularly traditionally, you have to play by the rules. (That’s not to say there aren’t agents out there who will take a chance on something new and controversial (in a literary sense) but they are needles in a very big haystack). Most books I pick up these days are so formulaic it hurts.

So here’s a couple of elements to keep in mind when working on your own fairytale as well as a few tips from me on how to rebel (whoo to the writing revolution):

Starting points for fairytales

  1. OUR DASHING HERO, DARLING DAMSEL IN DISTRESS AND VILLAINOUS VILLAIN

The Golden Trio. Pick up any fairytale and you’ll more than often find all three in residence. If your name is Disney, it’s normally the princess of the week, the nameless prince who is only there to kill things and save the afore-mentioned princess from the cliché evil villain. From Snow White, the literally unnamed Prince Charming and equally unnamed Evil Queen to bang up to date with Anna, Kristoff and the we-were-going-to-do-an-original-hero-as-villain-story-but-chickened-out Hans, these three characters are the foundation around which the fairytale is built.

That does not mean by any stretch that there isn’t room for some interpretation. My favourites are where the damsel is just fine saving herself while the hero has his own problems to contend with (Hercules and Meg), linked instead of by a sappy love story but by the mutual villain; or where the villain is actually the hero of the story (Maleficent) or better yet starts as the villain and comes full circle to hero as the hero takes the opposite journey (absolutely loved the Black Swan mirroring in Once Upon a Time S5 p1 with Regina and Emma as they switched roles). I actually love this cliché because it gives us so much room as writers to go “screw that” and mix things up. Why can’t the princess be the villain and the wicked witch saves the prince? Why can’t the hero have their own story completely independent of the princess? What if the hero has to team up with the villain to save the princess and falls in love with the wrong one? There is so much scope here. As any self-respecting Oncer will tell you “Evil isn’t born, it’s made” and “Anyone can be a hero.” Break the rules. Shock the reader. Make them really question their assumptions. Write a story where no one is who they appear to be. All three should be distinct characters with their own stories, motivations and development. That is when a fairytale is at its most powerful.

2. THE EPIC BATTLE BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL

You can’t have a fairytale without some kind of great war between all that is good and all that is evil. Back when Snow White was released in 1937, people were happier to accept the simple lines drawn between good and evil, cheer on the heroes and go home satisfied. Since then, audiences have become much more demanding and questioning. Our job as writers is to ask those questions. What is good? What is evil? Is someone evil for doing the right things for the wrong reasons? Or for doing the wrong things for the right reasons? Which is better? Which is worse? Can a hero still be hero if they are willing to kill? What makes people evil? Are people all evil or all good? What are the shades of grey in play? Can a villain ever be redeemed? When does a hero become just a vigilante with a sword? Here’s a fun writing prompt:

Write an entire book from the point of view of one character as the hero. It’s only as the reader reaches the end, they realise that character is actually the villain and they’ve just witnessed them killing the real hero.

3. The Great Moral Lesson

Fairytales, as established back in March, are as much about examining the “human experience” as they are about princesses and wicked witches. They are morality tales. Each one has a “lesson” that it wishes to teach. Frozen teaches girls everywhere that they don’t need a prince to save them and depression can be beaten. Tangled teaches little girls that ignoring their mother’s direct instruction and running away is a great idea. Snow White taught a generation that it really is the be all and end all to be the prettiest of them all. Okay, okay, I’ll stop. Tangled is also about growing up and identity. And Snow White is about the perils of vanity. Each fairytale has its core lesson to share with the world. And so should yours.

For me, this is why we choose to write fairytales. This is the very core of what they are. We as writers want to give a voice to a particular story, or struggle, or theme and share that. For me personally, the theme I looked at was the constant fight we all face to find who we are in this crazy, mixed up world that is so quick to want to shove us in neat little boxes and fundamentally  the idea that just because you are born as one thing does not mean that is the thing you must be for the rest of your life – in other words, just because you are born a hero does not mean you cannot become the villain and vice versa. I also wanted a chance to really explore accountability (as for me personally this is something somewhat lacking in fairytales). I chose these themes because they are close to my heart. They are things I struggled with as a kid, and continue to now as an adult and are stories I have never been able to find in the books I’ve read so I wrote my own.

Everyone has their thing. That one or two moral/ethical/emotive topics that really sets our hearts burning. If you aren’t sure of yours, look back over everything you’ve ever written and write down all the things they have in common. You might be surprised by what you find. I did this a couple of years ago and it really made me more self-aware as a writer and in many ways, my findings created the foundation for the fairytales I’m now writing. It’s a fantastic exercise to do, even if you don’t plan on writing anything that ends in “happily ever after”.

4. Once Upon A Time to Happily Ever After

I don’t know if it was different for you, but back when I was just starting to write as a kid, fairytales were the device my teachers used to explain the formula of a story. It starts “once upon a time” there is a great thrilling quest and it ends “happily ever after”. Of course, I’ve since learnt that stories are somewhat more complicated than that but it’s important to keep the format in the back of your mind when you are working on a fairytale. A few questions you might want to ask:

  • Where do I want to begin?
  • Am I going to follow one primary character through the whole story (which is the traditional route) or jump around and show different sides of the story?
  • Where do I want to end?
  • What is happily ever after for me/my characters? Am I a “True Lover” or is there a different kind of ever after I want to explore?
  • Will this have a happy ending?
  • What exists after “happily ever after”? Do I care? Is this something I want to explore? What happens when “happily ever after” breaks?

5. The Sappy Love Story

Can you write a fairytale without one? Frozen tried. But even without it being the primary “love” story, it was still there in the background. Maleficent is probably as close as Disney has ever gotten to a fairytale that doesn’t have a love story (and even then her past/backstory is one giant love story – just because it ends badly doesn’t stop it being a love story, or does it? When does a love story become a revenge story?) As I explored a couple of posts back, a lot of the original fairytales do actually step away from the traditional love story. Some of that is time based, perceptions have changed. Things we are disgusted by now were just not that frowned upon back then. Friendly reminder that rape within marriage only became illegal in the UK in 1990. And some of it is to do with the fact those stories were downright twisted. My favourite retellings are the ones that push the love story to the back. As a woman, I do not enjoy being informed that my happily ever after comes in the form of biceps and abs. As a writer, I’ve made the choice to very much marginalise any romantic storyline in my own work. My protagonist is a strong female whose happily ever after has absolutely no correlation to whom she happens to be dating at the time.

What is a Fairytale? No… Seriously.

Welcome to March. March brings with it lots of glorious lovely things. It means daffodils and that big burning thing in the sky is back. It means chocolate bunnies (since when was Easter THIS early???) and finally putting away the winter storm-force coat. And this year it also means something else…

And in honour of the returning of this show (on which I am completely Hooked… get it?), I have decided to dedicate this month to the art of the fairytale. Actually, only a half truth. This month also represents a personal deadline. Over Christmas I signed, sealed and “The End”ed my latest novel project In The Mirror, Darkly and sent it off to agents in the early new year. As those of us that have been around this block will know, the average turn around is six weeks. That should mean, by the end of March, I should have my first answers, for better or worse.

In the Mirror Darkly is a culmination of a lifetime obsession with fairytales. The novel itself is a fairytale retelling of the old classic Snow White and when I started it, I honestly thought I pretty much that this fairytale thing down. I mean, how hard can it be really?

Turns out. Quite.

So this month is also a summary of all the lessons I’ve learnt and the tricks and tips I’ve picked up along the way. Today, I start with a very simple question…

what is a fairytale

I know what you are thinking. “I’ve been reading these since I was six, I think I know what goes in them”. I was right there with you. Until I sat down to actually write about it. I’ve been writing in the fairytale genre for over two years, you’d think I’d be able to define one. And yet, while I had a bunch of key words and ideas, stringing them into a single definition was a struggle. In the end, I came up with this.

An examination of the dualities of human existence (good and evil, love and hate, forgiveness and revenge etc…) set against the simple black and white world known only to a child.

Basically, a fancy way of saying “stories about good and evil as understood by children” But even now, I’m not happy with it. So I decided to run a little experiment. The last couple of weeks, everyone I’ve met, I’ve asked them the same question:

“What is a Fairytale?”

And do you know what I found? None of us really know. Typically reactions all started the same way. There would be this confident opening of the mouth but then the tongue would trip as they suddenly paused. A few moments of flustering. A prompt from me for their gut instinct. And then a blurted reaction. Here are just some.

“A heightened representation of the human experience, our greatest fears, our greatest desires”

“A make believe story with a happy ending”

“A morality story”

Or my personal favourite

“A Grimm morality tale dressed up for children”

Certain things popped out to me. Not one person I spoke to talked about love stories. Nor was there a single utterance of the words “Magic” or “Princesses”. And only one person alluded to Disney. But not one answer was the same. Themes quickly established themselves. Happy endings. Morality. Human nature. Make believe. But no uniform answer. Ask someone what a crime novel is and you’ll get something along the lines of “someone breaks the law. Someone else works out how and catches them,” and I think most people would go along with that. But comments on fairytales split the jury.

How can the same genre both be this dark, bitter unveiling of the underbelly of human nature and at the same time be fairydust and happy endings? More to the point, as writers, how are we supposed to write a genre that we can’t even properly define?

So next stop was the dear old dictionary. Meet my friend Google. Google’s verdict was as follows:

google fairytale

So they all sound exactly like each other… not. Number one is refreshingly cliché and nice to see magic finally turn up but three intrigued me. So I looked around a bit more:

Wiki: “A fairy tale (pronounced /ˈfeəriˌteɪl/) is a type of short story that typically features European folkloric fantasy characters, such as dwarves, elves, fairies, giants, gnomes, goblins, mermaids, trolls, or witches, and usually magic or enchantments.”

Merriam-Webster: offers us two:

“a story (as for children) involving fantastic forces and beings (as fairies, wizards, and goblins) —called also fairy story […] a story in which improbable events lead to a happy ending”

AND

“a made-up story usually designed to mislead” (I know this isn’t a straight definition in the sense we are looking for but again, interesting to see how the term has adopted a second meaning in modern culture. Says a lot about how we see them)

Dictionary.com: goes back to its history:

“oral narrative centered on magical tests, quests, and transformations,”1749, translating French Conte de feés of Madame d’Aulnois (1698,translated into English 1699). As an adjective (also fairytale), attested by 1963.”

So what is it? Let’s see if I can get this right.

It’s a made up story for children, featuring magical creatures, tests, quests and/or lands, that are involved in an improbable series of events that lead to a happy ending, all the while examining the morality of humanity.

Phew. That’s a bit of a mouthful. Let’s test it out.

Test 1: Snow White

The grandfather of the modern fairytale and a good staple for those of us who know the Grimm originals. So…. Magical creatures/quests/land… I guess “far far away” counts as magical. Improbable quests… check. Morality of humanity… well basically it’s an entire lesson about pride, vanity and jealousy so check.

But then we get to…

Happy Ending… Hmm Disney passes but look to Grimm and Snow White makes the evil queen literally dance to death in a pair of red-hot iron shoes…  Ick. Regina doesn’t know how good she’s got it.

Let’s try another classic:

Test 2: Sleeping Beauty

Magical stuff… spinning wheels count, check. Improbable quest… it’s the very definition, check. Happy Ending… I guess, they end up married…

But when it comes to the “for children” thing, and the morality thing… (about to get disturbing, if you love this fairytale, look away now)… in the original of this fairytale, yes, she’s sleeping. Yes, he finds her. Yes, his kiss wakes her. What Disney forgot to slip in there was the fact he rapes her while she’s comatose and she wakes to find not one but two buns in the oven… Yeesh. Maybe not.

Test 3: Harry Potter

(just humour me)

Magical stuff… check. Improbable quest… an impressive seven of them indeed. Happy Ending… doesn’t get more cliché. Written for children… check. Morality… the whole thing is an examination of how good can always trump evil as long as a heart stays true.

So… that’d be a yes.

Test 4: Pirates of the Caribbean

(just for fun)

Magical stuff… they end up in the underworld at one point, so yeah. Improbable quest… definitely. Happy Ending… well, it isn’t unhappy. Morality… well, there are a lot of discussions on death and greed and doing the right thing and friendship and living forever (okay a stretch but still). Written for children… definitely.

So… a second yeah.

So back up a minute. Snow White and Sleeping Beauty are out but the boy wizard is a princess and Jack Sparrow is prince charming? “Stop being so literal” I hear you shout. That definition is more of a guideline.

Image courtesy of Kristen Lamb’s Blog

Couldn’t resist.

So maybe it’s a “gut” thing. A “we just know” thing. My impromptu survey showed me one thing. As readers, we aren’t that focused on the content of the fairytale. Not as adults anyway. What we take away from them are the “lessons” they teach. We feel the need to justify the existence of a fairytale to ourselves for some reason. Like, it can’t just be about dragons, princesses and a wicked witch – there has to be more to them than that. I bet if I did the survey again but asked only people under twelve, I’d hear an awful lot more about magic and princesses and a lot less about morality and “the human experience”.

So… are fairytales different for adults than they are for children? Same story, different response. As kids, we just want to believe in magic. It’s just an adventure. But as adults, we can see a deeper level to them. What was innocent when we were children is suddenly racism, or genocide, or indeed Stockholm syndrome. What does that mean for writers?

In short. The old saying stands true. No one is too old for fairytales.

To quote JRR Tolkien: “Fairy tales do not belong exclusively to children… Fairy tales evoke a secondary world which has its own logic and values which allows for escape and recovery from the real world.”

Pretty decent definition now I come to think of it. As writers, it means this genre is completely flexible across all audiences. Just look at Once Upon A Time. Its audience range from six years old girls to forty year old men and all between and beyond. And each will enjoy it for a different reason. Fairytale is a genre not just for Disney. It is real and right now very commercial. We may not be able to neatly describe one, but we know a fairytale when we see one.

Next week, I’ll go one step further and discuss the components of a fairytale and how to begin to build your own Once Upon A Time to Happily Ever After. Until then, please, take to the comments section below. I want to hear about what fairytales are to you.

#CampNaNoWriNo Success

I come bearing good news. I took on the mountain and today I am proud to say I conquered it. My mission of 60,000 words in one month is complete. I even have a few days extra for reading through and editing. It’s been a fun journey with all the ups and downs one would expect and there were a couple of times there I didn’t think it possible so I’m super happy to be stood at the finish line today. This is my first attempt at one of these events and it will certainly not be my last (frankly I can’t wait until November). I’ve had so much fun. It’s been really great sharing a cabin with like minded writers who have been there to cheer me on when I was struggling and celebrate with me now it’s over. And it’s been really good for me to have strict deadlines to write too. It’s taught me a lot as a writer. I’ve learnt that I can sprint write, something I did not think myself capable a month ago.

The Butterfly Children is a long way from finished. I’m still really excited about it as a project (which is always good news as fellow writers know how quickly that buzz can fade). It’s something a little different from what I’ve tried before. For a couple of days I’m going to luxuriate in my smugness on the counter to the right but then its time to up the ante and see if I can get it to the end (aim 120,000) as quickly as possible. But keep an eye out. It’ll be getting its own ‘I’m an official book now’ page on the top bar and on that will be lots more information and little tidbits. Maybe even an except if I’m feeling sneaky :p

But for now… Champagne please 😀

Mortal Instruments: City of Ashes: Review

Anyone who read my review on City of Bones will probably have worked out that it was not my favourite book in the whole world. Good news is that City of Ashes is an improvement. Bad news is, it still has it’s problems.

On the upside, the story was better balanced in book two. It flowed easier and made me much less aware of the up-and-down quality of the prose.

At this point I normally give a brief outline of the plot. Instead I shall turn to a quote from the book’s illustrious heroine.

“I’ve screwed everything up royally.”

Well, yes dear, yes you have. I apologise in advance as what follows will involve SPOILERS. This entire book (and I’m not overly exaggerating) hinges on Clary being an idiot. Nearly every plot point starts with her doing something stupid and Jace having to come and undo said stupidness. She actually graduates for me from being mildly dislikeable in the first book to positively loathsome by the end of book two. From her pure idiocy with the fairies falling for a trick that I wouldn’t even class as mildly clever – my mum always told me don’t touch stuff you don’t understand. Jocelyn could have done with teaching Clary that valuable lesson. To her mishandling of Simon, resulting in her best friend being nearly killed only to be saved by Jace (again) after being turned into a vampire. Oh yeah, this is a hell of a book for poor old Simon. I almost feel sorry that I called him dull. Clare really gives him a hard time, though funnily enough this makes him more likeable. He makes a much better vampire. Oh and there is also a sequence in Luke’s kitchen between her and Luke that made me want to kill her (happening incidentally while two other characters are being merrily captured) – she comes out as a whiney teenager.

SPOILERS END

The other thing I really don’t understand is the thinking behind is the brother-sister thing. Either Clare has shot her own story in the head by having her lead romantic characters be related, or it’s a ruse/trick/temporary situation to be resolved later at which point she’s kinda letting the cat out of the bag with that one. Or of course, she’s promoting incest. Then again, Twlight’s prominent message is “Sex before marriage = BAD. Abusive-turned-stalker boyfriend = Not a Problem”, it does fit in with the wholesome messages of YA fiction these days… excuse my sarcasm. It’s also such a roll-eyes relationship. They’ve known each other two weeks and we are already at the ‘I’d die for you – you are my life – you are all I think about’ stage. It gets a bit… well nauseating. Jace, I forgive. He has had a hell of a ride these two books so you can forgive him for being a bit all over the place emotionally and just looking for anyone to be a shoulder to lean on but Clary I just want to tell to get over it. Or just tone it down. She can still have feelings, fine, just a bit less Mills-And-Boon would be refreshing. I think the other thing that gets me is their world is literally coming apart at the seams. They are in deep trouble here. Valentine is winning… and all Clary thinks about is Jace. Perspective, I think, would prove refreshing.

Don’t get me wrong, this book also has some good elements. Despite what many reviewers say, I thought the fight sequence at the end was well handled. It was built up to with a decent amount of suspense, and credit where credit is due, at least she bothered to have the fight she’d been building up to. Maia as a person I love. She’s a much needed female addition because she has a bit of well… spunk. Unfortunately, she is regularly used badly. Again, reference to the kitchen sequence after Luke gets attacked, where she reacts completely out of character. (Oh and just another note on Clary, she literally does not meet a female character her age without getting jealous that they might be more beautiful than her. Whohoo for shallowness). Raphael is brilliant and I look forward to him when he appears. Simon, like I say, has taken a massive step forward in this book. Alec proves once again that he is the only intelligent member of the Shadowhunters clan (I also adore Max as a sidenote) and Magnus regularly raises a smile.

I’ve read a lot of reviews that question the role of adults in this book. There is no sense of leadership, support or even advice. Maryse is written (mostly) to be loathed until the very end. Jocelyn is a redundant character for the moment. Every word Luke says Jace either overrules or Clary ignores. Basically the message being sent is adults don’t understand, adults get it wrong and the kids are right so, ignore their advice but don’t worry, if it goes wrong, they’ll mostly clean up after you. I get that this is a book about ‘children’ fighting for their right to survive in their world. Fine. Generally I like that as a theme. I just don’t like that to do it, she’s felt the need to turn every adult into an enemy or someone easily defied/ignored. Which brings me to the Inquisitor…

I suspect Clare meant us to feel sorry for the Inquisitor by the end of the book. I didn’t. SPOILERS: I was just glad she was dead. She reminded me of a very two-dimensional Dolores Umbridge. Because we only ever really see her from Jace’s point of view, we never see any of the internal struggle. We never hear her side properly and when we finally do she comes off as a raving lunatic. Maybe that was the point, if so, it makes her a weak adversary. If not, well something went wrong in her presentation. (It also doesn’t say much for the Clave).

Likewise Valentine. He’s described as being manipulative and exceedingly clever, and yet while I got that off the Queen of the Fairies (another new character I absolutely loved and hope returns), he just comes off as… dull. He gets pages of speech towards the end about why he’s doing all this and by about half way through it, I was skim reading. Funnily enough, I think explained the right way, you could be manipulated into seeing his point of view but his babbling just made me roll my eyes and yawn.

However, enough of the bad. Things I liked. Simon and Jace. I think their relationship has become an interesting element of the book. Simon has grown a backbone and Jace has calmed down a bit. In this case, it’s like Edward and Jacob done properly, so kudos there. (Sadly they are fighting over someone who doesn’t particularly deserve their attention but hey…) There are also moments when Clare’s descriptive writing is beautiful. The opening couple of paragraphs for a start. It’s so disappointing she doesn’t carry that through the whole book.

I’ll repeat what I said about book one. This is not a bad book, it’s just not a good one. Personally, I thought the story was more comprehensive in this book and the problems more marginalised to mostly, badly handled characters. It’s certainly readable and not so bad that it’s put me off the series. Just expect frustrations.

Rating: 5-10: About average. Good story, Clary loses a ton of score.

Favourite (3) Quotes: “He’d felt like a jack-o’-lantern for the past few days, as if his guts had been yanked out with a fork and dumped in a heap while a grinning smile stayed plastered on his face.”

“That you freed a possible criminal by trading away your brother to a warlock who looks like a gay Sonic the Hedgehog and dresses like the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?”

“I’ve screwed everything up royally.”

Favourite Character: Queen of the Fairies.

Least Favourite Character: Clary.

Mortal Instruments: City of Bones: Review

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.

Geek Out! Harry Potter turns 33

Okay so I’m a day late. I meant to post this yesterday what with it being July 31st, both JK Rowling and Harry Potter’s birthday, hence the afore mentioned title but time ran away from me so you’ll have to forgive the belated nature of this post.

In honour of the great wizard’s birthday, I wanted to post this link to a really interesting documentary. It was broadcast on british TV quite a few years ago now but I always find it really interesting. Anyone with an interest in JK, her work or indeed the world of publishing should give it a watch. It’s got some really interesting insights. I just hope someday I can create a world I know as well as she knows hers. Also, just want to say, if anyone deserved the success of Harry Potter, it’s JK.

It’s a little long but honestly, it’s really worth it.