Fifteen year old redheaded Clary Fray lives an ordinary (you could say mundane) kind of life in the not-hip-at-all neighborhood of Park Slope with her secretive single artist mom. Her father is dead, but she does have a sort-of uncle named Luke. She also has a male best friend named Simon who she insists on hanging out with, but then promptly ignores. Naturally, he is in love with her. Since she can’t be bovvered to pay attention to his bespectacled bottom unless another girl does, she doesn’t even notice. That rock solid friendship will be tested by Clary’s strong attraction to another boy. Oh, and there’s some stuff involving kidnappings and nephilim and demons and vampires and werewolves and warlocks and a million other things in there too.
The story opens at an all ages club that neither exists in this world nor any other world within a world. Anyway, it is at Pandemonium that Clary reaches clarity and jumps into the Fray. She sees Jace Wayland and siblings Isabelle and Alec Lightwood fighting demons! They are SHADOWHUNTERS, members of the Clave who are lead by a Council who sign Accords with Downworlders…okay, so I don’t know if it’s because it’s the first book in a series, but the amount of infodumping and otherworldlyness in this book was beyond. Oh, and boring. CoB is filled with embarrassingly awkward conversations in which someone casually monologues an excerpt from the Mythology Encyclopedia. Take this conversation, for example:
“Blackwell, don’t touch that-it’s valuable,” Luke said sternly.
The big redheaded man, who had picked up the statue of Kali from the top of the bookcase, ran his beefy fingers over it consideringly. “Nice,” he said.
“Ah,” said Pangborn, taking the statue from his companion. “She who was created to battle a demon who could not be killed by any god or man. ‘Oh, Kali, my mother full of bliss! Enchantress of the almighty Shiva, in thy delirious joy thou dancest, clapping thy hands together. Thou art the Mover of all that moves, and we are but thy helpless toys.'”
“Very nice,” said Luke. “I didn’t know you were a student of the Indian myths.”
“All the myths are true,” said Pangborn, and Clary felt a small shiver go up her spine. “Or have you forgotten even that?”
Doh! Tell him what he forgot! It’s almost as if they know Clary’s eavesdropping! Drop those crumbs, fellas! Spin that world! “Hey Luke, have you forgotten what NEPHILIM ARE?!”
Everyone is constantly translating things: “Hugin,” Luke said softly. “Hugin and Munin were Valentine’s pet birds. Their names mean ‘Thought’ and ‘Memory.'” Oookay. Jace (Cool J Loves Latin) even translates “Mea Culpa” at one point for Clary even though I’m pretty sure everyone knows what that means.
So Clary’s mom is kidnapped by some guy named Valentine and all she can think about is how Jace looked like a fair-haired angel from a Rembrandt painting, except for that devilish mouth. (She’s an artist!) Ah, yes. The requisite love triangle begins to take shape (actually it’s more of a quadrilateral). Clary thinks Jace is totes hot and Jace is extremely jealous of her friendship with Simon and Simon is obvs into Clary and Clary’s extremely jealous because Isabelle is paying attention to Simon but she still manages to completely forget he exists at times. Alec is giving Jace longing looks and is really mean to Clary! Isabelle dances with Simon at a party, and at one point Clary notes that he’s now Isabelle’s “responsibility”. The whole thing is just played up to the hilt to ensure the most angst possible. Jace and Simon’s desires are evident in small physical tics that Clary always picks up on and yet still manages to be oblivious about (she does manage to pinpoint Alec’s feelings immediately, though). Conflict conveniently crops up in the middle of heart to hearts. I lost count of how many times Simon was cut off, or Clary was cut off, or Jace. It was excessive. Even when Simon and Clary have an uninterrupted conversation they just speak cryptically and lay back to back on a bed? Nope! No one really communicates, they just crack bad jokes like champs. Speaking of jokes, Jace sounded like Simon who sounded like Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I got a huge Joss Whedon vibe from this book (as well as a Harry Potter one, natch), and as usually happens when someone bites off a huge chunk of someone else’s schtick, all you get is trite shit. I just kept thinking, “Man, you’re trying SO hard!” while I was reading this book.
The dialogue made me want to claw my eyes out.
“Was it weird, hearing from Jace?” asked Simon, his voice carefully neutral. “I mean, since you found out…” His voice trailed off.
“Yes?” said Clary, her voiced sharply edged. “Since I found out what? That he’s a killer transvestite who molests cats?”
“No wonder that cat of his hates everyone.”
I wasn’t quite sure where the cut-off was as far as what the Shadowhunters were privy to regarding mundane culture. One minute they’re befuddled by slang terms like “shotgun!” and then the next they’re saying things like: “Enjoy that new carriage smell.” Nope! And Simon and Clary are using words like laconic and going to poetry slams and Clary’s quoting Blake because of the Doors?
“Then you’ll see the world as it is-infinite,” said Jace with a dry smile.
“Don’t quote Blake at me.”
The smile turned less dry. “I didn’t think you’d recognize it. You don’t strike me as someone who reads a lot of poetry.”
“Everyone knows that quote because of the Doors.”
Jace looked at her blankly.
“The Doors. They were a band.”
“If you say so,” he said.
Oh, Clary. She’s the most speshulest snowflake ever. She goes from living a mundane kind of life to living a semi-charmed one. She comes out of every fight unscathed, and picks up on things the Shadowhunters have spent years perfecting. I mean, fucking really: She’d never thrown a weapon before, never even thought of throwing one. The closest she’d come to weaponry before this week was drawing pictures of them, so Clary was more surprised than anyone else, she suspected, when the dagger flew, wobbly but true, and sank into the werewolf’s side. Alec echoed my thoughts when he tells Clary : “But with no training, no nothing, you’re still not much use, are you?” Because training is kind of essential when throwing daggers mmmkay? But she’s so special and so smart and so artistic, she just figures it all out. And sometimes she and Jace just happen to find (view spoiler)
Then there’s little things like Clary’s voice “rising to a scream” twice in the space of two pages, or her shivering in every single situation. Two people flushing on the same page. The fact that there are little to no adults in this book, it’s like the worlds are peopled with fifteen year olds. And worst of all, the INCORRECT depiction of a butterfly kiss: It was a…quick brush of lips on skin… WRONG.
Here’s a Latin phrase that kept popping into my head when I was reading this book: Deus ex Machina. What does it mean, Jace?
Not my bag.
P.S. The movie looks SO BAD.