Fiction — print. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2007. 485 pgs. Library copy.
Fifteen-year-old Clarissa Fray — known as Clary to nearly everyone — witness a murder no one else can see. Not her best friend, Simon. Not the other people at the club. Not the bouncers charged with watching for people who pull knives and sneak off to the storage room, which is exactly what Clary sees. But Clary’s sight turns out to be a unique gift, a view into the world of demons and the Shadowhunters who are dedicated to ridding the world of them.
Clary is, of course, freaked out by what she sees and the Shadowhunters are confused as to how a mundane (their word of us oblivious humans) can see them. Following the kidnapping of Clary’s mother, which she hears over the phone, Clary must turn to the Shadowhunters she saw that night — Jace, Alec, and Isabella — to help her find her mother and explain her new sight.
This is one of those books I’ve heard murmurings about — a movie adaption of this novel will be released later this week — yet never felt a compelling need to read. Fantasy, as you might have guessed, is not exactly my go-to genre, and it wasn’t until someone I know from a television fandom started tweeting about the books that I really felt any inclination to read it. I checked the book out of my local library and then let it languish on my nightstand until I saw an interview with the author on a Sunday morning news/talk show. I plucked it out of the stack on Tuesday morning and then spent the rest of the day tearing through the book because, yes, it is that good.
“If you insist on disavowing that which is ugly about what you do, you will never learn from your mistakes.” (pg. 235)
The title of the series, The Mortal Instruments, derives it’s name from the three items that turn mortals (or, mundanes in the series) into Shadowhunters. One of those instruments is a cup that made me think of the Holy Grail but actually contains an elixir to turn mundanes into Shadowhunters for the purpose of raising up an army. It works best on children, although it will still kill most of them. But the cup has been missing for fifteen years and no one not even the Clave that governs the world of the Shadowhunters and the vampires, werewolves, and faeries they share an uneasy existence with knows where the cup is.
The reemergence of Valentine, a former Shadowhunter who believes in riding the world of all demonic creatures even half-demons like werewolves, compels Jace, Clary, Simon, Alec, and Isabella to look for more than just Clary’s missing mother out of fear that Valentine plans to use the cup to raise up his own army and disrupt the peace accords the Clave has worked so hard to achieve.
Fans of the Harry Potter series might recognize the themes in this novel — a magical world unnoticeable to mortals/mundanes/muggles, a dark leader fixated on blood purity with a name starting with ‘V’, a instrument that can change a person’s life (stone versus cup) — and, yes, the book started out as FanFiction. But these similarities are largely superficial and the only ones I noticed whilst reading the book. (There is also a laughable comparison to Star Wars but I won’t get into that out of respect for spoilers.) I do find it interesting, though, that none of this was mentioned during the interview I saw. Instead, Clare said the idea came about following 9/11 and the mood of New York City where she was living at the time. Could still be the inspiration, but an interesting omission considering the current controversy about FanFiction becoming original fiction.
One thing I really appreciated about this novel was the fact that it is anchored by a female character who takes charge and while she does have moments where she contemplates a romantic relationship, her life changes not to adapt to a boy but because of her own personal catalyst — the fact that she has the sight. The story is about her learning how she fits into the world of the Shadowhunters and about her rescuing and finding her mother. Some of the characters aren’t as explored as much as I would have liked them to be, particularly Simon, Alec, and Isabelle, but that will hopefully change with the later books in the series.
The ending is, unfortunately, very abrupt. It became obvious with each turn of the page by the 400 pages mark that Clare would not be able to wrap up all the important loose ends in a detailed way. Rather the ending reads like she had one large novel and was told to cut it into smaller, more manageable portions. I, personally, wouldn’t have needed so many cliffhangers to compel me to pick up the next book in the series so the fact that there are so many was disappointing. Still, an entertaining read and I hope to pick up the next few novels as soon as my coursework will allow me to.