MK’s Book Reviews: The Mortal Instruments

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So I’ve finally finished The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. (I say finally, but really it took me less than 2 months, with a couple other books in between. That’s not bad for six 500+ page books).

The Mortal Instruments is modern urban YA fantasy, about a teenage girl who discovers she’s actually a demon hunter, and is immediately drawn into a secret world of demons and angels and vampires and werewolves and magic. People draw a lot of parallels to Harry Potter, and I can see why (Clare actually started out as an internet-famous Harry Potter fanfic writer) but it’s definitely got a jibe all its own. It’s much more of a love story than HP ever was–the drawn-out sexual tension was one of the best things in the entire series–and it’s skewed to a slightly older audience. However, unlike Harry Potter, there were a jumble of things that weren’t particularly well-explained or well-plotted. Nevertheless, Clare is a beautiful writer, and this series was like crack to me–I could not stop reading.

This review covers all 6 books of The Mortal Instruments. I have NOT yet read the Infernal Devices (though I’m really looking forward to them!) so please don’t spoil anything for me in the comments I have read The Infernal Devices, and loved them even more; you can find my review of that series here.

Spoilers after the jump…

SPOILERS BELOW

Reasons to read The Mortal Instruments:

1. The writing Cassandra Clare is a really beautiful writer:

“And there it was, spread out before her like a carelessly opened jewelry box, this city more populous and more amazing than she had ever imagined: There was the emerald square of Central Park, where the faerie courts met on mid-summer evenings; there weRe the lights of the clubs and bars downtown, where the vampires danced the nights away at Pandemonium; there the alleys of Chinatown down which the werewolves slunk at night, their coats reflecting the city’s lights. There walked warlocks in all their bat-winged, cat-eyed glory, and here, as they swung out over the river, she saw the darting flash of multicolored tails under the silvery skin of the water, the shimmer of long, pearl-strewn hair, and heard the high, rippling laughter of the mermaids.       

Jace turned to look over his shoulder, the wind whipping his hair into tangles. “What are you thinking?” he called back to her.

“Just how different everything down there is now, you know, now that I can see.”

“Everything down there is exactly the same,” he said. “You’re the one that’s different.”

2. The drawn-out sexual tension between Clary and Jace. It was so well done. The first book, especially–they meet, they bicker, they save each other’s lives–and then they finally kiss. (I reread that part a few times.) Then all the illicit incest-y kisses for the next 2 books (though I had it spoiled for me by the stupid movie–and that movie was stupid, just really poorly done and I’m still mad about that), then the almost-having-sex scene in book 4, and then it all culminating in the cave scene. Oh, the cave scene! Breathtakingly beautiful (though inexplicable plot-point alert–why did Jace bring a condom with him to the demon realms? They barely even had any food. Why?)

3. Jace I know, I know. Fangirling. But I’m a sucker for sarcastic hardass bad boys with a sensitive tortured soul. Jace is like a young Spike (one of my favorite characters of all time). And there’s something about Jace that keeps him from feeling cliché, though I could have done with fewer descriptions of his perfect body and golden hair and golden eyes (the only times he was a bit reminiscent of a certain sparkly vampire).

4. NYC I’m biased, because I live here, but I loved the urban setting. The descriptions of Brooklyn, Chinatown, Central Park, all of it. I too would like to travel by flying motorcycle and see the mermaids in the East River. Why can’t anything cool like this happen to me?

5. Morally ambiguous characters I am all about the anti-heroes and the moral ambiguity. Jace’s issues with his father, Hodge, Raphael–everyone you were unable to define as simply “good guy” and “bad guy”. However, I wish there had been more of this (see below).

6. Maureen She was so delightfully creepy. Shame she wasn’t in more scenes.

7. The Blackthorns I’ve read a few reviews with people complaining about their additions in the last novel, but I actually really like them and it made me excited for the next series. Though was anyone else getting a very Flowers-in-the-Attic type vibe from that whole group at one point? Emma and Julian (I know they’re not actually brother and sister but they have that kind of relationship), the twins who can’t be separated, plus they’re all, you know, living in an attic. And we all know how much Clare loves writing about incest, real and fake!

8. I did come around to Sizzy. Simon was pretty annoying at first, and Isabelle too I’m-so-hot-and-so-bitchy-but-underneath-I-have-a-heart-of-gold but they ended up being cute in the end. (Though the scene when he first sucks her blood–it’s all hot, they work themselves up–and then they … cuddle. What?)

9. Magnus Bane Nuff said. Though I did have some issues with his relationship with Alec (more below).

Things that bothered me:

1. Consistency So I know I was late to the party on this series (though I am glad I didn’t have to wait for any new books to come out) but how fast was Clare cranking these out? There were a couple of inconsistencies an editor should have caught–i.e. in one scene Clary notes Isabelle looks young without any makeup on, then a couple paragraphs later, Isabelle’s eye makeup is smudged. At another point they describe the winter sunlight, then in the same scene talk about the beautiful fall day. Maybe it’s just because I’m a writer, but things like this bug me. Consistency!

2. Plot holes the size of the Institute. WHY, when Simon lost his Mark of Cain, couldn’t Clary have drawn him another? Drawn it on all of them, rendering them all invincible? Why?

3. Alec The whole Alec/Camille thing seemed so unlikely and out of character for him. In general, there needed to be more showing than telling with regards to Alec and Magnus’s relationship. First Alec’s closetedly in love with Jace, then like a couple weeks later he’s full-on out of the closet and in love with Magnus. It takes you longer than that to get over your first love, even if he is busy mooning over his fake-sister. And Magnus–he’s 400 years old but in a month he’s suddenly totally in love with this boy he just met? I did like them as a couple, but I would have liked Clare to show Alec actually falling in love with Magnus, the way it’s shown with Clary and Jace and Simon and Isabelle. Maybe then I’d be able to understand their motivations better. By the end, I did come around to Alec, but he could have been a much better-drawn character.

4. Too much action I’m probably in the minority here, but there really doesn’t have to be an epic battle every other chapter. More characterization (like Magnus and Alec actually falling in love!), fewer crazy fight scenes. I mean, you definitely need some, but when they’re fighting for their lives every other page, it starts to get old.

5. Useless secondary characters. Why did we need Jordan and Maia at all?  All of their chapters I was just rushing through to get to the interesting stuff. I didn’t care a tiny bit when Jordan died. You’re supposed to care when a character you’ve spent so many pages with dies tragically, but I did not. And I’m the queen of crying at novels. Maia seemed interesting at first, with her effed-up brother (did Clare have a horrible brother? Is that where this is all coming from?) but her relationship with Jordan was boring. I guess her story ended up being kind of cool, but even when she was fighting to the death, I didn’t care that much about her.

6. Sebastian Villains who are just PURE EVIL are never that interesting. I prefer them more nuanced (though I know not every villain can be Spike). Sebastian started to get interesting in the fifth book–remember when he rescued Clary from that demon?–and then turned full-on evil again with the threat of incest-rape. (Ew.) I would have preferred more of characters like Hodge or Raphael, especially after Hodge’s speech in the first book about the moral absolutism of the young. Pure evil is boring. Shades of gray are interesting. Also, what was Sebastian’s end goal? Destroy the world? Rape Clary? He was not clear on this.

7. Jocelyn They talk about how she was this badass shadowhunter, overthrowing Valentine, but then she locks herself in her room for several days crying about her son while Luke comforts her. She was not a badass. She was annoying.

Overall, I really liked this series, though Harry Potter it ain’t. (Nothing is.) And I’m really impressed with how fast these keep getting cranked out–though I really think they could have been even better with some major editing. Regardless, I’m a Cassandra Clare reader for life. Looking forward to the Infernal Devices and the next series. Does it have a name?* For now I’ll call it The Flowers in the Attic Children versus The Faeries. Bring it on!

(*I’m sure there’s info about it on the internet but I don’t want the Infernal Devices spoiled for me, so I’m avoiding googling anything about this series until I read them.)

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9 thoughts on “MK’s Book Reviews: The Mortal Instruments

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