What is Love?
Baby, don’t hurt me.
Don’t hurt me…
No seriously, it’s pointless. I’m immortal.
Ever since the mainstream media and pop culture was introduced to the notion of sparkly vampires, I have often not been very welcoming to the idea of ‘paranormal romance’ or indeed very romantically charged literature at all. Actually, I have been hiding from most of the young adult novels that catch my eye. Which is bad, because really I do love a good, angsty teen romance just as much as the next girl. In my most recent readings, maybe with the exception of some instances in Scott Lynch’s Red Seas Under Red Skies, I haven’t really come across anything that made me swoon like an unbalanced, malnourished princess. I was more distracted by dastardly pirates, thieves, alchemical warfare, rune magic, killer ghosts, bloodshed and other normal things that consume a lady’s imagination. Sure, the likes of The Castings Trilogy or The Rune Lord books all had lovely romantic relationships between certain characters. But they were made steadfast in that the social and cultural contexts of these stories were well portrayed and pretty awesome which always helps. In other words, OTHER COOL STUFF WAS HAPPENING. There was balance. It was good.
I guess what intially intrigued me about Cassandra Clare’s books, when I was recommended them by a good friend (Hi Aileen!) was how she talked about the characters. Her descriptions really showcased this amazing connection to most, if not all of them. The Shadowhunter world sounded like a great concept. Overall, her relationship with the books seemed like this beautiful, epic adventure. I wanted in on it. Badly.
I say this now, and yet I actually did quite an awful thing when I stalked determinedly into town to buy the books. I saw that the author of a not so favored paranormal romance series had written a line of praise for the book that was printed on the cover. I immediately recoiled from it like a vampire from daylight (DID YOU HEAR THAT MEYER? DAYLIGHT) It took ALL my will power not to put the book down. Eventually I kicked myself for being so shallow and cynical and I bought the books.
You know that feeling when you discover a new pair of socks that are comfortable beyond belief? And you start wearing said socks everywhere just so you can squish your toes into the super soft fabric? That’s how I felt when I started reading the Cassandra Clare series. Except instead of squishing my toes, I was squishing my face…into books. So – after all my time attempting to avoid most young adult fantasy novels – these books came along, smacked me in the face and screamed “JUST LET US IN, AISLING. WE WILL MAKE YOU HAPPY.” So I did. And I have to say…I really liked it. These books really are like crack for fantasy freaks.
Now, I should probably note here that I actually didn’t read these books in the right order. I actually read the Infernal Devices books first and then moved on to The Mortal Instruments and YES – to any fans of the books that might be reading this- I know that’s not the ‘proper’ way to do it as The Mortal Instruments came first. But that’s how I did it. So ya’ll are gonna have to deal with it. *insert diva finger snap here*
The Infernal Devices
I began my endeavour with Clockwork Angel & Clockwork Prince. And honestly, I’m really glad I did. My first thoughts were precisely formed as “Oh, hello Victorian London. It’s been a while.” After reading so much fantasy set in alternate worlds with cultures totally alien to my own, it was really quite refreshing to see some familiar place names and descriptions. And Ms. Clare certainly knows how to use her settings.
The book follows a young, newly orphaned Tessa Gray journeying from New York to Queen Victoria’s London to be with her brother. Of course, like a young naive protagonist should, she stumbles into the London fog to find that far more sinister things await her there. Tessa becomes embroiled in a plot that unleashes a power she never knew she had (shapeshifting, which I imagine is tough for a girl at the tender age of sixteen) So, first we see her trapped in the Downworld held captive by witchey women with scary fingers then BOOM! Tessa is rescued and thrown into the folds of the Nephilim, or Shadowhunters. An order of Demon Hunters, descended from the Angel Raziel. You’re typical ‘buffyesque’ squad of people who save souls, kick ass and have super human power that can be channeled through rune marks tattooed on their skin. Also, they have a recurring trait of being beautiful. That could just come with the whole ‘descended from Angels’ hook.
So Tessa, now totally in the dark about the reality of her past, teams up the Nephilim at the London Institute (which for some reason always looks like a cross between Wuthering Heights manor and Giles’ Magic Shop from Buffy in my head) in order to get to the bottom of not only her true story but also to stop a greater evil from taking down the Nephilim and reeking havoc in the city with evil clockwork robots of DEATH. And in the midst of all this there forms some very VERY frustrating ‘romantic plot gymnastics’ as I like to call them. I rarely get riled up over love triangles. But I seem to have made a special exception for this one. I won’t give too much away but I will say that these books got me through some very mundane days at work. (‘Mundanes’ or ‘Mundies’ is also the name given to normal human beings in the series) The characters are lovable, the story is more or less well paced and the fighting team spirit created at the institute emphasizes the already strong relationships that Tessa forms with the young Nephilim she meets
I think I made the right choice in what book to start with. The Infernal Devices gave me a really good insight into the world that Cassandra Clare has created. It solidified the addiction really. I wanted more Shadowhunters. I feel that it totally prepared my dormant squealing teen girl bookworm for the very contrasting sights and sounds of The Mortal Instruments.
The Mortal Instruments
Going straight from Clockwork Prince to City of Bones took some adjusting. Different city, different era. Overall, everything was just…faster. If I have indeed described these books as ‘crack’ a more accurate description for The Mortal Instruments is ‘speed’ compared to The Infernal Devices. I would put that down to the change of scenery. Cassandra Clare’s urban fantasy route for these books does suit the concept of Shadowhunters prowling through the ‘Downworld’. Of course, in most cases, a bustling city like New York has always been a go-to place for action and adventure in the depths of a paranormal underworld.
Enter, Clary Fray A nearly sixteen, red headed fire demon. Just kidding, Clary leads what could be vouched for as a normal life. Nerdy artist girl, reads manga, Artist mother, dead father, best friend who’s besotted with her. Normal. Until she starts seeing demons in nightclubs. Thus ensues the whirlwind of chaotic descent in the Downworld of New York for Clary. Much like Tessa, she’s cast into the nearest Shadowhunter Institute and is given reasons to doubt her seemingly normal life. And of course, it wouldn’t be a true Cassie Clare endeavour without a racy Shadowhunter tryst.
Of course, Clary’s introduction to the Shadowhunter world is inevitably linked to evil that is on the rise. Shadowhunter gone crazy, Valentine Morgenstern decides to come back from the dead and cause trouble in the dark corners of Manhattan. And from there on, its mostly kick ass demon fighting, flying motorcycles, discovering well kept secrets and most of all, heartache.
Along with the decade and the loacation, Cassandra’s writing mood changes entirely in the Mortal Instruments, which was quite nice to see. All the manners of Victorian London in the Infernal Devices were satisfyingly stifling for the story in The Infernal Devices. The shift to a faster, sexier modern age gave me the feeling that reading The Mortal Instruments was like reading a version of Cassandra Clare in sweat pants as opposed to…a suit? A monacle? Let’s stay with monacle. I’m sure she wears them in reality anyway.
I’ll admit, it’s not the smoothest story in the world. There’s a couple of itty bitty plot holes. But let’s not dwell on the negative. What really matters in this series is the battling werewolves, slimy demonic thingys, pretty fairies and hilarious warlocks which all circulate a most…let’s use the word interesting… romance between Clary and the devilishly handsome Shadowhunter, Jace Wayland. As I predicted, from listening to past recommendations, the characters had a lot of staying power with me. Particularly the characters Simon Lewis (Clary’s adorable, geeky best friend) who initially provides an awful lot of comic relief in City of Bones and awesome references to nerd culture; and Magnus Bane (who is actually also in the Infernal Devices books too, being a sexy warlock and immortal and all that). So really, say what you like about the plot, Cassandra Clare seems to have a flare creating awesome characters. Clary, for all of her frustrating qualities, is actually rather well written as well. No matter how much I yell at her about making bad decisions, I still quite like her as a character.
Overall, Cassandra Clare has certainly struck a well pitched chord with this book. For me, I see it as the kind of book that you become quite familiar with the mechanics of, it’s almost predictable. The Heroes journey of descent into the underworld. We all know the score really, ‘Buffyesque’ teenagers kicking ass, friendly monsters, psycho path father figures, unrequited love… and yet…you just can’t get enough of it. Or at least that’s what I am currently going through.
And I’ve only just finished the third book City of Glass.
So, my fellow bloggers, I beseech you. Do not do as I have done and neglect such stories for silly reasons like a profuse hatred for a certain franchise of books and movies that clouded most of the hype about young adult fantasy/horror novels. Go forth and read Cassandra Clares books! Let the stormy clouds of romance and horror engulf you. It will be fun, I promise.
On a side note, I feel I must also say something about the movie that is in the works for City of Bones before I shut up. In particular, the casting of said movie. Don’t worry, I’ll be brief:
Lena, Johnathan, Aiden and Jared: I have faith in you guys. You can stay there.
Jamie and Rob: We may need to have serious words when this is done. Don’t let me down.
Well. That settles that.
Off I go to finish reading The Treachery of Beautiful Things by Ruth Frances Long. It’s good to be back in the game.