Tag Archives: The Mortal Instruments

Film Review: City of Bones Shatters Illusions It Should Not Have

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Major spoilers for the movie and for the book series.  Do NOT read if you don’t want spoilers.

I have enjoyed even loved some very loosely adapted films (How to Train Your Dragon, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, even The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian).  In fact, sometimes the looser adaptations make better movies, I’ve come to realize, but sadly, Harald Zwart’s adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is not one of these instances.

Really, I have two major problems with the adaptation’s plot:

1)   Simon, if you want to have him bitten now, cannot then be okay with sunlight before drinking the blood of a Shadowhunter.

Vampires don’t just become Daylighters, and if you plan on a second movie, I want a thorough explanation of how hanging him in a shaft of sunlight (where was that sunlight coming from since it was still dark outside?) made him into a Daylighter, this being a conscious attempt by the vampires of New York to create such a creature.

Simon’s Daylighting without having drunk Shadowhunter blood I might have been able to rant about and let go (as I do with Chris Columbus’ and Craig Titley’s decision to make Hades the villain of The Lightning Thief), however:

2)   Having Jace recognize Valentine as the man who raised him is what creates the tension in the climax.

The screenwriter, Jessica Postigo, attempted to avoid the lengthy explanation of Valentine assuming Michael Wayland’s identity and then later faking Michael’s death by placing a memory block upon Jace like the one that Magnus creates for Clary and giving Jace one solid memory of his father that he shared with both Clary and the audience prior (though it was not mentioned that this was his only memory of his father, and perhaps it should have been).  She then has Valentine be able to show him that memory through some sort of spell.  I understand wanting to avoid that lengthy dialogue and can even thank her for the attempt, however, that proof was not enough for me to believe that Valentine was Jace’s father, and I was surprised that it was enough for Jace.

If a shared memory is how you want to have Jace come to realize that Valentine is his “father,” rather than having him recognize Valentine on sight, then that memory needs to be shown from two perspectives, or at least needs to be shown from Valentine’s in this later instance, not from a third or omniscient perspective, because as it is filmed the memory seems to be neither of theirs but rather the memory of a third person, watching, and the claim that Valentine is Jace’s father and the man who gave him the falcon is nullified.  (This quibble reminds me of this lesson by rufftoon in storyboarding.)

Also having Hodge suggest that Valentine lie to both Clary and Jace, telling both that he is their father implies that neither are his children when in fact, according to the series, Clary is Valentine’s legitimate daughter and Jace was raised by Valentine, and again, to suggest otherwise destroys the conflict and tension of the story.

One more, broader quibble:  Emphasizing Jace’s ability to play the piano (though I like the Bach as a Shadowhunter idea) only serves to draw a connection between him and Edward Cullen.  The original fans of Cassandre Cla(i)re were not Twihards (fans of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga).  The original fans were Potterheads, The Mortal Instruments being an evolution of a Harry Potter fanfiction series.  Twihards and Potterheads are in something of a fandom war.1  By taking our series (I am a Potterhead without being a Twihard) and trying to pander it to the Twihards, you perhaps win the Twihards to your movie but at the expense of a large, invested, and committed group.  Those who were or are Twihards may be ready now to be introduced to The Mortal Instruments, but we, the Potterheads, loved it first.2

Also, it needs to be mentioned—particularly for parents deciding whether to take their children—that the violence in this movie is graphic and realistic.  Imitating a Killing Curse causes no physical hurt; smashing someone’s face with a frying pan or a fridge door can cause some real damage.  I was rather impressed actually by Zwart’s refusal to shy from the violence that surrounds the lives of Shadowhunters if I grew a bit tired of extended battle sequences that were mostly too busy and too fast to follow.

The farther back I step and the more I analyze the adaptation, the more forgiving I become, but I was not a pleased fan at 2:30 AM on August 21, and I really did dislike that the novel’s internal conflict seemed to be shunted aside:

Jace tightened his grip on the angel blade.  “I can–“

“No, you can’t.”  Valentine reached out, through the Portal, and seized Jace’s wrist in his hand, dragging it forward until the tip of the seraph blade touched his chest.  Where Jace’s hand and wrist passed through the Portal, they seemed to shimmer as if they had been cast in water.  “Do it, then,” said Valentine.  “Drive the blade in.  Three inches–maybe four.”  He jerked the blade forward, the dagger’s tip slicing the fabric of his shirt.  A red circle like a poppy bloomed just over his heart.  Jace, with a gasp, yanked his arm free and staggered back.

“As I thought,” said Valentine.  “Too softhearted.” (464)

That is heart-wrenching, tells us a great deal about Jace, proves that Valentine knows Jace very well, and shows us a touch of Valentine’s insanity more so than Valentine battering Jace aside as Jace attempts to get near enough to break his pentagram.

1 There are of course Potterheads who are also Twihards and vice versa.

2 Cassandra Clare is not universally beloved by Potterheads, but she is one of us.  I am unsure whether she is also a Twihard.

**

The Mortal Instruments: The City of Bones.  Dir. Harald Zwart.  Constantin, Don Carmody, Unique Features.  2013.

Clare, Cassandra.  The Mortal Instruments, Book 1: City of Bones.  New York: Margaret K. McElderry-Simon & Schuster, 2007.

This review is not endorsed by Constantin Film Produktion, Don Carmody Productions, Unique Features, Harald Zwart, Jessica Postigo, anyone involved in the making of the film, Cassandra Clare, Simon & Schuster, or Margaret K. McElderry Books.  It is an independent, honest review by a viewer.

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Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars Doesn’t Have Many

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First let me say that I am and was before reading this book a fan of John Green’s and of everything he has been doing to “decrease worldsuck.”

The Fault in Our Stars, the love story of star-crossed Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters, young teenagers whose lives have been ravaged by cancer, is his latest novel and the first of Green’s books that I’ve read.

I had before reading it heard so much about The Fault in Our Stars.  It’s been lauded by many as a must-read and has been on the bestseller list for many weeks.  As I was warned, I had a strong hate-and-love relationship with this book while reading it.  I cried and was angry with Green, and I laughed aloud even more often than I was upset.

Death hangs like a Damocles sword over the heads of so many of the characters, and Green shows how that threat effects all the characters from the protagonists to their parents to their friends who understand and their friends who don’t down to people in the food court at a mall who catch a glimpse of Hazel’s oxygen tank, a full and round cast.  There is a hopelessness and sadness in the knowledge that few characters that you love here will live long or healthy lives.

Yet, their lives go on despite the disease that tries to destroy them—they live, play video games like ordinary boys, The Fault in Our Stars reads primarily like a romance—and disease brings the cast together.  There is hope in the continuation of their lives.

The story tells of parents caring for a child that they know that they will lose too early and parents who have lost a child, of the devastation that a young death can cause and of the ability of a parent to move on.  Though categorized as and reading like a teen book, Green does not neglect directing a message to adults.

I do not know if it’s merely that I tend to avoid this genre, but it seems to me that Green gives voice to a pretty much voiceless group, which I believe to be an important endeavor.  I believe that cancer is oft talked about in our society as the great evil, the last, great American disease to be conquered, but there is little hope offered to those suffering from it.  Survivors are lauded as heroes and heroines, but we speak of discovering a cure for cancer the way we speak of finding Atlantis or of planting a colony on the moon.  There’s not a lot of hope beyond the example of survivors given to those suffering from the disease.

Green captures the exile of disease well.  Green’s is an honest rather than a glorified look at cancer and death and disease, though he does take a rosy glass to life.

With likeable characters, intelligent banter, philosophical thoughts, and quotable one-liners, the text is enjoyable—surprisingly so for the depth of the subject matter (the nature of life, death, and immortality), the characters’ circumstances, (try explaining to people who don’t know about the book that you’re laughing aloud at a story about a group of cancer-riddled friends; they look half-scandalized), and the stilettos with which this book’s plot stomps on your poor heart.

Now something must be shared that was not shared with me and would have had me reading this book (one that’s out of my usual comfort-genres) much sooner:  Augustus Waters is Jace (from Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series) with fewer thorns.  Now go out and read some realistic fiction, Shadowhunters and Mundie Moms.

****1/2

Green, John.  The Fault in Our Stars.  New York: Dutton-Penguin, 2012.

This review is not endorsed by John Green, Dutton Books, or Penguin Group, Inc.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.  DFTBA.

Book Review: City of Lost Souls Rises from the Ashes of Fallen Angels

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Click to visit the author's site for a links to buy, an excerpt, and a review.

I’ve proved myself right:  City of Lost Souls, the fifth book in The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, is far better than the fourth, City of Fallen Angels, though it still lacks the clockwork tight plot and sharp twists of the first three books.

This book never really settled on a protagonist.  We spent the most time with Clary.  Sebastian’s control of Jace rendered Jace’s POV null.  Clare was trying to pull the wool over our eyes and make us believe in a changed Sebastian, so we were denied access to his mind.  Simon ought to have had a grand role this book and was set to be the ultimate hero, but his glory was literally taken from him by Clary so that Clare could further complicate her relationship with Jace and possibly so that Sebastian could escape to complicate the sixth book.

If this battle was merely the first in a second war, the next book’s final battle should be epic because I would have been quite satisfied to see Simon stab Sebastian and end the series in this book—and not just because it would mean heroism for Simon and death for Sebastian and freedom for Jace.  The Mortal Instruments ought to have been a trilogy almost everyone seems to agree, and the plot is beginning to feel stretched like butter scraped across too much bread.

Because Clary has never been my favorite character nor have she and Jace been my favorite couple, their romantic woes cannot sustain the series for me.  And Clare seems to recognize that, though she won’t change the plot to suit; that would too deeply rock her foundation.  Yet we are given a wealth of other couples to root for: Magnus and Alec, Simon and Izzy, Jordan and Maia, and Jocelyn and Luke.  Each one of these couples is almost a separate subplot in City of Fallen Angels, and I’m not sure that that is necessary.  In reality, everyone’s relationships might be complicated all at once regardless of what is going on, but Maia and Jordan seemed superfluous, Luke and Jocelyn were thrust aside, and Alec’s worries over Magnus’ immortality were untimely when we were busily trying to decide if Alec was going to lose another brother to death.  The presence of Camille seemed merely a way to pander to fans of The Infernal Devices.

Scattered through the book are references to her other series, The Infernal Devices, The Bane Chronicles, the first of which Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan will publish online on April 16th (those I will probably devour because Magnus), and even the new series, The Dark Artifices, that Clare has promised is coming.  While I know that the series are interconnected, it almost seems as if Clare’s mind is meandering throughout time and space, though I might appreciate these references more were I a greater fan of The Infernal Devices or if the references were subtler.

Several gut-punching lines and scenes shine in this book, and Simon and Izzy’s budding relationship is touching and well-handled as are the foreign cities to which Clary transports the readers.

In the end, The Mortal Instruments are snarky, steamy teen fluff with some hacking and slashing to keep the plot lively and because Clare recognizes that girls love action movies too.

***1/2

Clare, Cassandra.  The Mortal Instruments, Book Five: The City of Lost Souls.  New York: Margaret K. McElderry-Simon & Schuster, 2012.

This review is not endorsed by Cassandra Clare, Margaret K. McElderry Books, or Simon & Schuster, Inc.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

I’ve reviewed the third book in the series, City of Glass, too.

Book Review: City of Fallen Angels: Still A Better Teen Vampire Romance Novel. SPOILER ALERT!

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Spoilers for City of Fallen Angels and City of Glass abound.  Read at your own risk.

When I read City of Glass, it seemed the stunning conclusion to Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series; I never expected City of Fallen Angels.  Hearing of a 4th book, I was a little hesitant.  What was left but to tangle their poor happy love lives?

Clare did.

Simon is two-timing with Isabelle and Maia.  Clary and Jace, finally relieved from their supposed sibling relationship, passionately embrace and kiss frequently, despite Jace’s attempts to stay away.

Having seen Jace and Clary together, I think that a lot of the tension of the previous 3 Mortal Instruments books came from their forbidden love.  Clare recognized this too, I think, and was sure to complicate matters, possibly beyond reconciliation (though I might have just thought of one possible resolution), at the end of this book.

Too, NYC seems like a letdown descriptively now that we’ve been to Alicante.  But Clare has beautifully painted NYC before.  I wonder if writing in Mexico did not backfire on Clare, if she could not describe what she couldn’t see with such clarity as has before impressed me.

The book suffered too from a severance from the politics of the Clave, which had been so central to previous books.  I love seeing the workings of fictional governments.

There are several “saving graces” in City of Fallen Angels:

  1. The Mark of Cain:  It’s always interesting to fill in the gaps of the Biblical narrative.  The Mortal Instruments series does so finely.
  2. Praetor Lupus:  I’m highly intrigued by this secretive society of Downworlder protectors.  Unfortunately, the group did not play a large role, but I look forward to learning more.  Please take note, Miss Clare.
  3. The resolution of (most) of the romantic problems:  I’m a sucker for happy endings.  Finally, everyone is with whom they should be (I hope)!
  4. The cliffhanger ending:  Oh no!  One?  They can’t be.  Jace can’t be.

The action finally picks up in near the end of this book.  The tightly woven tapestry of Clare’s writing that I have always admired seemed absent for most of the book as no one had yet made fabric of all the threads.  Perhaps, I ought to have assumed a connection between Simon’s hunters and Jace’s dreams, but I did not, and could not have guessed at the connection as it was eventually revealed.  Something needed to have been said earlier of demons being able to infiltrate Shadowhunters’ dreams.  If I had known that, I might have seen the thread and might have walked the maze with less hesitancy.

One more gripe:  This story is incomplete.  Such emphasis is put on Stephen’s hunting dagger that the absence of its story seems like a hole in the plot.  I hope that too returns later.

Overall, book 4 is a bridge; it almost had be; with Valentine and “Sebastian” dead, The Mortal Instruments was problem-less.  My recommendation?  Wait for book 5.  Then read the 4 and 5 together.  I’m sure 5 will be better.

**

Clare, Cassandra.  The Mortal Instruments, Book Four: City of Fallen Angels.  New York: Margaret K. McElderry-Simon & Schuster, 2011.

This review is not endorsed by Cassandra Clare, Margaret K. McElderry Books, or Simon & Schuster.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

Book Review: City of Glass: Looking Better in Black Since 2009

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Minor spoilers ahead.

Every review I’ve written previously has been a review of first impressions.  This was my second time reading Cassandra Clare’s City of Glass (book 3 of The Mortal Instruments series), though I do think that it’d been 2 years since my first reading.

That first time through I remember being very caught up in the tale.  I remember actually throwing the book against the bed at one point in anger over an unjust and unexpected character death, something I think no other book has ever made me do for any reason.  I remember “squeeing” aloud at my first experience with a love-sprung, homosexual kiss in literature and my then-sheltered sensibilities squirming in quickly-forgotten guilt.

I was a more passive reader this second time around.  While I made a few noises still, I never threw the book.  This time, the death and the kiss were expected, though I’d forgotten many details of the plot, and it still felt fresh.

City of Glass is a thrilling read.  Clare’s heroes and heroines return to the Shadowhunter homeland, Idris, and to its capitol, Alicante, the Glass City.  The villain of Shadowhunter legend, Valentine, searches for the final Mortal Instrument to complete his set and plans to use them to destroy current Shadowhunter culture.  The heroes and heroines seek to convince Alicante to go to war to stop him.

Clare’s characters I have always found particularly real.  Even knowing the ending, I feared for them.  I mourned their deaths, those whose deaths I’d forgotten perhaps more than those that I’d remembered as there’s a freshness in an unremembered detail that adds to the visceral reaction.

Reading through a second time, the text dealt me the same sharp slaps that J. K. Rowling’s always did on a second read, that hitch in your breath when, say, you’re reading through Goblet of Fire, and you realize that what you thought was perfectly in character for Moody, was actually a slip; the line has a completely separate meaning than you thought it did now that you know that not Moody, but Barty Crouch Jr. is speaking.  It’s a sensation that’s hard to describe if you’ve never experienced it.

I’ve pointed out Clare’s history as Claire.  Reading through this second time, I could not help but remark on the similarities between Valentine and Voldemort (who, incidentally, I would not name as Claire’s primary parallel character for Valentine, though Voldemort has no exact parallel, and Valentine may be an amalgam).  Particularly, Valentine’s ultimatum to the Shadowhunters, delivered in the Shadowhunters’ meeting hall, with their dead around them, while they are in mourning, seemed to mirror Voldemort’s magnified voice echoing through the Great Hall demanding that Harry Potter meet him in the Forest.  I’m not calling foul; there are some images, some tones that just work, and they should be replicated again and again; I am calling attention to what is well-used.

Where Clare far exceeds Rowling is in the witty banter and sarcasm that is oh so appealing in a hero.  The dialogue is not unbelievable for all Jace’s acerbity and is perhaps even made more real by it.  Clare’s characters’ emotions also possess a rawness and reality, probably stemming in part from a closer narrative style, her intimate knowledge of them all, and more poetic description.

Overall, a great read.

*****

Clare, Cassandra.  The Mortal Instruments, Book Three: City of Glass.  New York: Margaret K. McElderry-Simon & Schuster, 2009.

This review is not endorsed by Cassandra Clare, Margaret K. McElderry Books, or Simon & Schuster.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

Before I review Cassandra Clare’s works….

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I have just finished reading Cassandra Clare’s The City of Glass in preparation for reading The City of Fallen Angels (books 3 and 4 of The Mortal Instruments series), which I am already well into.  I fully intend to write reviews for these, but I realized, in trying to visualize those reviews, that it is difficult for me to think objectively about Cassandra Clare and her works; we’ve too much history.  In the hope that you will better be able to evaluate my reviews when I write them, I think it’s fair that I reveal that history:

Cassandra Clare and I go way back to a time when she was known as Claire, not Clare, and she had a flock of fans falling all over Draco Malfoy, not Jace Wayland.

That was the end of middle school and the beginning of high school for me (roughly 2002-2006) and in the midst of the world’s love affair with J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.  Claire was a fanfiction writer of some renown, having written three novel-length (I don’t exaggerate; the last, which I have thanks to Clare’s kindness, is 1679 PDF pages) fanfictions known as The Draco Trilogy.  My friends and I, all great fans of the Harry Potter series, tore through Claire’s works and praised them highly, at times even wondering if Claire was J. K. Rowling writing under a pseudonym all that her characters really wanted to say and do, but which her original plot line and younger audience, would not allow her to publish through Scholastic.  (I have since realized that Clare’s and J. K. Rowling’s styles are really very dissimilar, but Claire reproduced Rowling’s characters with such accuracy, her plot lines were so intricately and tightly woven and twisted so suddenly that she made us wonder then.)

That was Clare as I knew her in my childhood.  I love those fanfictions.  They influenced my own, which inspired my original novel (W.I.P.), which has influenced my life to this point.  My friends and I even admitted (and in some ways I still believe) that Claire’s series was better than J. K. Rowling’s series.

Clare’s Mortal Instruments series is a direct and obvious descendant of those fanfictions, with some very clear parallels between characters, giving me hope that fanfiction can lead to a successful publishing career; I believe that originally, at least, Clare’s fan base was Claire’s.

Besides that, Clare and I have had some correspondence, and I’ve come to respect her as much as a kind and generous person, willing to give her time and more to fans, as I respect her as an author.  Once she allowed me to reproduce a section of her fanfiction for a guide to writing that was the culmination of my year’s independent study in creative writing.  What’s more, she read my guide and sent me feedback.  Later, after her fanfiction had been removed at the behest of her publishers, Clare sent me a private, temporary link to download the story, ensuring that my sister, previously too young to have been allowed to read the final installment of the series, got the 16th birthday present that my friends and I had once promised her.

That is the background against which I read and will review The Mortal Instruments series, against which my reviews should be read.