It's impossible to separate CC's original work from her fannish work. That is what I discovered when I read this. To be fair to me, she could have made more of an effort to write CoB less like a fanfic. On the other hand, I never entered into either the huge hate or the huge love she engendered. I found her fanfic entertaining but too long. I think it reached a stage where you either bashed or worshipped her, and maybe she never got the benefit of any genuine concrit from a disinterested party. That's the feeling I get from the book, anyway. Then again, a lot of first-time authors over-describe and burden their narrative with superfluous metaphors - she's hardly a lone cowboy there.
A lot of people ranted about the fact that Clary is one letter removed from Clare, and ergo Clary is CC. I thought Clary was a horrible name - and Clarissa's not much better; I kept having images of Clarissa Explains It All, complete with eighties jeans - but what stunned me was the idea that, supposedly, Clary's dad's last name was Clark. So technically, her name was Clary Clark. WTF. (Of course, the convolutions of the actual plot made that meaningless - but if you're going to come up with a pseudonym for your child's dad that also uses the same initials as your apparently-dead son, couldn't you pick another name beginning with C? Carter? Connell? Cieslak? ANYTHING?)
I always mark passages in these 'reviews' that either annoy or delight me. (They usually annoy me.) There are thirty-one marks in this book, and you've probably guessed that they didn't delight me. There's no way I'm going to bother reproducing the leaden writing that caused me to highlight them. I'll just pick the juiciest.
Firstly, she overused two words: buttery and unhitched. Butter, I find, is not the nicest thing on its own; a drink of butter would not exactly be delicious. Metal should only be buttery if it’s melting. Perhaps she thought buttery was both the same as 'creamy' and 'golden,' which, um. It isn't. As for unhitched, well. That's something you do with horses. It's such a strong description. Words like pulled or moved are like said - nearly invisible. But every time she used 'unhitched' I took a mental pause to wonder when the character tied their belt around a pole. BAD, in other words.
When Jace opened the greenhouse door, the scent hit Clary, soft as the padded blow of a cat's paw: the rich dark smell of earth and the stronger, soapy scent of night-blooming flowers - moonflowers, white angel's trumpet, four o'clocks - and some she didn't recognise, like a plant bearing a star-shaped yellow blossom whose petals were medallioned with golden pollen. Through the glass walls of the enclosure she could see the lights of Manhattan burning like cold jewels.
This is one tiny paragraph. It contained two similes and one mention of 'medallioned' pollen. The similes are actually pretty good, as similes go - but no matter how much I like Oreos, if I eat an entire packet in five minutes I get somewhat disenchanted with them. That's the same problem with CC's similes. Her editor should ration them to one per chapter, and then they would pack the punch they (individually) deserve. Also? Most of them describe people and scenes that are utterly irrelevant and never seen again. I call padding.
And soap smells like flowers, not the other way round. Unwarrentedly nitpicky? Perhaps, but someone’s gotta be the editor here: her editor clearly contracted selective Alzheimer’s when it came to actually, you know, editing.
As a child of that point, what was up with the constant references to art? It was unbelievably hoity-toity - you mean you don't know who Brugels is, fifteen-year old person who is my target audience? Ho ho, aren't you a stupid little child. Well, fuck that. I did art in school and have read a number of art books and enjoy art, and I still didn't get most of the references. THAT MEANS I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DESCRIBING LOOKS LIKE - AND NOR DOES ANYONE ELSE. It's one thing to liken something to Picasso or Monet. It's another to make your book into a pop quiz of history's less celebrated artists.
I didn't hate everything, though. Magnus was an extremely cool character, with his cat's birthday party. The dialogue was good in places, but mostly it was too much of a set up - like the time Jace says, 'If there was such a thing as terminal literalism, you'd have died in childhood'. Now that's pretty clever, but it doesn't fit in with a) the conversation b) Clary's character or c) the sort of thing Jace would normally say. Therefore, it doesn't work. You could make it work, but a lot more effort would be required - and that's really what this book is lacking.
I knew an awful lot of spoilers about the book before I started, so I was able to analyse it like it was a second reading. A couple things struck me:
If Valentine was so terrible that everyone was too afraid to fight him (Luke, Hodge etc), then why was there a rising at all? Why didn't everyone just cave as soon as he clicked his - perfectly manicured, I must assume - fingers?
Clary should at least have felt disgusted that Jace turned out to be her big brother, if only for a second. SHE DID NOT.
Obviously I have insider knowledge, but - the photograph of the Circle, the fact that it was called the Circle, the Forsaken, the 'half-bloods' and Downworlders, the hatred of mundies, the shards of broken mirror that showed another place - they were all so obviously Potterverse. Or let's be clear: they're parts of the Potterverse that fans latched on to as cool and constantly brought up in fic. The whole Muggles and purebloods thing was never such an issue with JK as it was for people who shipped Draco.
Except for Hodge, of course, who was Giles. He even LOOKED like Giles. Did she not think people would guess? And when everyone but your protagonist is a bad guy, that kind of takes the suspense out of it. Where Buffy had a poor influence on the book was in the action scenes, which read like a script: hoist this monster here, actor #1 dies on the marked white spot, etc. The part where Simon breaks the skylight would have worked excellently on film! In a book, not so much. It's too hard to visualise. The point is: telly is dumb, books are smart. Aim higher.
It also read like we already knew about the Downworlders and the Lightwoods' hatred of mundies and other things like that. Again, a fault of fanfic, I imagine. I don't have to explain why Harry hates Draco or why Brendon has troubles with his family, but I DO have to explain why Xenair and Woodlee have such a long and tangled history of hate, because YOU don't know who the fuck they are. (I just made them up, by the way.)
These kids were not fifteen/sixteen. No way in hell. Also, from the way they were written, I don't think CC was ever fifteen, either. Nightclubs on a Sunday, where there's enough room to actually touch the floor while dancing? HOKAY NO. Or maybe this is just in New York. I must go there sometime. I'd like to dance without bruising.
This review is random, but so is the book.
Previously, on Book Glomp 2008:
#1Middlemarch | #2Invisible Monsters | #3A Thousand Splendid Suns | #4Love in the Time of Cholera | #5Oscar and Lucinda | #6Kim | #7Breakfast at Tiffany's | #8Atonement | #9To the Lighthouse | #10On the Road | #11Brideshead Revisited | #12Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance | #13Bonjour Tristesse | #14A Passage to India | #15Three Men in a Boat | #16Vile Bodies | #17Prozac Nation | #18The Heart of the Matter | #19Jinx; #20Airhead | #21Doomsday Book | #22The Gum Thief | #23Choke | #24The Stone Gods | #25Beauty | #26Before They Are Hanged | #27The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation | #28Franny and Zooey | #29Girl in a Blue Dress | #30A Doll's House | #31Nation