|There’s a shirtless dude on the cover.
So it’s intellectual.
This weekend I binge read the first Mortal Instruments trilogy (City of Bones, City of Ashes, and City of Glass) a wildly popular Young Adult fantasy series by Cassandra Clare.
This is the type of book series that I view much like I do junk food. You can’t sit down and slowly savor a bag of cool ranch Doritos while pondering the full impact of the ingredient list. You get a craving, you devour a whole bag in one sitting, and afterwards you feel vaguely gross but take comfort in the fact that your craving has been sated.
I have to say that The Mortal Instruments are some pretty decent Doritos.
It’s Harry Potter meets Twilight. In addition to the muggle mundane world there’s a secret magical universe inhabited by many supernatural creatures who are all basically prejudiced against each other with wizards Shadowhunters at the top of the heap. In a young Shadowhunter’s education every class is defense against the dark arts because Shadowhunters’ main function is to fight demons. A prominent subset of the Shadowhunter population see themselves as superior to everyone else, especially the powerful and evil Voldemort Valentine.
Instead of Harry, Ron, and Hermione, we have a set of protagonists more along the lines of Twilight’s teen angst ridden Bella, Edward, and Jacob.
Upon seeing full time Shadowhunter and part time jerk Jace Wayland and his adoptive Shadowhunter family mete out some stabby justice on a demon, Clary Fray and her totally besotted best friend Simon Lewis discover Clary is actually a Shadowhunter. Valentine and his minions are coming after Clary’s mother in search of the Mortal Instruments, powerful magical objects Valentine needs to complete his nefarious scheme of taking over the Shadowhunter world and making it extra, super racist against all other beings.
Notable AWESOME twist: There’s a super-fabulous be-glittered gay Asian Dumbledore (Magnus Bane) who, as well as playing a pivotal role on Team Good, has a tumultuous romance with Jace’s adoptive brother Alec.
Aside from that, the plot itself will be very familiar to YA afficionados: An epic struggle over the future of the Shadowhunter universe begins. What is Valentine’s evil plan, exactly? Can our heroes thwart him? Will the Shadowhunter universe ever be the same? And, most importantly, how will Clary and Jace’s super angsty romantic entanglements be dragged out over the course of three books? (It’s not how you think. But ew.)
I’m willing to overlook a lot of ridiculousness if a book is well paced and involves humor, both of which this series does. It get major bonus points for tacitly and explicitly acknowledging all the overblown OMGFeelings! with lines like:
“I don’t want to be a man,” said Jace. “I want to be an angst-ridden teenager who can’t confront his own inner demons and takes it out verbally on other people instead.”
“Well,” said Luke, “you’re doing a fantastic job.” (City of Ashes)
But you know how some books have that extra level of social commentary or rich storytelling that catapults them out of the realm of junk food and into that of fine cuisine? That’s where The Mortal Instruments is lacking.
It’s not Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, or even The Hunger Games.
But it’s not off brand, stale corn chips either. It’s damn fine Doritos. So if some salty, junky goodness sounds like it would hit the spot right about now, I’d recommend giving The Mortal Instruments a try.