I’ve been a fan of Cassandra Clare since before she was a bestselling author. I first came across her writing in the most humble of locations – a Harry Potter fanfiction community. Her Draco Dormiens trilogy, a retelling of the Harry Potter series from Draco’s perspective, is one of those incredibly rare, amazing things you almost never find: Good, well-written, novel-length fanfiction that keeps the spirit of the original characters intact.
Unfortunately, Draco Dormiens is nearly impossible to find now, since a cease-and-desist order forced its removal from the internet.
I had heard, through that same fanfiction community, that she had been working on an original novel and had found a publisher. Here was someone who had managed the fanficcer’s greatest dream – a book of her own on store shelves.
Knowing the quality of her writing, I was unsurprised to find out that it had made it to the NYT Bestselling list. I didn’t actually pick it up until after the third book, City of Glass, had come out, though, mostly due to my own failure to keep up with what was happening with them.
At first glance, I was a bit disappointed, as the books looked to be Twilight clones, and Twilight had read as badly written, Mary Sue filled, fanfiction.
The Mortal Instruments series might deal with the same general genre as Twilight, but it is that genre in the hands of a good writer. Believe me, as a long time lover of vampires, a good writer makes all the difference. They aren’t the best or most original books I’ve ever read, the subject matter is clichè, especially at this point in time when the marketplace is absolutely flooded with vampire stories.
What sets these novels apart, not just from the other vampire stories glutting the marketplace now, but also from most adolescent and young adult fiction currently in publication, are the issues that Clare deals with in her books. There are no weak women in this series – indeed, the women are generally the most strong-willed of the characters, whether for good or for ill. No matter what side of the fence the women sit on, they are almost uniformly strong, intelligent, and opinionated.
She writes, extremely frankly, about homosexuality. One of the central characters is gay, and the world of the Nephilim (demon-hunters) that he must exist in is even more oppressive against homosexuality than our own. There’s also an issue of incestuous attraction between the two main protagonists who, like Luke and Leia, find out that they are siblings only after their first kiss. (Gays and incestuous thoughts in a YA novel, Clare, you are a brave one!)
Clare is not above making jokes about the tropes and clichès of the genre, either. At a party filled with “Underworlders”, the heroine wonders about how there are only beautiful vampires, never any ugly ones. She gives easter-eggs and tongue-in-cheek references to the geek community where she found her start, and with an insider’s sense of humor. World of Warcraft, Dungeons and Dragons, and Naruto mangas make appearances throughout the novels, bringing the world of the books more fully into this one. These books are written by a geek for other geeks, but you wouldn’t have to be a geek to enjoy them.
Definitely a fun read – I made it through the first two books in the space of a week, and the third was only delayed because I was having trouble getting my hands on it. I’m anxiously awaiting the fourth. They are unashamedly pulp, and if you don’t get into vampires and werewolves and demons, you probably wouldn’t get into these, but if you can set aside your post-Twilight disgust for a moment or two, you can have a good bit of fun reading them.
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