Cassandra Clare is an amazing author. I think every review I do of any book of hers should start with that sentence. The woman can write, y'all.
City of Bones reminds me of Clockwork Angel. We are introduced to the characters and a lot of groundwork is laid. It is a good stand-alone story, but it also is an obvious strong foundation for the series. I'm not sure if I felt this way because I know it's a series or because that's how the book read - either way, it is still a book that lays a solid groundwork of characters and conflict.
Clare has such a way with a plot. Just when I think I've figured it out, especially having read spoilers from other readers, she throws something out of nowhere. This book was no exception. I don't know how she manages to take the relationships between the characters and make them incredibly convoluted and yet simple to follow. This, my friends, is a gifted writer.
Each character is strong in its own right. Clary is unsure without being insecure. Jace is cocky without being a jerk (most of the time). Simon seemed to be the comic relief and not at all the sad little side character that goes by the wayside. Alec is deep and conflicted. Isabelle seems like a fluff character as Alec's sister - and yet, she holds a spot in the cast that is vital to the story in a way I can't really explain.
And Magnus Bane. What a delight. What fun.
Clare is also expert at setting up a situation within the plot that seems like the primary conflict to solve, and then expanding it to a larger problem. At first the plot is a simple thing to fix, and then all of a sudden there's a horrifying villain and a much larger conflict and presto! We now have a series.
There are other characters I loved and other situations that were wonderfully interesting, all of which involved supernatural creatures. But I won't detail those for the sake of spoilers.
And the dialogue. Oh, the dialogue! It is what makes Clare's books such a pleasure to read. If she has that same dry wit in person, I would love to be her good friend. To a generation of young adults that find base humor so entertaining, she offers what I call "smart-funny." I can't tell you how many times I laughed out loud at the banter in this book. Anyone can write stupid-funny; it takes an expert to write such biting wit.
I would have given this five stars. But I felt the pacing lagged a bit. I know it's because she was laying groundwork. But I've noticed that Clare's style is to build up gradually to an exciting climax, so it's worth hanging in there even if you're bored. The payoff always exceeds my expectations. That said, she also lets her readers down easily by attempting to provide a worthy conclusion while leaving things open for the next book. In this case, I didn't feel that she left me hanging. But if I were reading this and had to wait for a sequel, I might be upset with her. The resolution to all the action was kind of blah - not bad, just meh. I can just pick up the next book and read it, so I don't feel this way. And of course I'll be picking up the next book with the attitude that "this can't possibly be the truth of the situation!" It's a great author who can create that kind of suspense.
This book is a must read in its genre. I believe it will prove to be one of the classics that future generations will love.