Posts Tagged ‘cassandra clare’

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare is the first in The Dark Artifices, a new Shadowhunters series set around the Shadowhunters Institute in LA.  It focusses on Emma Carstairs and her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, characters introduced in City of Heavenly Fire, the final book in the Mortal Instruments series.  This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2016 and I LOVED it.  The setup for Lady Midnight was one of the things I enjoyed most about City of Heavenly Fire and it more than lived up to its promise. I devoured this 700+ page book in less than a day.

What I liked

The characters.  Although Emma is a smart, engaging kickass heroine, I found my sympathies being drawn more to Julian – his struggles and challenges spoke to me even more than Emma’s.  I was also very interested that this time we meet some Shadowhunters who do not necessarily fit the mould of young teens, perfect in mind and body who embody the ideals of the Clave.  Particularly interesting to me was Tiberius, who is clearly on the autism spectrum.  I thought it was wonderful how he was shown to make a significant contribution to our protagonists’ quest even if it wasn’t always by going out and fighting demons.  I am interested to see how the Clave tries to handle him in the future.  We also have Mark Blackthorn, who, although technically a Shadowhunter has been strongly influenced by his time with the Fae.  In both these cases we clearly see how Shadowhunter society in general is not very accepting of those who do not fit a specific mould.

The Law.  The Law is a major theme in this book, specifically how to handle a law that seems harsh or unfair.  This is symbolised by two Latin phrases “Sed lex, dura lex” – the Law is hard, but it is the Law – and “lex malla, lex nulla” – a bad law is no law at all.  This refers mainly to the law against helping the Fair Folk, and this is used to hinder our protagonists in their quest.  We see attempts to get around this law both by diplomatic means and then by less open methods.  Of course this theme also applies to the law against parabatai falling in love, which is also a major issue for our protagonists.  All in all, it didn’t leave me feeling very positive towards the Clave and Council.  I look forward to seeing how Julian and Emma and their friends change their world for the better.

The world.  I really don’t need to say much here.  Clare’s world is absolutely phenomenal and fascinating.  What was particularly interesting this time was seeing a post Dark War world.  The struggle with Sebastian has left its mark and even five years later, the results can still be seen.  We learn of new, elite Shadowhunters and processes that have been put in place as a result of the War – processes that aren’t necessarily for the best.  I’m not sure if Clare was aiming to reflect our modern post 9/11 world in this, but that is certainly what it made me think of.

What I didn’t like

Bland, boring antagonist.  I wasn’t especially engaged by the antagonist – however, I suspect that the real villain of the piece was intended to be the rigid, inflexible attitude of those in charge of the Shadowhunters and the climate of fear that seems pervasive.  I would imagine we’ll see our heroes come into direct conflict with that later on in the series.

I gave Lady Midnight five stars out of five – when is the next book due out?

five-stars

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare – Review was originally published on Canadian eReader

My last entry talked about my favourite books of 2015, so now it’s time to talk about my most anticipated books of 2016.

Passenger by Alexandra BrackenPassenger is the latest book by Alexandra Bracken.  it is the start of a new YA series and is billed as a YA treasure hunt through time.  I really loved Bracken’s Darkest Minds series, so this sounds like a real winner to me.  The publisher has released a sampler, which I encourage you to check out.  Passenger is officially released in just a few days on January 5th 2016.

Lady Midnight by Cassandra ClareThis is the first book in a new series by Mortal Instruments writer Cassandra Clare.  It is set in the same world of the Shadowhunters but the action takes place in Los Angeles.  At first, I’d been a little sceptical of the setting; the older cities of London and New York seemed a more natural fit for vampires and demons than sunny Los Angeles.  However, the last book in the Mortal Instruments series, City of Heavenly Fire, functioned as much as a setup for this new series, introducing characters, locations and possible plotlines in the new series, and I am 100% convinced now.  I will certainly be devouring Lady Midnight when it is released on March 8th 2016.

Yellow Brick War by Danielle PaigeYellow Brick War is the third and final book in the Dorothy Must Die series by Danielle Paige.  This series is set in the world of L Frank Baum’s Oz in which Dorothy has turned wicked.  While I loved the world and protagonist – Amy Gumm – is wonderfully kick ass, yet real and flawed – but I was unhappy with the pacing of the first book.  The second book, The Wicked Will Rise, fixed these issues and had such a fantastic cliffhanger ending that I can’t wait to see what happens next.  Yellow Brick War is released on March 15th 2016.

Paper and Fire by Rachel CainePaper and Fire is the second in Rachel Caine’s Great Library series. I was originally drawn to Ink and Bone because of the world – a world in which the Great Library of Alexandria survives and exercises complete control over all published work.  Our protagonist discovers a way to break the Library’s control and ends up in danger.  With this book I came for the concept and stayed for the characters.  They are both engaging and intriguing and I can’t wait to see what happens next.  Paper and Fire is released on July 5th.

The next book in Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards series, The Thorn of Emberlain is scheduled to be released on July 21st 2016.  At least that’s what Amazon tells me.  I’m not certain how official that date is – it has been put back several times.  In any case, this is one book I am very much looking forward to.  I love the characters, the world and the writing is so sharp and witty.  I look forward to what the future holds for Locke.

The final book I’d like to mention is Heartless by Marissa Meyer.  This is a new series set in the world of Alice in Wonderland in the same way that the Lunar Chronicles were a retelling of traditional fairytales.  Other than the brief synopsis, not much has been revealed about this book.  I look forward to picking it up on November 8th 2016.

One book that I am not holding my breath anticipating in 2016 is George R.R. Martin’s continuation of The Song of Ice and Fire, The Winds of Winter.  In a recent blog post, Martin confirmed what most of us had expected: Winds of Winter will not be published before the upcoming sixth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones.  While disappointing, this is not surprising.  However, the tone of Martin’s post suggests that he still has a lot of work to do, and that he cannot say when it will be completed.  I’ll be interested to see how that affects viewing of the series.  Personally, I’m going to watch it and treat it like any other book adaptation – I’ll enjoy watching David and Dan’s interpretation and then read the original whenever Martin publishes it.  I do have more faith in Martin’s handling of the characters though.

Reading through my preorders and my most anticipated list, I see that the vast majority of them are YA fantasy type books.  One of my goals for 2016 should be to expand my reading genres.  That may be tricky – there are just so many good YA books coming out and so little time to read.  I do have some historical fiction, some Outlander and some biographies to read.  I also see that all of them are by authors with whom I’m already familiar.  That is probably also something to work on in 2016.  Because not yet published books don’t have Kindle previews, I’m a little more reluctant to commit my money to an unknown.  

This year I have set my GoodReads reading challenge to 80 books.  I feel that should be doable, even if I do listen to more audiobooks.

One very exciting thing I’m really looking forward to this year is attending BEA in Chicago!  This will be my first visit to the book expo and I’m so excited at the opportunity to spend time with people who are as passionate about books as I am.  I look forward to seeing some of you there.

Most anticipated reads of 2016 and other news was originally published on Canadian eReader

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare is the fifth in the Mortal Instruments series and the middle book of the second trilogy.  It continues the plot points set up in City of Fallen Angels.  We follow several plotlines; Clary’s attempt to infiltrate Sebastian’s and Jace’s fortress, Simon and the Lightwoods’ McGuffin hunt in an attempt to find a way to separate Jace’s soul from Sebastian’s and the furtherance of Sebastian’s dastardly plan.
 
Clare also explores some of the relationships in depth, notably Alec and Magnus Bane and also Simon’s relationship with Izzy.  Given the work put into them, I am rather nervous for these couples for City of Heavenly Fire.
 
What I liked

Pacing.  One of my complaints about the previous book was that the pacing was not great.  This was considerably improved in City of Lost Souls.  Having set up the plot threads earlier, Clare was able to run with them and keep the narrative flowing.
 
Relationship development.  I really loved how the relationships developed in this book.  I became invested in Simon/Izzy, Maia/Jordan, Magnus/Alec.  Their actions and how it impacted their relationships came across as very believable.  I was particularly touched by Izzy’s backstory and how it affects her relationships.  I am very concerned for their welfare in book six though – being the final book all bets are off…  
 
Narrative tension.  Naturally, with this being the penultimate book in a six book series, with characters the reader has grown to love, Clare doesn’t have to work too hard to create narrative tension.  Even so, the situation set up for the final book does not look good for our protagonists.  I really look forward to seeing what will happen in City of Heavenly Fire.
 
What I didn’t like

Clary.  I have to admit Clary really annoys me.  I know she is a fan favourite, but she has a bad habit of being overruled by her emotions – not a good thing when the fate of the world is at stake.  Did she seriously think she could remain objective enough around Jace to help Team Good?
 
I really enjoyed City of Lost Souls and believe it sets up some great hooks for book six, City of Heavenly Fire.  I gave it four and a half stars out of five.
 
 

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City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare – Review was originally published on Canadian eReader

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare is the fifth in the Mortal Instruments series and the middle book of the second trilogy.  It continues the plot points set up in City of Fallen Angels.  We follow several plotlines; Clary’s attempt to infiltrate Sebastian’s and Jace’s fortress, Simon and the Lightwoods’ McGuffin hunt in an attempt to find a way to separate Jace’s soul from Sebastian’s and the furtherance of Sebastian’s dastardly plan.
 
Clare also explores some of the relationships in depth, notably Alec and Magnus Bane and also Simon’s relationship with Izzy.  Given the work put into them, I am rather nervous for these couples for City of Heavenly Fire.
 
What I liked

Pacing.  One of my complaints about the previous book was that the pacing was not great.  This was considerably improved in City of Lost Souls.  Having set up the plot threads earlier, Clare was able to run with them and keep the narrative flowing.
 
Relationship development.  I really loved how the relationships developed in this book.  I became invested in Simon/Izzy, Maia/Jordan, Magnus/Alec.  Their actions and how it impacted their relationships came across as very believable.  I was particularly touched by Izzy’s backstory and how it affects her relationships.  I am very concerned for their welfare in book six though – being the final book all bets are off…  
 
Narrative tension.  Naturally, with this being the penultimate book in a six book series, with characters the reader has grown to love, Clare doesn’t have to work too hard to create narrative tension.  Even so, the situation set up for the final book does not look good for our protagonists.  I really look forward to seeing what will happen in City of Heavenly Fire.
 
What I didn’t like

Clary.  I have to admit Clary really annoys me.  I know she is a fan favourite, but she has a bad habit of being overruled by her emotions – not a good thing when the fate of the world is at stake.  Did she seriously think she could remain objective enough around Jace to help Team Good?
 
I really enjoyed City of Lost Souls and believe it sets up some great hooks for book six, City of Heavenly Fire.  I gave it four and a half stars out of five.
 
 

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City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare is the fourth in The Mortal Instruments series of books.  The Mortal Instruments is a series of six books, of which five have been already published and divides into two trilogies.  City of Fallen Angels kicks off the second half with new threats and new challenges for our protagonists.   We start off in a good place – things have been quiet and settled since the events of City of Glass.  Clary’s main preoccupation is preparing for her mother’s wedding to long time love Luke and enjoying her relationship with Jace.  Naturally, that peace doesn’t last for too long…

It has been some time since I finished the first half of The Mortal Instruments, but Clare’s writing style and wonderful characters immediately drew me back into the world of Shadowhunters, demons, vampires and warlocks.   I adore this world and loved reading more of it – I don’t know why it took me so long to get back to it!

What I liked

The worldbuilding – Clare clearly has an excellent grasp of her world.  Everything fits together and holds well to its own internal logic.  

The characters.  While I still retain a slight preference for the characters in Clare’s other series, The Infernal Devices, I still love reading about Clary, Jace, Simon and the Lightwoods.  I particularly enjoyed Simon’s journey in this book and his relationships with Maia and Isabelle.  Isabelle’s journey, too became more interesting to me in this book.

What I didn’t like

The pacing.  I’ve noted slow pacing as an issue for me in several of Clare’s books, and unfortunately City of Fallen Angels is no exception.  As I mentioned, it starts off a whole new arc for our characters, and takes a long time to really get moving.  

The narration.  I really didn’t enjoy the narration for this book at all – I personally found it rather flat.  You may of course feel differently.

Here is a sample:

Added to my library this week

There have been a few great deals I’ve picked up this week, all under $5 each.

I picked up London Belles on both Kindle and Audible.  This sounded like a good read:  London Belles is a tale of four very different young women thrown together by war. Finding freedom and independence – as well as love, passion and heartbreak – for the very first time, a unique bond is formed as the hostilities take their toll on Britain.

Shannon Delaney’s Weather Witch sounded intriguing:  Some fled the Old World to avoid war, and some fled to leave behind magick. Yet even the fiercely regulated New World–with its ranks and emphasis on decorum–cannot staunch the power that wells up in certain people, influencing the weather and calling down storms. Hunted, the Weather Witches are forced to power the rest of the population’s ships, as well as their every necessity, and luxury, in a time when steam power is repressed.  I  picked this up in Kindle format.

I’m really enjoying Audible dramatised productions and when Star Wars (not the Shakespeare version!) was on special offer, I picked it up.  It’s narrated by Anthony Daniels and Mark Hamill, so I’m really looking forward to that.

For those of you having a long weekend this weekend, enjoy – I’ll see you next week.

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare is the third in the Mortal Instruments series and ties up the first three books in the series.  In it Valentine’s end game is revealed as is the truth about Jace’s lineage.

What I liked

Visiting Alicante, the so-called City of Glass.  I was fascinated to see Alicante, the capital of the Shadowhunters.  I personally would have liked to have seen more of how its inhabitants manage without electricity.

Logical plot progression.  All of the plot development within the book was entirely logical within the framework of the story.  There were some surprises, certainly, but nothing to disrupt the internal logic of the story.  The foreshadowing was well done and very subtle.

The relationships.  I was invested in all the key relationships: Jace/Clary, Luke/Jocelyn, Magnus/Alex.  They were all beautifully written and I was happy that they worked out the way they did.

What I didn’t like

Pacing.  For once I felt the pacing was slightly off.  For a book that was supposed to tie up a lot of loose ends, there were a lot of slow moments, especially towards the beginning.  

Scenery chewing villains.  Personally, I prefer my villains to be a little more ambiguous.  Both Valentine and especially Jonathan Morgenstern were squarely in the sociopathic camp.  I had the strong impression both of them liked killing for the sake of killing. I suspect Clare was trying to give Valentine more depth with his belief that his way was the right way, even if it was flawed, but it didn’t quite come off for me.  It would have been a stronger book for me if Valentine had been truly conflicted by the Clave’s inability to see his point of view and the ensuing need to purge the Shadowhunters.

All in all though, I still love the Shadowhunter world, and thought City of Glass was a good tie up for the first three books in the series.  I gave City of Glass four stars out of five.

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OK I admit it, after reading The Shadowhunter’s Codex, I gave in and dipped back into The Mortal Instruments, even though I have lots of books I should be reading, and, quite frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.  Reading for me is a real pleasure, and so I choose to read what I want to read, not always what I should.  I have burned through City of Ash and intend to marathon my way through City of Glass, City of Fallen Angels and City of Lost Souls.

My review of City of Bones wasn’t all that glowing, but City of Ashes builds on the aspects I loved – the pacing, the worldbuilding, the clear goals – and strongly improved on the things I didn’t enjoy so much – the characters.  My conclusion was that although CoB wasn’t great, it did sow some seeds for a great series, and City of Ashes fulfils that promise.  If you didn’t enjoy City of Bones, please give City of Ashes a try – it’s well worth it.

What I liked

The worldbuilding.  One of Cassandra Clare’s real strengths as a writer is her worldbuilding.  The world of the Shadowhunters is so beautifully written and detailed that it just sucks you in.  I adore reading about the Shadowhunters, werewolves, vampires and warlocks.  Clare made a nice move in having one of our main characters join the ranks of the vampires so that we now have characters in whom the reader is invested, and who can bring us into their world, from each of the main groups of good guys.  I suspect that the close personal bonds between these characters, and therefore groups, will turn out to be a key point for Team Good in future books.

Clear goals and threats.  For me, personally, it’s easier to be gripped by a story when the goals and threats are clearly set out.  In this case the goal is to prevent Valentine’s realignment of the Mortal Sword.  The threat is hordes of Valentine-controlled demons overrunning the Shadowhunters.  From final chapters it appears city of Glass has a similarly clear goal – hunt down the warlock who can cure Clary’s mother.  This clear goal and threat keeps the pacing tight and keeps the reader reading on.

Characters.  In the City of Bones, I found it difficult to warm to our main characters, Clary and Jace.  I found Clary immature and whiny and Jace arrogant, far more so than he had a right to be.  While I still don’t love them the way I do Will Herondale, Tessa Gray and Jem Carstairs of The Infernal Devices, I have to admit that Clary has grown up a lot since the first book.  I was interested in her unusual gifts and look forward to seeing how they are developed in future books.  Jace remains arrogant, but having seen him more with Valentine, I can see where he got that.  In City of Ashes, more vulnerability shows through which was endearing.  I still wouldn’t want to have him as a friend, but at least he didn’t annoy me so much this time.

What I didn’t like

The narration.  Natalie Moore took over narration from Ari Taylor and I know many listeners enjoyed her narration.  Personally I didn’t.  The only character I felt was uniquely narrated was the Faery Queen, who is only in the book for a few minutes.  In all fairness, I did only listen to an hour or two, preferring to read on my Kindle.

All in all, I adored City of Ashes and gave it five stars out of five

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Clockwork Princess is the third and final book in Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices trilogy, following on from Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince.  My view of the series was merely consolidated rather than changed by my reading of the finale – Cassandra Clare is excellent and writing characters and worldbuilding, not so great at pacing.

What I liked

The characters.  I adore Tess, Will and Jem and I felt the way their story was developed in this final volume was very well written and very touching.  I really felt for all the protagonists in the book.  We also get to see the development of Will’s relationship with Jem from their initial meeting through flashbacks.  I know some people disliked the epilogue, but personally I loved hearing about what happened to the characters after the ending of the story.  I also loved all the secondary characters – Charlotte, Henry, Cecily, the Lightwoods.  Writing characters and their interactions is clearly Clare’s real strong point.  I enjoyed the fact that certain characters were not necessarily evil, believed they were doing the right thing, but were still major hurdles for our protagonists.  

The narration.  Yet again the trilogy switched narrator.  All four narrators did a wonderful job, but I do much prefer it when the narrator is consistent across a series.  Daniel Sharman took the reins for this final book and did an excellent job.  One thing that did bug me, however; Will suddenly develops a Welsh accent!  Admittedly, there is ample justification in the story given what we learn about Will’s background.  I would have preferred it to have remained consistent with the neutral British accent he is given in the previous two books.  It’s hard enough adjusting to a new narrator without a main character’s accent changing.  It’s also interesting when the narration gives away a plot point.  At one point, a character enters a place and says a few words.  His identity is not revealed at that point in the book, but due to Sharman’s excellent voice work he was immediately identifiable to the listener.

Here’s a sample

 

The letters.  The plot was developed through the use of letters.  I thought this was a particularly efficient way of moving the plot forward without having to develop more secondary characters.

The action scenes.  There are definitely a lot more action in this book before and during the confrontation with Mortmain.  The London Institute Shadowhunters’ attacking Cadair Idris reminded me of Aragorn’s attacking the Black Gate in Return of the King or Lan’s defending the pass in Memory of Light.  I would have LOVED to have seen Henry’s face when that first automaton came to life “oh… crap!”

What I didn’t like

There was nothing I specifically disliked about the book.  It did enjoy it and was touched by Will, Tessa and Jem’s story.  However, for me it didn’t quite pack the emotional punch of A Memory of Light or Emperor of Thorns.  I suspect that was because I had been spoiled so certain fakeouts lost their impact when I knew they were going to be reversed later on.   

All in all, I gave Clockwork Angel four stars out of five.

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare is the second in the Infernal Devices trilogy.  I have already reviewed Clockwork Angel, the first one in the set. I would say I enjoyed Prince more than Angel.  In fact, I very much enjoyed it indeed.

What I liked

The characters.  Clare spends a lot of time on character development in this book, possibly at the expense of plot, but it was well worth it.  I already liked the characters from book one, and book two brings even more depth to them.  What I found interesting with the two main male protagonists, Will and Jem, was how their physical appearance contrasted with their emotional makeup.  Jem, with his silver hair and eyes and frail body seems almost ethereal yet emotionally Tessa describes him as solid, steady, reliable.  Will, on the other hand, has dark, vibrant good looks, at the peak of physical perfection, is a broken and haunted soul.  There are strong hints of this reversing however as Jem’s love for Tessa and his impending mortality leave him vulnerable and Will is making good progress battling his own internal demons.

The love triangle.  Often, love triangles in young adult novels make me cringe – I’m looking at you, Bella/Edward/Jacob.  In this case, it was very well handled.  The strong bonds between Tessa, Jem and Will were beautifully written, and it was sad to think that someone would have to be left out.  All three were equally invested in the relationship(s).  Both pairings Tessa/Will and Tessa/Jem were written as equally valid with neither being given One True Love status.  It reminded me of another wonderfully written love triangle, that amongst Wellan, Bridgess and Santo in Anne Robillard’s Les Chevaliers d’Emeraude.  If I’ve understood my spoilers correctly, both are resolved in a similar manner (hint: it doesn’t involve one of the protagonists falling in love with the love interest’s infant daughter…)

Other relationships.  All of the other relationships in the book too were beautifully grounded, whether the marital bond between Charlotte and Henry or the budding romance between Sophie and her trainer.  This includes the non-romantic relationships as well, such as that between Jem and Will.

The Shadowhunter world.  I continue to adore the world Clare has created for her narrative and characters.

The narration. Although I missed Jennifer Ehle’s narration, Ed Westwick and Heather Lind did a great job. Here’s a sample.

What I didn’t like

It often happens that the middle book of a trilogy is weakest on plot, and I’d say this is also the case for Clockwork Prince.   A lot of time was spent developing the characters and this did come at the expense of plot development.  Other than foiling what seems to be a fairly minor subplot of the villain – to subtly take over the Institute – and dealing with treachery in their ranks, we seem to be little further forward dealing with Mortmain than at the end of Clockwork Angel.

In all honesty though, the character development was so superb that the slower pace really did not bother me.  I’m really looking forward to Clockwork Princess now!

Clockwork Prince is an excellent read and I gave it four stars out of five.

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As I mentioned in my Clockwork Angel review, I had problems getting into City of Bones.  I have now read it all, or rather listened on Audible, and I have to say my initial reactions have not really altered much.

What I liked

The worldbuilding. This, for me, is the highlight of the book, and probably what will keep my coming back for more.  Clare has done an excellent job in defining her world and the history and beings in it.  I loved hearing about the Nephalim, the Moon’s Children and Night’s Children and look forward to hearing more about them.  

The pacing.  This was something I thought worked better than in Clockwork Angel. The plot setup was done efficiently and well, and the narrative tension was well maintained.  It’s amazing how well the old trusted and true “good guys need to prevent the bad guys from getting their hands on the McGuffin” works!  However, it does depend on the execution though, and I felt Clare did this excellently.  The importance of this particular McGuffin, the Mortal Cup, was clearly defined as were the consequences of its falling into the wrong hands.

What I didn’t like

The main characters.  I’m sorry, but I struggled to like Clary and Jace.  Clary I found often immature and whiny, whereas Jace comes across as just plain arrogant, even more so than a Nephalim has a right to be.  I believe that a good judge of a person’s character is how he  treats those he feels are inferior to him, and Jace failed that test time and time again.  On the positive side, it does leave a lot of scope for character development for later in the series, and I do see definite signs of it, which is encouraging.

The narration.  I didn’t enjoy Ari Graynor’s narration as much as that of Jennifer Ehle for of Clockwork Angel.  I found it lacked inflection and at times I struggled to retain interest.  It should be noted that Ms Graynor doesn’t narrate the other books in the Mortal Instrument series.  

In summary, although I didn’t find City of Bones itself compelling reading, I felt that some strong seeds had been sown for a very interesting series.  I will likely read more of the series at some point, even if it is not immediately.

I gave City of Bones three and a half stars out of five

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Edited to add:

Last weekend I went to see the City of Bones movie and I must say I found it a lot of fun.  The script and Jamie Campbell Bower’s interpretation made Jace a lot less annoying than in the book, and to a certain extent likewise with Lily Collins’ Clary.  I felt the script put across the main points and themes of the book very well, and the visuals were superb.