Monday, July 13, 2009

Boy did I just read the most interesting thing about Cassandra Clare...

I'm working my way through pretty much every supernatural YA book published recently, and I just happened to come across The Mortal Instruments Trilogy by Cassandra Clare. Now, I haven't actually read any of the books. I got about six pages into City of Bones, and got a funny taste in my mouth.

For one thing, there was a hugely blatant as-you-know-bob, which just got under my skin. If you aren't aware with the term, an as-you-know-bob is when an author sloppily decides that she is going to be lazy with describing what the heck is actually going on in her book, so she then makes one of her characters describe it to another character, when that character WOULD NEVER do that, because it happens every day. A good example is something like, in a sci fi novel: "As you know Bob, every day we have to get up in the morning and clean out the continuum transverter core, because if we weren't to do that, the entire space station would blow up!"

Or (from City of Bones)":

"I don't know what you're talking about." The blue-haired boy's tone was pained but surly.
"He means other demons," said the dark-haired boy, speaking for the first time. "You do know what a demon is, don't you?"
The boy tied to the pillar turned his face away, his mouth working.
"Demons," drawled the blond boy, tracing the word on the air with his finger. "Religiously defined as hell's denizens, the servants of Satan, but understood here, for the purposes of the Clave, to be any malevolent spirit whose origin is outside our own home dimension—"
"That's enough, Jace," said the girl.
"Isabelle's right," agreed the taller boy. "Nobody here needs a lesson in semantics—or demonology."

(Quick disclaimer: No agent nor editor has ever said my stuff was good enough to make money, and I haven't actually recouped my initial self-publishing investment. Therefore, I may have absolutely no room to talk.)

Aggh..the as-you-know-bob is gallingly pointed out by one of the characters as unneeded. "No one needs a lesson." 'Kay, then. Great. Why'd you use a shortcut and have one of your characters say it?

One other thing sort of bothered me about the book. The writing was...uneven. Well, for one thing, I felt that everything was overly described. I like my descriptions to evoke my own image of the scene, not to completely take it over. But, that's personal preference. The thing that I really didn't like, though, was the way that certain phrases just seemed kind of out of place in the narrative flow.

In one paragraph, the point-of-view character says: "Of course, he could probably have gotten by without all that trouble, but it was part of the fun—fooling the mundies, doing it all out in the open right in front of them, getting off on the blank looks on their sheeplike faces."

Two paragraphs later, he pulls out this gem: "They didn't know how lucky they were. They didn't know what it was like to eke out life in a dead world, where the sun hung limp in the sky like a burned cinder."


Okay, do people who think "eke" really also think the phrase "getting off"?

And furthermore, that whole overwrought simile completely draws me out of the story and forces me to look at the WRITING. I was like, "Oh this is one of those, 'Look at my pretty words' writers." (Okay, I've fallen into this trap too. Luckily, I've got a best friend who tells me that writing, "the blood blossomed like a rose in a time-delayed photograph," is actually a little too over the top.) I prefer to read fiction for the story--especially genre fiction. Or, if you're going to show me your pretty words, you'd better be damned good at it--like Caitlin R. Kiernan, whose prose is beautiful but disturbing.

Right. So whatever. It's not great writing, but, hell, it's not any worse than like L. J. Smith or something. (It's actually mite bit better, quite honestly.)

Anyway, I thought, "Why waste more time on this if it's bad? Let me get a second opinion." So I googled "Cassandra Clare reviews." And what did I run across but this:

At which point, I lost about three hours of my life to reading the entire thing, (and I will never get those three hours back, drat the interwebs!) which basically proves that Cassandra Clare originally wrote HP fanfiction, which she cobbled together with some pretty obvious quotes and references to published stuff and with some...well, not so obvious ones. Essentially, she's a damned plagiarist!!

And people have been talking about this for years and years and years on the web. Dude.

Anyway, I don't think City of Bones is plagiarized, but I do think the six pages that I read were overwritten and had an as-you-know-bob. In short, they read like fanfiction. ('Course, someone over at thinks my book reads like Twilight fanfic. So, well, what I think is only my opinion. If you like Ms. Clare--and I read that some people really, really, really like her--please don't flame me. :P)

Will I be reading the rest of this book? Dunno. I think I might give Richelle Mead a whirl next. I remember kind of digging the first few pages of that Vamp Academy book on the look-inside feature on Amazon.


  1. Vampire Academy is an AMAZING series in my opinion. The fourth book is coming out this August and I can't wait for it!

  2. When I was working in a book store I went through a phase of reading anything with a pretty cover and a half decent blurb. The first Cassandra Clare book was one of those.

    My personal opinion was that it read like a piece of fanfiction. To give it credit, it would have been a pretty good fic. But having it published and having such a high popularity is just so overrated.

    I agree with you, she is a plagiarizer... who has a thing for incest, lol.

  3. Yeah, after I wrote this, I read some other reviews, which said that the ending was kind of like a Star Wars rip off.

    I tried a couple more pages, but I just couldn't handle those similes (argh!) and the dialogue was just a little too cardboardy.

  4. I just started Vampire Academy because apparently I too am on a quest to read every female-centric teen sci-fi book out there... I'm like 3 chapters in, but I'm doing a full Meh right now and have actually switched to "I Love you Beth Cooper" for the moment... something about Vampire Academy is just rubbing me the wrong way. I finally finished all the Marked books, and they were... well not so good. They read like HP/Twilight fanfic really, and that's what I'm fearing in the Vampire Academy books, but hey, they're on my Kindle, you know I'll read them at some point.

  5. I'm a few chapters into the first Marked book. I realized that I actually had confused P.C. Cast and Richelle Mead in my head, and the first pages of the Vampire Academy book were actually meh. (as you so aptly put it.)

    The Marked book is okay. I like the crazy, conservative family and the fact it talks about blow jobs, but the writing is uneven (I wonder if it's because there are two writers?) and I totally see the Harry Potter influence. :)

    I might just switch back to Lisa McMann. I really liked Wake. (No vampires, though.)