Cassandra Clare: City of Bones (2007) Mortal Instruments I Book and Movie

City of Bones

A couple of weeks ago I watched the movie City of Bones and liked the imagery and the story so much, I had to pick up the book. The movie got dreadful reviews; it seems I’m the only one who really liked it. The book was said to be much better. It’s tricky to read a book after having watched a film with such stunning visuals. For the first 200 pages I didn’t really see the descriptions of the book but the movie images. After that I got a better feel for the book because it contained some major plot elements which had been left out in the film.

The story might be familiar to you by now. Clary and her best friend Simon live in New York City. One night they go to the Pandemonium Club and Clary witnesses a murder. Funny enough Simon can’t see anything. Neither the murder, nor the people who commit it. When Clary’s mum is abducted a little while later, and Clary is attacked by a demon, it dawns on her that the life she has been living might have been a lie.

Together with her friend Simon, Jace, one of the guys who committed the murder, and his friends, she embarks on a big adventure. Clary like Jace is no real human. She is a shadow hunter. Shadow hunters kill demons, but they co-exist with downworlders like werewolves and vampires. I’m not going to write much more about the plot as it’s one of those that is easily spoilt.

I thought the movie did a good job at tightening the plot. Maybe if I had read the book first, I would have missed the scenes and episodes that were cut but I thought they were not that gripping. Clary’s interior monologue in the book is often silly, like when she wonders why there are only good-looking vampires. I’m going to spare you her reasoning. It’s NOT clever. Interestingly though, the greatest appeal of the book are the dialogue sections. Jace, Clary and Simon and not only witty but very sarcastic, which made me chuckle quite a few times.

Overall I would say, book and movie both have their strengths, but I prefered the movie because I absolutely loved the imagery and the interiors they created – the club, Clary’s house, the church in which the shadowhunters live.  I also liked that they made the plot so much tighter. And I thought the cast was perfect.

What I didn’t like so much in both lies in the nature of this specific type of story. There are numerous ways to tell (urban/dark) fantasy stories. I tend to prefer those in which magic/fantasy are part of the world the characters live in, and their existence are known by everyone, or when the main character is part of the paranormal world. Normal humans who are thrown into a paranormal situation or who discover at the beginning of a book that they aren’t entirely human are just not as appealing to me. I find that these stories stretch believability too much. At the beginning of City of Bones, for example, Clary is a normal teenager and after only one day, she’s immersed in a paranormal world she never knew existed, her mother’s abducted, she’s attacked by demons, werewolves and vampires, but she accepts this without questioning it too much. This premise can work sometimes. Neil Gaiman made it work in Neverwhere, but often it feels unrealistic.

Anyway, it’s an entertaining book and I might even read part two, if only for the dialogue. If there is another movie, I’ll certainly watch it.

This is my first contribution to Carl’s Once Upon a Time Challenge. Don’t miss the review site, which can be found here.

24 thoughts on “Cassandra Clare: City of Bones (2007) Mortal Instruments I Book and Movie

  1. I seem to, on a somewhat regular basis like movies that many others do not like.

    I often do not like to compare books and the films that are made from them as I look at the two as different art forms.

    I agree with you about Universes where mysticism is already accepted by everyone. They are much more credible.

    • I often don’t like movies everyone else likes. Like Gravity for example.
      In this case I’m one of the rare people who really enjoyed it. I’ll even rewatch it.
      I’m glad to hear you feel the same about these worlds. I know it’s odd to talk about believability when it comes to vampires and werewolves but I just find it not as realistic when protagonists just accept something like this within minutes.

  2. Interesting movie and book, Caroline. I haven’t heard of this before. Interesting to know that you liked the movie more than the book. The movie must be really good. It was interesting to read your thoughts on a how unconvincing it is when a human character is thrown into a paranormal world. It definitely sounds unconvincing if not properly done and if the main character accepts her lot without any questions or any anxiety. I read fantasy only once in a while, but I think I might like the movie version of this book. I will try to watch it sometime.

    • I hope you will like the movie. I just loved the world they created, the houses, the special effects.
      I found the book very long. It’s a current trend in YA fanatsy or not to write books chunky books and most of the time, the books get chunkier from one part to the next.

  3. It’s always tricky to decide which one should be first: book or movie? If you see the movie first, it’s hard to forget the cast when you read the book. If you read the book first you may spend the film internally ranting about the pieces they left out or the poor choice of actors…almost a Cornelian choice. 🙂

  4. I’m so out of the loop I am not even familiar with the movie. I tend to prefer to read a book first, but in this case I think I might just watch the movie–as much as I love reading, sometimes movie visuals are hard to pass up!

    • I’ve read a few reviews – older ones before the movie – and they complained that her writing wasn’t very descriptive. I’ve got that impression as well but it’s hard to say, because the movie images slipped into the holes.
      If you’re ever in the mood for a fantasy movie – I enjoyed it.

  5. I didn’t like the movie Gravity either, Caroline, and was stunned when it was nominated for Best Picture. I have to wait a few years before seeing a movie if I’ve read the book. Can’t stand to have the plot spoiled.

  6. I know how you feel…there’s always a moment where you like something while everyone else seems to hate it. I have just watched one of those movies…I love it even though the rating is very low.

    Anyway, I have heard of this movie but have no intention to watch it. I am glad you like both book and movie

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