Archive for February, 2014

Book Review: City of Bones

Posted in Books, Mortal Instruments Reviews with tags , , , on February 7, 2014 by Skepkitty

Part of me really, really wanted to do Twilight next, but there are already a ton of chapter-by-chapter Twilight reviews out there, so instead we’re doing the Mortal Instruments trilogy. I might come back to the Twilight Saga at some point, but I’ll most likely be doing oneshot reviews instead of chapter-by-chapter ones.

I received the first two books in this trilogy for Christmas a few years back. I think a friend who liked them gave them to me. I know for sure that I read the first one, and I probably read the second, but the entirety of the plot has gone out of my head since. I’ll probably have a lot of “oh, yeah, I remember this!” moments as I reread the book, but going in I basically recall nothing, so for all intents and purposes this might as well be my first read-through.

The author, Cassandra Clare (real name Judith Rumelt), was a big name in the Harry Potter fandom a while back. She wrote The Draco Trilogy, a series of three novel-length fanfics about Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter. If any of you are familiar with the term “Draco in leather pants,” used to refer to an unpleasant or villainous canon character getting a more sympathetic and sexualized fanon makeover, her fanfics are where the term originated. (There’s a famous scene in one of them in which Draco wears very tight leather pants.) There were several fandom controversies and a lot of drama surrounding these fics. As I understand it:

  • The fics were ostensibly about a Draco/Hermione/Harry love triangle, but there was also a lot of Draco/Harry subtext. Might not seem like a big deal, but back in the day you either liked het pairings or you liked slash (gay pairings), and the Draco Trilogy’s predominately het-fan audience wasn’t always comfortable with the amount of gay subtext in the story.
  • The author plagiarized a fairly long section of text from an out-of-print novel; when this was pointed out by a reader, the fics were removed from Fanfiction.net. As you can imagine, this caused a huge backlash from the trilogy’s many fans, who defended Cassandra’s plagiarism as an “homage” to the original work. (She was well-known for referencing other works in her fics; characters were often quoting Buffy the Vampire Slayer at length, for example, and she rarely cited her sources. It’s not uncommon for fan works to contain a fair number of references and shout-outs, but this author really used a ton of them, to the point where a large portion of her work was not original content.)
  • Just to really drive home the above — Cassandra Clare was definitively proven to have lifted an entire scene from a book by another author, and much of the witty dialogue her fics were praised for was in fact taken directly from other works. The inconsistent nature of her prose, furthermore, suggests that she may have plagiarized far more than just that. Keep in mind, too, that she wrote these fics as an adult.

After first hearing of this drama, some time ago now, I got interested in rereading the Mortal Instruments series, but until now I haven’t gotten around to it. I haven’t heard anyone claim that the author plagiarized anyone’s work in her published novels, so maybe she learned her lesson; still, I’m having a hard time believing that someone who made a name for herself borrowing work from other authors has much chops as a writer.

(Bit off-topic, but I’ve just realized that she lives about 15-20 minutes away from my college. As I type this, there is a bus pulling up outside. If I were to get on this bus, it would take me to the town where she lives. Small world.)

Before beginning the review proper, one last note. I’m reading a hard copy of the book, rather than a PDF like I did for Fifty Shades. For this reason, I won’t be doing “alerts” at the end of these reviews. It was easy to do with Fifty Shades because I could just copy and paste quotes and do searches for phrases like “inner goddess” and “oh my” that the author used frequently. I’m still going to be doing a “thoughts so far” section at the end of each review.

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