Study Guide

City of Bones Introduction

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City of Bones Introduction

Have you ever walked by an old building and thought it looked a little different? Like someone or something was living there and all the decrepitude and decay was just a disguise? Or maybe you've ordered food from your favorite restaurant and the delivery guy looked a little, well, hairy? Toothy, too. And they told you they don't deliver on the full moon. Weird.

It's not that the pizza joint doesn't get along with the health inspector. It's because the delivery dude's a wolf. Werewolf, that is. And that out-of-business hotel that never seems to get rebuilt or demolished is actually a lair for vampires. Or at least it could be, especially in the New York City depicted by Cassandra Clare in City of Bones, the first installment in the über-popular The Mortal Instruments series.

Originally intended to be a trilogy, ending with City of Glass (source), there are now six books in the series, along with a prequel trilogy, The Infernal Devices and a sequel trilogy, The Dark Artifices. That's a dozen books, and almost as many trips to to drum up synonyms for "instruments."

City of Bones (the book, not the place) follows fifteen-year-old Clary Fray on a quest through New York City and the magical worlds that lay within it. Like every good teenage adventure, she meets new friends, starts to fall in love, and battles evil demons straight from the bowels of hell. As one reviewer says, "City of Bones has everything: vampires, werewolves, faeries, true love, and stuff that blows up" (source).

Sign Shmoop up. Sounds like all our summer favorites rolled into one. As for the actual City of Bones (the place, not the book), well, you'll have to find out its secrets for yourself.

Author Cassandra Clare got her start writing Harry Potter fan-fiction, and her transition from fanfic to published author isn't without controversy. Still, she has a dedicated following, and even references her own fan-fiction in City of Bones with the "Still Not King" (8.116) button on Clary's bag.

In any case, it's no surprise that City of Bones has many of the same concepts that Harry Potter does, including discovering a magical new world, trying to find a place to belong, and battling an evil magic-user who is trying to wipe out an entire race of people. But if you thought Harry Potter needed more vampires and incest, then you'll definitely want to enroll in the Institute and learn the ways of the Shadowhunters in City of Bones.

Clare's books have fans of all ages who are also eagerly anticipating the upcoming film adaptation, The Mortal Instruments, starring Lily Collins from Mirror Mirror, and Jamie Campbell-Bower from the Twilight Saga. The latest volume in the series, City of Lost Souls, was published in May 2012, and the conclusion, City of Heavenly Fire, will be out in September 2014.

In other words, you'll want to jump on this bandwagon before it leaves you behind. So learn how it all started, and read City of Bones today.

What is City of Bones About and Why Should I Care?

Have you ever thought that you see the world a little differently from everyone else, even your family and your friends? That's the way Clary Fray, the heroine of City of Bones, feels. And she's right. As her mom's friend Luke tells her, she sees "the beauty and the horror in ordinary things" (2.46).

Stephenie Meyer (author of Twilight; you might have heard of her), has said "The Mortal Instruments series is a story world that I love to live in" (source). That's how vivid the world created by Cassandra Clare is. It almost convinces you that the person you saw disappear out of the corner of your eye really was there, and the strange old cat lady downstairs is keeping out-of-this-world secrets.

Clary lives in New York City, which would be exciting enough for most people. Clary, however, sees more than just sons of bankers and sons of lawyers who work too hard to appreciate the day. She sees werewolves, vampires, demons, and other creatures that stay out of the sun.

If flowers can bloom at midnight, as they do in the greenhouse of the Institute, who's to say that rose trees can never grow in New York City?

City of Bones Resources


The Maestro Behind the Instruments
Cassandra Clare's website has everything an apprentice Shadowhunter would want to know.

Shadowhunters Look Better in Black
When she's not writing her best-selling books, Cassandra Clare is almost always blogging.

Movie or TV Productions

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013)
Starring these guys.

Hollywood: A City of Bones
You may not be able to see demons (if you can, call us, maybe), but you can see all the latest news about the movies on this incredible fan page.

Articles and Interviews

Teens Writing For Teens Interview Teen Author (Who Isn't a Teen)
Clare reveals her favorite novels and her favorite flavor of jellybean (thankfully it's not those gross popcorn ones).

Getting to Know All About You
In this interview, Clare talks about what superpower she'd like to have, and what her favorite guilty-pleasure TV is. Skip the spoilers about other books if you've only read City of Bones.

Author Analysis
Seventeen magazine gets Clare to analyze Clary (and reveal a few other interesting details) in this interview.


Author Interviewed
Cassandra chats it up with another YA author, Holly Black.

Cassandra, Meet Scott
And in this vid, she's interviewed by yet another YA writer, Scott Westerfeld. Major spoiler alert.


Gather 'Round for Story Hour
Visit the Pandemonium Club as you listen to the first chapter of the City of Bones audiobook

Put On a Little Reading Music
Listen to some of the songs from Cassandra Clare's City of Bones playlist to get yourself in a Shadowhunting mood.


At Least Shadowhunters Don't Have to Pay for Laser Tattoo Removal
Want to know what the Shadowhunter's runes look like (or just want to see Jace with his shirt off)? Check out this City of Bones cover.

From Being a Vampire to Hunting Them
Jamie Campbell Bower, who plays Caius in the Twilight Saga movies, plays Jace in The Mortal Instruments film. Does he match your vision of the character?

Snow White Becomes Fire Red
Lily Collins, who co-starred with Julia Roberts in Mirror Mirror, will need tons of Feria (or a really good wig) to play Clary in The Mortal Instruments.

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