Fifteen-year-old Clary Fray is the focus of the story. Even though the narration is third-person, it follows Clary around 95% of the time. With her fiery red hair and personality to match, she stands out almost as much as the warlocks and demons that surround her.
Clary's just a normal girl, hanging out with her friend, Simon, going to clubs, painting. All normal stuff, right? That is until she starts seeing people that no one else can see.
Instead of keeping this to herself, she shares it with her mom's friend, Luke. He tells her that as an artist, it's her gift "to see the beauty and the horror in ordinary things" (2.46). That's pretty much how her journey pans out too, alternating between beauty, horror, and a combination of the two. And it's anything but ordinary.
It's in her blood to see through surface appearances and right into the heart of what people and things really are. Maybe she gets it from her mother because she's an artist. But her mom is also a Shadowhunter, and Clary has received many of her mom's powers, simply by being her daughter.
She really shouldn't be surprised. There are powers in her name, too. Jace tells Clary that her name, short for Clarissa is "like the herb, clary sage. In the old days people thought eating the seeds would let you see the Fair Folk" (3.49). Clary's seeing some not-so-Fair folk too, but that's beside the point.
Instead of constantly complaining about how unfair her mother treats her, she should be thanking her that she's named after a useful herb, and not something like Valerian root. Poor Valeria Fray would just put everyone to sleep.
Clary's just at the beginning of her awkward teen stage. As if being a teenager weren't confusing enough, she has to deal with the revelation that vampires, werewolves, and fairies (oh my!) actually exist and live among regular humans.
The fact that the world she lives in isn't what it seems pushes her past typical teen angst and right onto the bullet train for Crazyville. She's lucky to have Luke to assuage some of these worries, as when he tells her that her Sight abilities don't "make [her] crazy—just different. There's nothing wrong with being different" (2.46).
Sing it, Luke. That's some great advice, right? Too bad Luke's later actions—abandoning Clary after her mother disappears—and Clary's discovery that her mother has kept secrets from her for her whole life not only cause some major trust issues, but also leave her without a mentor and without direction. She's in the weeds, saying mopey things like, "All my life I've felt like there was something wrong with me" (13.25).
Well, maybe that something is her aimlessness. This lack of purpose is most apparent after the fight with Abbadon. Everyone but Clary contributes something to the fight, even Simon. After, Clary feels useless, like dead weight. "What do I do, Simon?" she pleads. "What do I do?" (19.104). Simon comforts her by telling her, "You got the Cup […] didn't you?" (19.205), which boosts Clary's mood for the moment, and just so happens to bring us to Clary's greatest strength.
Clary may not be able to wield a seraph blade, shoot an arrow, or crack a whip, but she sure can paint. Wait. Paint?
Seriously, this is more than just happy trees and sepia-toned landscapes. Clary's eye for art saves the day. Her mother's own art skills locked away the Mortal Cup inside a painting, and Clary discovers this when she's dabbling in the arts herself. Sure, she's not going to kill a demon by wielding a paintbrush, but she provides an invaluable supporting role to her team of Shadowhunter friends.
Also, her eye for art gives her a sense of bravery in a way. Most people would turn and run if they were confronted with a centipede-esque Ravener demon or a demon policeman with a skeletal hand. But, as Luke told her, she "see[s] the beauty and horror in ordinary things" (2.46). This means that, in a way, the new worlds and creatures she sees aren't all that much different from how she sees the world on a daily basis. So she can avoid the whole denial and freaking out phase of learning about demons and jump right into the bring it on phase.
Clary's creativity places her in direct contrast to the demons invading our realm. Jace describes demons as "Parasites. They come to a world and use it up. They can't build, just destroy—they can't make, only use" (10.266). This makes Clary their opposite, and might just position her as their greatest enemy.
For all her appreciation of the world's beauty, Clary sure can't turn this eye on herself. In her own eyes, she's an awkward, ugly mess who can never hope to live up to the standards of beauty set by her mother. Clary describes herself as "a Raggedy Ann to her mother's Barbie doll" (2.50). We're not sure if there's a red-haired Barbie, but the analogy is apt enough.
Clary slowly realizes that she can be as beautiful as her mother. It starts to sink in when she sees a photo of her mom when Jocelyn was 17 or 18, just a couple years older than Clary. "She looks like me, Clary thought dazedly" (11.96). Later in that chapter, Isabelle gives Clary a quick makeover for Magnus Bane's party, and Clary once again notices, "'I look like my mom'" (11.218). She means this as a good thing, and it's a start on the road to self-acceptance. Simon's checking out her legs a few minutes later doesn't hurt.
The point here is that Clary's preoccupied with physical appearances for most of the novel, which is not the greatest trait to have. But still, she's a teenager. And we hate to harp on Clary's flaws, because she is refreshingly independent. She kills a demon, and doesn't wait for Jace's approval before she makes her own decisions. Sure, she might need help now and then, but who doesn't? And sure, she's riddled with self-doubt from time to time, but who isn't?
And isn't that what friends are for? To give us a boost when we need it most? It's a good thing Clary has Jace, Simon, and the others. They band together and form an unstoppable team, at the center of which is Clary.