The first book in Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments trilogy, City of Bones, follows young Clary Fray after her mother is kidnapped and she is attacked by horrible monsters. She learns of a race of Shadowhunters who defend the normal human world from Downworlders – demons, vampires, werewolves, etc. Clary keeps attracting demonic attackers like the plague, which doesn’t make sense for a normal human. But then is Clary really a normal human?
While out clubbing, Clary witnesses three bizarre-looking teenagers murder a boy, but when his body disappears, she is catapulted into a world of creatures out of legend. Her mother is kidnapped and Clary herself attacked in short order, which introduces her to the gorgeous (if surly) Jace and his Shadowhunter friends – the bizarre-looking teenagers from the club. She joins their quest to guard the world against demon attack in return for their help locating her mother, who by now has been revealed as a former Shadowhunter and once involved with the Shadowhunters’ evil nemesis, the incongruously named Valentine. Cue much shenanigans.
Clary rates an JA on the PSA. She shows flashes of intuition and bravery, and she is fiercely determined to save her mother, even though they didn’t get along. Her discovery of her Shadowhunter blood gives her an edge as well. She has the habit of figuring things out a hair ahead of everyone else, though she has poor reactions to threat or violence and not much in the way of thinking before she acts. But really what dooms her is her inability to take charge in the manner of positive action. Her most daring and influential act in the book is preventing Jace from killing Valentine – stopping an act from happening. Sure, it’s great that Jace doesn’t kill Valentine, but Clary’s presence effects in its negativity – the prevention of action.
It is understandable that the untrained Clary might not be on the forefront of the fighting, but she still spends most of her time either frozen in horror or getting attacked. She is like Bella in that her existence and thus plot purpose seems entirely to be in danger so she can be rescued by one of the men, Jace in particular. It’s like some bizarre form of courtship ritual. And the courtship between Clary and Jace is truly bizarre, because as they find out at the end of City of Bones, they’re actually siblings! So the fact that they have lots of make-out sessions is super creepy, particulary when they spend the rest of the series don’t the will-they-or-won’t-they, are-they-related-or-aren’t-they, moping Twilight-type melodrama.
While my twelve year-old sister insists that Clary gets more awesome later in the series, the major plot piece still seems to by the concern over whether being in love with your brother is creepy or hot – which negates the slight increase in awesomeness. And yes, I know that the end of the series addresses the sibling question, but not until the very end, and the three books of creepiness outweigh the explanation. However, I also have it on good authority that Cassandra Clare’s prequel series, which opens with Clockwork Angel is actually much better, and the heroine, Tessa, is fully awesome. So I would recommend reading that over the Mortal Instruments.