cover image City of Bones

City of Bones

Cassandra Clare, . . S&S/McElderry, $17.99 (485pp) ISBN 978-1-4169-1428-0

Clare's debut novel, first in the Mortal Instruments series, is a sprawling urban fantasy packed with just about every type of creature known to the genre, and still spacious enough to hold more. Fifteen-year-old Clary Fray witnesses a killing in an "all-ages club"; when she confronts the attackers, she learns that they are spectral Shadowhunters, charged with killing demonic creatures called Night Children. Clary returns home to find her apartment vandalized and her mother missing, apparently kidnapped by creatures in the service of someone named Valentine. An attack by a slithering beast sends Clary to the infirmary at the Institute, hidden home of the Shadowhunters. There she befriends the hunter Jace, who tells her of Valentine's intention to find the Mortal Cup, one of three Mortal Instruments the Angel gave to the first Shadowhunters (the others are a mirror and sword). Great secrets abound both in Clary's past and in her own head—secrets that are gradually revealed to her about her mother, her mother's eccentric friend Luke, her relationship with Jace and, eventually, about Valentine himself. Clare's atmospheric setting is spot-on, informed equally by neo-gothic horror films and the modern fantasy leanings of Neil Gaiman. Werewolves, vampires, angels and fairies all fit in this ambitious milieu. At the core, though, this is a compelling story about family secrets and coming-of-age identity crises. Fans of the smart/chic horror typified by Buffy the Vampire Slayer will instantly fall for this new series. Ages 14-up. (Apr.)