I heard this book was based on the author's Harry Potter fan fiction, but to me, it read more like a mash-up of Twilight and Hunger Games with some HP sprinkled in. I recently read a Slate.com article (here)about summer movies and why they're basically all the same - this book, Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need, has created a formula and checklist from which almost every big Hollywood move has been derived. I feel like the same thing is happening in young adult literature and this book is the result. City of Bones follows the formula, with a predictable checklist and predictable plot "twists," since I can't really call them twists when you see it coming a mile away. "Spunky" yet naive and somewhat helpless (and often oblivious) heroine that doesn't know she's drop-dead gorgeous (Bella/Katniss)? Check. Long-time best male friend, hopelessly in love with beautiful heroine (Jacob/Gale)? Check. New mysterious, gorgeous, tortured boy who ALSO falls in love with heroine (Edward/Peeta)? Check. Ridiculous love triangle, from which said heroine is unable to extract herself? Check. Group of young turks that think they know what's best for the community? (Death Eaters)? Check. Wands? Check. Megalomaniac villain (Voldemort)? Check. Three legendary mystical objects that were held by the powers that be and are hidden/lost from said villain (Elder wand, invisibility cloak and resurrection stone)? Check.
Now for the "twists" - we have a secret world of magical beings (vampires, werewolves, demons, etc.), teens with dead and/or kidnapped parents, and the big revelations that not only is Clary's father the evil Valentine, but Jace is also her older brother, who was believed dead until the last hundred pages; both of which are so obviously hinted at early in the book it's like being hit over the head with a brick (and ewww gross on the Jace/Clary/Simon love triangle thing).
I had a hard time with Clary, as I felt like she was written MUCH younger than 16. I would have had less trouble with some of the dumb things she does and her general obliviousness if she'd been written as a 13 year old. I also would have liked the author to pick one or the other - is she the helpless human in need of protection (Bella) or a badass Shadowhunter that's only lacking in formal training (Katniss)? Mashing the two disparate characters together made it really hard to like her sometimes. Also, can we please, please, PLEASE stop with the "she doesn't know she's beautiful" thing? It's beyond lame.There's a lot of world-building going on in this book and a lot of set up for the rest of the series, so I'm going to stick with it and see where it goes. I will read at least City of Ashes and probably City of Glass to give the series a fair shot at getting to something good, since it wasn't bad, just predictable.