It all started in 2019. I was completing NaNoWriMo last November - quite unsuccessfully might I add - and didn’t want to give myself a huge unachievable TBR (to-be-read pile) during the month, so I thought reading a singular, familiar novel would be far more achievable. The first novel that came to mind was City of Bones, so I picked it up and begun reading.
Now you see, if this is the first post of mine you are reading, hello, I love the Shadowhunter novels by Cassandra Clare and will never fail to pass up an opportunity to speak about them. You’ll find me sliding Shadowhunter references into my work and though this topic could be brought up with any novel, I, of course, found City of Bones particularly difficult to re-read.
The Shadowhunter Chronicles started in 2007 with The Mortal Instruments, the first series in the now four series chronicles which began with, you guessed it, City of Bones. If you haven’t started the chronicles, City of Bones is where you start and reading it for the first time will seem as weird and wacky as it is, but if you have already made it through the series, even to the latest novel, after all that time it is hard to re-read the first.
But I did it. I re-read City of Bones. Why? For the nostalgia of course, not realising how much of a mountain climb it would be.
To put it into perspective: I am a slow reader as it is, a normal 400-500 page novel will take me a week to finish. With a novel which I am subconsciously frustrated with reading for various reasons (not all bad), I will actively—without realising it—not pick it up and as a result, be absolutely frustrated with how long it is taking me to read.
I have about five copies of City of Bones, two paperbacks (one in Korean), two hardbacks, and an ebook copy. This means I had absolutely no excuse for it taking an entire month for me to read the book!
I’m just going to take a deep breath here and not let my frustration of how long it takes me to read a novel infuse this post with toxicity.
Let’s start with why I love the book so much that I will suffer through
the cringe and foresight that comes with reading the first book in a series:
Author writing development
Having read all the books in The Shadowhunter Chronicles thus far, I am always so in awe that I am able to experience the improvement of Cassandra Clare’s writing over thirteen years since the first novel in the series. It is something us readers take for granted and sometimes so much fun to read older novels from the author, especially those in a series, to really appreciate this change. We see in City of Bones, Clare’s descriptions of characters and has developed from physical to include a more emotional, deeper connection.
I was trying to explain this the other day, to someone who didn’t understand writing styles and I found that I could best explain it as, Cassandra Clare’s writing has changed from her describing physical appearance then establishing an emotional love connection between characters first, to putting the family and platonic relationships and emotional appearances first.
Visible character development
Like the previous point, it’s really cool to come back to the start, over five years backwards in the Shadow/book-world to when the characters were but naive, angsty little children. Obviously, we’re all aware of the development of the characters over the series, but going back to where it all started and experiencing their naivety all over again is a whole other thing altogether.
Amazing descriptions and metaphors
If you think about your favourite series, one tends to remember the overall storyline and basic facts such as names, basic looks and locations in the novel. What we don’t remember are the descriptions of places and characters in the novel. This is the one thing that Clare does so well and what I absolutely adore about this novel.
As mentioned, this novel means a lot to me for various reasons, so reading it brings back so many memories. The entire reason I picked it back up in the first place was for the nostalgia and for that reason, I thought it would be an easy read. Just picking up the book reminds me of the first time it was handed to me by a high school friend. It got me out of a reading slump and into my love for fantasy, wizards/ warlocks and all things mythical and magical.
Okay, the cringe is kinda fun
Now that you have an idea as to why I adore this novel,
here’s the real reason behind this post—the difficulties of reading a book
12 years and approximately 15 books after its publication.
Knowing what happens kinda sucks away the enjoyment of the novel
It’s the reason most people choose to not re-read books, especially ones they’d just read. There’s always this anticipation to get to the next good part and at times, skip the bad ones when you know they’re coming.
The cringe bits are really a form of torture
There are parts where I want to skip so badly, which are either boring or just plain cringe that I don’t want to read but need to for story development and so what. But also because within said cringy moments, like when Jace first met Clary and the cringy 2000’s American-Teen-Movie way it all played out, there are pros (as mentioned).
I’m reminded why people don’t like the series
There are a few things in this novel that won’t appeal to some people. Like the slight incest aspect (that is cancelled out in the later books) really turns people off. You just have to give the book a go and continue on past the first book to truly appreciate the twists.
I have the answers to just about every single question
Okay, this one kinda sucks. It’s the entire reason why I don’t reread many novels. I know people who can read a novel, weeks or even months after the first read-through and I don’t even know how they do it! The entire fun of reading a novel is the suspense and the surprise of not knowing what’s happening next. You don’t get that with a reread, especially of a novel you love enough to know the entire plot.
Lack of Malec content
I totally forgot that Magnus and Alec—the fabulous bisexual Warlock with a mysterious past and the broody, soft boy, closeted Shadowhunter who has a secret crush on his best friend—didn’t get together in City of Bones.
There really is only one main negative to re-reading books, and that’s the feeling of being all-knowing. It just feels like so many things are ruined when you have all the answers to all the plot twists and turns that take place.
I will forever be grateful that Cassandra Clare continues to write these novels and that her writing style continues to improve each time. I’ve said this before about this series and I’ll say it again, that it’s such a wonderful thing to go through a series like this and be able to experience an author’s improvement in their writing and storytelling abilities. It’s probably my favourite thing about this series.
Another plus is that Clare continues to develop a storyline and not just for the sake of it. She’s set up this world parallel to our own that has such a wide cast of characters across multiple families, and just so much potential for drama in all forms to take place. It can be anywhere along the timeline, from the Victorian Era Infernal Devices to the 2019/2020 Dark Artifices cast.
I think I’ll end this post with the real question here, relating to the actual reason behind this entire post: Why haven’t we invented a device that removes the memories of reading a book/ series (temporarily) so we can re-read the novel/ series over again and experience the same euphoric feeling as we did the last time?