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The Mortal Instruments: Book 1: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

 

City of BonesThe Mortal Instruments: Book 1: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
City of Bones is the first book in the six book Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. This is also the first published work by Cassandra Clare. There were originally supposed to be three books, City of Ashes and City of Glass in this series, however, Clare has written a second trilogy, City of Fallen Angels and City of Lost Souls, with the final book, City of Heavenly Fire, which comes out in 2014.
There is also a spin off trilogy called The Infernal Devices, consisting of The Clockwork Angel, The Clockwork Prince, and The Clockwork Princess, which came out earlier this year. There are also two more upcoming spin off trilogies: The Dark Artifices, consisting of Lady Midnight (which comes out in 2015), The Prince of Shadows, and The Queen of Air and Darkness, and a yet unnamed series which I assume will come out after The Dark Artifices.
There are also three companion books: one of which is a companion guide to the Shadowhunter world: The Shadowhunter Codex, which came out in 2013. There is also Shadowhunters and Downworlders: A Mortal Instruments Guide, which contains essays written by several other prominent YA authors, including Holly Black (one of the writers of the The Spiderwick Chronicles and the author the Modern Tales of Faerie series, which has been featured on this blog), Rachel Caine (author of The Morgansville Vampires series), and Kami Garcia (author of the Beautiful Creatures series).
Finally, there is a series of short stories available on ebook called The Bane Chronicles, which was originally a set of ebook short stories, and will be put together into a printed collection that comes out this November. This series stars one of the most popular character in the series, Magnus Bane.
Ok wow, there’s a whole lot of books in this series. Let’s talk about the actual book.

City of Bones starts off with the main character, Clary Fray, a fifteen year old artist who lives with her single mother in New York city, and her best friend Simon Lewis going into 16 and up club. While she is there she sees three teenagers dressed all in black with weird tattoos follow lure another teen to the back of the club.
Suspicious, Clary follows them, just in time to see them murder the teen- except when they do, the body dissapears in a puff of smoke. The teenagers (Jace Wayland, Alec Lightwood, and his sister, Isabelle Lightwood) Also, when she tries to call security, she finds that she is the only one who can see them.
Simon and Clary leave, with Clary hoping to forget about what happened. However, when her mother is kidnapped by a demon, she is forced into the world of the Shadowhunters- a world filled with mystery and danger.

I’m going to be honest here- this is one of my favorite books. It can be a little cheesy at times, but it makes up for it with really compelling characters and imaginative world.
That being said, there is a really big secret twist at the end of this book. So far I’ve noticed that there are typically two reactions to it: either one runs out to get the next one, or they just kind of go “well… ok then” and don’t continue the series.
That being said, I really recommend this book for anyone who wants something a little different from the usual teen supernatural fare.
There is also a movie adaptation based on City of Bones that came out last August. It was… not very good, and I don’t think there will be any more adaptations of the series in the upcoming future.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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Web comic Showcase: Homestuck, written and drawn by Andrew Hussie

homestuck

Web comic Showcase: Homestuck, written and drawn by Andrew Hussie

A good comic book can be a very enjoyable experience, as they uniquely combine literature with a visual medium.  Between superhero comics and newspaper funnies, people having been enjoying comics for centuries.

With the advent of the internet, comic writers have found a new way to host their creations.  And thus, the era of web comics is upon us.

Since literally anyone can post a web comic on the various free hosting sites online, yes, there are some… not so good representations of the medium out there. There are some real gems out there… but they can be very hard to find. That’s why I am starting this series, Web comic Showcase, to share some of my personal favorites, beginning with one that really takes advantage of the online medium: Homestuck.

First of all, it should be said that Homestuck is one of those things that people really love or they really hate (or they get bored and quit way too soon. We’ll get to that).  And truthfully, it is a very odd story, with odd characters, an odd writing style, and a very odd art style.  I can totally understand why there are people who do not like it.

That being said, there are elements to this series that are truly unique and fantastic, which is why I am a huge fan of it. Unfortunately, due to the oddness of it, Homestuck can be  very hard to describe. But hey, I’m going to give it my best shot.

Homestuck is about four friends, (from right to left) John Egbert, a goofy and sometimes simple prankster, Rose Lalonde, a sly and ridiculously smart horror addict, Dave Strider, a kid whose  main passions are his music and his ironic persona, and Jade Harley, a cute and ditzy girl who loves her dog.

homestuck-beta-kids-correct

From left to right, John, Rose, Dave, and Jade.

A new and super cool video game has premiered, and the kids are ready to play it. But when John loads the game, things get really weird really fast.

The game starts affecting reality and the kids are sent off to an entirely new set of planets to fight their way to victory.  They also meet other players of the game, the grey skinned and horned alien race called the Trolls, the Trolls deceased ancestors, and teenage versions of the kids guardians.  Worse, every time they think they’ve can finally beat the big bad guy, a bigger, even worse villain shows up.  It is filled with twists and turns, moral arguments, and a whole lot of adventure.

The story can be slow at times, and often a little silly, but I believe the good qualities greatly outweigh any negatives. That being said, the biggest flaw this has is the very slow beginning. The author uses the first act of the comic to introduce the main character, John Egbert, his life at home and his relationship with his online friends.  Which is fine thing to do, but Act One is mostly John checking the mail to see if the game has arrived, chatting with someone online, avoiding his dad, checking online again, etc. Not much actually happens, and because of that, many people quit before the story really starts. And to be honest, I was one of those people.

A few months later, I kept seeing people talking about Homestuck on tumblr, and I thought that surely it gets good at some point. So I went back and made sure to stick it out this time, and I do not regret it at all.

One last thing: Homestuck is in its final stretch of content, and Hussie has decided that he was going to post the rest of the content all at once, so any day now, it could be done.

Now that I think about it, I’m queuing this ahead of time, so it really could finish before this posts. That would be weird.

Yeah, that probably won’t happen. Anyway, Homestuck is great, simply fantastic, one of my favorite web comics of all time. It really took advantage of the medium, adding animation, music, and even allowed the reader to take control of the characters at times to drive the story forward. It really is a lot of fun and I recommend checking it out.

There are printed versions of the comic, but I recommend reading it online first to get the whole experience.

Homestuck is written by Andrew Hussie and drawn on MS Paint.  It can be found here: http://www.mspaintadventures.com/

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The Demonata: Hell’s Heroes by Darren Shan

Hell's Heroes    The Demonata: Hell’s Heroes by Darren Shan

Hell’s Heroes is the tenth and final book in the ten book series The Demonata, his second major Young Adult horror series, after the Cirque du Freak series (also called The Saga of Darren Shan, for anyone outside of the U.S.).

 

There’s always a whole lot riding on the end of a series, particularly ones that are considered long, like The Demonata.  When someone spends a bunch of time and money invested in a story and characters, they want the last time they encounter them to be memorable, right? Sometimes they can fall flat, like the ending of The Pendragon series, and sometimes they can be spectacular, like The Infernal Devices series. However, they often times just kind of end up in the middle, much like the ending to the Harry Potter series (which some thought was a nice ending, but others found to be a little too fast and a little too flat).

I felt like I had more expectations with this book than I normally do going  into a final book in a series, because this series was introducing some really big themes in the last couple books, such as how far should you go to help people before it becomes too big a sacrifice, and just how far should one go before it becomes a pointless effort.

 

The series centers around three teenagers: Grubbs Grady, a magician who has voluntarily fallen under the family curse of lycanthropy, Kernal Fleck, who has the mysterious power to see magical lights (the remnants of the universe that existed before The Big Bang) and can put the pieces together to create windows into the demonic universe, and Bec McConn (I apparently forgot to write her name in the past few posts), a priestess who sacrificed herself to save the human race the first time the demons tried to cross over to her world.  They are all part of a ancient weapon called the Kah-Gash, which is the conscious leftover of the universe before The Big Bang. They originally thought that this weapon could destroy the demon universe, but it was revealed in Dark Calling that it can actually put the universe back to how it was before The Big Bang, which would keep the demons in their separate universe, unable to harm any other creature.

Unless the demons achieve their goal, which would put the original universe back in place, but would allow the demons to become all powerful and destroy the other creatures. It is up to Grubbs, Bec, and Kernal to band together to save what is left of life in this universe and activate the Kah-Gash, thus putting the universe into a state of peace.

The problem is that Grubbs has decided that Earth is the only planet that needs saving and refuses to work with the Ancient Ones, and has blinded Kernal and forced him to help him, while Bec seems to have stopped caring about the human race entirely. Time is running out, and the demons are becoming more powerful by the day. The only chance of survival comes from Grubbs and Kernal convincing Bec to rejoin them, but first they must fight their way through mountains of demons to the center of Lord Loss’s kingdom.

 

I talked earlier about the importance of the final book in the series, and I feel that Hell’s Heroes ended on a very good (and surprisingly positive) note. I feel like it properly tied together all the threads of the series, while providing a good ending to the main characters. And I’m going to be honest, I was getting worried for a bit. There just didn’t seem to be a happy way for this series to end.

 

Rating: 8 out of 10.

 

About Darren Shan’s writing as a whole: I bought the Cirque du Freak series and The Demonata series at the same time, because I thought The Demonata series sounded super interesting, but I had also heard good things about the Cirque du Freak series.  I decided to read Cirque du Freak first because Shan wrote that series first.

That may have not been my best idea.  Cirque du Freak was a really… simple.  I did an in depth review of that entire series last year, so I don’t want to go into it too much, but I had problems with it as a whole.

Though I could see some of the same problems in the first couple of books in The Demonata, the series as a whole seemed better and more thought out. I don’t know if it’s because the different characters narrating the story or if it comes from a more experienced author, but I consider The Demonata miles better than Cirque du Freak.

Of course, that’s my personal opinion. There are many who love Cirque du Freak, and there are good things that come from the series.  There was a snippet from the next book Darren Shan wrote after The Demonata ended, called The Thin Executioner, which has gotten good reviews.

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