Author: Cassandra Clare
Artist: Cassandra Jean
Series: The Mortal Instruments: The Graphic Novel, #1
Publisher: Yen Press
Pub. Date: 2017
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Graphic Novel
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
I’ve been a fan of Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments for years now, though I can’t get into the spin-off series or enjoy the TV show. Another adaptation has been added to the world with The Mortal Instruments: The Graphic Novel, Vol. 1. Once I spotted this graphic novel at the library, I couldn’t help but read it. This graphic novel adaptation of the first half (maybe) of City of Bones is good, but some artistic elements and character quirks leave something to be desired.
If you haven’t read City of Bones, this graphic novel starts with Clary Fray and her best friend, Simon, partying at a night club called Pandemonium. This is one of the more exciting moments of her mundane life—until she starts seeing people no one else can see. Then her mother disappears, and a monster attacks her. Clary is thrust into the world of warlocks, demons, fairies, and Shadowhunters, the demon killers of the world.
The characters are well-developed, but this adaptation reminded me about my initial feelings about Jace and Alec. Clary stumbles upon a world that exists along hers, and she is forced to fit herself into it. She is an artist, but it doesn’t mean much for this graphic novel. The graphic novel leaves Jace as a romantic interest who eventually is tempted toward revenge. I remember Jace as a prick who can grow on you, but he felt muted for that attitude. He seemed more reckless. I’ve grown sympathetic for Alec as the series has gone on, but reading this adaptation renewed my dislike for him for the first two books. He’s a jerk in City of Bones. Isabelle and Simon are themselves as supportive cast, but this adaptation emphasizes a motive for romance between them that I did not see in the original novel. I also appreciate that the characters are distinct enough from each other that you can tell them apart.
Cassandra Jean created a beautiful graphic novel that matches the official series tarot cards, and the artwork works in a narrative format. The characters are drawn to look like the badasses they are, though there is a softness to it where it concerns Clary, her family and Simon. I haven’t particularly paid attention to this before, but I like that Alec and Izzy actually look related in graphic-novel form. The same goes for Clary and her mom. Another detail that was well done was having the Ravener demon wrap around the edges of two pages, making it look huge and intimidating. These details improved the quality of the story and its impact.
My issues with the artwork more have to do with transitions and battle scenes. This graphic novel struggles to make transitions between locations clear. The main indication is the double slash lines at the end of a panel, as you can see in the left-most photo below. As I read this part, I thought it had stayed at the same location and that Clary was going to get permission from Jace. The other issue with the artwork is the battle scenes. The first battle scene was strange in how it was done since it tried to show magic of some sort. The fatal cut into the demon at Pandemonium is weak because it’s unclear which direction it’s going.
The world-building is pretty successful, but there is an instance where it is unlikely that one Shadowhunter didn’t know about it. With Clary as our entry into the world of Shadowhunters, we get to learn quickly but at a reasonable pace about this invisible world. Information is given normally at a reasonable time, but there are a couple of instances that feel like an info-dump. I like that it also hints at enough other parts of the world to show that there is so much more yet to be explored.
Since this is an adaptation of the first half of City of Bones, I can’t help but examine it’s accuracy to the original. From what I remember of the novel, it’s pretty accurate, though every character lost their sassiness in this adaptation. There are some details that I’m fuzzy on, but some facts about clemency with the Clave, the Shadowhunter goverment, seemed illogical for the younger Shadowhunters to not know. This makes the info-dump worse.
I’m interested in the second volume, which is coming out in October, and I hope it completes City of Bones. Regardless, if you want to read about Clary finding out why someone would want her mother and who she is, this is a good adaptation. If you have already read City of Bones, this is a more accurate adaptation than what has been filmed.