City of Bones: Ch 2
The dark prince sat astride his black steed, his sable cape flowing behind him. A golden circlet bound his blond locks, his handsome face was cold with the rage of battle, and…
“And his arm looked like an eggplant,” Clary muttered to herself in exasperation. The drawing just wasn’t working.
Okay, I’m not an artist, but this strikes me as wrong. Clary is sketching, she’s not coloring. So why are all the descriptors in that opening paragraph about colors? There’s not going to be any color in a sketch, unless she’s doing all her drawings with…I don’t know, colored pencils or pastels or crayons or somesuch.
Clary is annoyed because nothing she draws comes out the way she wants. She thinks about how she wishes she was like her mother, who can draw and paint perfectly every time.
Um, bullshit. Even professional artists throw their sketches across the room, and even the best works of art had scads of failed prototypes first. Either her mother is a Mary Sue, or she deliberately hides her early work from her daughter. In the case of the second, she’s also an ass, because why would you hide that from a daughter who also likes to draw? Why wouldn’t you encourage her by showing her how to work through rough drafts?
Simon calls her and they talk about how Clary got in trouble the previous night. (She didn’t have a post-midnight curfew? That would have been nice to mention earlier. There was no hint in the previous chapter that she was breaking her parent’s rules.)
“Yeah, well, she doesn’t see it that way. I disappointed her, I let her down, I made her worry, blah blah blah. I am the bane of her existence,” Clary said, mimicking her mother’s precise phrasing with only a slight twinge of guilt.
Bane of her existence? Well, put down one more tick-mark in the ‘Clary’s mother is a horrible person’ column. Clary takes it in good stride, so I can’t tell yet if this was something her mother just said in the heat of anger, or if Clary is distressingly used to verbal abuse, or if the author is just shitty and has no idea how bad that sounds.
Simon is in band practice right now, and one of his bandmates is doing a poetry reading at a local coffee shop, so he called to invite Clary. Clary doesn’t want to ask her mother for permission, because her mother is still mad about the ‘out-past-midnight-on-a-Sunday’ thing. As well she should be. Simon says he’ll ask for her, because her mom really likes Simon.
With that decided, Clary decides to sit and stare at her living room for a while, then randomly give us an info-dump about her dead father, out of the blue. He used to be in the military (no mention of which service) and was highly decorated, but he died in a car crash just before Clary was born. Clary and her mom both have her mother’s maiden name.
Also, her mom keeps a bunch of his stuff in a box by her bed, and Clary often rifles through it.
Aren’t you so glad you learned all that? Weren’t you just on pins and needles wondering where her father was? Wasn’t that all just fascinating and not completely irrelevant? Granted, I’m sure it’ll all be relevant later. Let’s face it, if the protagonist is female and the father is dead, it’s an even bet that he was involved in the plot somehow before he died. Doesn’t change the fact that, right now, it was just shoehorned in without any set-up. (Notice the same is never true for male protags and dead mothers, though. Mothers are never useful unless they are evil.)
Someone named Uncle Luke comes in and gets the plot back on track. Er, well, the story at least. Clary is careful to tell us that he’s not actually related to her, just a family friend who sends copious amounts of so-totally-platonic-you-guys time with her mother.
Luke has a bunch of cardboard boxes, because apparently Jocelyn (her mother, oops) wants to pack up some extra junk that’s in the house. Clary, out of the blue, asks Luke what he would do if he could see things that were invisible to anyone else.
Why is Luke this special? No, really, I want to know. Clary calls him her uncle, but doesn’t sound overly fond of him. Certainly she hasn’t been going on about how she can tell him anything, like she’s said about Simon. And Simon was at the club. He’s a much more logical choice for who to talk to about this, but she goes for Luke, and five seconds after he’s introduced to us, too. Why?
Luke misunderstands the question and tells her she’s an artist, so of course she sees the world different.
She said, “If my dad had lived, do you think he’d have been an artist too?”
If he lived? What odd phrasing. He was already an adult when he died, old enough to have been decorated several times. If he wasn’t already artistic, why would he have changed?
Jocelyn comes in, and we get the obligatory ‘the heroine feels ugly while all the other females around her are beautiful and make her look even uglier in comparison.’
To be beautiful you had to be willowy and tall. When you were as short as Clary was, just over five feet, you were cute. Not pretty or beautiful, but cute. Throw in carroty hair and a face full of freckles, and she was a Raggedy Ann to her mother’s Barbie doll.
Jee, thanks for telling us what we ‘have’ to look like in order to be beautiful. We really appreciate that. Wait, no we don’t, we say ‘fuck you,’ because short chicks can be hella-sexy. (Really, if you saw a short chick and she wasn’t standing next to a tape measure or a tall person or some other base, would you really be able to tell how tall she was? Would you see this 5’0” woman in the middle of a field and go “Oh, yeah, she’s totally so short. I can tell because she’s only cute, and not beautiful.” How about this one, or this one?)
Well, at least we finally get a little bit of info on what Clary looks like.
Jocelyn even had a graceful way of walking that made people turn their heads to watch her go by. Clary, by contrast, was always tripping over her feet.
Can we stop this, please? I don’t think it’s even a copy of Twilight. People have been assuming that clumsiness counts as a character trait for long before SMeyer turned it into a meme.
Well, it quickly becomes clear that there’s something wrong. After a bit of pressure, Jocelyn finally spills the beans: the boxes are for packing, not for getting rid of old junk. They’re going to ‘the farmhouse’ for the rest of the summer, and Clary is upset because this screws up all her summer plans. (Well, at least this means all those teens at the club weren’t out on a school night. But still.)
Jocelyn says she ‘needs’ to get away from the city in order to paint. I don’t know her well enough yet to tell if this is an excuse for something bigger, or the real reason. Clary demands that she’s old enough to live at the apartment by herself. Clearly, she’s not, because she’s only 15. I’m pretty sure leaving her alone for several weeks would even be illegal. (It wouldn’t be child abandonment, the age limit for that is 14 in New York, but it could be endangerment of a child, as that applies to anyone under 18.)
Jocelyn agrees with me and the law and says she can’t stay home alone.
Luke gets upset about the whole thing for some undisclosed reason and starts to leave. He and Jocelyn get in a whisper-fight, in which Clary can’t hear the first part, but can hear the back half of it perfectly. So…what was blocking her at first? Well, it seems that Clary ‘isn’t her father,’ and Jocelyn thinks that being out of the city will help, and Luke thinks she should talk to Clary. There’s also a guy named Bane that’s in Tanzania, but we don’t get to learn about him yet.
Now, this would have been a good place to introduce her father. Although with something shorter than the page-long spiel from before. Maybe a quick “Why are they talking about my father? He was a soldier/sailor/airman/marine and died in a car crash before I was born. How could he have anything to do with what’s going on?” See, that would be directly in line with what’s going on in the scene, and also short enough not to piss me off.
Also, we now have some pretty clear indication that her father was involved. Probably he could see the weird stuff, too, and it had something to do with his death. The car crash was probably a lie. All of this is painfully obvious, and another sign of lazy hack writing. When your plot relies on old, reused tropes, it’s not going to have any suspense for the readers.
Simon interrupts the argument by coming in without knocking. Clary decides to take the easy out and bolt with Simon before her mom can stop her.
Clary’s downstairs neighbor is a psychic named Madam Dorthea. As they walk past her door, a man comes out. He’s given a full description, which I would normally say means he’s going to be important, but who knows. Maybe he’ll get killed before the end of the chapter. Looking at the man makes Clary dizzy, and then they leave. I guess he’ll be important after all.
Later, at a lunch joint, Clary and Simon talk about her mother and this summer-long-vacation. Clary’s mother is obviously involved in the ‘seeing invisible people’ thing, because Clary mentions how odd it is that her mother never talks about her past. Clary doesn’t even know her grandparents. Jocelyn also has thin scars all over her back, but Simon had to point that out, because in fifteen years, Clary has never noticed. How do you not notice that your own mother has scars ‘all over’ her back and arms? I don’t care if they are really thin scars, she should still notice something like that.
They smalltalk for a while about Simon’s band, and Simon dances around asking her out by talking about how all the other band members have girlfriends. As they walk down the street, Clary doesn’t look at anything for too long, because she’s afraid if she really focuses she’ll start to see weird shit that shouldn’t be there. I actually rather like that trait. It’s not hammered into our heads or made a big deal of, it’s just a byproduct she picked up after a particularly harrowing night. I like it.
I’m also wondering why that’s the only result. Really. She saw a demon get stabbed by three invisible people and spurt blood all over. And yet here she is going on about her new drama as if the old one never happened. Look, book, if you didn’t want Clary to get into the heavy stuff right away, then don’t introduce heavy stuff right away. This would work fine if, at the club, she hadn’t seen the event in the storage room. If, instead, she’d seen all four of them go in, but then never picked up on them again, or if she’d seen some demon aspect of the boy but never tried to follow him into the closet. Then she’d have something suitably freaky to weird her out, but not something so big that all of this other drama pales in comparison.