City of Bones: Ch 9
He fixed her with eyes as opaque as smoked glass.
How did I miss this in the last chapter? Smoked glass is not opaque. In fact, any kind of glass is not opaque. Eyes are opaque by default. Why would you take something that’s already opaque, and then describe its opaque-ness with glass?
Jace says they should leave, and that they’re going to take the subway to get back home.
“I thought it’d be something cooler, like a van with ‘Death to Demons’ painted on the outside,
Simon, you and I need to have a talk about what ‘cooler’ means. Or, more likely, the author and I need to have a talk about how geeks have a touch more imagination than ‘a van.’ What about a flying magic car? Or an invisible trans-dimensional motorcycle that can zip through buildings like they aren’t there? Or teleportation? Or mutant mole tunnels underground? Or seven-league boots? Or pretty much anything than ‘a van.’
It was a calm that made Clary think of the deceptive hard sheen of ice just before it cracked under your weight. Jace was scary-calm.
Ice that isn’t doing anything is not scary. I mean, unless you’re afraid of ice in general (which is not an unreasonable fear: ice is evil) then a solid sheet of ice would probably strike you as being pretty safe. It’s the cracking and splintering that is scary, not the ice before it cracks and splinters. Now ‘calm before a storm’ works because that calm is unusual. Normal, safe weather has a nice breeze going, and that’s why completely dead air is a warning. But ice that isn’t cracking is not a warning sign.
Anyway, they take the train back to the Institute. Simon is surprised to find it’s a church.
“We find it useful to inhabit hallowed ground.”
This is not the first time I’ve seen this trope. (Not nearly the first time.) But it never fails to frustrate me. Hallowed ground is a place that has been cleansed/blessed by a religious figure, in this case most likely a Christian church. So it would have been blessed by a priest, which means that in this world there is tangible power that comes directly from the Judeo-Christian God. You are confirming that in your world, God exists.
Now, there are ways around this. You can argue that the power of a blessing comes from the ritual itself, not from the deity that’s called upon. You can claim that the act of worship is a kind of magic, so no matter the faith, any place that is revered will build up power after a while. It is possible to get around this issue without implying that a particular religion is true or not. But this book doesn’t do any of that. It just says ‘hallowed ground’ and lets that hang there. In fact, I can’t think of a single book that addresses this problem. They all just ignore the connection between ‘blessed by god’ and…well, GOD.
I’m not saying you can’t have a book where God is a tangible presence and so is magic, but please please please actually admit that you’re doing that, rather than stumble into saying it by accident.
Turns out the church/institute has an illusion over it that makes it look dirty an abandoned, but actually it looks awesome. There’s only five people there and they’re always off fighting demons. Why can’t it actually be messy? Who’s cleaning it?
“It’s an institute,” Clary said. “A place where Shadowhunters can stay when they’re in the city. Like a sort of combination safe haven and research facility.”
“I thought it was a church.”
“It’s inside a church.”
“Because that’s not confusing.”
Um…it’s not. Really, Simon, why is this bothering you? A church is just a building. You can take the building and use it for other things. Happens all the time.
Clary asks Simon to just go along with all the weirdness, because she needs these people to find her mom. Even though she has made no positive motion toward finding her mom at all. Apparently she plans on just hanging around until Jace and his friends decide on their own to go find Jocelyn. (Again, why is she even a character?)
They wind up in the kitchen and find Isabelle cooking. I don’t want to be one of those people who cries every time a female ends up in a kitchen, especially since I love to cook, but…let’s take stock here. So far the guys have been the ones that get into fistfights with demons, act all intellectual and have offices in libraries, hang out in weapons rooms, run around out in the city, rescue people. Isabelle has…used her sexuality to make herself into bait, nurse Clary while she was unconscious, sit next to her bed even when there was nothing to do, and cook. The book could still save this, but my red flag of suspicion is raised.
Clary randomly realizes again that Isabelle is ‘prettier’ than she is, and then she fantasizes about dumping a pot of soup on Isabelle’s head. Right, because what we really need right now is another representation of women being in constant competition with each other. As well all know, if you’re not the prettiest girl in the room, then you’re not pretty at all, and therefore it is tantamount that all women be constantly on the lookout for ways to destroy each other. *gag*
Isabelle and Jace banter a bit about how Isabelle can’t cook and Jace is an idiot. And then there’s a random line where Jace makes judgmental comments about how Clary ate ‘all those sandwiches’ at Dorthea’s place. Yeah, because I always love my love-interests to tell me that I’m eating too much. Then there’s more disgusting banter where Jace insults Isabelle’s cooking and makes crass comments about how Simon wants to screw her. The whole scene is just three pages of hate and petty bickering that serves no purpose, but that the author clearly thought was clever. It’s not. It’s just…mean. A really bland and meandering kind of mean. Finally, Jace and Clary leave and Simon stays behind in the kitchen.
Clary, trailing a little behind Jace, could see the stress and tiredness in the line of Jace’s shoulders. She wondered if the tension ever really left him. “Jace.”
He looked at her. “What?”
“I’m sorry. For snapping at you.”
Why? You’re sorry just because he looks stressed? That’s not a good reason. From all appearances, he brings most of it down on his own head. He’s a jerk and people are jerky in return. If he’d just nut up and make an effort at being sociable, he’d probably have a lot more emotional support and a lot more ability to weather stress.
In short, the fact that he’s made his life harder by being an ass does not negate the fact that he’s an ass.
Jace says that Isabelle isn’t usually the cook. …her mother is.
“Because,” Jace said slowly, “it’s only been recently that women have been Shadowhunters along with men. I mean, there have always been women in the Clave—mastering the runes, creating weaponry, teaching the Killing Arts—but only a few were warriors, ones with exceptional abilities. They had to fight to be trained. Maryse was a part of the first generation of Clave women who were trained as a matter of course—and I think she never taught Isabelle how to cook because she was afraid that if she did, Isabelle would be relegated to the kitchen permanently.”
Alright, here’s another issue I have, but I’m a little torn about picking on it. On the one hand, if Isabelle’s mother had that kind of personal history, it makes sense that she’d overreact a little bit. On the other hand, I see this trope all over the place when it comes to ‘Strong Female Characters.’ This idea that if woman do any one feminine thing, it means they automatically lose their ‘Strong’ card. If a man can cook? It’s not a comment on his masculinity. But a girl in the kitchen? Oh, be careful, she might not be able to handle being domestic and a badass. She might end up so weak that the natural desire to stay put and be a housewife will overwhelm her. Or some shit.
My beef here really isn’t with the characters. Given the situation, it makes sense that they would all act the way that they have. My beef is with the author, because she created this situation. All of this was not handed to her pre-formed. She did not come into a world where she couldn’t get out of making Isabelle a bad cook. She intentionally decided to make her this way, and the fact that she built the world in such a way to prop up her tropes does not change the fact that she did, in fact, write those tropes.
And yes, I’m aware that it sounds slightly hypocritical to gripe that Isabelle in the kitchen cooking makes her a stereotype and then complain that cooking doesn’t make one a stereotype. But both are true. Isabelle isn’t a good cook, and the meta-reasons she’s not a good cook are sexist. Yet at the same time, she’s continually cast into traditionally-female roles even when she’s not the best person for the job. If she’s not a good cook, why isn’t Hodge cooking for them? Or Alec or Jace? Why is it Isabelle that has to be their mother hen? For that matter, why was she playing nursemaid to Clary when Hodge is the one that can make the magic herb juice?
It may sound like a contradiction to make female characters bad at domestics and then constantly shove them into domestic roles, but it happens all the time. It’s like misogyny squared. It’s mind-boggling.
(Also, why do they have people whose entire job is to ‘master runes’ when “humans don’t do magic”?)
Jace says Isabelle is an awesome demon slayer. Clary immediately asks if she’s better than Alec, because apparently she’s surprised at the thought that a girl might be better at something active than her closest male relative.
“Better?” he said. “At demon-slaying? No, not really. He’s never killed a demon.”
“I don’t know why not. Maybe because he’s always protecting Izzy and me.”
Sigh. So your awesome female demon hunter is only awesome because her brother is always helping her? You fail at feminism, book.
They go to a greenhouse to find Hodge, and the place is full of awesomesauce plants, because Idris is magic and has magic plants. Even though magic is dirty and so totally Not Done By Humans. Again, this world was not handed to the author already-formed. At some point, she had to sit down and say “I want it to be full of people doing magic, therefore I’m going to create a culture in which people hate magic.” Why? Why would anyone do this?
And don’t try and tell me those plants aren’t magical. They ‘only grow in Idris,’ and as we know Idris is a tiny country between France and Germany. Biology doesn’t work like that. Plants don’t stop growing at a country border unless something magical or man-made stops them from doing so.
They find Hodge and tell him everything that happened. He says something about a circle is rising. Hodge then goes on to explain that the Circle was the name of Valentine’s followers, and they planned to kill all the fairies by starting a war between them and the hunters. Also, Hodge used to be a member, and so did Jocelyn. Clary gets all offended at the thought that her mother was a bigot, and then Hodge drops another bombshell: Jocelyn was married to Valentine.
(Wait a minute, just a few chapters ago, wasn’t Hodge uber-confused along with the rest of them about why Clary and her mother would be attacked?)