Part One: Dark Descent
City of Bones, the first book of Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series, begins as Clary Fray and her friend Simon go dancing at a Manhattan club. Clary witnesses three kids corner a boy and stab him, and then the boy’s body disappears without a trace. When she confronts the murderers, they appear shocked that she can see them. They tell her that they are invisible to ordinary people, whom they call mundanes or mundies. Clary tries to talk to a security guard about what she has seen, and she realizes that the kids really are invisible; the guard looks right through them.
Shaken, Clary hails a cab home and finds that her mother, Jocelyn, is furious that she has stayed out so late. The next day, Jocelyn announces that she is taking Clary to her friend Luke’s farm in the country for the rest of the summer. Clary does not understand why Jocelyn is so upset, and Jocelyn refuses to explain. Luke, who is almost like a father to Clary, hints that Jocelyn has some important information she should share with Clary, but Jocelyn refuses to do so. Clary gets angry and storms out of the house.
Clary meets up with Simon and agrees to go to a poetry reading, just for an excuse to stay out of the house. At the coffee shop where the poetry reading is taking place, Simon makes a stuttering attempt to tell Clary that he likes her. Before he can get the words out, one of the invisible kids, a beautiful golden-eyed boy named Jace, appears. She leaves Simon mid-speech and chases Jace out of the coffee shop.
Outside, Jace says that he needs to know more about Clary in order to understand why she can see him. She is suspicious of him because of what she saw him do, but Jace insists that he is a member of a race of demon killers called Shadowhunters. He explains that the world is full of creatures Clary has long believed imaginary: vampires, faeries, demons, warlocks, and so on. Clary is struggling to decide whether or not to believe him when she gets a phone call from her mother, who tells her not to come home because it is too dangerous. Clary hears loud noises in the background, and then the call gets cut off.
Ignoring her mother’s plea to stay away, Clary goes home to attempt to rescue her mother. When she arrives, her mother is gone, and a strange creature attacks Clary. It almost kills her, but she manages to kill it instead. The creature dies, but Clary is gravely injured. Jace takes her to his home, a place called the Institute.
On the way to the Institute, Clary passes out. When she wakes up three days later, she meets Isabelle and Alec Lightwood, the two kids who were with Jace the night she saw him kill the demon. They are both angry at Jace for bringing Clary to their home; mundies are not normally allowed in the Shadowhunter world. Neither of them seems to believe that she killed the creature she met in her apartment, which was a demon they call a Ravener.
Clary and the three Shadowhunter kids go to the Institute’s library to speak with a man named Hodge, who is introduced as a tutor. Hodge asks if Clary knows any Shadowhunters, or any witches or warlocks, but Clary does not think so. Jace announces that he made a symbol called a rune on Clary’s skin to make her invisible while he rescued her. Such marks damage or kill mundies, but it did not hurt Clary at all. This means that Clary must have Shadowhunter blood. Clary denies this. Her mother “is the most normal person in the world” and her father, who died before she was born, was just an ordinary guy. Clary tries calling Luke for answers, but he tells her coldly never to contact him again; he wants nothing to do with whatever trouble she and Jocelyn are in.
After this call, Hodge asks Clary to tell him about the Ravener. All she can remember is that it said something about a Valentine. This shocks Hodge, who explains that Valentine was a Shadowhunter. Fifteen years ago, he caused a war between the Shadowhunters and the Downworlders—half-human creatures such as warlocks, werewolves, vampires, and faeries. During this war, Valentine destroyed the Mortal Cup, a magical object that can turn ordinary human beings into Shadowhunters.
Hodge sends Jace and Clary back to her apartment to look for clues about a connection between her and any Shadowhunters. They find the place empty except for a zombie-like creature called a Forsaken, which Jace fights. Afterward, they speak with Clary’s downstairs neighbor, a woman called Dorothea who reads fortunes. Jace can tell that she is a fake witch, but it turns out that her adoptive mother was a real one, a half-demon woman who could work magic. Dorothea guards a Portal, a kind of door that can transport people wherever they want to go. Clary grabs the doorknob to see where the Portal leads, and the next thing she knows, she is falling through space.
Jace leaps through the Portal after Clary, and the two of them land in Luke’s yard. There they meet Simon, who is furious with Clary for running away from him and disappearing for days. Clary explains what is going on, and the three kids sneak into Luke’s house to look for information about Jocelyn’s whereabouts. While they are searching, Luke comes in with two evil-looking men, Pangborn and Blackwell. The kids eavesdrop on the ensuing conversation and learn that both Jocelyn and Luke are exiled Shadowhunters.
During their conversation with Luke, Pangborn and Blackwell make it clear that the Mortal Cup was never destroyed. They offer to free Jocelyn if Luke can find the Mortal Cup for them, but he claims not to have any interest in Clary or her mother. He says that he is going to get out of town and out of danger. By the time the three men leave, Clary is shaking with anger. Jace is only slightly more composed. When pressed, he explains that he knows Pangborn and Blackwell. When he was a little boy, he watched them murder his father.
Jace and Clary go...
(The entire section is 2449 words.)