(Note: The first half of this post was written in October. Oops.)
I know, I know. Groan it up. Get disappointed in me. I don’t care. I love Mortal Instruments. I felt iffy about it in the opening chapter of City of Bones, but decided to forge on. After the second chapter, I couldn’t put it down. I read City of Bones in a week. I blew through City of Ashes over the weekend. My gem of a boyfriend picked up City of Glass and City of Fallen Angels from the library for me last week. And I’m almost through with City of Fallen Angels; I’m trying to plow through these books, joyfully and reluctantly — I love these books, but I also want my life back.
I’m sure there are plenty of things wrong with Mortal Instruments, and I’m currently blind to every single one of them. I love Clary and her lack of hesitation; she knows what she wants and heads straight for it, vampire hotels be damned. Jace is a treat: a perfect storm of looks, ego and a tortured soul. Isabelle is a strong woman with a whip and a solid sense of her sexuality. Simon is a decent best friend/boy next door, though he can get a little protective of Clary and it’s annoying. (“Let her live her life, man! Come on, Simon, quit being a dummy — this is none of your damn business!” – me) Alec is another decent best friend/brother to Jace — perhaps he’s Jace’s Simon. There are elements that come out of nowhere that change the entire plot at crucial moments, and for some reason, I don’t mind.
What’s strangely intriguing to me is the possibility that Clary and Jace are related, and their inability to squash their passion for each other, despite the possible incest. I think Mitchelll Hurwitz, creator of Arrested Development, once said something like, who doesn’t love a little incest? He was, of course, referencing the relationship between George Michael and Maeby on Arrested Development. And despite the fact that incest is one of the many running gags on AD, it breaks my heart a little that George Michael and Maeby will never be able to love each other the way they want to. In the Goodreads reviews of these books, there seems to be a lot of hissing and spitting directed at Cassandra Clare specifically because of this (possibly!) incestuous plot twist.
But I mean… can you even imagine that? If you were Clary or Jace, that would be the biggest bummer in the world, wouldn’t it? You think you find someone you’re completely in love with, and it turns out you may be long-lost siblings? How are you supposed to stop the flood of teenage hormones and feelings? That kind of doom is almost Shakespearean.
I’m trying to reflect on what is so damn addictive and exciting to me about Mortal Instruments. There is something familiar in the writing, the way that each character is fleshed out (even minor ones), and the care that Cassandra Clare takes to craft electric moments between Clary and Jace.
And then I discovered that Cassandra Clare started out writing fan fiction.
Okay, I have to confess. I started out writing fan fiction too. It’s embarrassing for me to admit because the subjects weren’t even wonderful, fictional people you’d want to spend time with, like Ron and Hermione, or Sonic the Hedgehog, or whatever people write about these days . I wrote…(gulp)…’NSync fan fiction. Yes. Yes, I did.
It starred my best friend (at the time) and me, and we were BFFs with ‘NSync. But when you’re writing yourself into this world where anything can happen — I could write a version of myself that was outgoing, loud, had a driver’s license, could stay out past midnight, simultaneously study medicine at “Berkeley” and be a cast member on MAD tv — you write your ideal self, and you write the ideal of all those people you wish you knew. And because all these people are real to you and you want to know all of them, you flesh each one out with a distinct personality and history, no matter how minor they are. You write those moments you wish you could have with JC (or whoever), and you write them for yourself, and no one else.
I think that’s why Mortal Instruments feels so satisfying and rounded to me. Because it’s written like fan fiction, with a distinct sense of who each character is and with the strongest love for them. Some people write their characters as experiments in human nature, to answer the question, “What if?” and our job as readers is to empathize with them, but not necessarily love them. To me, fan fiction writes each character with care and with love as if they were real people.
Oh, and re: the excitement of incest. Because of my love for Clary and Jace, and because it broke my heart that George Michael and Maeby could never be together, I worried for a little while that there was something profoundly crazy in me that attracted me to incestuous relationships.
And then I watched the Korean film Oldboy. I am happy to say that there was far too much incest for my liking there, and that I am comfortable with a dash of it. I also read an essay in Shadowhunters and Downworlders: A Mortal Instruments Reader that speaks directly to the “excitement” of incest and why it’s not totally gross for Clary and Jace to be into each other even after they’ve found out that they might be brother and sister.
So anyway. I’m about to start Book 2 of Infernal Devices. I’m not as enchanted with these characters, but there’s something about it that feels more complex. I’m not ready to write about it yet, but I will eventually.
And with that, I send this blog entry out into the interwebz. Finally.