Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Mortal Instruments: City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

(In which we finally get answers.)


The bad thing about reading a series late (i.e., when the series already has five books and is already turned into a movie) is that you get the terrible feeling that everybody already knows it except you, which kind of justify the necessity of adding fomo (fear of missing out) to the Oxford Dictionary. The good thing (and believe me when I say it outweighs the bad) is that you don’t get to suffer from the more terrible feeling of waiting for the next book to come. You finished one book and move on to the next without further ado. Now, that’s addicting. And a convenient addiction at that.

At this point, I have to tell you that spoilers, albeit minor, are included in this blog post. Continue reading at your own risk.

When Clary receives an invisible-to-mundanes visitor in the City of Ashes, she realizes that the coma her mother is suffering from is self-induced and could be reversed by a warlock named Ragnor Fell. And she decides to go to Idris, the home of the Shadowhunters, to find the warlock and wake her mother up. The City of Glass opens with Jace, along with the Lightwoods preparing to go home to attend the Clave meeting especially now that they know that Valentine plans a large-scale war against the Clave. Clary intends to go with the Lightwoods but due a sudden attack of Forsaken, she is left behind and is forced to open up a Portal to Idris. Upon arriving there, she is welcomed by the poisoning waters of Lake Lyn, followed by a meeting with Luke’s sister, then a meeting with Sebastian Verlac (who eventually helps her find Ragnor Fell) and finally walking in on Jace and his new girlfriend in the Penhallow’s house.

Despite the awkwardness of things, Clary is determined to seek all necessary help from anyone who is willing to give it in order to save her mother, even if it means asking Jace to take her to the Wayland manor to retrieve a book that will reverse the coma-inducing spell Jocelyn puts on herself. In there they find the book, along with some of Valentine’s nastiest secrets. And in their final attempt to right the wrongs done by long-running philosophical feuds among Shadowhunters and Downworlders, Jace and Clary discover the truth about their powers, their families and the fact that they are not siblings. 

Among the first three installments, it is not unfair to say that City of Glass is the most exciting aside from the fact that it is the most action-packed; what with the rain of demons from Valentine’s army and the children of the Night, Moon, Lilith and Faerie all coming together against one common enemy in an epic warfare. But what really makes it exciting is the transformation of the characters. Clary is more determined and more powerful while Jace is more expressively passionate and aggressive. And Simon, the geeky, playing safe Simon, finally learns the value of true sacrifice. 

City of Glass is a complex tapestry of the grand battle against extinction and corruption, woven with lies, deception, confession and acceptance all in one thread. It is an opus with themes as fragile as glass itself. In an equally-fragile city inhabited with equally-fragile characters, Jace and Clary and all the major teenage Shadowhunters are forced to maturity, with the realization that the path to the truth is led by love. In the final pages, however, they discover that love might also be the cause of their downfall.

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The Mortal Instruments: City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

(In which the addiction continues.)


One of my terrible habits, at least in the eyes of my students, is that I ask them if they have seen an interesting movie that has been recently shown. The worse part of my strangeness is when I share with them the new book I'm reading. As sad as it is real, my students are not the reading kind. But I was lucky to have at least one student who can relate and actually shares back. It's not so bad, especially when the fact that two students in two different classes are three books ahead of me and, as they themselves said, are "just waiting for The City of Heavenly Fire to be released". What other motivation can be more persuading than that?

So that is the impetus behind this recent update in this blog, and the apparent sudden adrenaline to finish the first five books of Clare's best-selling series. 

I bookmarked my latest progress on the second book - City of Ashes, which continues were the City of Bones left off - the revelation bomb that Clary and Jace are siblings. 

It is sadly expected that Jace will be a magnet of controversy after the Clave gets informed of his true parentage. The complication is so severe that Maryse Lightwoods, mother of Alec and Isabelle, decides to send Jace out of the Institute in fear of him being Valentine's spy. To prove his innocence, Jace declares that he is willing to undergo the Trial by Sword. The process involves the use of the Soul-Sword, another Mortal Instrument guarded by the Silent Brothers and this powerful weapon can determine whether someone is lying. For the trial to happen, Maryse summons the Inquisitor of the Clave, who appears to believe that Jace works with Valentine and is determined to punish him. What complicates matters is a series of murders of young Downworlders and the Silent Brothers in the Bone City. And the Shadowhunters believe Valentine is behind it. In their pursuit of discovering Valentine's plan, Alec and Isabelle find themselves tangled in a familial conflict while Jace, Clary and Simon struggle to find their places in the lives of people who matter to them most.

What's worth saying about the second installment is that Clare's signature wit (that interestingly manifests itself in almost all the characters) is a refreshing comic relief even in the most dangerous fight scenes and confrontations. The plot somehow runs predictably but one still clings on to the next turn of the page. Some sections are expected to raise several eyebrows (both eyebrows in a single face at that) but will surely melt more hearts. With its curiosity-inducing foreshadowing, City of Ashes provides a satisfying piece of the puzzle of the search for the justification to the answer almost all readers of the novel already know.

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Monday, September 9, 2013

On Novels and Movies: The Mortal Instruments - City of Bones by Cassandra Clare and Unique Features & Constantin Film

(In which I tried to hit two birds with one blog post.)


We are in an ever-changing world of changes. One day, we were texting on noisy keypads. The next we are drooling over a fan-made video of a smartphone with keyboard and screen projection features. One day we were idolizing wholesome actors and actresses. The next, we wonder at their odd fashion sense and even odder dance moves. One day I was contented with reading historical fiction. Last week I lost some sleep for a gothic romance.             

That was rather an abrupt transition. But at least you get the picture.

Going back to that change-related introduction, as a reader I personally make it a point to read the novel from which a novel-turned-movie was based for the sheer assurance that I won’t awkwardly gape at the cinemas and bog my companion with questions regarding plot, or more embarrassingly, the script. So I had purchased my boxed set of Hunger Games before the movie was out. And I had read the first three books of the Percy Jackson series before I decided not to watch the Sea of Monsters. But for the movie adaptation of the City of Bones, the first of Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments series, I put off the reading because the trailer was exciting. 

But unfortunately, not all changes of hearts, or sudden lapse of judgment, or sudden disobedience to personal practices, happen to end up very positively.

The novel’s motion picture counterpart starring Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower is set in a modern New York City where Clary Fray (Lily Collins) lives the life of an ordinary teenager with her mom Jocelyn (Lena Heady), and her mom’s friend Luke Garroway (Aidan Turner). And when we picture out ordinary, we mean teenagers doing the stuff that basically make them happy (which, to Clary, happen to be painting and spending time with her bestfriend Simon [Robert Sheehan]), being confused with things that they do and occasionally having an argument with their parents, primarily because of the weird things that teenagers like Clary do. But Jocelyn has good enough reasons to be worried, though.

Clary’s ordinary life gets to a halt when she sees a trio of teenagers kill a man in a bar one night when she’s hanging out with Simon. Unfortunately, she seems to be the only one who sees them and she, for a time, believes she’s gone insane. From then on, Jace Wayland (Jamie Campbell Bower) appears and makes her feel even more scared. What’s worse, she realizes she’s been drawing a symbol and she thinks that it has something to do with her being the only one who can see people like Jace, and other creatures. She then learns that Jace is a demon slayer called Shadowhunter and that Clary can see him because she is not a mundane, or ordinary human. During their conversation, Clary receives a phone call from her mom warning her not to go home. Just as she asks for details, she hears terrible growling sounds and the line goes dead.

When Jocelyn officially gets missing, Clary accepts Jace’s offer to take her to the Institute. When they find out that a certain Valentine kidnaps Jocelyn and that she hid the Mortal Cup, Clary seeks Jace’s help, as well as the sibling tandem of Alec (Kevin Zegers) and Isabelle Lightwood (Jemima West), and Simon to bring her mother back. In the process, she learns the main reason why she can see the Shadowhunters, the great power of the Mortal Cup and who she really is. But unfortunately still, changes don’t seem to be friendly even for a movie heroine.

What’s good about the movie was primarily Lily Collins. Seriously. I liked her in Mirror, Mirror and she’s more adorable in this movie. Although she could use a bit more of novel-Clary’s sarcasm and wit. Jamie Campbell Bower, on the other hand, (as I keep on telling anyone who cares to ask about my take on the movie’s main characters), was dashing in his first appearance in the murder in the pub scene. But his charm seems to dry out the moment he took off his hood. But, surprisingly, he regained that charm in the next hour –and-so of the film, especially with those longing looks. But I’d definitely take the novel-Jace anytime. Campbell, I believe, lacks the ego and sexy rudeness that Clare described in her novel. 

What’s not so good about the movie is the same problem almost all movies based on novels suffered from – time constraints. The novel was a complicated mix of folklore, biblical allusions and character histories that 500 pages gave justice to. Converting that to a live action version composed of only a couple of hours is a terrible gamble. While watching the movie – and with no literary background at that – I seriously had to suspend whatever doubt and disbelief I had in my mind just to keep holding on to the plot, which didn’t make sense in most parts. What were left in the original 500-page story were dead ends and unexplained phenomena, simplified complications resulting to confusion and a love triangle made cheesy by the lack of the original and necessary weight of conflict. In the end, what really stuck was that the kissing scene at the greenhouse has been done in almost all Pinoy romantic soap operas and movies and that Johann Sebastian Bach was a Shadowhunter. (I swear I always had to fight laughing out loud whenever I recall the hidden Marks on Bach’s arms and neck in his portrait.)

Oh those, and the amazing soundtrack that literally sucks the life out of my phone. 

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