The first book that I’m going to review has a history in a subject that is near and dear to my heart: fanfiction. As someone who’s been on fanfiction.net since she was thirteen, I’ve seen the rise and fall of a lot of stories. Some of them became famous, or infamous, in the fanfiction world. One of these stories was the Draco Trilogy by Cassandra Clare, then called Cassandra Claire, but what’s an “i” between friends?

The Draco Trilogy has had a lot of influence on Harry Potter fandom. Things like Ginny’s full name being Ginevra and Lucius Malfoy being abusive have even hung on.1 And of course, we can all thank Clare for giving birth to the Draco in Leather Pants trope.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t interested in the story, which started as a sort of Freaky Friday plot where Harry and Draco switched bodies and moved from there. I just am not much of a Draco fan to begin with, and I thought that he was better as an obnoxious spoiled brat. Eventually the stories were taken down for plagiarism, and Clare’s account was deleted. She was basically rephrasing huge parts of dialog, scenes, descriptions, and even plot ideas from classic fantasy writers2 and claiming that it was hers. Since the story had a massive fan following, people raised a stink about Clare’s stories being deleted. Some took down their stories from the site, and many fans still refuse to believe the plagiarism thing. Having read the story, from the guy who actually reported the plagiarism, it seems like it was a pretty clear case of it.

At any rate, Clare has pretty much disowned the series, at least verbally.3 She took down the story, and you can only get it on a few other sites that saved the story themselves. That doesn’t mean a whole lot, as I’m about to show you.

Clare, as most of you know, went on to publish a book called City of Bones, the first in the Mortal Instruments series (at that time a trilogy). Here’s our official summary taken from Amazon:

When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder—much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing—not even a smear of blood—to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know. . . .

Exotic and gritty, exhilarating and utterly gripping, Cassandra Clare’s ferociously entertaining fantasy takes readers on a wild ride that they will never want to end.

This is an ambitious book. It wants to be the next Harry Potter, and it really is trying to be. The problem is that the fanfiction roots show so clearly that readers who know about them will either snicker appreciatively or have deja vu about many, many fanfics about how a normal girl meets the bad boy Ensemble Darkhorse of the series and they fall in love in and somehow their love leads to the end of some rather toothless evil. You heard me, people: this is self-insert HP fanfic with the names and locations changed to make it legal.

Plot

I will give Clare her credit: this story does have a plot, and it is a potentially interesting plot. If only she didn’t pause it so much and focused more on her plot and less on her romance.

Basically, the plot revolves around Clary4 Fray, a girl who accidentally sees three people kill another kid in some underage club. They mention that Clary shouldn’t have been able to see any of them, and when she tries to report what she saw, no one can see the body or the three killers. Even her best friend, Simon, who obviously has a thing for her and looks strangely like Harry Potter, doesn’t believe her.

The next day, Clary’s mother starts making seemingly frantic plans to leave New York, where the story is set, but Clary is wangsting too much about how she wanted to go to art school to notice. She goes out with Simon to some coffee shop despite the fact that she’s grounded, runs into one of the killers, and gets a call from her mom not to come back home. Clary, acting stupidly but at least somewhat sympathetically, goes back home to see what’s happened only to get attacked by a monster and saved by those same three kids as last time.

Like any good Sue, she’s knocked unconscious and wakes up in what is essentially a secret base for what are called Shadowhunters, humans who have taken in angel blood and acquired magic powers. They are supposed to maintain order in the supernatural world but really just parade around thinking they’re better than everyone and everything. It is explained to Clary that she shouldn’t be able to see the monster that attacked her or the Shadowhunters because she is a mundie (read: Muggle). Despite this obvious prejudice, they are curious about her, and Clary wants to find out what happened to her mother. As such, Clary joins up with them and tags along to see if she can find any clues about her mother. All the while she hears rumors about how a man called Valentine, who is considered dead and was something of a terror to the Downworlders, as all supernatural things are called, is very much alive and gaining power again.

This thing sounds a whole lot more interesting and exciting than it actually is.

The problem is not that there’s no plot; the problem is how the plot is handled. There are long periods where Clary seems to completely forget about her mother in order to spend more time learning about the Shadowhunter Jace, and his almost over-the-top abusive past. Things such as the fight between the werewolves and the vampires are introduced but not really explored, the plot drags in several places as the protagonists focus on what they’re going to wear to a party or something just as inconsequential, and the logic of Valentine’s evil plot, which has something to do with creating more Shadowhunters with the Cup of Awesome, AKA the Mortal Cup, and siccing them on the unsuspecting supernatural world, is confusing and full of holes.

Clary also shows times where she’s honestly more interested in her developing powers than in her missing mother. Once Clary and the others realize that she must be a Shadowhunter5 who has had some kind of spell blocking both her memories and her powers, she is perfectly willing to travel to the City of Bones, which is where some of the most powerful Shadowhunter mages who specialize in mental block type things live. Even though there’s not much of a chance that this is going to help her mother. She is also more interested in going to a magical party hosted by the almost painfully gay Magnus Bane, who also knows something about her mental block, than in finding information about her mother. There is also the matter of how she happily drags her friend Simon with her during these little adventuresand gets him turned into a rat and almost killed by vampires, which has no bearing on the story at all, and only learns more about her mother through plot convenience.

The plot pauses for large amounts of time for Clary to learn about our villain, Valentine, and his past history. While it is interesting to learn about his motivations and why he wanted to kill all magical things, it is not practical when you think of the other things Clary could be doing, such as learning how to fight whatever took her mother or trying to figure out just what took her mother and why. Granted, Clary slowly learns that her mother was married to Valentine6 before marrying her dead father, and that her mother was probably hiding from Valentine, but her actions don’t ring true for a fifteen-year-old girl whose mother just disappeared into thin air.

After some very confusing events including a minor character betraying Clary and some more or less pointless romantic tension, there is a confrontation between Clary, Jace, and Valentine which reveals that Clary and Jace are siblings and Valentine is the father of them both. Valentine eventually escapes with a the Cup, and while Clary does find her now-comatose mother, the whole thing is treated as secondary to the fact that Jace and Clary can no longer pursue their love.

As I said, the story does have a plot, and, in the hands of a good writer, it would have probably been a good one. Several things, such as the history of the war, the fact that Clary’s mother vanished, and Valentine’s plan to create an army could all have been potentially interesting. The problem was that the plot became confused at the end, and the romance took the forefront. As it is, the only thing I can say about this plot is pretty much what people say about the Draco Trilogy: stuff happens.

Characters

As a book that really wants to be Harry Potter, there are a lot of characters. Some of the background secondary characters are actually pretty good, and, because the book is in third person limited, it’s actually possible to get a feel for them. But, sadly, I’m focusing on our main characters, because they are the ones who really need to be examined.

Clary Fray is our protagonist, who bears a striking resemblance to Clare herself. She’s shown to enjoy drawing at the beginning (but doesn’t really seem interested as time goes on) and actually displays more survival instincts than a lemming. She is also an awful friend, an awful daughter, and an awful person. She never defends her so-called best friend from being sneered at for being a mundie by people she doesn’t even know, frequently forgets about the fact that her mother has been kidnapped and may be dead in favor of romance, and, the moment that the Shadowhunters turn up in her life, goes into ‘humanity is icky’ mode.7

Jace Wayland8 is our protagonist/badboy love interest for this novel. This kid is a piece of work. He is sociopathic. Jace actually enjoys killing things rather than just killing because, you know, it’s his job. He is arrogant and doesn’t seem to see others as actually having feelings, making such lovely statements as: “Declarations of love amuse me. Especially when unrequited.” He is stupid. (Oh, yes, I have mystical powers that are said to come from an angel, holy and religious objects do hurt monsters and demons, but I don’t really believe in angels or an afterlife or much of anything.) His angsty, abusive past is cliché, over-dramatic and overdone. He treats Clary like dirt, and he doesn’t seem to show any kind of redeeming value other than the fact that he’s good-looking. I almost have the feeling that this book is some kind of fanfic from an alternate universe where Jace is a secondary friend/rival character. Oh, wait, this is Harry Potter fanfic, of course!

Simon Lewis is Clary’s best friend, and he is awesome. Seriously, he’s snarky, funny, has interests outside of Clary, and tries to adapt to a situation which he never believed could exist and, honestly, I think he should break out of this canon and go hang out with Leah Clearwater, Charlie Swan, Pre-Eclipse Jacob, Murtagh, Zyn9 and possibly Aphrodite and Elliot from House of Night, and go fight crime or something. He’s pretty much abused throughout the entire book: getting turned into a rat, having his love interest, Clary, completely ignore the fact that Jace treats him like crap. He probably has even more hurt in store for him as he is not the Designated Love Interest. I feel for you Simon. You made the book. When I was fifteen, I would have wanted to date you.

Alec Lightwood is our Token Gay Guy. And that’s all. Seriously, this guy has no purpose in life other than to have a crush on Jace (because even the guys want this ass) and be jealous of Clary. Oh, and to appeal to Clair’s massive yaoi fanbase so that they can’t be accused of being stupid yaoi fangirls because now their slash fanfic has some root in canon. Oh, Jace treats him like crap too. Jace treats everyone (including his so called blood brother or whatever who has a crush on him) like crap. He doesn’t contribute to the plot, and even though he’s supposed to be able to fight, we rarely see him doing much of anything. What is the point of his character again?

Isabella Lightwood, like her brother, is mostly unimportant to the novel. She’s mostly there to be pretty and make Clary feel speshul because Jace likes Clary better than Isabella. She has a brief thing with Simon, but it’s passed off as nothing because, as Isabella is a Scary Sue, she couldn’t actually have tender emotions towards a normal person or like Simon because he’s funny, sarcastic, nice, and probably a fun guy to be around. Once again, what is her reason for existing again?

Valentine10 is our main antagonist for the novel. He’s…er…supposed to be sinister. The problem is when you hear his backstory, he’s actually more sympathetic than the good guys, and yeah… As far as he is concerned, the stuff about his relationships with the cast are like a combination of Voldemort and Draco Trilogy Lucius. He’s the abusive father that Lucius is in the fanfics (up to and including copying a story about a falcon near verbatim from the Draco Trilogy) and yet he’s fulfilling the role of a white haired Voldemort. I think that, if Valentine had a better name and was more unlikable than Jace, I could have accepted him as something of a well-intentioned extremist without too much trouble. The problem was that I hated Jace more.

Love Triangle

I hate these. Particularly when it’s not a love triangle because the girl is only interested in one of the guys, but it’s treated like one. It’s a staple of fanfic, and it’s in here. Even though it really doesn’t add to the story.

At all.

Obviously there’s one between Jace and Clary and Simon, but it’s completely clear from the third chapter on who’s going to win. The whole thing could have been taken out without really hurting the novel or the characterization all that much.

Actually, it might have helped things make a little more sense.

Setting

I’m not going to lie. I like the setting. I love fantasy done in a more or less modern setting. It can be fun, and interesting, and just awesome, and this book really tries to deliver that. As I said, it’s trying to appeal to the Harry Potter fanbase, and the setting does a good job of that. Even the Shadowhunter base, which needs to be explained some more, and the titular City of Bones are interesting ideas. I wanted more, and that’s a good thing.

Though some details are shall we say…not well explained, the overall idea is good. Therefore, I’ll give her a pass on it.

Mechanics

Clare can write dialog. It’s snappy, it reveals character, and it sounds mostly like things that a person would say. It also leads to some potentially funny conversations. So, no objections there.

Only…well…her dialog was the thing that was really caught for plagiarism. I’m not going to say that she made the same mistake, but there’s little actually original going on in the dialog, and those things that are original aren’t really paid much attention to.

The third person point of view is really the novel’s strongest point. I’ve been flooded with a lot of first person things lately, copying from Twilight and such, and to be able to step back and have some objectivity really helped. Her use of it worked well, and it conveyed the story a whole lot better than it would have if we had to wade through Clary’s head.

The actual sentence structure…wasn’t the best. I’m really not in the position to be taking potshots since I’ve got a love of really complicated sentences and have my fair share of typos and grammatical errors, but then again, her writing is supposed to be professional. Mine isn’t. Clare is too fond of adjectives and she tries too hard to sound like she knows how to write, flaunting her vocabulary until her writing comes across as…shall we say, violet.

In the Draco Trilogy, it wasn’t a big deal. It was free, decent quality, and I really didn’t care about some of the picky little things like flow and such. In a published novel, things are different. I’ve put down books Tithe by Holly Black simply because the sentence structure just was so awkward to me that I didn’t want to wade through the whole thing. While it wasn’t bad, it needed work, so, yeah, points off.

Theme

Er…being human is stupid and boring? Date the jerkoff because he’s sexy? Abuse is hot? Albinos are evil, evil people? If you’re a girl and you’re pretty, you’re probably a jerk?

Seriously now.

Really, I think that the book is much like Harry Potter in pushing ‘racism is evil’ as a main theme, but the theme is simplistically handled here, and the other themes just seem to stick out and take more prominence than the main one simply because it is so simplistic.

Mythology

As a folklore buff, I can say flat-out, this is a mess. While Clare’s done some research about angels and such, she doesn’t seem to understand the other creatures, such as the Fair Folk, and the more particular aspects of the generally accepted ideas about angels.

And don’t tell me it’s fiction so she can do what she wants. Angels are not like vampires. No one actually believes that vampires exist anywhere outside of folklore and movies anymore. If you want to make your vampire sparkle, you’re going to make me roll my eyes, but I’m not going to call you out. Angels are completely different as they are associated with religion. People actually believe in their existence, and they will get offended.

Not that I wouldn’t get a kind of thrill to see vampires that are actually written according to folklore, but that’s beside the point. I’ve seen so many ‘oh all the stories are wrong’ vampires that a novel where they weren’t wrong would really break the cliché.

Her ideas of vampires and werewolves come almost completely out of movies: even the idea of it being a ‘sickness’ and such. I honestly don’t think she’s done any research at all for these, and just wanted vampires and werewolves to be fighting one another. Even though she, like most authors, doesn’t even know where this idea came from.

Her runic magic system is interesting. I wasn’t sure about how it worked at some points, and it seemed like it would be a really bad thing to have to worry about in a quick fight, but it was (mostly) original. So, I’m happy enough with that.

Final Assessment

I wanted to like this book. I really, really wanted to like it. But I just don’t. The main character is annoying, the plot gets stupid at the end, the love interest is a creep, and any potential amongst the supporting characters is ignored.

Do I hate the book? No. It has some legitimately good ideas and character interactions. Some of the minor characters, such as Dorothea the fortune teller, really had some potential. So, no, I wouldn’t go around saying how this was the worst thing I’d ever read.

City of Bones reads just like what it is: a well written fanfic where the characters were renamed, the setting changed, and some details were altered so it was legal. The core remains the same, as do the characters. It’s funny, it has action, but it’s still fanfic.

Maybe the next novel in the series will help distance the story, but I somehow doubt it. I suppose I’ll find out once I manage to get my hands on a copy from my library.

Score: 3.5 out of 10

Footnotes

1 I’m still always finding abusive Lucius fics even though it’s pretty clear from the last books that he wasn’t.

2 Or Buffy. Or Black Adder. Or about anything else that she managed to come in contact with.

3 She’s also disowned The Very Secret Diaries, a Lord of the Rings fanfic which was admittedly pretty funny.

4 Clare? Clary? Come on, Clare, you’re a fanfic writer; you should know about obvious signs for a Sue.

5 Because she couldn’t possibly be human.

6 Which has nothing to do with her I’m sure.

7 This isn’t the first time that I’m going to rant about this in YA fiction, so get used to it.

8 Hai Draco Trilogy Draco! I didn’t miss you!

9 The only half-way sympathetic character in Legend of Rah and the Muggles

10 Hai Lucius Malfoy! You looked better with long hair!

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Comment

  1. swenson on 10 July 2012, 14:48 said:

    You’ve got some formatting issues—I think it may be because the quotation marks ended up being curly and Textile probably only accepts straight ones for making links.

    Otherwise, I’d heard of this book, but not the backstory of it and not what the book is actually about. Sounds… pretty mediocre to me. Yet another book with a potentially interesting plot that just doesn’t pan out. Oh well.

    Also, really, she wrote the Very Secret Diaries? I loved those things! “Still the prettiest.”

  2. swenson on 10 July 2012, 15:02 said:

    Also, I was looking around for other reviews of this, only to find that most of them are the gushy “BEST BOOK EVAAR!!1!” type. “Maybe Pryotra is exaggerating things,” I thought. Then I went to Amazon (which gives an average 3.8 stars) and looked through the “Most Helpful” reviews… yeah, the first one over three stars isn’t until page 6, and there’s a good couple dozen negative article-length reviews before it explaining just why it’s not really that good after all.

    As always, specific reviews matter a whole lot more than numbers!

  3. Pryotra on 10 July 2012, 16:11 said:

    Ah, I’ll fix that up then.

    Clare has a huge fanbase, as I’m sure you’ve just seen. It’s only built from her fanfic days, but most people don’t know about Clare’s past or her plagiarism. I thought that it would be best to give as much information about her.

    I was honestly pretty disinterested in it when I first saw it come out, but some people in my Creative Writing class recommended it to me, and I felt obligated to read. I should have known. She was the person who say that the main character of the Iron Fey series reminded her of me.

    Oh, a little more trivia for you: some of Clare’s friends and her writing group include SMeyer and Holly Black.

  4. Minoan Ferret on 10 July 2012, 16:50 said:

    Oh, a little more trivia for you: some of Clare’s friends and her writing group include SMeyer and Holly Black.

    That really doesn’t surprise me! And don’t some of the books have SMeyer saying she’d love to live in the world of the book or something?

    So, would you say she’s worthy of joining the ranks of Paopao, SMeyer, and Glo?

  5. Pryotra on 10 July 2012, 17:28 said:

    Oh yeah. Particularly attitude wise. She was incredibly self-righteous when her plagiarism got reported and still refuses to admit that she did anything wrong to my knowledge. She’s got a thing for sociopathic protagonists too. From what I hear, the main love interest in her Infernal Devices series is actually worse than Jace.

    Paopao to me is the least offensive. At least he seems like a nice enough person from the transcript you wrote, and he doesn’t go around claiming to be ‘anti-human’ like SMeyer or shamelessly promoting himself like Glo. He kind of reminds me of the fanfic writers in Naruto/Harry Potter fandom who like to write godlike Harry/Naruto fics where anyone who stands against Harry/Naruto is pretty much pulverized and takes himself way too seriously. Not a good thing, but not as bad as the others.

  6. Wraith Attendant on 10 July 2012, 17:38 said:

    There’s apparently going to be a film adaptation. Wall Street Journal did a write up of Clare, The New Queen of Fantasy

    It was part of a special they did on fanfiction. The main write up is fairly decent, if somewhat generalized in terms of fandoms. Though the warm and fuzzies are somewhat killed by the fact that this was inspired by Fifty Shades of Grey‘s success.

    That and the illustrated sildeshow decided to include M-Preg of all things….

  7. swenson on 10 July 2012, 18:10 said:

    Huh, Holly Black? You know, when I think of her, I just think of the Spiderwick Chronicles, which I remember liking.

    Oh dear goodness, MPreg. Of all the fanfiction concepts I wish I didn’t know about, that’s pretty high up on the list. The only thing to ever, ever do MPreg that I didn’t dislike is Red vs. Blue (which isn’t fanfiction, unless you really, really stretch the word), and that’s because it was completely played for laughs (and was an alien parasite, not actual pregnancy).

  8. Yoyo on 10 July 2012, 18:20 said:

    I’ve read these books, and I kind of like them. Not extremely much so I’m not part of any fanbase but they’re decently interesting. Mostly because I fell in love with the character Simon and he is now the sole reason to why I keep reading. I wish I could quit him.

    Anyway I totally agree with everything you said in this review. So many things bothered me and I never liked Jace, and to see so many young girls swooning over him and would like to have their own Jace just makes me uncomfortable. I find myself rolling my eyes and sighing over many cliches when I’m reading.

    Only 1 thing though. That Simon turned into a rat part of the book actually does matter a bit to the plot. Erhm, maybe not main plot but a fairly big side plot.

  9. Pryotra on 10 July 2012, 20:50 said:

    Yeah, I’m aware of the movie. I suppose it makes some sense since it’s a YA bestseller and all. Maybe I’ll end up feeling a strange kind of amusement the way I felt with the Twilight movies.

    That and the illustrated sildeshow decided to include M-Preg of all things….

    Because that and a Harry/Snape lemon are just the kinds of things that I want to introduce people to fanfic with.

    That Simon turned into a rat part of the book actually does matter a bit to the plot. Erhm, maybe not main plot but a fairly big side plot.

    I know that it’s going to affect the future books, but looking at it independently of the rest of the series, it seemed a little pointless to me. (Well, most of the plot seemed kind of pointless to me, but that’s another rant.) Also, it kind of showed me just who totally uncaring the Shadowhunters really were towards humans. The people they were supposed to be protecting. I can’t deny that I liked Simon as well though. He’s really the only somewhat decent character.

  10. Minoan Ferret on 11 July 2012, 03:06 said:

    Between this, Grey, and Twilight, I’m starting to wonder if girls these days really do want arrogant, borderline abusive jerks for boyfriends. Of course, it doesn’t matter how they act as long as they’re cultured/rich and good looking!
    Anyway, nice to see this on II.

  11. swenson on 11 July 2012, 08:16 said:

    I just realized something from your comment—“grey” with an e? For a book that is set in Washington and is supposed to be from the perspective of an American? That’s… implausible. While some Americans do spell “grey” that way, “gray” is much more common.

  12. sakuuya on 11 July 2012, 12:08 said:

    @swenson: I actually don’t think that applies to 50 Shades of Grey, since the title is a pun on Grey’s name rather than just a reference to the color, and names aren’t beholden to the American/British spelling thing.

  13. swenson on 11 July 2012, 14:04 said:

    Ahh, you know, you’re probably right. I had forgotten about that being his last name. I’ll drop that complaint, then.

  14. ThaArmada on 12 July 2012, 21:25 said:

    Girls actually do want arrogant borderline abusive relationships. How do I know? 10 longest lasting couples in my HS: between submissive girl and arrogant, borderline abusive boy. One of my friends knows this, but still acts arrogant borderline abusive because it always works nd he always gets the girl.

  15. Pryotra on 12 July 2012, 21:39 said:

    Excuse me while I go vomit.

    As a girl, that’s not always the case, but then again, in HS I wasn’t interested in a relationship. Period. I didn’t see the point in something that would inevitably break up. And now I’ve kind of outgrown that stage of life or something. But a lot a people I know in class don’t seem to have…

    Well, Jace is going to get worse. From what I’ve read about Clare’s latest joy, even a good portion of the FANS have issues with how Jace acts.

  16. ThaArmada on 12 July 2012, 21:42 said:

    could be that the real life thing has been influenced by YA-or the other way around. Both would be pretty bad.

  17. Pryotra on 12 July 2012, 21:54 said:

    After the book I’ve just finished, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was kind of both. It’s not like abusive male protagonists are anything knew to the world of romance. I think that one site has a list of signs you’re reading a bad book.

    One of them was the abusive guy, the other was if any woman gets pregnant without seeing a guy, and the baby’s name isn’t Jesus, and other one is if the ‘romance’ makes you google the nearest convent and look up applications.

  18. swenson on 12 July 2012, 23:18 said:

    other one is if the ‘romance’ makes you google the nearest convent and look up applications

    LOL! That’s a pretty good warning sign!

    Although you know, I was reading through the You Slay Me spork, and it did pretty much turn me off of the whole romance thing… maybe that convent isn’t such a bad idea.

  19. ThaArmada on 12 July 2012, 23:29 said:

    Idea: a YA novel where the girl falls in love with the bad boy-then he completely destroys her. Any thoughts on that novel concept?

  20. Kyllorac on 13 July 2012, 05:17 said:

    It’s been done before, and often badly. If you do decide to write it, please strive to make it more than just a TAKE THAT! against the romance genre.

  21. Pryotra on 13 July 2012, 08:17 said:

    Although you know, I was reading through the You Slay Me spork, and it did pretty much turn me off of the whole romance thing… maybe that convent isn’t such a bad idea.

    Well…yeah…that one was pretty sickening. And the plot was pretty incomprehensible really.

    It’s been done before, and often badly. If you do decide to write it, please strive to make it more than just a TAKE THAT! against the romance genre.

    Agreed. If you want to do it, have more of a plot than just what really happens in abusive relationships. That’s usually where those books go wrong. If you can make something more complicated, then I’m alright with it. Maybe you could write what appears to be standard Twilight Clone, but then in a later book have the girl realize that the guy is actually evil or something and she has to be the one to stand against him…

    Just a random thought.

  22. Kyllorac on 13 July 2012, 13:00 said:

    That’s usually where those books go wrong.

    Actually, those books tend to go wrong in a more fundamental area: the realistic treatment of abusive relationships. Rather than portray the relationship realistically and with any measure of respect for the people who have been victims of such abusive relationships, those books often go over the top in their portrayals of abuse, resulting in depictions that smack of sensationalism, exploitation of others’ suffering, and a complete disregard for thorough research and nuanced characterization.

    Abuse is not a gimmick or a plot point, and the more people that realize this across the board, the better.

  23. Pryotra on 13 July 2012, 14:18 said:

    That’s kind of what I meant, even if I didn’t say it all that well. When a book just focuses on the abuse, it generally goes either too far and pretty much revels in it or just as it as a means to an angst. Therefore giving rise to some nuts like one girl on FF.net who didn’t believe that rape existed. According to her it was all lies and sensationalism.

    Also, as a rule, psychological abuse and emotional abuse are much, much more common than physical abuse to my knowledge. I think that a lot of the mistakes that writers make is writing abuse as a purely physical thing, instead of it being a case where the guy slowly breaks down the girl’s independence, separates her from her friends and family, and pretty much dominates her in every way that he can. Rather like most paranormal romance male protagonists do.

    As I’m not sure that I’d actually have the talent to show an abusive relationship in its entirety, I’d have to have it be there as a sort of subversion of the paranormal romance or something where the girl slowly realizes that what the guy is doing is not in any way romantic.

    I think I said that better.

  24. swenson on 13 July 2012, 14:26 said:

    And the problem with the obviously abusive relationships is… well, once someone starts hitting another person, it’s a lot easier to say “Something’s wrong here.” It’s when it’s more subtle—watching a person while they sleep, say, or removing parts of their car so they can’t visit their other friends—that it becomes ever more difficult to pin down exactly why it’s abusive. Yes, I know there’s cases where a person is physically abused, yet stays in a relationship, but that’s because of the simultaneous, much more subtle psychological/emotional abuse taking place simultaneously.

    So the physical side of stuff, yes, we all know punching your girlfriend (or boyfriend, let’s not neglect that side) is a terrible thing. But controlling your girl/boyfriend… that’s just as bad, it’s just harder to point to one thing and say “see, this is why you know it’s abusive.”

    I should add, that’s why writing about abuse is tricky. It’s very easy to write about the physical stuff, which can quickly start to sound sensationalist. It’s very hard to show the mental stuff.”

  25. Pryotra on 13 July 2012, 14:29 said:

    Maybe someone should write about a controlling, abusive girlfriend? We do tend to forget that those exist.

  26. Kyllorac on 13 July 2012, 15:32 said:

    Except that we also have to keep in mind that women have a hard enough time as it is with perceptions of them using their sexuality as a weapon, slut-shaming, being manipulative bitches, etc. Stories that deal with emotionally abusive female-on-male relationships, while realistic and woefully underrepresented in fiction, could easily be used to justify and reinforce a lot of horrible stereotypes and preconceptions about women.

    Not to say it isn’t possible to write such a story in such a way that it’s explicitly clear that not all women are like that, but considering how often (especially online) women are characterized as being bitches, whores, and a whole slew of denigrating terms, it would take a hell of a lot of skill and commitment to realism (which would include incorporating a range of important female characters who are not abusive) to make such a story work without unintentionally demonizing women.

    Because the funny thing is, even in romance novels that feature abusive relationships, there’s almost always at least one male character who is truly decent. Even funnier (and sadder) though is that having just one such female character in the gender-flipped story probably wouldn’t be enough to balance out the representation of women.

  27. Pryotra on 13 July 2012, 16:01 said:

    Amen on slut-shaming. There’s one girl in one of the joys I’m going to review that seems to have no other point to existing than to be shamed. And most of the shaming doesn’t even make sense. It’s completely ridiculous and demeaning. What’s really bad is when they slut shame a girl for having more than one boyfriend in her life even when she didn’t sleep with anyone. I’ve seen that before too.

    How dare a woman possibly decide that some relationship just wasn’t working for her and decide to break it up and find someone else. Doesn’t she know about Twu Wuv!

    Even funnier (and sadder) though is that having just one such female character in the gender-flipped story probably wouldn’t be enough to balance out the representation of women.

    True. It would be a lot of work to write that story without having a bunch sexists jumping on the thing and using it to justify their hating on women or just turning them into sex objects in male oriented fiction. Not that women don’t do the same thing…

    I hate stereotypes. Everyone’s wrong.

    (I’ve recently read some woman who was of the opinion that any relationship between a man and a woman was rape. The woman was just submitting to the patriarchy or something. Seriously, how is that any different from a man saying that all women are just whores who use a man to get what they want?)

  28. ThaArmada on 13 July 2012, 17:01 said:

    I could write it, once I’m done with my current writing project. It would take a couple years to get the quality down though.

  29. Scarlet Specter on 13 July 2012, 18:54 said:

    Stories that deal with emotionally abusive female-on-male relationships, while realistic and woefully underrepresented in fiction…“ You may be wrong there. Ever heard the term Tsundere? I think part of the problem may be that women can get away with hurting their other half (hitting, insults, jealousy, etc.) and it’s seen as cute and funny; while if the gender roles were reversed, it’d be seen as creepy and abusive.

    In it’s own way, the use of “Tsundere” can be slightly condenscending toward women. It could imply that if a woman gets mad at a man (no matter how justified this anger may be), the man shouldn’t sweat it because it only means she secretly wants to jump his bones, is playing hard to get, or just can’t understand her feelings yet. Either way, she doesn’t have an opinion and her feelings are reduced to her relationship with a man.

    Abusive male love interests have been around forever. Girls have always wanted “Bad Boys”. It’s just that, now that we’re expected to believe this behavior is actually desirable thanks to Twilight and its many ripoffs, it’s becoming a more pressing issue.

  30. ThaArmada on 13 July 2012, 20:00 said:

    Nice point there. Im guessing then Twilight started this whole trend? If it did then thats another reason to burn Meyer to the ground.

  31. Scarlet Specter on 13 July 2012, 20:59 said:

    To ThaArmada, I don’t think Twilight is all to blame, though it certainly plays a big part in it. Like I side, girls have always wanted “Bad Boys”. You see this in fandom treatment of Draco Malfoy (come on, the Draco Trilogy owes its entire popularity to this phenomenon). The allure is a tortured, misunderstood rebel who only needs a gentle girl’s love to be healed and redeemed.

    A lot of Edward’s appeal may stem from the fact that, for once, where so many competent storytellers have warned us against it, we’re finally told that it’s good to want someone like this. So, in essence, he’s simply a reversed Draco In Leather Pants. I think girls who love him as the hero would’ve loved him just as much if he were portrayed more realisticly (i.e. as a villainous creep). The only difference between Edward Cullen and Draco Malfoy are their roles in their stories.

    So obviously something was already there. It just took the right trigger to ignite it to get to this level. All Twilight and Mortal Instruments are is glorified FanFiction. You have your self-insert with no identity, Bella and Clary (or Cassandra Clare), and object of desire constructed so that tween girls can cream themselves. That’s what makes these books so marketable.

  32. Pryotra on 13 July 2012, 21:32 said:

    I have to agree. In many ways, the original gothic genre was kind of wrapped around this idea. So if our great great something grandmothers were gushing over dark tortured men, and Byronicn heroes than what makes us so different? If you look at FFVII fanfic, you’re going to see a lot of Sephiroth in Leather Pants getting hooked up with some random girl who understands him. Same with Yu-Gi-Oh. Seto Kaiba got a HUGE misaimed fandom.

    It’s not that abusive jerks are anything new. It’s that girls are allowed to gush over them now without fanfic to rape their original personalities. The soulless Twilight clones are the same. Vapid, personality free heroines, abusive boyfriends, useless parents, all there so that young girls can experience the joys of being a Speshul Snowflake without the risk of actually getting hurt. Yet. I’d be more or less uninterested in the whole thing, if it wasn’t for the fact that these girls really and seriously justify these characters just as much as they justify such characters as Sweeney Todd. They claim moral dissonance or a bad past.

    Another problem that I think that we, as readers tend to do is not look at characters objectively. For instance, Snape was never really supposed to be seen as a good person or a bad person. He did utterly horrible things and he did morally right things. Neither really cancelled one another out all that well. The fandom tends to forget that and portray him as a poor woobie who never deserved anything that happened to him and Lily was totally stupid to reject his love for a more well adjusted jerk who eventually grew up and stopped being so much of a jerk.

  33. ThaArmada on 13 July 2012, 21:59 said:

    I’m just saying, I like how this discussion is turning into something somewhat intelligent instead of unstoppable RAGE.

  34. Pryotra on 13 July 2012, 22:08 said:

    Wait until my Hush Hush review. There’s going to be some rage.

    Though it is kind of nice that we’re able to sit and talk about this whole thing and like adults.

  35. ThaArmada on 13 July 2012, 22:10 said:

    Hush hush is the angel one, right?

    The only angels I believe in are the Vorlons, and as far as I know they don’t get it on with humans.

  36. Scarlet Specter on 13 July 2012, 22:21 said:

    The fandom tends to forget that and portray him as a poor woobie who never deserved anything that happened to him and Lily was totally stupid to reject his love…“ Ugh! Don’t even get me started on that. I swear some fangirls can be so shameless.

    But, what you’ve said really makes me wonder…If Bella and Clary had actual spines and were respectable characters, would they get the same treatment as Lily? I mean look at how some fanfics pair Hermoine with Draco. Like I said, Edward would probably be just as beloved even if he got the villainous treatment he so rightly deserves. But what if Bella were to object to his BS like any sane, self-respecting girl would? Would she really gain any sympathy or respect? Would as many people want her to end up with (pre-Eclipse) Jacob who treats her like a respectful boyfriend would? Or would they cry “Ooh, Foe Yay; they’re like totally into each other!” and ship her with Edward? And would Jacob end up like The Phantom of the Opera’s Raoul in the fandom’s eyes?

    I think some girls just like to think with their emotions or desires no matter how hurtful the scenario. Snape was motivated by his love for Lily. In her position, these girls would swoon. But, Lily did the mature thing and rejected him, thereby breaking his heart and ruining their fantasy. I’ve seen the same girls who criticize Twilight, share this sentiment.

    If Twilight were more realistic in it’s portrayal of Bella and Edward’s relationship, would the same girls who criticize it, be on Edward’s side?

  37. Kyllorac on 13 July 2012, 23:35 said:

    You may be wrong there. Ever heard the term Tsundere? I think part of the problem may be that women can get away with hurting their other half (hitting, insults, jealousy, etc.) and it’s seen as cute and funny; while if the gender roles were reversed, it’d be seen as creepy and abusive.

    I’m going to call misreading due to sentence structure here. I didn’t mean that female-on-male abuse was not depicted at all, but rather than female-on-male abuse, even when depicted realistically (which it rarely is), could be used to reinforce/affirm sexist roles and stereotypes. Tsundere are by no means realistic portrayals.

    I probably should’ve structured that particular sentence better.

  38. Minoan Ferret on 14 July 2012, 17:10 said:

    Maybe someone should write about a controlling, abusive girlfriend? We do tend to forget that those exist.

    I tried it, based loosely on personal experience (although she never got as far as actual girlfriend status). The trouble is, it (the writing) just didn’t seem to work all that well. I could just imagine people seeing the protagonist coming across as oblivious and weak-willed more than anything, and her as strong, independent, you know, the usual cliches. It would take a far better writer than myself to pull it off convincingly.

    The only angels I believe in are the Vorlons, and as far as I know they don’t get it on with humans.

    “Who are you?”

  39. ThaArmada on 14 July 2012, 22:40 said:

    “I am TheArmada, illuminator of the shadows”

  40. Nate Winchester on 11 August 2012, 00:54 said:

    It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk.

    I will not make the obvious joke… Oh damn.

    the logic of Valentine’s evil plot, which has something to do with creating more Shadowhunters with the Cup of Awesome, AKA the Mortal Cup, and siccing them on the unsuspecting supernatural world, is confusing and full of holes.

    Like… how that’s a bad thing?

    While it is interesting to learn about his motivations and why he wanted to kill all magical things, it is not practical when you think of the other things Clary could be doing, such as learning how to fight whatever took her mother or trying to figure out just what took her mother and why.

    Or here’s an interesting thought: the villain’s and hero’s goal sort of coincide (after all, I’m sure Valentine killing all magical things would free her mom from whatever is holding her). Oh look, CONFLICT!

    Jace Wayland

    I think you misspelled that. ;)

    I love fantasy done in a more or less modern setting. It can be fun, and interesting, and just awesome, and this book really tries to deliver that.

    [struggling… to… not… self-promote…]

    Really, I think that the book is much like Harry Potter in pushing ‘racism is evil’ as a main theme, but the theme is simplistically handled here, and the other themes just seem to stick out and take more prominence than the main one simply because it is so simplistic.

    Isn’t it also contradicted by the whole ‘humanity is icky’ mode you mentioned earlier?

    At least he seems like a nice enough person from the transcript you wrote, and he doesn’t go around claiming to be ‘anti-human’ like SMeyer or shamelessly promoting himself like Glo.

    But he’s so pro-elf, I wonder how you tell the difference.

    Agreed. If you want to do it, have more of a plot than just what really happens in abusive relationships. That’s usually where those books go wrong. If you can make something more complicated, then I’m alright with it. Maybe you could write what appears to be standard Twilight Clone, but then in a later book have the girl realize that the guy is actually evil or something and she has to be the one to stand against him…

    I thought they called that “Buffy”.

    Like I side, girls have always wanted “Bad Boys”.

    I heard an older woman say once (so I consider this pretty wise), that “all girls go through a ‘jerk’ phase.” The real question is apparently whether she grows out of it or not.

    So combine our current culture’s obsession with age and horror at growing up… one can see the obvious pattern resulting.

    I think girls who love him as the hero would’ve loved him just as much if he were portrayed more realisticly (i.e. as a villainous creep).

    I’m still sticking by my theory that he’s enough of a tabula rasa that almost any girl can find ANYTHING about Edward to like.

    sane, self-respecting girl would?

    There’s sane girls out there? ECREE!

    (I kid I kid [dodges flying cookware])

    I didn’t mean that female-on-male abuse was not depicted at all, but rather than female-on-male abuse, even when depicted realistically (which it rarely is), could be used to reinforce/affirm sexist roles and stereotypes.

    Technically speaking… that could be true of anything. Heck, even all this male-on-female abuse could be reinforcing/affirming sexist roles and stereotypes as we speak. On and on, ad infinitum. At the end of the day, all we can do is tune what we can of the world out, and take the story on its own terms and world.

    And then call it out when it still sucks.

  41. simon forever on 23 December 2012, 13:46 said:

    So true!
    Clary is a bitch, pathetic, stupid, selfish, love who abuses her best friend, anything else?
    Jace is arrogant, nasty, arrogant, womanizer, thug, idiot, abusive Simon and thinks he idol. You jump off a cliff. Absorb – no one likes you.
    Simon only remarkable character name. Is sweet, thoughtful, courageous, caring to his friends, caring, polite, pass abuse throughout the book: Jace Mtieichs him like dirt, his best friend was not paying him and protect him, he becomes a rat, was kidnapped by vampires and generally that cartoon abducts the Hboksim, fires prints falls off a cliff and somehow still alive. Simon’re amazing, do not put on Jace and Clary. You’re perfect, and I’ll marry you.

  42. Diddlum on 15 March 2013, 10:35 said:

    Reading through this book I honestly thought I was the only one who liked Simon. I had the feeling that he wasn’t supposed to be liked at all because he wasn’t as prettiful as Jace, whom I hated. He was such a prick to everyone for no reason whatsoever. I’d understand if people were putting him down because of who his father was and this caused him to become all; “I’m my own person damn it! Don’t judge me because of him”. But no. He’s treated as some super awesome angel boy from Heavenly Heaven and is thus crowned King of All Things Awesome. He has no reason to act the way he does and I just wanted him to get that nine inch pole out of his ass.
    I may be wrong on some parts here because I haven’t read the book in maybe two years. All I remember is Clary doing nothing and Jace being mean and Ridiculously Gay Guy being ridiculously gay.
    But really the character who had annoyed me the most was Clary. I mean come on. Your mother’s missing! Who gives a flying fuck about Jace, your mother’s MISSING!!!! And in a coma. Please Clary stop being a blithering eejit. I never understood this; “Doop, doop, e, doop, oh my mom’s been captured by some unknown and evil force and will probably die unless I save her??? OH JACE IS HERE FFHIFKBBFHGASM DOES HE NOTICE ME???!!”.
    I hate you Clary.
    Simon; you’re cool. I wish you didn’t look like Harry Potter though. Seriously all the way through the book; “WINGARDIUM LEVIOSA!!”. I kind of hoped for Simon to just randomly pull out a broom from somewhere and fly away yelling; “Screw this, I’m going home”.
    That would be the most beautiful ending ever.

  43. What the hell on 2 July 2013, 19:36 said:

    If you really read this book you wouldn’t agree. The only thing I agree with is how clary seemed to forget about her mother at certain points. I wasn’t able to put this book down, or the other ones following it. It’s an amazing book and you get attached to characters.

  44. Pryotra on 2 July 2013, 19:46 said:

    If you really read this book you wouldn’t agree.

    I love this argument. So, basically, your point is that it is impossible to read a book and then disagree with your opinion. Pleasant.

    I wasn’t able to put this book down,

    It’s an amazing book and you get attached to characters.

    Once again, your opinion.

    You’ve failed to tell me why my points are invalid, what exactly you disagree with, or even attempted to refute me other than stating opinion without backup. Also, I have to ask, did you really expect a review called ‘The Negative Reader’ to give you a glowing review of how great the thing was?

  45. Adina on 30 June 2014, 23:47 said:

    I know this article was written forever ago, but if you DO want to read The Very Secret Diaries, I found this link: http://www.ealasaid.com/misc/vsd/ .