Before diving in, a bit of housekeeping. I don’t intend for these columns to serve as reviews, though in this case, I do highly recommend all of Cassandra Clare’s books, especially if you enjoy Young Adult Urban Fantasy. Also, I will do my best to keep these articles spoiler free. I would never ruin a good book for a future reader! Now on to business.
Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series consists of six books, City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, City of Lost Souls, City of Fallen Souls, and City of Heavenly Fire (to be released March 2014 – yeah, I know, the wait is killing me). The story follows Clary Fray as she discovers the world is full of demons, vampires, werewolves, warlocks and the part-angel Shadowhunters that protect the ignorant humans from them.
As I read these books, I couldn’t stop. I read while waiting in the car to pick up the kids, I read while I ate lunch, and I read instead of making dinner (Culver’s should give Clare a percentage of their profits). I read way past my bedtime and over my tea in the morning. I couldn’t stop.
How did Clare so completely hook me? Sure, her characters are interesting, her descriptions engaging and her world-building effortless. But that wasn’t it. Every chapter ended in a place where a question needed an answer. Maybe it was a cliffhanger, or new information that changed everything I already knew. Either way, I had to keep going to learn what the characters would do next.
Throughout the series, Clare expertly dribbles pieces of information; Clary seeing strange people her friends can’t see, her mom disappearing after an attack, learning Clary’s father is dead (don’t worry, all of this stuff happens in the beginning and isn’t giving anything away, I promise). At first, they don’t seem related, but as we learn more, they start to fit together like a puzzle.
As a reader, I needed that next piece that would add a little more to the entire picture. By holding out on this information, Clare kept me right where she wanted me – reading. I had to know more about Clary’s father, where the Shadowhunters came from, why humans didn’t see all the supernatural beings living among them, and why warlock Magnus Bane couldn’t ever return to Peru (I’m still waiting for this answer).
As a writer, I’m tempted to answer all the questions quickly. I’m too excited to share it all. But if I drop all the answers in the beginning, why would you keep reading? Conversely, withholding all the juicy bits till the end of the book, or worse, the end of a series will turn readers off too.
For Clare, each answer revealed another inch to the puzzle. As each morsel appeared at perfectly timed intervals, I gathered them, and tried to guess at what the final image would be. But it won’t be until I get the final pieces of information, that I’ll see the full picture (hurry up 2014).
So, dear reader, I’ll work on collecting all my tasty nuggets, breaking them into bits, then dropping them in such a way that you’ll be surprised and pleased with the final picture.
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