Now that the Twilight books have had their moment, there's a hole in the middle of the young adult publishing market. Something is desperately needed to plug it. Could it be Cassandra Clare's urban fantasyfest The Mortal Instruments?
All the signs seem good for this series that kicked off in 2007, and with sequels and prequels and movies already in the works, Clare has pressed a button that most writers only dream of.
The title of the first novel is enigmatic enough. The cover is darkly inviting, and the story ticks everything on the checklist of reader expectations. City of Bones hit number 8 on the New York Times bestseller list, and with the next four titles already in bookshops (and the final instalment due out in spring), if you get hooked on the opener, you can move straight on to the next episode.
Along with London, New York is a favourite city for fantasy writers to unleash paranormal activity. The Big Apple is where 15-year-old Clarissa "Clary" Fray lives, and Clare starts her story off on the right foot by giving her potential heroine a standout name, one that marks her out for adventure.
Clary is in a nightclub one night when she witnesses a boy with blue hair being attacked by three very odd-looking teenagers. Security is called, but there's a big problem. Clary is the only person in the club who saw the attack, or the attackers. No one else noticed a thing. But people thinking she's crazy is the least of Clary's problems.
Events in her once-normal life just get weirder from this moment on. When she gets home, she discovers her apartment ransacked and a demon waiting to attack her. She is rescued by one of the teenagers she saw in the club, and taken to a safe house called the Institute.
Clary has been introduced to the world of the Shadowhunters, the descendents of angels, whose job is to fight werewolves and warlocks. Unbeknownst to her, Clary has a gift that the Shadowhunters recognise and want to use.
There is a large cast and a lot going on in City of Bones, and the plot hurtles along at full speed. Clare takes readers into a complicated world with twists and dark shadows down every alley, yet never forgets most of her characters are still teenagers, going through the sorts of ups and downs and unsureness all youngsters face. But while packed, there's never too much to take in in this confident first novel.
John Millen can be contacted on [email protected]