By Ethan Newton-Hamer
As part of our ongoing ‘Comfort Reads’ series, Ethan Newton-Hamer shares the story which initially led them to discover the Mortal Instruments series!
My literary adventure into Young Adult fiction, and also one of my few comfort reads, began with Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. This wasn’t by any means the first book which inspired my love for reading. However, it was the first book to introduce me into the spectacular and surprising world of Young Adult fiction and one of the only books I’ve re-read multiple times.
The Mortal Instruments was, in no way, a new book series. Making its debut in 2007, it had already been on the New York Times Bestseller for 102 consecutive weeks by the time I stumbled across it in 2013 – just a few months before the release of it’s silver screen adaption. Admittedly, I was only drawn into the book because of what I had seen advertised for the film and bought the book without reading the blurb. But upon diving into the first few pages I found myself in familiar – almost uncanny – territory. The first chapter had echoes of cult TV hits like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel; shows which already held a special place in my heart. So in a sense, The Mortal Instruments was a comfort read before I had even finished reading it.
Throwing together a fast paced story; a brand new magical world; an unhealthy amount of witty and sarcastic characters and I had myself a new favourite book and found myself eager and hungry for more. Luckily for me, the world of The Mortal Instruments (or Shadowhunter Chronicles, as it’s now been rebranded), includes a prequel series set in an atmospheric Victorian London – parts of which take place in our very lovely city of York – and a sequel series which takes place in the sunny and sandy city of Los Angeles. Not to mention the countless novellas, short stories and special edition books which have subsequently been released. But despite this plethora of reading material, nothing has quite compared to the feeling of reading that first book. To being thrust into the streets of New York city; from Fairies in Central Park to Werewolves in Brooklyn. To being a part of this expansive and enchanting world. So, it’s no wonder that it is one of the few series I’ve returned to for a re-read.
Another reason I consider The Mortal Instruments a comfort read is the where and when I read the first book. To set the scene: fourteen year old Ethan is travelling through the shelves of WHSmith’s on a sunny afternoon in a tourist packed Torquay. He spies the first two books in The Mortal Instruments series. With his left over spending money, he buys them. Not only because he’s been intrigued by the film trailer, but because he’s obsessed with their title; The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. Just the promise of such a dark and mysterious place such as the City of Bones is enough to prompt him to start reading as soon as he gets back to the car. He finishes the book in two days, and goes onto the sequel, City of Ashes (honestly, the titles of these books are so wicked!) soon after.
The mesmerising story of half-angel, half-human demon hunters encapsulated me. Not to mention the clever twists and turns which have now become a trademark of Young Adult fiction. Additionally, it also included one of the first gay characters I had ever read about. This was the biggest of deals to me. As a young boy trying to figure out who I was, it was so monumentally important to see an LGBT character portrayed in a healthy and badass way.
But it wasn’t until I entered my final, incredibly stressful, year in sixth form that I suddenly found myself reaching for something familiar to read. It wasn’t so much a conscious decision to re-read The Mortal Instruments. I just happened to be looking at it on my bookshelf and before long I was reading it. Opening it’s frayed pages and bent spine (I promise this is not the state of all my books) I found myself transported back to the first time I read it. With the smell of sea brine and hot car air seemingly transfused with the words I was reading. It was an escape I didn’t know I needed. Just this feeling of nostalgia is enough for me to call The Mortal instruments my all time comfort read.
Ethan is a second year English Literature and Creative Writing student at York St. John University. He has passion for writing Young Adult fiction in which marginalized and minority figures are front and center. He is also a fan of all things nerdy and sci-fi and is currently writing an alternative history novel.
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