The Good, The Bad, and What The?: Clary Fray from The Mortal Instruments series


Welcome to this week’s article of The Good, Bad, and What The?, where we took a good, long look at characters in movies, video games, anime, and books and put them on the judgement table to see if they are worthy to be in their respective stories. I strongly believe well developed characters are more important than anything else in a good story, so I always judge them hard. At the end of every character’s evaluation I will give them one of four ratings: Good for those characters that are developed and deserve their place in the story, Bad for those characters that have no place being made or interacting with anyone else in the story, What The for the characters I just can’t figure out, and the characters who are dull as dishwater will get the rating of Sack of Potatoes. Today on the judgement table? Clary Fray, the main character of “The Mortal Instruments” series.

(Spoiler Heavy Article)

“The Mortal Instruments” revolves around Clary Fray, a young sixteen year old girl who thinks she is just a normal teenager but finds out this isn’t the case. Clary gets involved in the world of  Shadowhunters, a group of ancient warriors that protect the normal world of the mundanes, or regular humans. In the first book, “City of Bones“, Clary’s mother is missing and she finds out that the Shadowhunter traitor Valentine is the one who took her. Valentine has also taken one of the Mortal Instruments. The Mortal Instruments are objects given to the shadow hunters by the angel Raziel. Valentine has the Mortal Cup, which he plans to control demons with. Clary has to work with her new Shadowhunter friends Alec, Isabelle, and Jace to get her mother back and stop Valentine.

Clary in the City of Bones movie

Right from the start, Clary shows an immense amount of courage. She has to face great danger and enter a world of mystical creatures and ancient warriors to try and save her mother. This is Clary’s first major point towards advancing as a character, she is a young girl but is very strong willed. Clary is also described as being a very casual and calm girl. She dresses in simple things like sweatshirts and jeans all the time, which I think makes her very easy to relate to. She is a very real girl. Clary is also a polar opposite to Isabelle, who always dresses pretty and does her makeup all the time. This contrast gives a good way to decide which characters you really love. Clary also shows her wits as she has to find answers to many situations she can’t solve with fighting like the Shadowhunters can. Clary, however, is not just a regular mundane. Clary’s mother is an escaped Shadowhunter, which means Clary is also a Shadowhunter herself. This twist to the story gives Clary new resolve she now feels she is a bigger part of this magical world.

However, after learning about her new identity, Clary does not immediately turn into a warrior. By the start of “City of Ashes“, Clary tries to return to a some what normal life, although her mother is still trapped in an eternal sleep. Clary can’t keep this normal living up, she is now fully part of this new world. Trying to return to her normal life was an interesting shift in the story. You would think she would want to jump into the warrior lifestyle as soon as possible. Her reaction, however, is much more sensible; she gets almost scared and weary of this new world and tries to fight it at first. This makes more sense in general. She evens starts to have a normal teenage problem: she isn’t sure if she in love with her best friend Simon. Unfortunately, nothing Clary does can keep her out of her new world. Valentine has reemerged, and Clary wants revenge for what he did to her mother. Clary doesn’t tackle things all alone, she is a very smart character and gets help from her new friends. Struggling with this new conflict and world is a very real reaction. You really empathize with Clary’s feelings and understand her fear. But true to her character, none of this fear deters her she fights on. By the end of the second book, you find out Clary has the special power to create new runes. Runes are magical drawings that Shadowhunters put on their skin that enhance their fighting abilities, like giving them more agility or strengh. This adds a whole new layer to Clary as a character, as she is now a very powerful Shadowhunter.

Jace in The City of Bones movie
Jace in The City of Bones movie

City of Glass” starts off with Clary finding out she has new powers and a way to wake her mother up. To wake her mother up, she has to travel to the Shadowhunter’s capital city, Alicante. Clary has another difficult challenge now, she has to travel to a new world and deal with brand new customs.  You have really grown to like Clary at this point as she has dealt with many situations and used her brain to get through them all. Clary also has shown great perseverance in all of this turmoil. She is working in this new world and dealing with this new people to try and save her mother that she loves and is now more conflicted because she doesn’t love her friend Simon, but she loves Jace. She still has to put her teenage girl problems behind and has to find a way to save her mother. Clary is a girl that is very easy to relate to and is very understandable, because she is a teenage girl but at the same time is slowly growing into a warrior. At one point in the third book, Clary puts some old Shadowhunter gear she found. This was a good use of symbolism, and foreshadows showing her growing change. She is also at the same time learning how to control and use her power to create new runes effectively. Much of the third book is about Clary’s growth. Alicante also seems to make Clary more at ease with the new life she must live. Once the third book is over, Clary feels like she can be truly happy now because her mother is back and she can be with Jace.

The fourth book, “City of Fallen Angels“, begins with Clary’s full training into being a Shadowhunter. Jace takes it upon himself to train her because he is one of the best young Shadowhunters. Much of the fourth book, however, actually revolves around Simon and his troubles. Clary takes a bit of a break in the fourth book. Her character becomes simpler, she is training to fight but nothing unbelievable or shocking really happens to her. This is actually a good thing, as it gives the reader a chance to focus on the other character’s development. In a five book series, the main character does not have to change dramatically in every single book, so it’s good that she relaxes in this part of the story.

Simon in The City of Bones movie
Simon in The City of Bones movie

Clary really becomes a character that you love by the fifth book. She has learned to use her ability to make runes to great effect and has used it to overcome problems. On top of her power, Clary is now a fairly skilled fighter and begins to take charge. She was always a headstrong character, but now she can fight for herself. She is still just as intelligent as before, however, coming up with plans to defeat her new found opponent (I’m going to keep his name secret). There is one particular part in the fifth book, “City of Lost Souls“, where Clary is fighting a group of demons and kills three of them. The real importance to this part is that she does not simply use brute force, she beats them because she is clever. The first demon she kills by flinging a dagger into its neck and then stabbing the second demon. The third demon now comes at her and she doesn’t have a weapon, so she quickly tears a flag out of a stand and stabs the demon through the throat with it. After killing the demons, Clary gets a huge rush, the high of battle, and becomes almost aroused from the feeling. This part is very important as it illustrates she can truly kill and fight like a Shadowhunter now, but more importantly, she enjoys the feel of battle. This is actually almost jarring, as she has not shown this skill before in the story and I personally really liked this development. Clary finds herself even doing this a second time she is attacked by demon with no weapon. To kill it, she rips a decorative axe off of a wall and kills it with that. This is a huge change of personality in her but she is still Clary after the fighting is over.

I tried to keep out as many spoilers as I could, as this series has many big plot twists. And now for my verdict of Clary: Good. In fact, Clary is really good. Clary has many aspects to her that make her a beautifully designed main character. She is a girl who is relatable, real, tough, and smart. She is not some weird, over sexualized female who can’t handle herself. In fact, most of the women in this series are the tougher ones. On top of these traits, she becomes just plain awesome, killing demons and not being afraid of any villain. Clary is an excellent main character and “The Mortal Instruments” is a fantastic book series that I suggest all you fantasy lovers like myself should read. And although I recommend reading the books, you can also buy the movie here.