The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (6 Differences Between the Book and the Movie)

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I was one of the lucky people who had the chance to see The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones this past week at the Toronto premiere. I thought the movie was very well done and I’m already counting down the days until the 21st so that I can see it again. Until then, I have put together a short list of 6 differences between the book and movie. Spoilers ahead, you’ve been warned!.

Simon doesn’t turn into a rat.

Simon is not turned into a rat in the film like he is in the novel.  Instead he’s found in danger, in his actual body, which I believe is much more effective to the viewer.  When you see Robert Sheehan’s body dangling from chains, in mid-air, it’s hard-hitting as opposed to watching the shadowhunters looking through the Hotel Dumort for a rodent. Although seeing Simon as a rat works well in print it could have appeared very corny on screen.“He’d been transformed into a rat. A small brown rat,” said Clary.

2. The brother-sister twist.
In the movie Hodge mentions to Valentine that he should tell both Clary and Jace that they’re siblings to break their hearts. When you first learn about this plot twist in the novel you are unaware that they aren’t actually brother and sister. I can remember screaming at the book when I first came across it trying to figure out how this problem could be resolved in a way that didn’t result in incest. It isn’t until the last half of the third book, City of Glass, do we learn that the two aren’t related at all. However, in the movie, to appeal to a larger audience it was safer for the viewer to be in on the secret. While fans may be disappointed that the movie doesn’t have the same shock value as the book, this was a creative spin that posed a solution. And let’s not forget that even if the viewers are aware that they’re not blood related, Jace and Clary still believe they are.

“She is,” said Valentine. “Alive, and asleep in one of the downstairs rooms at this very moment. Yes,” he said, cutting off Jace before he could speak, “Jocelyn is your mother, Jonathan. And Clary–Clary is your sister.”

3. The characters have been aged.
In the novel it’s clear that Clary is around 15 years old but in the movie they aged her and the other characters to about 18-19 instead. Although it’s not officially mentioned that they’re older in the movie, it’s clear by watching it that they’re not 15. Because of this change (that didn’t affect any parts of the storyline) they were able to give it a darker tone then the novel.

Fifteen-year-old Clary Fray, standing in line with her best friend, Simon, leaned forward along with everyone else, hoping for some excitement.

4. Clary’s rune drawings.
The film begins with Clary drawing the Angelic Power rune without her being aware as she walks around her house on the phone with Simon. This is later explained in the movie as a way for Clary’s mother Jocelyn to know when it was time to get her memory erased from a warlock named Magnus Bane. The symbol is also the reasoning as to why Clary and Simon go into a club called Pandemonium. In the book, Clary doesn’t see any runes as no scenes before the club exists; she chooses to go to that specific location because she likes it.

5. Valentine’s hair.
When Valentine appears on screen for the first time he has dark hair in dreadlocks rather than the white hair he’s described to have in the novel. To me it seems like he could have come out of a Pirates of the Caribbean movie.   Not sure why they decided to make this change, however it doesn’t take anything away from the storyline, it may have actually helped him appear more intense on film.

The boy was good-looking, with hair so fair it was nearly white, and black eyes.
“That’s Valentine,” said a voice at her elbow. “When he was seventeen.”

6. The portal.
The audience is introduced to portals in the movie at the Institution when Jace shows it to Clary to explain its purpose and power. When she wants to hastily jump through it to find her mother’s location Jace stops and informs her on how shadowhunters must train to learn the proper way of using a portal. However, in the book we’re introduced to it in Dorothea’s apartment. Clary wants to see where her mother was going to escape to and jumps through the portal before Jace and Dorothea could stop her.

“An escape hatch,” Jace said. “That’s why your mother wanted to live here. So she could always flee at a moment’s notice.”

For a book to movie adaptation The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones did an excellent job at keeping the integrity of the story intact. Although the entire novel couldn’t fit into one movie, as always, they managed to keep everything faithful.  While they didn’t go to all the locations in book, for example; Idris wasn’t even mentioned in the movie and some things were more condensed, there didn’t appear to be too many differences. And from the few differences there were, none threatened the storyline.

Melissa Michaels is currently an Image Arts student specializing in Photography at University. She's loves being a part of the entertainment industry by attending premieres, red carpet events, and sharing her passion for photography with others.

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  • Arielle

    Love this article! Can’t wait for the movie!!

  • Madison

    I definitely agree with point number 3. The aging of the characters would allow for a deeper realism into the tragedies of their lives.

    I’m so excited to see the movie, and it sounds like the adaption will be more closely modeled after the book than other movies.

    Great article!

  • Pingback: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones Toronto Premiere | Photos By Melissa Rae

  • Maureen

    I also saw the movie and Totally Agree!! Great Article :)

  • Joy

    This article is great! I agree with everything. Another difference I might also add would be the Mortal Cup. Clary gave Valentine the fake Mortal Cup in the movie whereas in the book, Valentine took the Cup with him when he escaped to Idris. They also talked about preserving the Shadowhunter race with just the cup when in the book, Valentine would need all three of the instruments.

  • Kat

    To be honest I am a little bit miffed that they gave away the third book twist as I went to see it with my fiance who hasn’t yet finished the third book and found out they aren’t related.

    I didnt want the book to be ruined for him so I have pretended that they have just made a great big change to the film because its a great moment in City of Ashes when you realize the truth. I’m sure once he has got to that bit and had the experience he will share my irritation but until then I have to keep it to myself!

    The rest of the film was great though. Totally loved it if not for the fact that it detracts future readers who have seen the film from experiencing it properly.

  • Quinn

    Well structured article, and I couldn’t agree more with the sibling twist. I loved the movie, and am on my way to see it for a second time!! Your insight on the characters was creative and thought provoking. Can’t wait to read the next review! :D

  • Rae

    Does no one notice the vampire bite marks on Simon’s back while in the infirmatory? And his lack of need for his glasses? What’s this about?? That wasn’t in the book…

    • Melissa Michaels

      Hi Rae,

      No those are not things necessarily in the first book but they do occur in the storyline at a different time. It’s a way for them to foreshadow what’s to come in the following movie that people who didn’t read the books would be able to catch on to.

  • Rayziel

    Rae that part would be on the 2nd book, city of ashes, *Spoiler* its because when Simon was a rat he bit one of the vampires and got vampire blood on him.. go read the 2nd book. i guess they changed it in the movie since they didn’t transform Simon into a rat in the movie they made that twist for in the 2nd book he would become a vampire :)

  • Tom

    Good article. Your explanation of the Jace/Clary relationship gives some clarity to the foreshadowing in the movie. I’ve only read the first book, so events from the later books were unknown going into the movie. There is also apparently an event from the second book in relation to Simon that was foreshadowed in the movie. I have some mixed feelings about these future teasers. While they are understandable to readers of the entire series, it’s baffling to readers of only the first book, like myself. A couple questions though: What is going on with the Mortal Cup? In the book, Valentine supposedly takes the real cup and bolts back to Idris through the portal. In the movie, Valentine seemingly takes off through the portal with a fake? In the book, when the cup is removed from the card, the card was destroyed. That’s not so in the movie. Basically, in the book it seems as though Valentine escapes with the real cup while in the movie he seems to escape with a replica? Was this another bit of foreshadowing to future books? Does Valentine have/not have the real cup? Does the first movie dupe the viewer or does the first book dupe the reader?

  • reneeroseholland

    See? Goes to show movie producers are smarter and more clever than Cassandra “can’t write at all” Clare. I thought the book was so poorly written that by the time I got to where it’s “revealed” they’re brother and sister, I actually laughed out loud and then promptly deleted the dumb book from my kindle. Also, I agree with aging them because Clare had them speaking way too eloquently for 15 yr olds. Clare needs to go back and read her year book from the 9th or 10th grade. Neither she or any of her friends were well spoken at all. The book seriously sucked but the movie was 100% better thanks to Hollywood seeing where a buck could be made.