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


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

Melissa Michaels is a Toronto-based pop culture junkie, celebrity enthusiast and freelance artist. She has an unwavering love for entertainment and watches way too much television because of it.