Friday, March 2, 2012

The Buttercup Effect

The Princess Bride is one of my favorite movies. What’s not to love? The movie (and the book) have it all—R.O.U.S’s, a six-fingered man, deadly iocane powder, a gentle giant. Even Buttercup’s hair deserves a shout-out. Disney’s princesses have nothing on Robin Wright’s golden waves. But if I had to pick my favorite part of The Princess Bride, it would be the love story between Westley and Buttercup. They share a once-in-a-lifetime, happily-ever-after love. Kinda like the love between Bella and Edward. Only instead of happily-ever-after, the two vampires are more forever and ever after. Spending eternity together, that’s quite a commitment.

The only downside about that type of love is that it doesn’t come along very often. I read a lot of books about love. And the heroine always lands her man at the end. But would I stake my life on the long-term success of those relationships? Hardly. And that’s what makes the love between Buttercup and Westley and Bella and Edward so special. It is an intense, all-encompassing, throw yourself down a very steep hill or in front of a deadly vampire kind of love.

Clary and Jace, the two main characters in Book One of Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series, have this kind of love. I wish I could say that’s why I bought the book, but I’d be lying. Nope, I picked up the book solely for its cover. The shirtless, leanly-muscled, tousled-haired golden boy is just my kind of eye candy. But don’t take my word. See for yourself ( ). That said. I would not have stayed with the series for the next three books and counting if Clare had not crafted an amazing story. Like Princess Bride, City of Bones has it all—forbidden love, tortured familial relationships, unsolved mysteries, burning quests for vengeance. And did I mention the angels, demons, vampires, werewolves, and faeries? Oh my!  

City of Bones starts strong and never lets up. Like Alice, Clary stumbles into a rabbit hole. In this case, it is the world of the Shadowhunters, a secret group of nephilim (angel) warriors tasked with protecting the human race against demons. This war and the uneasy relationship the Shadowhunters have with the Underworlders—creatures like vampires, werewolves, faeries, and such—all takes place right under the nose of a clueless human population. And then one night Clary witnesses Jace and his sort-of-adopted siblings, Isabelle and Alec, battle and kill a demon. They’re surprised when Clary is able to see them; shocked when she’s bold enough to question their actions. Perhaps this explains Jace’s immediate fascination with the red-head. We know why Clary falls for the arrogant Jace. Need a reminder? Take a look at the cover to the upcoming fifth book in the series: This insta-attraction does not sit well with Clary’s best friend, Simon, who’s clearly hoping for more than friendship. Alas, Simon and we readers know that will never happen. From their first scene, Clary and Jace have IT—that undeniable, I’ve just met my soul-mate kind of connection.

Unfortunately the terms soul-mates and star-crossed lovers are often used interchangeably. And Clary and Jace are no exception. First, Clary’s mother, Jocelyn, is kidnapped (killed?) by demons unknown. And then Clary finds out that her whole life has been a lie. She is not an average human. Clary is a Shadowhunter like Jace, Isabelle, and Alec, and she was denied her heritage by her mother. And then Clary finds out that Luke, her mother’s long-time boyfriend and the closest person Clary has ever known to a dad, is a—wait for it—werewolf. But Clary’s baggage is nothing compared to the weight Jace carries around on his narrow but muscular shoulders. Yummy! Jace’s father is the evil Valentine Morgenstern. Think Voldemort, only more attractive. And just like Voldemort, the supposedly dead Valentine turns up alive and in search of a magical artifact, the Mortal Cup. With this “instrument,” Valentine plans to create a powerful army to slaugher not only demons, but also all Downworlders. Yeah, Jace’s Dad is a hater. Worse, he’s a racist who thinks the nephilim should reign over all. Unfortunately for Clary, Valentine thinks Jocelyn has the Mortal Cup, and he makes it pretty clear that he’ll do anything to get it. And if he kills some Downworlders and breaks a few hearts along the way, even better. And that’s just what Valentine does, revealing a terrible secret that rips our star-crossed lovers apart and sends Clary fleeing into the arms of the reliable Simon.

What a monumentally bad choice that turns out to be. I won’t ruin the plot, but visualize the scene in The Princess Bride where the old hag boos and hisses at Buttercup.

You had love in your hands, and you gave it up. Your true love lives. And you marry another. True Love saved her in the Fire Swamp, and she treated it like garbage. And that's what she is, the Queen of Refuse. So bow down to her if you want, bow to her. Bow to the Queen of Slime, the Queen of Filth, the Queen of Putrescence. Boo. Boo. Rubbish. Filth. Slime. Muck. Boo. Boo. Boo.

That’s about how I felt when Clary starts making a series of very bad decisions. Of course, the rebellious Jace shoulders a lot of the blame. Jace is so gun-ho to “save” his True Love that he is constantly acting without thinking—usually resulting in a serious ass-kicking by various evil-doers. As much as I enjoy Clare’s Mortal Instruments series, I cop to sometimes wanting to shake Clary and Jace. Then I sigh, remind myself that they’re young, and dive back into the book. But if I could offer advice to the star-crossed lovers, I would tell Jace to start channeling his inner Westley.

Hear this now: I will always come for you. This is true love. You think this happens every day? Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.

And that, my dear readers, is what I call the Buttercup Effect. May we all be so lucky to experience it.

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