Books 30, 34 and 37 of 2016
I know, I know: I can’t get enough of Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter world! But seriously, if you give her books a chance, you’ll feel the same way. (Or at least I hope so… but I know I’m not the only one). I have read and re-read The Mortal Instruments series and all the post-series novellas, and of course I was first in line to pre-order Lady Midnight, which takes place five years after The Mortal Instruments Book 6. I’m never disappointed.
That’s why it was surprising that it took me so long to pick up the prequel series to The Mortal Instruments, The Infernal Devices. Lucky for us TMI fans, The Infernal Devices can be read before or after any of Clare’s novels. I was immediately consumed by the series, and understood why readers and fans spoke so highly of it.
The steampunk series follows orphaned teenager Tessa Gray, who many of us TMI fans will remember from sporadic appearances in the The City of Heavenly Fire and Lady Midnight. (That’s one of the most intriguing aspects of The Infernal Devices: ancestors of the characters we know and love from TMI are featured, as well as eternal characters like Magnus and Camille). It’s 1878, and Tessa arrives in England after receiving a letter from her brother requesting her to leave her New York home at once. Tessa is eager to see her brother, but she never finds him. Instead, she is kidnapped and kept in solitary confinement by two strange women who insist she is magical and is to be married off to a terrifying man nicknamed The Magister.
The only time Tessa is allowed to leave her room is when the women, Mrs. Black and Mrs. Dark, urge her to attempt magic. They insist she is a shape-shifter, and before long, Tessa realizes they are right. She doesn’t fully understand why she follows their instructions, other than to avoid punishment, but she works at shape-shifting regardless. Tessa eventually hopes her newfound skills can at least be used as a defense mechanism for whatever is in store for her.
After months in a dark room, suffering at the hands of evil women who have captured her and honing her magical skills, Tessa is rescued by two best friends, Will Herondale and Jem Carstairs. (TMI fans: You must recognize both of these names, as they are legendary Shadowhunter names. They are also the ancestors of Jace and Emma, characters in TMI and Lady Midnight). Will and Jem are teenaged Shadowhunters who live in the London Institute. The two are following a demon-lead and happen to stumble upon Tessa in their mission.
And that’s when the series takes off. The best friends bring Tessa back to the Institute and the reader is introduced to multiple well-constructed characters, Downworlders and Shadowhunters alike. Tessa is thrust into a world she never knew existed, and begins to suspect her still-missing brother is involved in the Shadow World in more ways than Tessa can imagine.
The series follows Tessa as she navigates her new life in the London Institute, forced to consort with the Shadowhunters to protect herself, her brother, and the new people in her life who are slowly becoming the unlikely family she never thought she’d have.
Highlights & Mild Spoilers
I loved the three-way relationship that Clare built between Tess, Jem and Will. It isn’t the typical “love triangle” we often read in YA novels. Independently of one another, all of their friendships were strong and loyal, and they genuinely loved one another. In fact, they were willing to die for one another. Their relationships were beautifully written and I wish more relationships in YA books were painted in such a light.
I was so happy with the way the series ended, and was happy with where the characters ended up; it was the best-case scenario for everyone. I have lots to say about what happens after the ending of the book, but as you know, I don’t typically write huge spoilers in my reviews (although I did warn you in the above header!) Essentially, I wanted Will to be able to see his friends happy at the end of the story. My friend Jane told me she found a graphic novella that Clare released in one of the UK editions of the series that shows Will’s spirit celebrating Jem and Tessa, so I’m going to look that up because that particular ending would act as a nicely tied bow on a well-wrapped series.
I loved Will’s Jace-like qualities: loyal until the end, stubborn and fierce. I adored Jem’s soft side, his tenderness, and his strength. Tessa was the perfect woman for both of them. So many of the secondary characters were lovable too, complex and strong in their own ways, and it was so fun to see the ancestors of the TMI characters share some of the same personality traits as their successors.
As I mentioned earlier, I don’t typically love historical fantasy, but these books took me to a place that was familiar (the Shadow World), while simultaneously taking me back in time. And even though the book is set in the 1800’s, I still felt as though the characters were relatable and believable. I would definitely recommend this series to The Mortal Instruments fans. If you haven’t read any of Clare’s books before, I would recommend starting with The Mortal Instruments and then reading this series, as I think the characters and their families will mean more to you this way.
Drop me a line and let me know what your favorite Shadowhunter book/series is! I’m eager to know your thoughts and am always interested in discussing anything Shadowhunter related 🙂