Magic is dangerous–but love is more dangerous still.
When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London’s Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.
Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What’s more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa’s power for his own.
Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by–and torn between–two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm’s length…everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world…and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.
Cassandra Clare’s prequel to the Mortal Instruments series reminds me of the writing of Neil Gaiman – very much so, in fact. I liken her to something between Gaiman and the author of one of my favorite series – Jonathan Stroud. Clare adds her own elements to the story, and twists Victorian London around a little bit to her heart’s content. And I find her London beautiful and haunting and sad and grey. I love the idea of her clockwork mechanisms and the Shadowhunters and the quirky husband who lives in the basement and invents things that do not work. I want to hear so much more about these things.
But I didn’t.
Instead, Clare tells the story of Theresa Grey, a dreary mortal-who-isn’t-really, who spends a great deal of time worrying that people are not behaving like perfect ladies and gentlemen, worrying about her no-good brother, and pondering her origins. After a while, her daydream like comparisons to literature I am not intimately familiar with become dreary and it is easy to find oneself skimming forward a bit.
I wanted desperately to like this book, and I think I would have, if I had been in anybody’s mind but Tessa’s. Jessamine’s snobbery and secrets are equally alluring to William’s, and even the small stories that do get shared are interesting of their own accord. Maybe Tessa’s would be too, if it was unraveling a bit more rapidly! Clare tends to drag on a little, generally caught in a scene that – to me at least – feels mundane. Nonetheless, despite my issues with the flow of the writing and excitement of the protagonist, Clare paints such a vivid, peculiar world that one cannot help but to be intrigued. Even though I found this book a bit slow and boring, I absolutely would not toss aside Clare’s work altogether, because there were many aspects of the novel I enjoyed. In fact, when my (endless) reading list starts to dwindle down, I don’t doubt that I would pick up the sequel, or perhaps City of Bones. I simply became bored with this, but not so much that I couldn’t push through the more tedious points