“When sixteen year old Tessa Gray arrives in England during the reign of Queen Victoria, something terrifying is waiting for her in London’s Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Friendless and hunted, Tessa seeks refuge with the Shadowhunters, a band of warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons. Drawn ever deeper into their world, she finds herself fascinated by – and torn between – two best friends and quickly realises that love may be the most dangerous magic of all”. (Taken from the book cover).
A beautifully written dark and atmospheric novel with some wonderful world-building, tinged with some elements of steam punk. Set in a grey and misty Victorian London in 1878, it starts off straight away with an explosive opening scene and then subsequently Tessa arriving on the docks in England expecting to find her brother waiting. The story continues on from here and for the most part the storyline is engaging and the pacing good. Sadly my heart wasn’t always completely invested in the storyline which I found a little lacklustre and slow from time to time.
The characters are diverse and well developed, but I did warm to some more than others. I loved the character development of Tessa, from the naïve young person when she first arrived to a strong female protagonist at the end. She adores reading books and this has been very popular with readers, generating some wonderful and very popular quotations:
“One must be careful of books, said Tessa, and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us”.
“Only the very weak minded refuse to be influenced by literature and poetry”.
“Sometimes, when I have to do something I don’t want to do, I pretend I’m a character from a book. It’s easier to know what they would do”. (Jem)
The literary quotation at the beginning of each chapter is a joy and I also loved that one or two characters from the first three Mortal Instruments books made an appearance – it was good to see Magnus Bane again.
Contrary to what a lot of people have said, I didn’t like Will Herondale’s character. I found him hard to love, as he was so self-deprecating, dark and troubled and had no redeeming character traits. However, there is room for him to grow as the trilogy progresses and I can’t wait to find out what his deep, dark secret is in the subsequent books.
Truthfully, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed Mortal Instruments, I didn’t warm to the characters in quite the same way and I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the Victorian setting. I just couldn’t imagine shadow hunters being shadow hunters in Victorian attire. After some deliberation, I gave the book 4 stars, I love the writing style, as I always do with Cassandra Clare, and as we can expect it’s overflowing with imagination and ideas, wonderful world-building and a great mix of characters and creatures. (I loved the army of clockwork automatons, they were so spine-chilling). This is a great book, which sets the foundation for the rest of the series. I will be going on to read Clockwork Prince immediately as I am ultimately working my way towards the recent release, Chain of Gold.