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 puts a great deal of historical depth into this book, which I greatly appreciate. It’s not a “petticoats and women’s lib” kind of train wreck historical fiction steampunk hot mess, thank the gods- the characters in here are defined by their social mores, even as (some of them) fight against those. Men *and* women. There’s the Victorian London racism, undercurrent of drug use, industry battles, heck she even includes details of daily life that are true-to-history.
She also gives a nod to the similarities between some of the characters in both of her series, which was refreshing. I was expecting Jace2.0 and was glad to see differences in character and in angst, that kept me from rolling my eyes.
In typical Clare fashion, some chapters leave you breathless, and others make you set the book down and contemplate for a moment. Some of the more horrific scenes are truly horrifying, and I found myself oddly compelled by characters that I really didn’t like. Namely, Jessamine.
I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, so I’ll say this: If you’ve read “The Mortal Instruments”, you should read this. Especially if you liked the Nephilim, or Magnus Bane (oh yes), or want to know the reasons behind some of the Downworld prejudices. *ahem*
You should also pick this up if you like steampunk, fantasy, compelling YA novels, believable (especially for the time) heroines, complex characters, angsty romance, mystery, and adventure.
(Special thanks to Ricki Jill, and Shelley, for clueing me into this series!)