Author: Cassandra Clare
Genre: YA Fantasy / Steampunk
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Call number: Y Clare
Summary: Cassandra Clare’s prequel to The Mortal Instruments series takes place in Victorian England but concerns the same hidden world of Shadowhunters (demon hunters with special powers) and Downworlders (supernatural folk like warlocks and vampires). Sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray sails from New York to London to join her older brother, Nathaniel, after the death of her caretaker, but when she arrives, she’s greeted by a strange duo called the Dark Sisters instead. Claiming to have Nathaniel captive somewhere, the Dark Sisters force Tessa to develop her previously unknown powers — the ability to shape-shift into any person, as long as she’s holding an item belonging to her target. She is eventually rescued by Will Herondale, a beautiful, arrogant Shadowhunter with a dark secret, and takes refuge at the London Institute. The other Shadowhunters, including the kind but sickly Jem and the princess-y Jessamine, promise to help her find her brother, but in the meantime, Tessa is drawn into their attempts to uncover and stop a dangerous plot that puts them all at risk. This is the first in Clare’s prequel series, The Infernal Devices. The next one will be Clockwork Prince. She is also continuing her Mortal Instruments series with a fourth book set for Spring 2011, City of Fallen Angels.
Review: If you liked The Mortal Instruments — City of Bones, City of Ashes, and City of Glass — you’re going to like this, even if the characters feel a bit like retreads of the ones in The Mortal Instruments (especially Jace, oh, I mean Will) and the burgeoning love triangle among Tessa, Jem, and Will covers similar ground. It’s a fast read, with a lot of action to balance out the more introspective elements, like Tessa’s angst over finding out she’s not human and her confusion over Will’s hot-and-cold behavior. The overall plot — involving a demonically-enhanced clockwork army created by the Magister and Tessa’s true past, of which she’s unaware — is just getting started in this book, so while there’s a lot of cool fighting scenes, not much else happens to further the story. The master plot is a little predictable, as well, though I didn’t see how the twist would play out even when I knew it was coming. Tessa is a great heroine; though she’s spent much of her time living vicariously through books until this point, she shows surprising steel when confronted with supernatural monsters, boys who act like jerks, and Shadowhunters who want to control Tessa’s fate “for her own good”. She tells people off with aplomb and I love how she stands up for herself. All of the characters have intriguing back stories and secrets, and even the characters that are not likable (Will; Jessamine) have enough force of personality that you wonder what made them that way. Finding out everybody’s secrets is what will keep me reading this series, as well as seeing how Tessa develops into her Downworlder powers — I can’t wait for the next one.