Listen… Listen… Okay, just listen… I’m weak. I should know not to get myself into this cheesy nonsense, but good grief I do every time. Let’s follow the path that led me down this rabbit hole:
It all started in high school when my friends told me to read The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, and boy howdy I really enjoyed them! Well, I never got around to reading the last two, but I really liked them. Then that HORRIBLE City of Bones movie came out based on the first book of the series and it was so unintentionally hilarious but also so cringe-worthy, I still can’t even understand it. And now there’s the Shadowhunters show on Netflix… and well… Like I said, I’m weak. And it’s so corny and a total thirst-watch at this point (y’all, the two they got to play the Lightwood siblings are both GORGEOUS and I’m sweating) but I really do enjoy it in all it’s cheesy goodness. But my friends started noticing in the show a lot of references to things in The Infernal Devices trilogy: a prequel to The Mortal Instruments series, set in the late 1800s and showing a number of the ancestors and history of the shadowhunters seen in The Mortal Instruments. My friends assured me that this series is totally better than the one from which it was spawn. And thus…. Here I am. And I totally did like them, despite predicting that I would be tired of the whole thing. Apparently, I am very much not!
In any case, let’s discuss what these books are about. And, mild warning: some spoilers as to the general outplay of the story will follow. The titles in order are: Clockwork Angel, Clockwork Prince, and Clockwork Princess:
It all starts with a young American woman named Tessa traveling to London after the aunt who she was living with dies. She is going to England to meet up with her brother who is currently employed there, yet is soon kidnapped upon arrival by two witch-like women, who train Tessa to discover a special ability she has. This is a world where most humans (unless they have “the sight”) do not know about another secret world amongst them: a world of demons, fairies, vampires, werewolves, warlocks, and those who are descendants of angels known as “Shadhowhunters”. Tessa is not human, but no one is really sure what she is. In any case, Tessa is soon found by a young shadowhunter named Will, and she is taken back to the London Institute of shadhowhunters, who fight demons and other downworlder creatures that do not abide by the peace treaties and laws that exist between them. It is found that a powerful man in the downworld called The Magister wants Tessa and her unique abilities for some sinister purpose, and Tessa thereby becomes a solid ally of the shadowhunters, effectively coming to live with them and be a part of their little clan in London (there are multiple institutes and groups throughout the world, as we may know from The Mortal Instruments, we well).
What follows is a tale of mystery, deception, betrayal, personal discovery, the bonds between people, magic and of course, romance. There are some pretty serious “love shapes” as I like to call them happening here, in particular one central triangle between Tessa, Will, and Will’s parabatai named Jem. And usually love-triangles bore me, but my goodness y’all, this parabatai thing… I love it. To be a parabatai with someone is basically to take a shadowhunter oath to be bonded with another shadowhunter in a deep and intimate way. It is like their souls are connected, and they can feel each other in battle, and when the other is hurt; they can take strength from one another, and will never take another parabatai even after one of them dies. So basically, Will and Jem love each other, and it is the truest, more pure kind of love that I feel in my soul. They are BROS FOR LIFE, and yet it’s heartbreaking because of certain circumstances of Jem’s existence and the course of his life. (Okay, so I basically fell in love with the character of Jem, and I feel like that is super predictable of me, and yet I walked right into it despite knowing it was going to be somewhat painful). And my solution to this painful love-triangle was to just have Tessa, Will, and Jem be in a polyamourous relationship, since they all love each other so much and so deeply (case: CLOSED!), but then two pages later I read that parabatai are forbidden for being romantically involved with one another by shadowhunter law. Soooooo… yeah, we had to scrap that one. And I do feel like there was a certain predictability to how this all played out, but there were still a few surprises or interesting ways in which things progressed throughout. Actually, that’s how I felt about the book in general: there were some predictable facets, yet enough twists and new ideas to keep it interesting, without trying to throw too much crazy stuff into the mix from out of the blue in order to keep it engaging. I will, however, say that the epilogue really gave me mixed feelings: some of it was beautiful and sad and heartfelt and great, but some of it was kind of like, okay, I see exactly what you’re doing here and I ain’t entirely buying it.
But now, let me just do a little rundown of characters, because that’s really what kept me the most interested in this whole book. The characters are lovely, and while some of them aren’t the most original and maybe follow certain tropes, there are a few that had some nice storylines and character traits that made me really want to get to know them more and keep reading about them (in particular, Jem, Magnus, and Henry), though I do realize that I was imagining them to be a bit older than their character descriptions, and was always jolted a little when I was reminded of how old they really are. I find that I tend to do that with young adult novels though, despite my better knowledge and judgment. I don’t know why that always happens. But in any case, here are some of the major players throughout the series, with numerous other minor characters I have left out:
– Tessa Gray: Our main character, 16 years old, raised by her aunt, and the object of the Magister’s fancy due to some unique magical abilities she possesses. Sometimes quite at first yet speaks her mind with people, and is a big fan of losing herself in novels, often desiring to be like the heroines she reads about in books.
– Will Herondale: Young shadowhunter, 17 years old, who left his parents (one of which was an ex-shadowhunter) at a young age to live at the institute. Strongheaded and snarky, the brooding-type, with a secret he that keeps him from being close to anyone but Jem.
– Jem Carstairs: PRECIOUS CINNAMON ROLL, TOO GOOD FOR THIS WORLD. Originally from the Shanghai institute of shadowhunters, but moved to London after his parents died. Also 17 years old, and suffers from serious health issues which arose in relation to his parent’s death. Kind-hearted and a talented musician. Always able to add some ease to tense situations and a calming force for many in the institute.
– Charlotte Branwell/Fairchild: Head of the London institute, along with her husband, Henry. Somewhat of a mother-figure, who holds pride in her title yet is always willing to take in those who in need.
– Henry Branwell: The purest, more precious peanut. Married to Charlotte, and a little oblivious when it comes to people and relationships, but really a sweetheart when it comes down to it. A gifted inventor, creating tools for the shadowhunters to use, though many do not hold faith in his inventions after some of his endeavors have gone awry.
– Jessamine Lovelace: Another young shadowhunter who was taken in by Charlotte after her parents died. However, she is more interested in marriage, fashion, and living a human life in the city than being a shadowhunter and wants to leave the institute when she comes of age.
– Sophie Collins: A human (or “mundane” as they are called) who is able to see supernatural beings unlike most humans. She works at the London Institute and also longs to be a shadowhunter.
– The Magister: A real piece of work. The main antagonist, with a grudge against shadowhunters that has been enacted into a complicated plot of revenge against them.
– Magnus Bane: An immortal warlock that is an ally to the shadowhunters, helping them with magic tasks, healing, and gathering information about downworlders. Also present in The Mortal Instruments, and is usually played off as a bit quirky and free-wheeling, but is really a gentle soul who wants to help those that he can. He’s a fun character and I like him a lot.
– Benedict Lightwood: A fellow shadowhunter who yearns for Charlotte’s position at the institute and seeks to undermine her.
– Gideon and Gabriel Lightwood: Benedict’s sons who aid in the combat training of Tessa and Sophie, and become involved in some plots of blackmail and spying for other shadowhunters.
– Cecily Herondale: Will’s younger sister who trains at the institute, but wants nothing more than for Will to return home to their human life.
In any case, this is getting long now, so I’m going to try and wrap it up. While I am now less won-over by the cheesy young romances in most YA novels today, and found there were certain inevitabilities within The Infernal Devices trilogy along those common teenage romance lines, the relationships within the books seemed a less cringe-worthy than I remembered them being in The Mortal Instruments (we had no incest panic this time, thank goodness). So that was a positive thing. Honestly, I did enjoy this trilogy quite a bit, and read them all in one go! Is it a masterpiece of a trilogy? Not by any means. But it’s an enjoyable and not very difficult read. Plus, I’m absolute trash for this world these days, largely because of some pretty pretty faces that drew me back in viaShadowhunters. As I said… I’m weak. And that’s all there is to it.
I leave you now with some of said pretty faces. Yeah, okay, so only one of them is technically also a character in The Infernal Devices(my main man Magnus!), but this totally relates, right? It’s like, science or something??
[As always, this review can also be found on my personal blog]