Cassandra Clare takes her world of Shadowhunters and demons back to Victorian England with her protagonist 16-year-old Tessa Gray, a newly-discovered shape-shifter, and her two love interests, the dark and mysterious William Herondale and the sweet although sickly James Carstairs. As Tessa battles with her newfound identity and with the malicious Axel Mortmain who attempts to use his Industrial-era technology for demonic purposes, she bonds with the inhabitants of the Institute – the home of Shadowhunters in London – and even finds herself in love. This story is perfectly balanced between love and action and the spooky Victorian setting lends an amazing historical dimension. Although Tessa is a naive, young girl at the beginning of the novel, she progress into a powerful female protagonist throughout the book, which is something that I can never get enough of. She is not boxed into any female stereotype and Clare uses her hard choices and decisions to lead the plot. This is, without a doubt, a feminist novel and if Tessa were alive today – and, of course, real – she would be the ultimate girl boss. Her relationships with Will and Jem are poignantly written and each bond is unique. Each time you think you’ve decided which one she should end up with, Clare throws in a twist and you’re lost again. I was a huge supporter of bad boy Will who Tessa notices first and who appears to be the obvious choice in the beginning but Jem and his tragic backstory snuck up on me and by the conclusion, I was weeping over his plight and definitely Team Jem. Cassandra Clare did masterful work by creating this multifaceted novel with lovable characters and twists that will make you cry.
Tessa, Will and Jem are back for Cassandra Clare’s second novel of the Infernal Devices Trilogy which focuses on filling us in on important unanswered questions such as the reason for Will’s estrangement from his family and his bad behavior and why Axel Mortmain is hell-bent on destroying the Clave. As Jem’s supply of vital medicine grows smaller and fellow Clave member Jessamine sneaks around disguised as a man, Tessa and her friends scramble to uncover Mortmain’s plans and face their enemies, including Tessa’s adopted brother Nate who has betrayed her. This book focuses heavily on Jem and Will, dealing with complicated issues like drug use and sacrifice for people we love. I love the connection between Jem and Will, who fight over Tessa but ultimately love and care for each other just as much. It’s a refreshing take on a classic love triangle. This novel is also a little sexier than its predecessor with a steamy encounter between Tessa and Jem – shocking as Jem seems the angel to Will’s devil. However, once I learned about Will’s “curse” that prevents him from letting himself fall in love, I was back on Team Will right when Tessa and Jem make their relationship official. This novel also ends with the introduction of a promising new character that left me needing the next book immediately. Cassandra Clare managed once again to get me overly-attached to her fictional characters.