Written by: Cassandra Clare
Book #1/3 of The Infernal Devices series
Rating: 4/5 stars
Summary (via Goodreads): The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters—including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans alike. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them.
“Only the very weak-minded refuse to be influenced by literature and poetry.”
Review: There is a certain order in to which Cassandra Clare’s books, and I didn’t do it right. For fans of The Mortal Instruments, this acts as a prequel of sorts, introducing characters that actually are mentioned in TMI, so I definitely recommend reading The Infernal Devices first or else things will be ruined for you, sort of. If you’re wondering what my preferred order would have been, feel free to comment below!
Almost right out of the gate, the plot picks up. Murder! Abduction! Rescue! Revelation of a whole new world! Like I said in a previous review, I always try to give authors a little bit of wiggle room for improvement in first books of series, but Clare didn’t need that. Almost every scene was a page turner for me, and the plot moved so quickly I didn’t even realize how close I was to being done until it came to the major fight scene. Although, by and large, it was relatively predictable, I think that made me more curious about what was going to happen next, because I had figured it out so easily. I do wish Clare had expanded on the surrounding London life more, as well as the historical period in which they were in. Probably one of the most interesting scenes is the party at de Quincey’s, because it is one of the only times the reader sees anybody else outside of the Shadowhunters. And additionally, there definitely were some very similar plot lines to The Mortal Instruments, but I believe she tweaked them in vital ways that helped support the overall plot more effectively.
One thing Cassandra Clare has always been amazing at is painting an image of her characters, and this series is any different. However, you’ll have a hard time trying to sell me on the idea that Clare doesn’t love her archetypes, as seen by Tessa, the main character unaware of the Shadowhunter world and her role in it; and Will, the sardonic, dark knight. But each of these characters have important delineations: Tessa is incredibly more likable than Clary, with a completely different special power and a selfishness for her brother, and Will is much more intelligent and witter than Jace, with an even darker history. However, Jem, the third part of their trio, is probably the more intriguing character in the series, with his mysterious illness and mysterious past that makes even Will’s seem less important. I also love the rest of the supporting cast, especially the Branwells, Charlotte and Henry, who head the Institute and act as faux parents for the mess of orphans under their charge; the appearance of Magnus Bane and Camille Bellcourt, recognizable from The Mortal Instruments; and Sophie and Thomas, the Institute’s servants. The only thing that this series is missing is a respectable villain; although their plan for world domination is actually pretty terrifying, the villain themselves seems a bit weak and underdeveloped. But perhaps the most poignant thing about The Infernal Devices is the importance of its human characters. I won’t say too much in fear of spoilers, but humans are wildly more important in this series than they ever were in The Mortal Instruments.
The reason this story lacks a fifth star from me is for two large reasons: 1) I’m frankly tired of YA novels with love triangles, especially ones in which I can’t make up my mind about who they should pick; and 2) Clare has chosen a beautifully historical scene but doesn’t truly celebrate it as much as she should. Half the characters seem to be stuck in the right time era (Jessamine, Sophie, Thomas, Jem), and the other half do not (Will, Tessa, the Branwells), but maybe that’s just a Shadowhunter thing. Even when they go out on the town or interact with surrounding London denizens, very little is shared about the historical context, which is something I had been looking forward to. However, that’s not anything new; I’ve always wished we saw the Shadowhunter world interact more with the Mundane one, participating in their history. Can you imagine a series set in the French Revolution, with Shadowhunters acting as rebels a la Les Miserables? Or Shadowhunters carving Marks into doors to hide Jewish refugees during the Holocaust? I would throw my money at that series in a heartbeat.
But I digress, and I’ll leave it at: I do look forward to reading the rest of this series, and do recommend that if you’re interested in the Shadowhunter world, to pick this series up!