For people who haven’t read this series, what is it about, and should I read it..?
Trying to describe any book in a trilogy is a difficult task, but this feels especially hard! So essentially this series takes place in 1800’s London, and is about a group of people called Shadowhunters who are basically assassin cops for demons and other “downworld” species (vampires, werewolves, faeries, etc.). Shadowhunters are part human/part angel, but they are literally just humans with extra speed, and the ability to use the wand-type things to carve “marks” on their skin that gives them extra strength, vision, healing, etc. All of this isn’t really important, except to say that Tessa, the heroine, is rescued from a dangerous situation by Shadowhunters, and she begins living with them in their training Institute. This is laregely to protect her because the evil guy in the series wants to marry/use her for her newly discovered powers (she’s basically a shapeshifter), blah blah…really the point of this book is that the romance and angst between Tessa and two of the Shadowhunters is off the charts. Without getting too much into it, there is a love triangle (trust me, I typically hate them too! But this is not an Edward/Jacob sort of feud over a girl’s affections type of triangle), it involves the other two main protagonists in the series, Jem and Will. They are best friends who really have only had each other in to lean on throughout their teenage lives (again I’m being vague to avoid spoilers), but they couldn’t be more opposite. Ultimately, Tessa (and the reader obviously) fall in love with them both in very different ways. It sounds silly, but the course of events in this series is not like that of a “love triangle”, so callling it that is sort of criminal. Bottom line, the character studies in this series are phenomenal. There are several other side characters that are also explored and that you inevitably fall in love with too. Every single character is unique, original, and thoroughly fleshed out in their motivations, personalities, and humor. To say I love them all is an understatement. And to tell you the truth, there is NO OTHER YA boy like Jem Carstairs. I’m not biased at all.
In a time when Shadowhunters are barely winning the fight against the forces of darkness, one battle will change the course of history forever. Welcome to the Infernal Devices trilogy, a stunning and dangerous prequel to the New York Times bestselling Mortal Instruments series.
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. 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…
I’ve actually already read this book, and in fact the entire Infernal Devices series, before. In about 2012. However, seeing as it’s been about eight years, I barely remembered much of anything plot-wise going into this reread.
My main motivation to reread this series is seeing so many rave about the subsequent shadowhunters series, the Dark Artifices series, and Cassandra Clare’s latest release, Chain of Gold. I also frequently see friends and mutuals on booktwt talking about Will Herondale and Jem Carstairs…and it brings me back to when I was so passionately in love with their stories too! So I wanted to relive it.
What Did I Go Into this Reread Remembering?
I will literally never forget the incredible ending of Clockwork Princess. As much as I wish I could simply wipe it from my brain so I could experience that level of simultaneous joy and heartbreak, I remember in vivid detail how much the end made me sob and literally made my mom think someone had died the next morning. I remembered who the villain was, and I remember Tessa telling Will that a certain circle of Hell was actually cold when they first met. I don’t know why. BUT I did not remember 1) any of the Branwells, 2) Jessamine, 3) Church, 4) that Tessa had a brother, or 5) what Tessa even is/was (which we still don’t know at the end of this first book in the trilogy.
The character development is incredible in that these individuals are all so fleshed out, but also still clearly have so much growth to do, and CC has a way of making you fall in love with her characters before you even know what makes them tick (I’m thinking of Will here of course.)
The angst in this book is top tier, and Will and Tessa kiss is electrifying. It’s also addictively frustrating, just as CC intends, how Will is so very hot and cold with Tessa. Of course we understand that he has a secret, one we will soon find out about in the following book…but this book does an excellent job of setting up a world with vulnerable, funny, charming characters that you become intensely invested in over the course of the first book. This excellently sets the stage for the next two books to build off of!
The most obvious “weakness”, and this may more of a personal opinion, is the automatons being convincing villains, or at least pawns that the villain yields to take down Shadowhunters. Tessa frequently states how fast these robotic creatures move, “like a blur”, apparently fast enough to capture and harm Shadowhunters, who canonically move as fast as VAMPIRES…??? How is a robot in the 1700-1800s that fast? I know there’s a bit of magic involved but, still! Make it make sense!
The only other complaint I have might be, I wanted more Jem.
This is really and truly Tessa’s book. Most of the book is from her perspective, so of course that doesn’t hurt our ability to really connect and empathize with her first and foremost. She goes through such a personal journey in this book, and really begins to find a family and be vulnerable with a group of people when she has nothing and no one else. It’s heartbreaking to see her fight so hard for her brother, only for Nate to betray her on such a cruel and inhumane level. But it’s truly so exciting to see her learning that even though she’s been taught that women can’t be warriors, she’s learning so much about her own strength, capability, and bravery.
I have to say the attic kiss scene, what else?! Though the scene when Jem talks to Tessa on the steps of the Institute after she storms out is extremely touching and heartwarming.
Will smiled the way Lucifer might have smiled, moments before he fell from Heaven.”
“Sometimes, when I have to do something I don’t want to do, I pretend I’m a character from a book. It’s easier to know what they would do.” (quote from Will to Tessa)
“Whatever you are physically…male or female, strong or weak, ill or healthy–all those things matter less than what your heart contains. If you have the soul of a warrior, you are a warrior. All those other things, they are the glass that contains the lamp, but you are the light inside.” (quote from Jem to Tessa)
“Sometimes,” Jem said, “our lives can change so fast that the change outpaces our minds and hearts. It’s those times, I think, when our lives have altered but we still long for the time before everything was altered– that is when we feel the greatest pain. I can tell you, though, from experience, you grow accustomed to it. You learn to live your new life, and you can’t imagine, or even really remember, how things were before.” (Ugh…these Jem-isms are so therapeutic)
Clockwork Prince and Clockwork Princess of course! And after I finish the Infernal Devices, I’ll probably reread The Mortal Instruments series, and then…Dark Artifices? I think that’s the right order?!