For people who haven’t read this series, what is it about, and should I read it..?
*If you’re familiar with this series or have read this book, you can skip this section*
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 the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute. If Charlotte loses her position, Tessa will be out on the street—and easy prey for the mysterious Magister, who wants to use Tessa’s powers for his own dark ends.
With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister’s war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for a long-ago tragedy that shattered his life. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors, from the slums of London to an enchanted ballroom where Tessa discovers that the truth of her parentage is more sinister than she had imagined. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister himself knows their every move—and that one of their own has betrayed them.
Tessa finds her heart drawn more and more to Jem, but her longing for Will, despite his dark moods, continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will—the wall he has built around himself is crumbling. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa the answers about who she is and what she was born to do?
As their dangerous search for the Magister and the truth leads the friends into peril, Tessa learns that when love and lies are mixed, they can corrupt even the purest heart.
The reread of this series is truly making me so happy. It is so exhilarating to be deep within a series that constantly compels you, throughout the day, to want to pick it up, or to look forward to when the day winds down and you can relax into the world of that series. I rarely get this feeling from a book or series, but when I do, it reminds me why I spend so much of my free time reading, and why I am constantly chasing the next “book high”. (I also occasionally experience a similar feeling when watching films, and the feeling is equally rarely attainable. It’s a yearning for the “ultimate escapism”, and with film, it’s chasing that period of time [or even a single moment], when you become so engrossed in the story and characters, you forget your entire world and self). This is ultimately what draws me back to movie theaters again and again, and makes me so sad that we are currently in quarantine and I likely won’t see a film on the big screen for several months.)
This series in particular is so special to me simply because it meant so much to me at the time of reading it, and it is truly the last series I can recall reading and loving with my whole heart before I went through a period of time where I felt shameful for loving the YA fantasy genre. As I talk about in my first post, My Way Back to Reading, I felt like I needed to “grow up” and read ADULT books already, which I ended up feeling very disconnected from, and inevitably caused me to almost entirely stop reading. Of course, as the post name suggests, I found my way back, so it is only right that I revisit this series. And in doing so, I’ve felt a renewed connection to my teenage self and that untarnished love of reading.
What Did I Go Into this Reread Remembering?
Coming off of reading Clockwork Angel, I was SO E X C I T E D to begin this book! Though I could not remember precise details from this book specifically, I’ve read enough books to know that the second book in a trilogy is usually when the action, drama, and romance amp up STRONGLY to prepare for a big conclusion. In nearly every series I love, the middle book is my favorite (A Court of Mist and Fury, Seige and Storm, Catching Fire, Heir of Fire (book 3/7 of the Throne of Glass series, which is definitely the coming-of-age-esque book in the series), etc. So I knew that the relationships between both Tessa and Will and Tessa and Jem were going to amp up to become the legendary love triangle it is known to be. However, I did not recall any exact plot points (though I knew a Jem proposal and Will/Tessa masquerade ball kiss were both looming in the future at some point…)
Where to even begin…to put it simply: THE ANGST AND YEARNING IS UNPARALLELED. Will loves Tessa, Tessa loves Will, but Tessa also loves Jem, in a totally different kind of way (“Where Will’s kisses were all fire, Jem’s were like pure air after a long time of being closed up in the airless dark“; “Will has always been the brighter burning star, the one to catch attention — but Jem is a steady flame, unwavering and honest.”), Jem obviously loves Tessa too, and Will and Jem are parabatai (a warrior, brotherly-type bond that connects them as lifelong partners, bound together by oath, reflected through friendship and ultimate willingness to lay down their lives for one another in battles) and love each other quite deeply as well! This novel has got everything I love: forbidden love, confessions under the guise of some sort of drug/mental influence, MORE confessions under the guise of thinking the other person is sleeping/in a coma, multiple steamy kisses, and even some troupes I don’t usually care for but are excellently used here– such as love triangles and missed chance encounters! But truly, everything from the build-up of Tessa and Jem’s relationship, Will’s relationship and vulnerability with Magnus throughout, Will’s curse reveal and family “drama”…everything is written and revealed and edited perfectly.
My thoughts on “weaknesses” of this book are pretty similar to what I noted in my Clockwork Angel review…the automatons. Here’s what I said in that review to save you a click:
“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!”
This has officially become a Jem Carstairs stan account. He deserves the ENTIRE world, nothing but love and affection from everyone he meets, and a LONG LIFE!
I obviously love love love love LOVE Will Herondale as well, don’t get me wrong. And there are parts of this story that make your heart break for him. But I think my having previously read the series has actually impacted me more than I would have thought, because while I don’t really remember all the little details…I REMEMBER Will/Tessa/Jem’s “ending”.
I think because I know things end happily, a lot of the angst and frustration that is experienced (especially for Wessa shippers) is lost on me at this point. I remembered Will’s curse, how it impacted his relationship with Tessa, and broadly how their story ended. So, while some readers might view Jem as a sort of “cock block”, I truly just see him as Tessa and Will do throughout this book: a representative of all that is good, a pure ray of pure sunshine and light, whose life is ending way too soon, and how much it will destroy them all when it does. Also, in the more “heated” scenes with Tessa, Jem is HOT.
Anyways, I’m here to say you can love both Will and Jem, but in the end, Will has a lot of other qualities similar to other YA love interests, and there no one else quite like Jem.
The Jem proposal scene made me sob, so, I have to say that one above all. Some other close contenders:
– Will and Tessa at Benedict Lightwood’s ball, particularly the balcony scene/kiss
– Tessa and Jem’s first kiss
– Tessa’s hazy memories of both Will and Jem’s confessions at her bedside
– Magnus being soft for Will
-Jessamine calling Tessa and Jem out in their carriage kissing
“Jem is my great sin,” said Will. “Don’t talk to me about Jem.” – Will to Magnus
“I feel myself diminished, parts of me spiraling away into the darkness, that which is good and honest and true – If you hold it away from yourself long enough, do you lose it entirely? If no one cares for you at all, do you even really exist?” – Will to Magnus
“Tessa drew Jem down on her, taking the weight of him onto her body with the feeling that she was being given back something that had belonged to her forever, a bit of her that she had missed without knowing she was missing it.”
“I can offer you my life, but it is a short life; I can offer you my heart, though I have no idea how many more beats it shall sustain. But I love you enough to hope that you wil not care that I am being selfish in trying to make the rest of my life – whatever length – happy, by spending it with you. I want to be married to you, Tessa. I want it more than I have ever wanted anything else in my life.” He looked up at her through the veil of silvery hair that fell over his eyes. “That is,” he said shyly, “if you love me, too.” – Jem proposing to Tessa
“You and I, Tess, we’re alike. We live and breathe words. It was books that made me feel that perhaps I was not completely alone. They could be honest with me, and I with them. Reading your words, what you wrote, how you were lonely sometimes and afraid, but always brave; the way you saw the world, its colors and textures and sounds, I felt–I felt the way you thought, hoped, felt, dreamt. I felt I was dreaming and thinking and feeling with you. I dreamed what you dreamed, wanted what you wanted–and then I realized that truly I just wanted you. The girl behind the scrawled letters. I loved you from the moment I read them. I love you still.” – Will to Tessa
“You are home for me now.” – Jem to Tessa
“He bent to put his cheek against hers. His breath against her ear made her shudder with each deliberately spoken word. “I have wanted to do this,” he said, “every moment of every hour of every day that I have been with you since the day I met you.” – Will to Tessa
“I’ve never minded it,” he went on. “Being lost, that is. I had always thought one could not truly be lost if one knew one’s own heart. But I fear I may be lost without knowing yours.” – Jem to Tessa
“Jem. My Jem?” – Will, upon finding out Tessa is engaged to Jem 💔
CLOCKWORK PRINCESS! Ahhh!