Published: August 31st 2010
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Details: Hardcover, 479 pages
My Rating: 3/5
Prequel to The Mortal Instruments Series which I LOVED. Set in Victorian London, shape-shifter Tessa is captured by evil warlocks and saved by a group of shadowhunters, among them handsome and arrogant Will. While I loved revisiting this world, the relationship between the two main characters in this book bothered me a little, as did some of the repetitive factors. All in all, a great fast-paced read and a good start to a series, but not as amazing as The Mortal Instruments Series.
A few chapters in:
As a fan of Cassandra Clare, I was superexcited when I heard that she had written a spin-off series, set in the very same shadowhunter world that I’ve come to love after reading her Mortal Instruments Series. The question was only: was she going to be able to replicate the success that was The Mortal Instruments series? Well, judging by the many rave reviews it appears as if yes, she has succeeded. And so, I am really excited to finally delve into that world again!
I’m now a few chapters in. Set in the Victorian England, this is the prequel to The Mortal Instruments Series. Many of the characters are therefore ancestors to Jace, Alec, Isabelle and Co.
The main character however is of unknown family. Her name is Tessa – an american orphan girl – who upon following her brother to London, is captured on arrival and held captive by two weird-looking sisters named The Dark Sisters. It turns out Tessa has a rather unusual talent which the evil sisters intend to use: Tessa can shape-shift into any human form. After weeks in prison, she is saved by the gorgeous and arrogant shadowhunter Will, and taken to the shadowhunter institute in London, where she meets the rest of the members of the shadowhunter family.
And this is where I couldn’t help but start noticing the similarities with the City of Bones. Tessa, like Clary, doesn’t belong in the shadowhunter world, yet is saved and accommodated at the shadowhunter institute seeing as her remaining family (Tessa’s brother as well as Clary’s mother) has disappeared. At the institute Tessa is introduced to the members of the shadowhunter clan, where Will seems like a Jace with brown hair, Jem is the equivalent of Alec (all though straight), and Jassamine is a slightly more bitchy Isabelle.
And this is as far as I’ve got. While I do love diving into this world again, I hope these new characters will differentiate themselves from the ones that I know in The Mortal Instruments. I hate to be comparing them like this, but I just can’t help it! Hopefully, the more I get to know about them, the less comparable to Jace and Co. they’ll seem.
After finishing the book:
As you know, after reading a few chapters, the similarity to The City of Bones bugged me. However, as I read more, the characters started taking on a life of their own, which meant I could enjoy it for what it was – another entertaining trip into the shadowhunter world of Cassandra Clare.
After finishing it however, I have to admit it lacked that special something that made the Mortal Instruments amazing. What special something? Well, it lacked a romantic lead as appealing as Jace. And there were some repetitive factors. But I’ll get to that in a moment.
First, let me tell you what I loved. As always with Cassandra Clare, she provides a detailed and intricate world-building that makes you feel as if you literally live and breathe within that world yourself, in the midst of all types of supernatural creatures in a London set in the Victorian era. Not an easy feat, but Clare sure pulls this off beautifully. I also love the sharp, interesting and quirky dialogues. But most of all, I think it’s her wonderfully fleshed out characters that stand out for me. After all, she was the author who created my one fictional crush last year – Jace.
In this book the characters are once again wonderfully drawn. There is Tessa with her identity issues, Sophie – the reasonable maid, Jessamine who struggles against her shadowhunter heritage, the kind and fierce Charlotte and so on. Even if not that much is revealed about them in this first installment, you get a feeling that things are in store for all these characters, and that they will all play a role eventually. And that’s precisely what I like about Clare’s writing.
Yet, there was one character I had an issue with in this book, and that is Will, the potential love interest of Tessa. I first had an issue with him because he is just too similar to Jace in how he keeps the rest of the world at an arm’s length with sarcasm. As you can imagine, anyone too similar to Jace pales in comparison.
Then, as I read on, Will started taking on a slightly different personality than Jace. Which, in a way was good (because I’d hate to be comparing him to Jace), but was also bad, because what was revealed of his personality was not very appealing at all.
Will is like a darker version of Jace, who seems to use sarcasm in order to hide his ugly true self. While Jace (despite his sarcasms), was unable to lie, Will seems unable to tell the truth. All he seems to do is lie and being mean and rude, just for the sake of hurting others.
I don’t care whatever reasons may lie behind his behaviour, or that he occasionally seems to care for Jem. I still don’t think there is an excuse for acting the way he does. Most importantly, he treats Tessa horribly, and I’m actually bound to agree with the maid Sophie when she advised Tessa not go get involved with him.
Jem on the other hand grew on me. There is some actual bonding going on between him and Tessa, which seemed more grounded and real, as Jem (as opposed to Will) is someone you can actually talk to. He seems mature beyond his years, and despite his tragic circumstances he’s above self-pitying which is what seems to be consuming Will. Yet, Will is sure to be the romantic lead, or so I think. The next installment will most likely “explain” his earlier behaviour. The problem is, I’m not sure I’ll buy that explanation.
Lastly, the repetitive factors, some of which I mentioned earlier made for a slightly lower grade. All though the characters eventually took on lives of their own, it still could not take away the fact that some parts of the plot were quite similar to The Mortal Instruments. For instance, there is a questionable parentage of the main heroine, a villain who is raising an army to take down the shadowhunters, a main character discovering she has a powerful talent, a love triangle featuring two guys where one is kind and the other arrogant and so on.
The Bottom Line:
That said, I enjoyed reading it and I definitely plan to read the next installment, Clockwork Prince. It just couldn’t quite compare to The Mortal Instruments, that’s all.
Oh, and on a sidenote, what is it about Magnus Bane that makes him so appealing? I literally squealed when he made an appearance again. One of my favorite characters in this series, that’s for sure!