Plot: After her aunt dies, Tessa travels to England to live with her brother. But upon her arrival she finds not a warm welcome but two odd women who imprison and torment her. They teach her to use a power that she never knew she had, the power to become another person and to see into their mind. She is saved from captivity by a a handsome young Shadowhunter, part of a clan of demon hunters with angel blood. He brings her back to the institute where he lives but, though she grows to like the Shadowhunters, she isn’t sure that she can trust them. She fears that they also want to use her power but they may be her only protection from the Magister and his clockwork automatons.
This is my favorite Cassandra Clare book so far. I didn’t want to put it down until I was done (but a girl’s gotta work). I’ve always liked novels taking place in or written during the Victorian period. It isn’t simply the history, the culture or the clothes (though Will certainly cuts a fine figure on the cover), for me a good Victorian novel comes down to one thing: banter. The Victorians were masters of conversation and when a good author captures that it is a treat to read. Add a well built mythology, action, suspense and romance to Clare’s snappy dialogue and you have a must read novel.
As usual, Clare’s characters are a pleasure. The two romantic interests for Tessa, Will and Jem, are both charming and troubled in their own ways. I look forward to seeing how the relationships develop (though I’m already a bit in love with Jem). But the truly interesting characters are the women. Clare hasn’t simply taken characters like Clary and Isabelle and transposed them into Victorian England. These are strong, intelligent women but true to their time. Jessie’s desperate need to be a normal upper class wife instead of a warrior and Charlotte’s struggles to be taken seriously as a leader despite the fact that she is a woman, ring true. Tessa meanwhile is in some ways a supernatural Elizabeth Bennet. I look forward to reading more of their adventures.
You don’t have to have read the Mortal Instruments series to read this book. It takes place in the same universe and a few characters are the same (Magnus plays an important part, for example) but each series can stand alone. The second book, Clockwork Prince, is due out in September 2011.
This is not my favorite book trailer (the woman doing voice over didn’t impress me) but it’s not all bad: