When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.Upon hearing of a prequel of sorts to the Mortal Instruments series I was absolutely elated! I loved the idea of Shadowhunters in Victorian London and I felt like it would be a lot of fun. What's not to love about Cassandra Clare's books? When I actually started reading the series I really wasn't sure of what I was reading.
Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What's more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.
Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by--and torn between--two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length...everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world...and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.
The book's saving grace was that it wasn't that slow to start. It had a decent pace and I was keeping up with everything, enjoying it for what it was. I was however, very disappointed with the characters. I only came to like Jem. Tessa has all of the makings for a good heroine, she just needs to grow some lady balls. Perhaps this is just the way Tessa starts the series and we'll see a really nicely rounded character evolution. Who knows! Will simply irritated me. I rolled my eyes nearly every time he walked into the scene, because his character was so dramatically arrogant and annoying. There's a hinting to some depth that may be revealed later on, but for now I can't stand his "I have a major thing for you but I'm too much of an arrogant jerk" act. The way he talked about himself was also just too similar to Jace's character in the Mortal Instruments to be ignored, save Jace was actually a bit funny when he did it. The minor characters didn't seem as strong as the minor characters in the Mortal Instruments. I don't think I'd want them to watch my back in a fight.
The "historical" fiction aspect of it was really fun at first, but as I kept reading it just seemed rather forced. I don't think it was necessary to describe social decorum the way it was every time it came up that something was different in the Victorian Era. I prefer figuring it out from the action and dialogue rather than being told. I took the historical accuracy with a grain of salt, so I don't have complaints about that like some people might. After all, this is a book with warlocks and demons, okay?
The action really got rolling in the end and it really brought up a lot of questions to my mind about Tessa. Who is she really? And what do these bad people need her for? I really hope these get answered as I read the second book, Clockwork Prince. Often, as one book follows another, a lot of connections are made and things start to make sense.
Overall, it's a decent addition to the world of the Shadowhunters, but I just don't think it does a lot for me. I much prefer Clary to Tessa and Jace to Will... and heck even Simon to Jem. I'll still read the second one, but if I'm disappointed I think I'll be done with this series. Don't waste your money if you're not crazy about Cassandra Clare (even though I am). Borrow it from a friend.