When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray arrives in England during the reign of Queen Victoria, something terrifying is waiting for her in London’s Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gas-lit streets. Friendless and hunted, Tessa seeks refuge with the Shadowhunters, a band of warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons. Drawn ever deeper into their world, she finds herself fascinated by – and torn between – two best friends and quickly realizes that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.
It’s 1878 and 16 year old New Yorker Tessa Gray arrives in Southampton expecting to be reunited with her brother, Nate. Instead she’s collected by the Dark sisters who hold her captive in their Whitechapel home and reveal that she’s a shapeshifter with the ability to transform herself into other people just by touching their belongings.
Worried about her brother and told by the sisters that she have to marry their Magister, Tessa’s rescued by Shadowhunters Will Heron and Jem Carstairs, who’re investigating a series of mysterious deaths. Given refuge in the London Institute, Tessa comes to terms with both who she really is and a world she never knew existed while getting closer to Will and Jem who each has secrets of their own. While investigations progress into who the Magister is his plans for Tessa, Tessa discovers that love can be the biggest threat of all.
If you enjoyed Cassandra Clare’s MORTAL INSTRUMENTS TRILOGY, then you’ll probably love this prequel because it is so similar in terms of plot and character.
Tessa mirrors Clary – possessing a heritage she wasn’t previously aware of and a gift no one has ever seen before, she’s forced into the Shadowhunter’s world, relying on them to find her brother. Will mirrors Jace – arrogant, sexy and a gifted Shadowhunter he holds people at bay and has secrets he’s desperate to keep. Jem mirrors for Simon, sensitive, with a dark secret that few know that makes him something other than human. Jessamine is an exaggerated version of Isabel, spoilt and demanding, she hates being a Shadowhunter and is desperate to find a husband to give her a normal life.
Clare’s Victorian London is straight out of Hollywood – full of smog, horses, and promenades in Hyde Park. However her depiction of Whitechapel feels off-track - the idea of fine gentleman and ladies gathering there for illegal magical gambling dens and gatherings doesn’t feel true given that it was a slum.
The plot moves quickly and there are some good scenes, e.g. where the Institute comes under attack. However there’s a lot of purple prose as well, many scenes were over-written for my taste and a key plot twist matches that in CITY OF BONES. It also ends on a cliff hanger that feels cheap.
All in all, there isn’t a lot here that’s new, which may satisfy existing fans, but didn’t really work for me.
Despite some good individual scenes, this prequel to Cassandra Clare’s bestselling MORTAL INSTRUMENTS TRILOGY has far too many similarities, particularly in terms of the characters and plot structure, for it to be a truly satisfying read. Much of it was too overwritten for me and some of the prose is outright purple, while the cliff hanger ending irritates rather than tantalizes. Existing fans will probably like that, but for me this was little more than Mortal Instruments in bustles and it was disappointing that Victorian London is portrayed in such glib, Hollywood-ised terms.
Cross-posted to bookish, books, bookworming, fantasywithbite and yalitlovers.
Apologies if this is not permitted, but I am currently doing an ARC give-away on my RL blog which includes the middle grade fantasy Bartimaeus: The Ring Of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud here if anyone is interested.