I believe this is my second time reading this book, and I have to say, I enjoyed it just as much the second time around.
Tessa Gray expects to find her older brother Nathaniel in England, 1878, after arriving from New York bringing news of their aunt’s untimely death. However, it is two women called the Dark Sisters who come to collect her instead – and hold her against her will for six weeks, teaching Tessa how to unlock and master her strange shape-changing ability. Tessa is able to Change her body into that of another person, alive or dead, a unique skill that a mysterious man called The Magister desires to control. But before he can claim Tessa as his own, she is rescued by two Shadowhunters named Will and Jem – half-human, half-angel beings that seek to rid the world of demons and other dangerous Downworlder creatures. Tessa is taken back to the London Institute, a safe haven run by Shadowhunters were they can train and study under the Enclave and their laws, and where Tessa will be protected from the creatures that want to kidnap her, as well as the terrifying new army of automatons the Magister controls.
It’s been quite a few years since I originally read this, and I still felt the same fierce love for these characters that I found the first time around. I was reminded of Tessa’s ignorance and Will’s arrogance, but both of them ended up being so powerfully moving in their innocence, as well as their raw and unrefined aims and desires. Jem is a walking heartbreak waiting to happen, and his calm acceptance of that fact just makes it so much worse. I really care about these characters, and they all desperately care about each other, which is something that (for me) seemed lacking in City of Bones and the rest of the Mortal Instruments series: that sense of connectedness and belonging that Tessa, Will, and Jem have, without the insecurity or confusion that repeatedly came between Clary and Jace, or Clary and Simon, or Jace and Alec. I’m not even truly certain of the relationship between Clary and Alec, beyond “I’m only friends with you because you’re a package deal with Jace.” There’s also less of a ‘love triangle’ feeling and more of a deep and meaningful kinship between Tessa, Will, and Jem, that there isn’t in Cassandra Clare’s previous series, but that I sincerely hope appears in her next trilogy.
What I really liked about this book: Besides the swoon-level amount of poetry? Tessa’s confidence. She’s ignorant, she messes up, she doesn’t look like a Victorian babe all the time, Will is a rude brat to her – all of these things come up repeatedly, and NONE of them slow her down. She never stops to hate herself or reprimand her lack of knowledge about something. Yes, she blames herself for things that aren’t entirely her fault, but she never, ever sits around and mopes about it, and I love that about her more than anything else. She is a doer, someone who asks questions and finds her own answers. She’s bold and expressive. She may be a lady, but she’s not a doormat, and she wants you to know it. Women like her in YA are few and far between. And yet, you find TONS of strong female characters in this book. Charlotte is insecure, but she is fierce in her goal to succeed without being blindly certain of her success, and she doesn’t give up even when all the tables are turned against her. Jessamine may not want to be a Shadowhunter, and can be selfish and heartless. She has a dream for herself that is away from demons and Downworlders, more Jane Austen than Mary Shelley. She is worth respecting, though, for knowing what she wants to do with her life and having the courage to go through with it. Lady Belcourt, Sophie, and Agatha are similarly full of passion and courage, despite the different ways they show it. All of them stood out in the best ways.
What I didn’t like about this book: The “twist ending” was a little too predictable, but it did surprise me more than I thought it would when it actually happened. And, despite what I said about how great and amazing Tessa is, I was kind of ticked about the whole “well, Mr. Darcy was pretty rude to Elizabeth while he was courting her, and Heathcliff was never anything but rude to Catherine, so really it’s probably not that big of a deal that Will is being a buttface and I shouldn’t overreact about this.” With male idols like Mr. Darcy and Heathcliff to go off of, I don’t suppose it’s ~entirely~ Tessa’s fault, but I seriously expected her to be like “what the hell, Will. Stop. Just stop, you’re making an ass of yourself.” or something! And then Will’s whole BS creepy innuendo thing after kissing her was just crap. I really expected more of those two characters in those moments, and I heaved a genuine huff of disgust after reading those two parts.
Overall: 4 golden, shiny stars for a golden, shiny book.
Read August 8th, 2015