by Cassandra Clare
"Magic is dangerous—but love is more dangerous still.
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.
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."
This book is the first in a series that is a prequel to the very popular Mortal Instruments series. A movie is coming out from the first book of that series this summer. This series is about the ancestors of the Mortal Instruments characters. It is very much a steampunk novel, which is very popular right now. The setting is Victorian London, but an alternate sort of London. The action certainly starts right away in this book. I was immediately drawn to Tessa, I thought she was the perfect heroine; innocent, sweet, loyal, yet spunky, brave and strong. I loved the allusions to Boadicea, the warrior queen. But even though there was action from the very beginning, portions of it felt very slow. I have a feeling that the next 2 books are probably even better because everything has been set up and we know all the characters so the story can just go forward. I found the character of Will very annoying, but I'm sure there is a very good reason for his sullen and irritable behavior, which we will discover in the sequels. Other things I really liked were the chapter headings of Victorian poetry, and the literary quotes between Tessa and Will. I forgive a lot of things for a A Tale of Two Cities quote or an Oscar Wilde poem.
Areas of concern: I don't remember any bad language in this book, if it was there it was very mild. They had a phrase they used - "by the Angel" - which might have been profanity to them but it didn't bother me. The romance was very clean, just a couple kisses. There was some talk of brothels. The violence was very heavy with Shadowhunters against demons and mechanical creatures. Tessa was treated very roughly when the book started. The feeling of the book was pretty dark overall.