“Perhaps London is just Hell’s entrance, and we are the damned souls refusing to pass through, fearing that what we will find on the other side will be worse than the horror we already know.”
This book has been drifting around the periphery of my TBR for so long now that it just seemed unavoidable. I didn’t pick it up right away because I had a sneaking suspicion that it might be the very kind of YA fantasy that would have me rolling my eyes so much it would give me a headache. But, there have also been so many novels I’ve missed out on because I expected them to be too juvenile, but they were actually amazing. The first time I picked the book up I didn’t make it past chapter one. The second time was better, but not much. But the third time (can we just take a moment to applaud my perseverance) I got past the first 200 or so pages of stereotypical YA meh-ness and found myself actually rather enjoying it.
So the actual plot is about a girl named Tessa who moves to London from New York to find her brother Nate, but when she gets there she finds herself captured by a pair of sisters lock her up who torture her into revealing a hidden super power that Tessa had been unaware that she had, the ability to transform into other people. Eventually she escapes the sisters and finds her way into the hands of the Nephilim, a secret organization of demon hunters, descended from a angels and sworn to protect the normal folk from the evil clutches of the underworld and who in exchange for her assistance by using her rare gift of transformation offer to help Tessa find her brother.
To be honest, I enjoyed this more than I expected to, but it’s by no means a life changing, groundbreaking piece of writing in my opinion. The romance was pretty shallow and there was a bit too much of the witty ‘banter’ between the three main characters that I gather Young Adults are expected to enjoy but that I always find to come across as too contrived. I rather liked reading about the Shadowhunter’s origins, the demons and the world that they all inhabit though. Clare’s talents as a writer clearly lie in her ability to make her worlds believable, but I found the characters to be a bit predictable, superficial and entirely out of place in their environment (it’s supposed to be Victorian England but the teenagers seemed straight up out of the new millennium). It reminded me quite a lot of Scooby Doo, with the great surprise unmasking at the end, and the way that all of the villains stand around explaining how they did what they did and could have got away with it too if not for those pesky kids. But I think if you approach the book in that kind of light, not expecting a masterpiece but enjoying it for what it is, then it’s actually a pretty decent story and I completely understand why the YA crowd love it as much as they do. I plan on reading the next one and hope to find it a little less over explanatory now that the stage has been set and hopefully the characters will be able to grow a little more too.