What to say about the prequel to The Mortal Instruments, a series oft talked about in young adult literature sectors? Well, I haven’t yet read TMI, but The Infernal Devices was very good as a standalone novel. It kept me hooked, I liked most of the characters, and the setting, while at times a wee bit unrealistic (just some occasional slip-ups, mostly during character dialogue), was very well-done. I love this world of demons, vampires, warlocks, the fair folk and the descendents of angels (Shadowhunters) sworn to fight any injustices in the Downworld.
What I didn’t like, however, was the ending. It was just a little bit underwhelming for me. I was expecting to see more of Will’s past and I’d love to have seen Henry, Charlotte, Thomas, even Jessamine developed a little bit more. The ending I shall spoil now, so here’s your obligatory SPOILER ALERT.
(Alright, so it turns out that De Quincey, the vampire lord who the Shadowhunters have thought is the mysterious villain known only as ‘The Magister’, is actually just some lackey to a human (a ‘mundane’) called Axel Mortmain, with wealth, occult knowledge and a smirk plastered over his face the entire time. Also, our heroine, Tessa Gray finds out that her brother, Nate, is actually EVIL. Said brother moved to England to work for Mortmain… and then plotted it so he’d be some innocent victim of a manipulative vampire who lords over a gambling den for other supernatural folk.)
Nate’s sudden transformation from innocent to evil just felt like Clare turning on a tap for me. Rather than intricately plot what had happened to make him this way, she just made it so he’d actually been evil all along and *gasp* was even responsible for the death of their beloved aunt and only living relative back in New York. By sending her a poisoned box of chocolates.
Nate aside, I’d also like to know what happened with Tessa a couple of times. If I recall correctly, when the Shadowhunters first rescue Nate from De Quincey’s lair (with the help of a defecting vampire named Camille), Tessa tells him that there’s nothing left for them if they were to go back to New York, and they’ll just have to make do and find a nice apartment here in England. Yet only a few chapters later, with nothing in-between to have made Tessa change her mind, she pleads with Nate that they should go back to America? Maybe I missed something, but that stuck out like a sore thumb to me.
Yet again, I have to return to the ending as the one thing that shaves off a few points for me. Mortmain reveals his master plan (TM) in the typical supervillain way, so far so good. His company worked on developing machinery in the past, but is now more interested in destroying the Nephilim (the other collective name for Shadowhunters) with his army of automatons. After one of the robots bloodies its hand with James’ blood after attacking him, they can enter the sacred site of the Institute, whose doors can only be opened by one with Shadowhunter blood (even if it’s just staining their hand, I assume).
While Tessa’s love interests, Jem (James) and Will are off investigating a false lead, those left behind at the Institute are incredibly vulnerable, including Tessa, who learns everything she can from Nate, and then finds herself trapped in a room with Mortmain, wherein he reveals his master plan (TM). The kicker? We never even get to know what it is!
Oh, and Mortmain actually gives Tessa her back-story, as well as his master plan (TM)! Two for the price of one…! Mm, so while Tessa was diagnosed as being an ‘Eidelon’, or a shape-shifter, or whatever, Mortmain sneers and tells her she’s a warlock, borne of an unholy alliance between a demon and a human being. Sacré bleu!
It was clever how Tessa managed to manipulate Mortmain by transforming, though.
Anyway, after the epic fight and the good old ‘the villain gets away just in time so we can have two more sequels’, the book turns into a bit of a bodice-ripper for the Will x Tessa shippers out there. Will is a bit of a ladies’ man, and says to Tessa that they shouldn’t court one another due to the fact that warlocks (otherwise known as ‘Lilith’s Children’ in the book) are sterile. Because, Tessa, that’s all you’re good for – producing offspring. Oh, I’m sure there’s going to be this explanation as to why Will refuses Tessa’s affections due to this rather arbitrary reason, since he goes to visit Magnus Bane (another warlock) shortly after this, and then the book ends. Hm.
Well, whatever Will’s reasons, I’m sure they’ll be explained in Clockwork Prince, the forthcoming sequel.
For now, I’m giving the first book of The Infernal Devices a solid 3/5.