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.
My take: This paranormal novel includes all the elements of a great story; vampires, werewolves (although peripherally), warlocks, Victorian England, dashing antagonist, and bizarre, strangely entertaining, gore. I really, really liked it simply for the originality and fun factor, morbid as it may be. Here's the cast:
Tessa: Protagonist from America in a England without a friend. Taken captive by the Dark Sisters, she is
Charlotte: Tennuously holding onto her leadership appointment, she is the heart of the Enclave. Small, fast, and deadly. Strangely maternal.
Henry: The absent-minded professor is Charlotte's husband. Accidentally very funny.
Jessamine: Beautiful beyond words. Just ask her.
Jem: Short for James, he is fair, transluscent, and somehow fragile but also a fierce fighter when feeling well.
Will: Snarky, wickedly funny and handsome, aloof and lonely. Hiding secrets.
Vampires of all sorts: Ambivalent of Mundanes, they are not demonic but simply infected. It's an illness. Like book addicts.
Thomas, Sophie, Agatha: Mundanes with the "Sight."
Nathan: Tessa's brother who is responsible for Tessa's arrival in England which led to her new life.
Magister: The one who planned the scheme to get Tessa to come to him. He is a secret until the end.
The disappointment for me is the ending. It's a cliff hanger. That's why it's called Book One. Now I have to wait to see what Tessa truly is and explain mysteries regarding certain members of the Enclave. It will be interesting to find out what Tessa can really do.