main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Literature: Infernal Devices
Welcome to London, baby!!!.

Gently, the tide is rising,
corrupting the mechanism.
Salt, rust, and silt
slowing the gears.
Down at the banks
Thames River Song, Elka Cloke

"Magic is dangerous—but love is more dangerous still."

When 16-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." — back cover

The trilogy is written by Cassandra Clare as a prequel to her previous series, The Mortal Instruments. Clockwork Princess, the third and final book in the series has been released. This series has a character sheet, so please put all character-related tropes there.

Not to be confused with the third book of the Mortal Engines quartet, or with K.W. Jeter's seminal steampunk novel.

This series provides examples of:

  • Absent-Minded Professor: Henry - while not really being a professor in the first place. But he's a brilliant inventor who just happens to forget things.
  • Action Girl: Many. Tessa later becomes one. Also Charlotte Branwell and Will's sister, Cecily.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Theresa Gray is called Tessa by most everyone, Tessie by her brother, and Tess by Will.
    • And Will's sister Cecily is called "Cecy" by Will and later Gabriel Lightwood.
  • The Ageless: Warlocks, and possibly Faeries, stop aging after reaching maturity. Vampires are frozen at whatever age they were when they were turned.
  • All Myths Are True
  • Arranged Marriage: Tess was going to be forced to marry the Magister before she was rescued.
  • Bilingual Bonus: "Ni hen piao liang." Not just Chinese but also French, Latin, some Greek...there's really quite a number of them.
    • In the later books Welsh is also used quite frequently.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Jem lives, but as a Silent Brother who can only see Will and Tessa occasionally over the next few decades. Will and Tessa get married, but Will dies in the epilogue, leaving Tessa alone. Tessa leaves her children, not wanting to watch them die too. Jem is cured and he and Tessa get together, but Tessa will eventually have to watch him die too.
  • British Accents - Tessa's brother Nate, despite being from New York, has one of these. He uses "oughtn't" on several occasions. You know, like every American.
    • Consider the time period, though. It's not too hard to believe that the educated Gray siblings would use what they perceive as more refined word choice—even though it isn't, but merely British English vs. American—regardless of nationality.
  • Blood from the Mouth -Jem due to his 'illness' coughs up blood when weak.
    • Incurable Coughof Death -Jem's illness that causes him to cough up blood. No cure has been found.
      • That is until the epilogue where a cure was finally found.
  • Call Forward: Magnus tells Tessa he has a thing for people with blue eyes and black hair. Who has blue eyes and black hair? Alec from Mortal Instruments!
    • Also, Henry talking about inventing the Sensor.
    • Remember City of Fallen Angels when Jace sleeps in the Silent City and sees initials scratched onto the wall? Clockwork Prince reveals that those stood for "Jessamine Gray."
    • Magnus says to a probable ancestor of Alec “All Lightwoods look the same to me—”.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Will talking about Boadicea later on gives, Tessa the strength to fool the Magister
  • Chekhov's Gift: The tiny clockwork angel sure comes in handy
    • But we really don't know much about it
    • Also Tessa's dislike for chocolate, and the gift Nate gives Aunt Harriet...
  • Clockwork Creature: The automatons - humanoid clockwork creatures that answer to the Magister and that were planned to be infused with demon energies to create a clockwork army.
    • only very loosely "humanoid" and many times they are remotely humanoid they lack any facial features, up the creepy factor
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Jessamine, who despite trying all she can to be The Load can't deny her Shadowhunter heritage.
    • Bridget. She's just a cook and someone who makes depressing poetry/songs, yet is arguably the best fighter who isn't of supernatural(werewolf, vampire, etc.). Even Will got stunned.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Will... most notably. But also, Tessa, Jem and Jessamine.
    • Sophie should get a special mention.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Tessa's and Jessamine's.
  • Definitely Just a Cold: Jem to Tessa.
  • Demon Slaying: The Shadowhunters' whole schtick.
  • Distant Finale: The epilogue of Clockwork Princess takes place in modern day, with Tessa recalling her life with Will, his death of old age in her arms as Jem played the violin, and finally meeting with Jem who has been freed from the Silent Brothers and the two of them starting a new life together.
  • Driven to Suicide: Subverted. Tessa pretends to kill herself to keep Mortmain from getting his hands on her power. In reality she Changed at the last minute into a woman who died of a gunshot wound.
    • Played straight with Barbara Lightwood and her brother.
  • Epigraph: At the beginning of each chapter (usually hinting at what's about to happen)
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Nate. What's with the constant brother/sister betrayals in Cassandra Clare books?
    • And later, Jessamine Lovelace betrays the Institute for Nate.
  • Expy: Some of the characters are expies of Harry Potter characters as interpreted by Cassandra Claire's old fanfic the Draco Trilogy:
    • Tessa Gray is Hermoine Granger.
    • Will Herondale is Draco Malfoy.
    • Jim Carstairs is Harry Potter.
  • Extranormal Institute: The Institutes, and by extension the (Con)clave.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: De Quincy and Magnus Bane both hint at this about Will.
    • Of course this applies to Magnus Bane as well since De Quincy was interested in him, "as more than friends".
      • Tessa didn't know what Magnus was hinting at, but that was because such things were unheard of in such a time period... (or just not talked about)
  • Faking the Dead: Tessa fakes her own suicide to prevent Mortmain from using her power.
  • Falling Chandelier of Doom: Took care of Mrs. Dark quite nicely.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Warlocks, werewolves, vampires, faeries, demons, angels, and Nephilim are the main fantasy creatures; however, many others are mentioned in passing.
  • First Kiss: Will, for Tessa.
  • Five-Man Band: The Hero being Tessa in this case with Will as The Lancer, Jem as The Smart Guy, Thomas and Henry count as The Big Guy, and Charlotte is most definitely The Chick here.
  • Gaslamp Fantasy: Is most definitely this - Victorian London with magical elements.
  • Genre Savvy: Tessa.
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: Played with having Jem and Will be Tessa's angels. It doesn't hurt that they're both part angel.
  • Guns Are Useless: So it's best to just bring your seraph blade with you.
    • Although a few times, guns did come in handy... they just aren't magic.
  • Happily Married: The Branwells, more or less.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: In-universe example:
    • Magnus says to a Lightwood “All Lightwoods look the same to me—”. What's the last name of his future partner? Lightwood.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Will and Jem.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each book is titled "The Clockwork X".
  • If I Can't Have You: The reason for Sophie's scar.
  • The Infiltration: Having been given absolutely, totally false information that de Quincey is the Magister, the Clave devises a plan to have Will and Tessa enter one of de Quincey's lavish parties where he tortures mundanes like Nate by having Tessa transform into Camille Belcourt. At the sign of de Quincey breaking the Law, Will is supposed to signal the Clave so that they can kick some vampire ass.
  • Jade-Colored Glasses: Arguably Will, as he alludes to a traumatic childhood quite often.
    • Subverted with Jem, who had a very traumatic experience and seems to function quite well outside his "illness".
  • Jerk Ass: Will. He very occasionally strays into Jerk with a Heart of Gold territory, but he really isn't. However, Will does shift into Jerkass Façade territory after the discovery that he literally kills everyone he loves.
    • Until it turns out that he doesn't. He's still distant, though, but that's just his personality.
      • Gabriel Lightwood, and probably his older brother, who can make the former look sweeter than gingerbread.
      • It's possible that his brother used to be this, but in Clockwork Prince, it appears he got better while he was in Spain.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters
  • Love Triangle: Will—>Tessa<—Jem.
    • Jessamine lampshades it in Clockwork Prince.
    Jessamine, mocking Tessa: Oh, I must choose between Will and Jem! Whatever shall I do?
  • Magic-Powered Pseudoscience/Magitek: The clockwork automatons.
  • Meaningful Name: Axel Mortmain makes mechanical devices.
  • Mixed Ancestry: Technically anyone of note in this series. Shadowhunters are half-angel half-human, Warlocks are half-demon half-human, Faeries are half-angel half-demon, etc etc.
  • Mundane Solution - Of the Ass Pull variety, when Mrs. Dark in demon form inside a pentagram can't be touched by seraph blades infused with the divine energy of God, but a falling chandelier kills her just fine. Sort of.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Invoked by Tessa in the final book when she realizes exactly why and how Mortmain wishes to use her.
  • Morality Pet: Jem and Tessa, for Will.
  • Muggles: Or, "Mundanes."
    • Which, actually makes more sense here when you think about it. "Mundane" means not sacred, ordinary versus divine. But, in Mortal Instruments it takes on a negative meaning, sounding boring and the Shadow Hunters use it with bad connotations — here it's more friendly.
  • Odd Friendship: Will and Jem.
    • Will and Magnus, considering that Will doesn't really do friends and that, up until that point, Magnus hated Shadowhunters.
    • In Clockwork Princess Magnus and Henry seem to get along swimmingly. Magnus is the only person other than Charlotte to ever consider Henry brilliant and Henry introduced Magnus to glitter, his semi-infamous accessory from the Mortal Instruments series.
  • Only Child Syndrome: The only characters who aren't only children are Tessa, whose search for her brother Nate who eventually betrays her, and is actually her cousin kicks off the plot, the Dark Sisters, Gabriel, whose siblings aren't seen until at least the second book, and Will whose younger sister comes to the Institute at the end of book 2. Aunt Harriet, who was Tessa and Nate's mother's sister, is dead. Everyone else's parents are either deceased or simply not there, leaving them only children.
  • Our Angels Are Different
  • Our Vampires Are Different
  • Pair the Spares: Everyone gets a fairytale romance at the age of sixteen. Sophie is paired up with Gideon after deciding she didn't really love Jem anyway, and almost from the moment she is introduced Cecily is paired off with his conveniently single brother. Meanwhile, only single characters are killed off (Jessamine, Thomas).
  • Parental Abandonment: Everyone suffers from this. And I mean everyone. Jem even mentions that everyone is an orphan.
    • To be fair, this is what the Institute is for. It's essentially an orphanage for Shadowhunters. If any of them had parents, they would be living with them. Except Will and later Cecily, whose parents don't count since they're not Shadowhunters.
  • The Reveal: Mortmain is ACTUALLY the Magister also, Tessa's dad was a demon who fooled his mom into thinking he was her husband, and having his half-demon warlock baby! BUT this is Mortal Instruments so expect some of this stuff to change as the series progresses.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: The automatons - despite walking with a graceless gait, they can pass for normal humans well enough.
  • Running Gag: "There's no such thing as demon pox, Will!"
    • Many fans believe demon pox is a real disease and that may be the cause of Will's or Jem's problem
    • As it turns out, we find out in Clockwork Prince that Demon Pox IS a real disease, and Benedict Lightwood has had it for years and gave it to his wife, driving her to kill herself in shame. Will is so pleased about being right all along that he sings a song about it.
  • The Scapegoat: De Quincey, who unknowingly took the blame for being the Magister.
  • Scars Are Forever: Sophie, who has a long scar running down the side of her face that distorts her beauty.
  • Secretly Dying: As of Clockwork Prince, Jem is still hiding his Soap Opera Disease from everyone except Will and Tessa.
  • Shape Shifter: Tessa! This starts off the whole story because of her ability to change into anyone, even possessing some of their memories and personality (she just has to touch one of their items to do it the first time).
  • Soap Opera Disease: Jem's. It was caused by a demon drug that was used to torture him and his parents when he was younger. There is no known cure for it, and he has to keep taking a specific drug to keep on fighting - as Brother Enoch says, taking the drug means a slow death, but keeping him off the drug would mean a quick one.
  • Stock Foreign Name: James and William.
    • Could be justified, considering how common those names were when the story is set.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Thomas is replaced by his identical twin.
  • Take Over the World: The Magister wants to do this, very much.
  • Token Trio: Will being the lead "white guy", Tessa being the lead "white girl", and Jem being the lead "ethnic guy", although he's half-British.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Wanna know if Will and Tessa kiss? good! Go here! Luckily, it's not too much of a spoiler.
  • Trilogy Creep: The series can be considered one to the original Mortal Instruments series.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: Will, Jem, and Tessa.
  • The Verse: This is a prequel to Mortal Instruments that takes place in the same universe.
  • Victorian London
  • Who You Gonna Call?: Shadowhunters.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Jem, who is dependent on the yin fen for survival. However, taking it is slowly killing him.

IndexingLiterature of the 2010sDan Brown's Inferno
The Incarnate TrilogyYoung Adult LiteratureInheritance Cycle
Incarnations of ImmortalityFantasy LiteratureInferno

alternative title(s): Infernal Devices
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy