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Literature / The Infernal Devices

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Welcome to London.

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, and is the second series in The Shadowhunter Chronicles. It consists of:

  1. Clockwork Angel (2010)
  2. Clockwork Prince (2011)
  3. Clockwork Princess (2013)

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 Michael Kurland's Moriarty novel The Infernal Device, or K. W. Jeter's seminal steampunk novel Infernal Devices.

This series provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Many. Arguably all named female characters are this. We have Charlotte Branwell who doubles as the Team Mom, Tessa Gray, a Badass Bookworm, Brigit Daly the Battle Butler, and Will's sister, Cecily. Even Jessamine, while she hates fighting, can kill a goblin all by herself.
  • 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 are this. They do not age after reaching adulthood, but are not significantly more resistant to physical injury than humans. This is also implied to be the case with the Fair Folk. Vampires are a little closer to Immortality, as they possess Healing Factor, although they can still be killed, most obviously by sunlight.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys:
    • Will constantly says he's always out drinking and gambling, and that there are a dozen girls who've claimed that he'd compromised their virtue. Jem, however, thinks he's lying to make himself look bad.
  • Bash Brothers: The concept of "parabatai" is absolutely this trope. Will Herondale and Jem Carstairs are the clearest example of this.
  • Big Brother Instinct:
    • Will says the reason Gabriel hates him so much is because he compromised the latter's sister's virtue. But then again, it's Will, so we don't know if that's true or not. As of The Clockwork Prince, it's apparently because Will embarrased her by reading her diary out loud in public and breaking Gabriel's arm.
  • 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.
  • Brainy Brunette:
    • Tessa Gray is a wide reader and quotes poetry quite often. She has the potential to lapse into Badass Bookworm territory.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Both Will and Jem. They're both half English and half Welsh and Chinese respectively. Will's actual name is Gwilym and Jem's actual name is Jian but their real names are only brought up once or twice in passing and they both seem to prefer to be called by their "British" names.
  • 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 The 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 Gunman: Aloysius' grumpy behavior toward pretty much everyone is explained because his granddaughter was replaced by the faeries in exchange for a mundane. Said granddaughter, Adele, is Tessa's mother.
  • Chekhov's Gift:
    • The tiny clockwork angel sure comes in handy
    • Also Tessa's dislike for chocolate, and the gift Nate gives Aunt Harriet...
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome:
    • Will Herondale. According to Jessamine, Will thinks he's Galahad. And it's true.
  • 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.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: All three books in the trilogy have received manga adaptations.
  • Common Crossover: This series and The Mortal Instruments don't have a huge crossover file yet, but it's steadily building. Considering the fact that this series is really just a prequel and many characters are either ancestors of characters in The Mortal Instruments or present in both series (such as Magnus Bane and various vampires), it's not surprising.
  • Confession Triggers Consummation: Though Tessa and Will obviously have more-than-friendly feelings for one another, Will's belief that anyone who loves him will be cursed to die drives him to push her (and others) away. This includes his best friend, Jem, who loses his patience with Will's destructive tendencies, and tells Tessa as much after they have to drag him home drunk. It's during this talk that Jem confesses he holds feelings for Tessa, too. Despite her shock, the two end up in a heavy make out session that leads to some clothes being pulled off and them gravitating to the bed...until they knock over Jem's medicine, which stops them.
  • Converse with the Unconscious: A version of this happens in The Clockwork Princess. Will and Magnus have a conversation over a dying, unconscious Jem, in which Will mentions his love for Tessa. When Magnus leaves and Will is about to say his final goodbyes, Jem wakes up.
    "I am not dead yet, Will. What did Magnus mean by asking you if I knew you were in love with Tessa?"
  • 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.
  • Dark and Troubled Past:
    • Will Herondale. When he was twelve he accidentally released a demon, who cursed him so that everyone who loves him will die. The next day his older sister was dead and Will ran away from home to avoid hurting the rest of his family. He then spent the next few years pushing everyone away (with the exception of Jem) and ruining his reputation to make sure he doesn't kill anyone else.
    • Jem Carstairs. A demon who had a grudge against his mother tortured him in front of his parents, injecting him over and over with a drug that made him hallucinate vividly.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Oh, Will.
    Gabriel: You know, there was a time when I thought we could be friends.
    Will: There was a time when I thought I was a ferret, but that turned out to be the opium haze. Did you know it had that effect? 'Cause I didn't.
    • And there's this scene from The Clockwork Prince:
    “They’re not hideous,” said Tessa.
    Will blinked at her. “What?”
    “Gideon and Gabriel,” said Tessa. “They’re really quite good-looking, not hideous at all.”
    “I spoke,” said Will, in sepulchral tones, “of the pitch-black inner depths of their souls.”
    Tessa snorted. “And what color do you suppose the inner depths of your soul are, Will Herondale?”
    “Mauve,” said Will.
    • Jem's snarkiness comes mostly from saying something, then adding "Not really" with something humorous. He can play the trope completely straight, though.
  • Definitely Just a Cold: Jem to Tessa when she asks about his health.
  • Delivery Not Desired: In The Clockwork Angel, while Tessa is imprisoned by the Dark Sisters, she writes letters to Nate for comfort, knowing she most likely would not be able to send them.
  • 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 makes the Magister think she killed herself so that he wouldn't get his hands on her power, but in reality she Changed into a woman who'd died by a gunshot wound seconds before the wound would prove fatal.
    • Played straight with Barbara Lightwood and her brother.
  • Dumb Blonde:
    • Subverted. While flouncy and just a tad spoiled, Jessamine Lovelace is a perfectly capable Shadowhunter in her own right.
    • Very much averted with Camille Belcourt.
  • Epigraph: At the beginning of each chapter (usually hinting at what's about to happen)
  • Et Tu, Brute?:
    • Nate turns out to be working for the Magister. He is also the one who killed aunt Harriet.
    • And later, Jessamine Lovelace betrays the Institute for Nate.
  • Even the Guys Want Him:
    • De Quincy and Magnus Bane both hint at being interested in 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).
  • Everyone Must Be Paired: Every major character gets paired up. 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 with Gabriel. Meanwhile, only single characters are killed off (Jessamine, Thomas).
  • Extranormal Institute: The Institutes, and by extension the (Con)clave.
  • 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.
  • Fire and Ice Love Triangle: Will and Jem. Will is fire, Jem is ice. Interestingly, Jem is both much nicer and an infinitely safer bet.
  • First Kiss: Will Herondale , for Tessa Gray, in the attic.
  • Gadgeteer Genius:
  • Gaslamp Fantasy: The series is set an alternate Victorian London that contains elements of a Masquerade: things such as magic, demons, werewolves, vampires, etc. wander around in the open - but only people with The Sight can see them.
  • 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: Guns don't work on demons, 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.
  • Heel–Face Turn:
    • [[spoiler:Gabriel Lightwood stops supporting his father after his father is turned into a demon by the demon pox.]
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Will and Jem. So much that even though both boys love Tessa, they are willing to let the other one have her and even if Jem died after marrying Tessa, Will would never pursue Tessa as he feels it would be a betrayal to his friend. He ends up marrying her anyway, at least until he dies. Then Tessa gets the best of both worlds by marrying Jem later on as well. Lucky her.
  • Idiosyncratic Cover Art: All the books have busts of the main characters over a city horizon.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each book in the series is titled "The Clockwork X", and the chapters after poems.
  • 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.
  • Interspecies Romance: Will's parents, a Mundane and a Shadowhunter, Tessa with both Will and Jem, Sophie with Gideon, also a Mundane and a Shadowhunter, Benedict Lightwood and an unknown number of Demonesses, Magnus and Camille Belcourt, a Warlock and a Vampire respectively, Camille again, with her former lover, a Werewolf, and Magnus again, with Woolsey Scott, also a Werewolf. Oh, and don't forget Tessa's parents, who're a Greater Demon and a Nephilim. Jessamine also develops feelings for Tessa's brother, Nate, though this may just be out of her desire to be a Mundane.
    • Though Shadowhunters and Mundanes aren't exactly a different species, they are different enough to qualify. To make a Harry Potter comparison, it is the equivalent of a witch or wizard marrying a Muggle.
  • 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".
  • Jerkass:
    • Will. He very occasionally strays into Jerk with a Heart of Gold territory, but he really isn't. However, he does shift into Jerkass-facade 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.
  • Legacy of Service:
    • Thomas and Cyril Tanner come from a long line of people who've had a touch of the Sight, which is required for servants of the Nephilim. Needless to say, their family's been serving the Institute for a while.
    • Bridget Daly's family has served the Nephilim for generations.
  • Love Martyr:
    • Jessamine Lovelace For Nate Gray. She continues to feed him information despite Tessa's repeated insistence that he loves no one but himself.
  • Love Triangle: Will—>Tessa<—Jem. She gets both.
    • Jessamine lampshades it in The Clockwork Prince.
    Jessamine, mocking Tessa: Oh, I must choose between Will and Jem! Whatever shall I do?
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Tessa, Aloysius is your great-grandfather.
  • Mark of the Supernatural: Warlocks have a distinguishing mark that's unique to each one. Magnus Bane has cat eyes and Ragnor Fell has ram horns, green skin and an extra joint in each finger. Tessa, despite being a warlock, does not have a mark because her mother was a Shadowhunter. This is basically her distinguishing mark.
  • Muggles: "Mundanes" which means not sacred, ordinary versus divine, a pretty fitting name for the ordinary humans without magic powers. Here it is used neutrally, but in The Mortal Instruments it takes on a negative meaning, sounding boring and the Shadow Hunters use it with bad connotations.
  • Mundane Solution: 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.
  • Must Not Die a Virgin: In The Clockwork Princess, Will and Tessa have sex when they are trapped together in a prison cell and believe the Magister is in all likelihood going to kill or enslave them the next day.
  • Oblivious to Love:
    • Jem Carstairs probably can't tell that Sophie's sweet on him.
    • Tessa, in her turn, doesn't realise Jem's sweet on her right up until the moment he kisses her.
    • Likewise, Sophie had no idea that Thomas was sweet on her.
  • Odd Friendship:
    • Will and Jem are best friends despite the fact that Will is a rude asshole and Jem is a kindhearted nice guy. They even look absolutely different: Jem is all white and silver and Will is all dark colors.
    • Will and Magnus, considering that Will doesn't really do friends and that, up until that point, Magnus hated Shadowhunters.
    • In The 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.
  • Pair the Spares: Almost everyone ends the series in a relationship. Sophie is paired up with Gideon after finally getting over Jem, and Cecily falls in love with Gabriel. Meanwhile, only single characters are killed off (Jessamine, Thomas).
  • Parental Abandonment: A lot of the characters in the series have dead parents. 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, who can't live with their parents, because they are not Shadowhunters.
    • Tessa Gray's parents died when she was three in a carriage accident.
    • Jessamine's parents died in a fire.
    • Jem's parents were killed by a demon.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin:Will and Cecily Herondale. They both have black hair and white skin.
  • The Reveal:
    • The Clockwork Angel:
    • The Clockwork Prince:
      • Will has a curse on him that kills everyone who loves him.
      • Jessamine was meeting Nathaniel at night and is a spy for the Magister.
      • (A comedic example) Demon Pox is real.
      • Will doesn't have a curse on him that kills everyone who loves him.
      • Charlotte is pregnant.
  • 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!". 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.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Throughout the series several demons who were freed from a so called "Pyxis" have been mentioned. For example the demon that killed Will's sister Ella.
  • Sibling Triangle: Played with. Though the main character, Tessa's, love interests are not biological brothers, they are parabati, which for Shadowhunters is quite close to being brothers. There isn't a 'Mundane' equivalent for it.
  • Shared Universe: The series is a prequel to The Mortal Instruments, which is set in the same universe as the Modern Faerie Tales by Holly Black.
  • Spin-Off: The series is an interesting example; both this and The Mortal Instruments share a couple characters, (namely, Magnus and Camille), but they're not central to either series, and all the other characters are new. Plus, this series takes place 200 years before "The Mortal Instruments".
  • Stock Foreign Name: James and William. Could be justified, considering how common those names were when the story is set.
  • Strong Family Resemblance:
    • Cecily Herondale, her brother Will and their mother all look very similar with black hair and dark blue eyes.
    • Cyril Tanner resembles his brother Thomas very much, both in appearance and demeanor, although Tessa says he's more indifferent.
  • Take Over the World: The Magister wants to do this, very much.
  • Tangled Family Tree: Though not as bad as The Mortal Instruments series since it's mostly confined to just one family, but still, Tessa's got one heck of a tangled genealogy:
    • Tessa is introduced as the daughter of Elizabeth and Richard Gray, the younger sister of Nate, and the niece of Harriet Moore . Yet just a few chapters in, we learn that Richard's just an adoptive father; her actual father is an unnamed Greater Demon, making her a warlock with very strong potentials comparable to Magnus.
    • Then we learn in Clockwork Prince that Tessa and Nate are only cousins; Nate is the son of Harriet, who left him in the care of Elizabeth because she had him out-of-wedlock (being set in the 18th century, illegitimacy is seen in a negative light). This led him to poison her, thus providing for a bait for luring Tessa to London in the first place.
    • Then we learn in Clockwork Princess that Elizabeth was never Harriet's sister, Nate's aunt, or even a part of the Moore family for that matter. She's actually Adele Starkweather, the long-lost granddaughter of Aloysius, the Shadowhunter head of the York Institute who was switched by the faeries in exchange for the real Elizabeth Moore, a sickly mundane girl. This means that Tessa is the only known person born of a Greater Demon and a Nephilim, meaning that she inherited both angel and demon blood and thus a warlock who can have children. And she's not related to Nate at all. Sorry, Nate.
  • 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 The Mortal Instruments series.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: Will, Jem, and Tessa.
  • The 'Verse: Part of The Shadowhunter Chronicles consisting of this series, its predecessor The Mortal Instruments, The Dark Artifices (sequel to The Mortal Instruments), The Last Hours (sequel to The Infernal Devices), The Wicked Powers (sequel to The Dark Artifices), The Eldest Curses (spin-off focusing on Alec and Magnus), The Shadowhunter Codex (guide book), The Bane Chronicles (short story collection), Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy (short story collection) and Ghosts Of The Shadowmarket'' (short story collection), all taking place in the Shadowhunter world.
  • Unknown Character: Tessa's Greater Demon father definitely qualifies. Unlike pretty much every protagonists' relatives in Cassandra Clare's universe who are named even if they are long dead and just a part of a family tree, Tessa's father is never named, nor seen, nor heard. But his existence and especially what he did (impregnating Tessa's mother) is what kickstarts the whole series in the first place.
  • Victorian London
  • What Beautiful Eyes!:
    • Will Herondale's dark blue eyes are one of his most striking features.
    • Cecily Herondale has dark blue eyes like her brother.