Monday, October 1, 2012

Field Recon--Enriching a World

Good Monday,

I mentioned reading “The Mortal Instruments” by Cassandra Clair a few weeks ago. Two nights ago, I read the first two books in Clair’s “Infernal Devices” trilogy. I am now very irritated that I have to wait till March of 2013 to find out what happens with “Infernal Devices” and until March of 2014 to learn the fate of “The Mortal Instruments” characters.

My irritation aside, I’d like to talk on this Media Monday about something very fun and interesting that Clair does. She showcases the same universe at two very different times in its history. “The Mortal Instruments” takes place in modern-day New York, and “Infernal Devices” is set on the streets of London in the late 1800s. And yet, I never question that I am in the same world. The shadow-hunters are what they are; the down-worlders are still down-worlders, and the rules for each all apply the same way in both series.

This, though, is only good story telling. It would be both very irritating (though less irritating than having to wait for BOOKS!!! *deep breaths* I’m fine) and confusing if the basics of “The Mortal Instruments” didn’t carry over into the “Infernal Devices.”

What Clair does (that makes the two series so fun to read back to back) is show how the events of “Infernal Devices” affect “The Mortal Instruments.” The demon sensor—a device used repeatedly throughout “The Mortal Instruments”—is in its beginning stages in “Infernal Devices.” Clair shows the sensor in the hands of its creator—Henry. The sensor—so pivotal to Jace and Clary’s success in “The Mortal Instruments” is given its own history, much like the characters.

Speaking of the characters, it’s very cool to see the ancestors of the “Mortal Instruments” characters and how relationships among shadow-hunters have changed. The Lightwoods, Herondales, Fairchilds, Waylands, and Starkweathers play important roles in both series, and the differences are fascinating to watch. Benedict Lightwood (for example) shames shadow-hunters with his non-covenant behavior in “Infernal Devices.” By contrast, the Lightwoods of “The Mortal Instruments” are fine, upstanding people. How times do change things—even in fictional worlds.

I also love that Clair’s characters are not carbon copies of one another. I was hesitant to pick up “Infernal Devices” because I was afraid I’d see Jace, Clary, Simon, Alec, and Isabelle in the characters. My fears were swiftly banished. Will, Jem, Tessa, and Jessamine are nothing like their future counterparts. I was also glad to see that the internal conflicts befalling the individual characters were not similar. Jace and Will do both have trouble with love but for two vastly different reasons. Jessamine resents and refuses to be a true shadow-hunter, whereas Isabelle is a brilliant fighter. Clary is the outcast who becomes a shadow-hunter, and Tessa…Tessa Grey of “Infernal Devices.” That is all I will say about her. I’ve noticed something missing from “Infernal Devices,” and I have a theory. As I’ve said, I don’t believe in true spoilers—read the books. They are fun and interesting. But, when I find out (in six months…) I will explain my theory and if I was right or not about Miss Tessa Grey.

Now—what to take from this? Clair creates a rich universe in both series. What she has done, though, by writing both is enriching the world even more. As I read “Infernal Devices,” I thought “oh, so that’s where that came from.” That level of realism in a world is something to applaud. Thank you, Cassandra Clair, for showing me just how real fiction can become.

See you out of the box,

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