CJ Flowers, Charlotte
“Their world was not the same shape as the one she knew.”

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A Tale of Two Cities
ATOTC cover

Charles Dickens


Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz)

Cover artist

Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz)

Release Date 1859

Chapman & Hall



A Tale of Two Cities is a novel by Charles Dickens, published in 1859, and is ranked among the most famous works in the history of literary fiction.


Set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution, it depicts the plight of the French peasantry demoralized by the French aristocracy in the years leading up to the revolution, the corresponding brutality demonstrated by the revolutionaries toward the former aristocrats in the early years of the revolution, and many unflattering social parallels with life in London during the same time period, following the lives of several characters through these events.



SPOILER WARNING: Plot details follow. Caution is advised!

The novel held significance to both Tessa Gray and Will Herondale, individually and as a couple.[1] Both have read the book before meeting each other. When Tessa first saw the London Institute's Great Library, she asked for A Tale of Two Cities before Will ridiculed the story, though he later revealed that he did not actually hate the story. He quoted Sydney Carton at her, silently implying that he related his feelings for Tessa with how Sydney felt for Lucie Manette. Eventually, Tessa found a copy of the book in Charlotte's Dickens collection in the library.[2]

Some time after, Will reread the book and proved himself wrong about it being silly, having realized how much despair the story had. Still identifying himself with Sydney, he pointed out that he believed that there never was a chance for a future for him, with or without love—that Lucie, his salvation, would be degraded near him—relating the fictional situation to his and Tessa's.

During one evening spent alone in her room at the York Institute, Tessa pushed aside her desire to read the book in fear of being reminded of Will. Back at the London Institute, Tessa was with Jem in Will's room when she saw Will's copy of the book and found, when she took it off the shelf, the letters she had written to her brother, Nate, during her imprisonment at the Dark House.[3]

Shortly after Will found out that his curse was fake, he bought a copy of the book at Hatchards. On the title page, Will wrote Tessa a letter professing his true feelings for her. However, before he could give it to her, he found out about her engagement to Jem and decided to hide the book away.

When Tessa was taken by Axel Mortmain, he told her not to try to appeal to his better nature, as he had none; this reminded Tessa of Sydney Carton, whom, up until then, always reminded her of Will. It was then that she realized that Will was not Sydney, as Will was a better man than Carton, nor was Carton more like Mortmain, who was "barely a man at all."

Some time after Mortmain's defeat and Jem's departure, Will, slowly regaining his joy because of Tessa, finally gave her the book he bought her.[4]


In 2007, the couple Clary Fairchild and Jace Herondale found a copy of the book in Jace's room in Valentine's apartment. Jace intended to read it to Clary, who had previously read the book as a school assignment but had already forgotten the details. Jace then saw an inscription in the book: Will's letter to Tessa. Though it had faded to the point of illegibility, Will's name was still visible, and the pair realized that it must have belonged to an ancestor. They assumed that the book may have been given to Valentine by Jace's father, Stephen. When Jace then began reading a random passage from the book, Clary remembered the story and pointed out that it involved a love triangle and the boring guy being picked.

The apartment was later destroyed, presumably taking the book with it.[5]

Apparently, as of 2008, Clary's best friend, Simon Lewis, had yet to read the novel.[6]