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SPOILER WARNING: Plot details follow. Caution is advised!
“How like Downworlders... expecting the Clave to clean your mess up for you.”

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Life is a book, and there are a thousand pages I have not yet read. I would read them together with you, as many as I can, before I die—

–Will to Tessa Gray, Clockwork Princess

William "Will" Herondale was one of the wards living in the London Institute whose life became entangled with that of the newly-arrived Tessa Gray. Will went on to become the head of the Institute.


Early life

Will was the son of Edmund Herondale, a former Shadowhunter, and Linette Owens, the mundane woman whom Edmund left his Shadowhunting life behind for. As dictated by the Nephilim Law, Will and his sisters, Ella and Cecily, being Nephilim, were still welcome to becoming Shadowhunters.

Per Shadowhunter protocol, Will, during the first twelve years of his life, was asked twice to join them. He refused both times, having been raised to believe that Shadowhunters were not good people and that the lives they led were dangerous and monstrous. However, shortly after the second time he was offered, Will went through his father's old things and found the Pyxis that held the Greater Demon Marbas and opened it, unwittingly unleashing the demon. Will was attacked by Marbas but was protected by his older sister, Ella, who was subsequently poisoned by the demon. Before it left, Marbas claimed to have placed a curse on Will, telling him that those who love him would die. When Ella died the next morning, Will was wracked with guilt and sorrow, believing himself to be responsible. Will then immediately decided to leave and join the Shadowhunters at the London Institute to keep his family safe.[6]

Even in London, Will was haunted by the demon's curse. Will remained distant from the other inhabitants of the Institute, Charlotte and Henry, not wanting to bring harm to them by becoming attached and learning to love them. This held true even for guests at the Institute. When he was twelve, an Enclave Christmas party was held at the Institute. There, he found the diary of Tatiana Lightwood, a young Shadowhunter who was greatly infatuated with Will. Will proceeded to humiliate Tatiana by reading her poetry for him out loud at the party, earning the spite of Tatiana's brother, Gabriel. He was attacked by Gabriel for it and, despite his own lack of training, Will bested him in the fight and even broke his arm, further humiliating Gabriel. This instigated the beginning of a long rivalry and misunderstanding between the two.

When Jem Carstairs arrived from Shanghai in 1873, Will tried to be rude to the boy to immediately dissuade him from trying to befriend him. However, Jem refused to be intimidated by Will and insisted on training with him. When Will learned that Jem was ill, however, Will allowed himself to become close to the other boy, seeing him as his "greatest sin". Will convinced himself that since Jem was already dying, the curse would be worthless against him. When they were thirteen, Will asked Jem to become his parabatai, and when they were fourteen, they underwent the ceremony.[6]

Tessa and the Magister

After a routine patrol led Will and Jem to Emma Bayliss in 1878, they had since been on the trail of the Pandemonium Club, the suspected orchestrators of her murder. Their investigations led them to the Dark Sisters. On the evening they were supposed to catch the sisters for their illegal activities, Will found a warlock named Tessa Gray imprisoned in their house. They took her back to the Institute to recuperate.

Will developed an attraction towards Tessa and the pair bonded over their love for books. Will had to constantly remind himself to keep his distance due to his curse.

Their investigations led them to Axel Mortmain, who told them of the Pandemonium's head, the Magister, which was apparently a moniker the vampire Alexei de Quincey went by. At a reconnaissance mission at de Quincey's Downworld ball, Will accompanied Tessa, who had Changed into the vampire Camille Belcourt, and pretended to be her human subjugate. When he saw what they intended to see, which was de Quincey's violations against the Accords, he tried to alert the other Shadowhunters with one of Henry's prototype inventions but instead set fire to the curtains, creating chaos; though it alerted the Shadowhunters, it also caused panic among the attendees. In the commotion, Will went after de Quincey. He bit the vampire in his attempt to hold onto him but the de Quincey managed to escape.

Because of the vampire blood he had ingested, Will was subjected to a purging remedy to prevent him from becoming a darkling; he was forced to drink holy water to help dispel the vampire blood in his system, either by the simple counteracting effect of the holy water or by making him throw up the traces of blood in him. When he began to violently refuse Sophie's assistance, Tessa replaced her and brought him holy water. After a short conversation about what they thought of each other, they kissed passionately before Will regained his senses and broke away, putting his walls back up.[7]

Mortmain went to the Institute on the night of the adult Clave members' attack on de Quincey's hideout, warning them that the Dark Sisters were planning on animating the Magister's clockwork army. Will and Jem rushed off to stop them, tricked into leaving the Institute unprotected. When they arrived at the location Mortmain reported, they only found Mrs. Dark conducting a necromantic ritual to bring her sister back to life. Realizing the deception, they rushed back to the Institute.

Will found Tessa on the floor, with Mortmain next to her, who was surprisingly upset. Mortmain fled after being confronted by Will. Will rushed toward her, upset at her death. He cradled her head in his lap, but then realized she was breathing. Tessa opened her eyes and told Will that she tricked Mortmain into believing that she had stabbed herself. Will, however, was distraught as he believed that he had lost everything.

After things had calmed down, Will, in fear of already having endangered Tessa because of his curse, told her that they could have a sexual, uncommitted arrangement to let her believe that he did not care for her. He hurt her by degrading her as a mere Downworlder and revealed to her the fact that warlocks are sterile.

Breaking the curse

On an errand for Magnus Bane, Will visited a graveyard and gave 'Old Molly', a ghost, some rings in payment for ingredients for one of Magnus' spells. He asked the ghost if she could supply the opposite of a love potion, however, she suggested for him to act nastily and scare the girl away. As she left, he muttered to himself that it was for him, not her.

Tessa, accompanied Will and Jem, up to the York Institute to meet Aloysius Starkweather, who may hold a clue to the Magister's past. Jem gave her the Carstairs family ring so that she could pretend to be a mundane girl, who was engaged to Jem.

When Sophie found out that Jessamine had been in contact with Nate and had an invitation to a masked ball at the Lightwood's house, she told Tessa, who went to Will for help. Because of the urgency, that the party was taking place the evening they found out, Will immediately set to go on the mission himself, with Tessa by his side. Tessa Changed into Jessamine and Will snuck into the party, blending in with his mask.

On the balcony at Benedict Lightwood's estate, Tessa and Will shared a long, passionate kiss that was interrupted by Magnus Bane, who informed them that they have been under the influence of warlock powder. He was the one who helped them to get back outside of the house.

He realized that Tessa had taken a liking to him and he also realized that he loved her too. Because of this, he went to Magnus Bane, to summon the demon who cursed him. Magnus summoned the demon, Marbas, to release Will from his curse. However, Marbas told them that there was no curse in the first place and swore on it. He told Will that Ella died because she was wounded from the attack. Will was distraught but rushed back to the Institute, jumping with happiness and told Tessa he loved her. His happiness was short-lived as Tessa told him that she was already engaged to Jem. Will, heartbroken, told Tessa not to tell Jem about his feelings and pretended to be happy about the engagement for Jem.

Saving Jem and Tessa

Will trained his sister, Cecily, to become a Shadowhunter . However, he was annoyed at her presence in the Institute and her insistence on him coming home with her, but he did care for her and was fiercely protective of her.

Will discovered that Jem had been taking large doses of yin fen to keep him fit and able, whilst also killing him inside. He traveled to buy more of the demon powder, with Cecily who followed him, but soon discovered that someone had bought it all up.

When Jessamine Lovelace was brought back to the London Institute from the Silent City, the Magister's automatons attacked. Will had no wish to see her, but upon hearing the noise from inside, rushed down to help. He saw Jem run after a carriage of automatons but did not realize that they had kidnapped Tessa. Jessamine told him that Mortmain was in 'Idris', before dying of a stab wound in the back. Jem returned because the carriage was too fast and he collapsed.

Cecily overheard Will's conversation with Jessamine and figured out that Mortmain was hiding in Cadair Idris, a mountain near where Will used to live in Wales, as she knew Mortmain and his personality.

Will asked Magnus Bane to help them find a cure for Jem, who was dying and running out of yin fen. Magnus asked Will if Jem knew that he was in love with Tessa, but he told Magnus that he did not want to hurt Jem. But Jem overheard them and gave Will his blessing to rescue Tessa, instead of him as he was too ill.

On the road to Wales, Will felt his parabatai rune bleeding, and realized that Jem had died. He throws up and asked Woolsey Scott for advice, even though he got into a fight with some of his werewolf pack. Will cut his hand with Jem's dagger and buried it in the ground by a tree.

He eventually found Tessa in Mortmain's hideout, and rushed to her without thinking, causing him to be trapped inside the invisible barrier with Tessa. Believing that Jem was dead and thinking that they would both die, Will confessed everything to Tessa and told her how much he loved her, leading them to have sex that night.

The next morning, Tessa woke up and realized that her clockwork angel was on his shoulder near his neck, and she pulled it away to find that it had left a mark in the shape of a small white star on Will, thus creating the mark of the Herondales that would be seen on the descendants in the future generations.

Eventually, Magnus Bane found them and released them, bringing them to the others where a battle against hundreds of automatons was being held, with the Shadowhunters losing. Will joined the battle right away and, in the midst of the battle, found out that one of the Silent Brothers, Brother Zachariah, was actually Jem.

Tessa was then captured by Mortmain, who threatened Will and the other Shadowhunters with her. Tessa Changed into the angel trapped inside her necklace, Ithuriel, leaving Will in awe as he watched her blaze with fire. She killed Mortmain, and Changed back into herself, falling to the ground unconscious and worrying Will.

They had won the battle, but once Will returned to the Institute with the others, he entered a state of depression because he was worried about Tessa not regaining consciousness, and feeling lost without Jem. Much to his happiness, Tessa recovered and he was allowed to converse with Jem, which made him feel gloomy for weeks, but he gradually started to recover and adjust to a life without Jem.

Will and Tessa grew closer and, that year during the Enclave's Christmas party, he finally proposed to her, with Tessa saying yes. In a trip secretly sanctioned by Charlotte, Will, Tessa, Cecily, and Gabriel went to Wales with Henry's Portal, finally reuniting with his parents. He also introduced Tessa to his parents as his fiancée.

Later life

Eventually, Will became the head of the Institute, a position Charlotte passed onto him as part of her condition in accepting the Consul post.[4] He and Tessa eventually wed and, years later, unexpectedly had two children: James and Lucie Herondale.

Because of how other Nephilim viewed Tessa for her heritage, he and his family rarely spent time in Idris,[8] except during the summers.[9]

When Will retired, he went on to write several Shadowhunter histories which became very well-known and respected.

In 1936, 8 months before his passing, Will and Jem were granted a vision by the Greater Demon Belial. The two of them were able to see each other in a dreamland-type place where they were young children again and free of any of the things that had always tied them down. The illusion was in Jem's birth city, Shanghai, as Jem had long wished to go with him and they were able to spend a few hours simply together and happy one last time.[10]

In June 1937, Will, at 76 years old, died of old age. On his deathbed, he was visited by their friends and family, and, finally, Jem, as Brother Zachariah, who came and played him the violin. Jem bade him the Shadowhunter farewell, and Will then died surrounded by the two people he loved most in his life: Tessa and Jem.[4]


Will is a caring, affectionate man who would risk his life and happiness for the people he loves.

In his youth, when Will's instinct had been to push people away, Will kept his good traits hidden behind arrogance and sarcasm. To those who didn't know him, he came across as rude, childish, and egotistic, with his quick wit and sarcasm. 

Will reads extensively and has an exceptional memory. He can find a quote for almost any situation and often makes his own (very bad according to even his friends and family, although sometimes purposefully) poetry.

Physical description

Will has black hair and blue eyes with long, thick eyelashes. He has high cheekbones, full lips, and is often described as extremely handsome by most people. He is said to greatly resemble his mother. He is muscular and well-built with broad shoulders and callused hands from his years of training as a Shadowhunter. He is also quite tall, standing at five foot ten.

Will has a tattoo of the Welsh Dragon on an intimate spot on his body.[6] Will's parabatai rune is on his chest, over his heart.[4] When he was married, one of his marriage runes would have been placed on his chest, as per tradition, and would have ended up next to his faded parabatai rune.

Skills and abilities

  • Nephilim physiology: Being Nephilim, Will possesses a variety of enhanced physical and mental abilities granted to him by the blood of Raziel in his veins and also by the angelic Marks of the Gray Book. He also has the power to perform tasks unique to their species, such as the ability to use and call on the power of angels for their seraph blades. This includes enhanced strength, agility, stamina, and coordination, which only improves over time and practice.
  • Runic magic: Due to the angel blood in their veins, all Shadowhunters are able to apply runes on their skin without any real danger. These Marks, in turn, give varied effects that serve to benefit the wearer.
  • Marksmanship: Will is particularly adept at knife throwing, a skill perfected with the help of his parabatai, Jem.


  • Parabatai bond: Due to his past parabatai bond with Jem Carstairs, Will was able to call on more strength in battle. The runes drawn on him by Jem also gave a considerably stronger effect.



I felt I was dreaming and thinking and feeling with you. I dreamed what you dreamed, wanted what you wanted—and then I realized that I truly just wanted you. The girl behind the scrawled letters. I loved you from the moment I read them. I love you still.

–Will to Tessa, Clockwork Prince

Tarot Runes 2

Will first treated Tessa as he did everyone that wasn't Jem: rudely, to immediately establish a distance between them because of the curse he thought he had. Will inevitably took a liking to Tessa, especially after reading the letters she'd written for her brother Nate, where Will seemed to get to know Tessa's character before even spending time with her. The pair grew somewhat close because of Tessa's persistence on helping and getting to know him, and though Will tried to fight it because of the curse he thought he had, he realized that he had developed feelings for Tessa. For the first time in so long, Will wanted to be close to someone enough to look for a way to break his curse.

When he was still uncertain about what could be done about his curse, Will continued to push Tessa away, going as far as propositioning her to offend her and dampen her feelings for him. However, when he realized that he was never cursed, Will immediately told Tessa and confessed his love for her, only to find out that she had just gotten engaged to Jem. Will decided to set aside his own feelings, wanting the two people he loved to be happy.

When Will thought that Jem had died, and when they thought that they were about to die soon, Will and Tessa slept together. When they survived the ordeal, Will and Tessa became part of each other's recovery, supporting each other in light of their loss of Jem. Will made an attempt to court Tessa properly and gave her the A Tale of Two Cities book in which he'd written a letter for her. Will was afraid that Tessa wouldn't love her the way she loved Jem but, egged on by Jessamine, he eventually proposed to her. The couple eventually tied the knot and had two children, Lucie and James.

Tarot Runes 7
You hear that, James Carstairs? We are bound, you and I, over the divide of death, down through whatever generations may come. Forever.

–Will to Jem, Clockwork Princess

When Jem arrived at the London Institute, he and Will immediately became friends after he shows that he is not intimidated by Will's moody attitude. It is said that Will spent a lot of time in Jem's room, ensuring that he wouldn't die because of his yin fen addiction. Will did not tell Jem of the curse put on him when he was 12, but has a close friendship with him, like brothers. When they were 14, Will asked Jem to be his parabatai. Jem refused, but when Will put a bet on a sword fight, he agreed.

Before Tessa, Jem was the only person Will truly cared about and showed affection to. He thought that his curse wouldn't affect Jem since he was already dying. With every passing day that he lived, Will's theory solidified. Will cares for Jem when he is weak and buys yin fen for him from the ifrit's den in Whitechapel because Jem can't face it.

When he found out that Jem loved Tessa and was engaged to her, he sacrificed his love for her and pretended to be happy for them. When Jem found out, he was relieved instead of angry and asked Will to go save Tessa, be with her, protect her, love her and keep her happy, for he couldn't do it himself.

When Jem left and became a Silent Brother, Will was heartbroken and fell into depression for months. When he finally recovered, Will was insistent on keeping him as a part of his life and that of his family's, often calling on "Brother Zachariah".

Charlotte always treated Will with almost maternal love and care. Because of his believed curse, Will maintained a semblance of indifference towards her, as he did with everyone else. But Will did in fact care for her, choosing to keep his distance to protect her before he learned the truth about his fake curse.

When he did, Will told Charlotte that he was grateful for all that she had done for him and as repayment he wasn't going to let her make the mistake of resigning as head of the Institute (as she was trying to do when he came into the room).



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  • Will was named after his grandfather, William Herondale.[11]
  • Will is the direct ancestor of Jace Herondale, one of the main characters of The Mortal Instruments.
  • Like many of the Herondales that came after him, Will has an intense dislike of ducks. In fact, Will has somewhat of a phobia of ducks due to trauma from his childhood.[12]

  • In early drafts, "Will was angry all the time" and had a different best friend instead of Jem,[16] though the character was cut from the final version of the book.[17]
  • His fear of ducks was inspired by an experience that the author Cassandra Clare and her friend Sarah Rees Brennan had with ducks at Hyde Park.[18]
  • Will's unofficial death date is June 19, chosen by the fans for "Will Herondale Remembrance Day" and acknowledged by Cassandra Clare.[19][20]
  • The birthday (December 30, 1860) assigned to Will and revealed in the 10th Anniversary Edition of Clockwork Angel contradicts previously established canon: In Clockwork Prince, he said he was three months younger than Jem (whose birthday was revealed as November 8, 1860, making him only a month younger), and his birth year was listed as 1861 in the "found" family tree released with Clockwork Princess and A History of Notable Shadowhunters & Denizens of the Downworld, though the family tree may easily be considered inaccurate.
  • Will and Tessa's wedding date was initially set to be March 9, 1879 according to a promotional, graphic art rendition of their wedding invitation posted by the author. It was changed before the release of the story the art was promoting.[21][15]

You don't know anything about love, do you? They were both so alone, so long. This gives me peace.

–Will to Jessamine, City of Heavenly Fire

In the wedding comic released with City of Heavenly Fire, during Jem and Tessa's wedding on the Blackfriars Bridge in 2009, Will seemingly momentarily came back as a ghost to witness the brief ceremony—though it is also said to be possible that he was merely a figment of Jem and Tessa's collective imagination.[22][23][24] He joined Jessamine, who also watched the wedding from afar and struck up a conversation with her. They discussed the odd mix of guests, which consisted of Magnus Bane and the descendants of the people they knew. Will also asserted that the thought of seeing Jem and Tessa happy and together again gave him immense pleasure and joy. Shortly after, Tessa and Jem, sensing his presence, approached him and bade him farewell before Will left.


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