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

This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. Improvements that may be done include grammar, style, formatting, and spelling.

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.


Early life

Will was the son of Edmund Herondale, a former Shadowhunter, and Linette Owens, the mundane 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. Hence, Will was asked twice in twelve years, both times he refused, after being 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, at twelve years of age, Will was going through his father's old things when he found the Pyxis that held the Greater Demon Marbas and opened it, unwittingly unleashing the demon. The demon then went on to attack him, and Will 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 he love will 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.[5]

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 snapped 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 in 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 "great sin", convincing 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.[5]

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, and they took her back to the Institute to recuperate.

Will developed an attraction towards the warlock, and the pair bonded over their love for books, and Will constantly had to 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 Herny'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 vampire 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.[6]

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.

Sophie later came to Tessa with an invitation to a masked ball at the Lightwood's house, addressed to Jessamine from Nate Gray. Jessamine slapped Sophie when she caught Sophie with it, so Sophie hit her and knocked her unconscious with a mirror. Tessa sent Sophie to Will for help, and he placed a sleeping rune on Jessamine so that she would not wake up until morning, and tied her to her bed as a precaution. Tessa Changed into Jessamine, and Will accompanied her, so that she could sneak into Benedict Lightwood's house to attend the ball.

On the balcony at Benedict Lightwood's estate, Tessa and Will shared a rather intimate moment, which was interrupted by Magnus Bane. 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. They planned to get married after Will turned 18, and he used Henry's Portal to go back to Wales along with Cecily, Tessa, and Gabriel to visit his parents after so long. Will and Cecily had a happy reunion with their parents, and Will announced that Tessa was his fiancée. He had a wonderful time visiting his parents after five years.

Later life

Eventually, Will became the head of the Institute, a position given to him when Charlotte became the Consul. Eventually, he and Tessa married and, unexpectedly, even 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,[7] except during the summers.[8]

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


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

Over a century later, Jem and Tessa finally reunited. In 2009, the couple finally got married and tied the knot on Blackfriars Bridge. Will momentarily came back as a ghost to witness the brief ceremony—though it is also possible that he was merely a figment of Jem and Tessa's collective imagination.[9][10][11] 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.


He comes across as rude, childish, and arrogant, always utilizing his quick wit and sarcasm. He is aware of his good looks and uses it to get his way. This is in fact a front that he uses to keep everyone at arms-length. He is actually caring and would risk his life for the people he loves. He is also self-sacrificing.

Will reads extensively and has a perfect memory. He can find a quote for almost any situation and often makes his own (very bad, although sometimes purposefully) poetry.

Physical description

Will is described to have deep violet-blue eyes and black hair. He has elegant features—high cheekbones, long, thick lashes, 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.

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 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.



Tessa Gray

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, Clockwork Prince

Will's relationship with Tessa is rocky. At first he treats her quite rudely, yet she is the only one, besides Jem, to make him laugh and he takes a liking to her straightaway. During the fight where her brother is rescued, Will bites a vampire. Back at the Institute, he stays by himself in the attic drinking holy water to get the vampire blood out of his system. Tessa arrives to see how he's doing and he kisses her. At the end of the book, when he realizes that she's dead, he feels empty and as if he's lost everything. When he sees that she's actually alive, he is terrified that he showed too much emotion and that she could see that he cared for her, so he insulted her on the roof when she told him that she would be staying at the Institute. He did this by insinuating that she was a prostitute, and a barren one at that. However, he has his reasons for doing this, which are revealed later in Clockwork Prince.

In the second book, they don't talk much but Will, slowly figuring that he's falling for her, goes to find an indifference potion for himself so he can't love her, but he cannot attain one. When they find out Jessamine is a traitor, Tessa disguises herself as Jessamine at the Lightwoods' ball. They kiss on the balcony at the party, only to be interrupted by Magnus. After he finds out that there was no curse on him, he tells Tessa that he loves her but she tells him that Jem already proposed to her. Will tells Tessa to forget everything that he told her. When Jem announces the engagement at dinner, he makes a toast to him and Tessa and pretends to be happy for them.

In Clockwork Princess, Will saves Tessa from Cadair Idris, and they consummate their relationship. They go on to have various children, among them James Herondale, their firstborn son. 

Jem Carstairs

Jem is my greatest sin.

–Will, Clockwork Prince

When Jem arrived at the 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. He even toasted them when Jem announced it at dinner.

Charlotte Branwell

Although Charlotte shows feelings of maternal love towards Will, he claims not to care, for reasons unknown until Clockwork Prince. It is revealed that he does care for her in a motherly way, but is just trying to protect her from the 'curse' that supposedly claimed his sister, Ella.

However, he still has not told her about the fake curse the demon put on him, which resulted in him pushing away those who loved or cared for him.



See more here


  • Will was named after his grandfather, William Herondale.[12]
  • In early drafts, "Will was angry all the time" and had a different best friend instead of Jem,[13] though the character was cut from the final version of the book.[14]
  • Will is the direct ancestor of Jace Herondale, one of the main characters of The Mortal Instruments.