“Life is a book, and there are a thousand pages I have not yet read.”
-Will Herondale, Clockwork Princess
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, when he was twelve years old, Will was going over 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.
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 lightened up and allowed himself to become close to Jem ever since, 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 and became parabatai.