November 22, 2012

Review: Clockwork Angel, by Cassandra Clare

Author: Cassandra Clare
Title:  Clockwork Angel
Series: The Infernal Devices (#1)
ISBN: 9781416975861
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (August 31st 2010)

Buy your copy: Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Magic is dangerous—but love is more dangerous still.

When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What’s more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by—and torn between—two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length . . . everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world. . . . and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.” GoodReads’ blurb

Clockwork Angel might be the final proof: I was mostly indifferent to Mortal Instruments because of the poor audiobook performances. This time I got it in print and I enjoyed it much more!

I think what I liked best about this first Infernal Devices book was that you could read it without having a clue about the Shadowhunter world and still wouldn’t get lost. On the other hand, you could read it after having read The Mortal Instruments and the details wouldn’t get boring or repetitive. I think that’s achieved because of the more Steampunk feel this series has. London, Victorian London, has a charm all its own. The way the story has been adapted to the setting, so that women in leadership positions are rare and women wearing pants become a scandal, along with the way the speech and social patterns have been tweaked to reflect the time change, make this a more than welcome change.

The plot was something I enjoyed too. There is a fault that is also present in Mortal Instruments, the villainy of the villains for evil’s sake, but I still enjoyed the addition of clockwork creatures to the fight between Heaven and Hell, and the way humans, usually cast aside in their ignorant roles, suddenly take center stage with their creations. Besides, and this is another strong suit when compared with its predecessors, this time there was clear action and purpose: if asked what happens with the book, I can actually answer and justify its length (which, sorry, but didn’t happen with Mortal  number 4).

The only complain I had while reading this was about the characters themselves. Tessa I liked, with her determination that didn’t stop her from trying to be a proper Victorian lady. Jem I loved—it’s the hair and the heritage, I swear. Give a half-chinese boy with silver hair, musical sensibilities and the right mixture of courage and kindness and I’m a goner. But Will, while I did enjoy him as a character... I kept seeing Jace. They are too similar, so much so that in my mind, I couldn’t get them apart, not really.

This reflects quite badly on my next and final issue—the tagline.

Magic is dangerous—but love is more dangerous still”

I read that, and I read the thousands of comments of readers and fans everywhere, and I know there’s a love triangle between Tessa, Jem and Will. And I’m not seeing it. I can see the sparks between Tessa and Will; I can see the affection Jem feels for Tessa as a much calmer undercurrent, but I can’t see Tessa and Jem. I can’t even see Jem seriously pursuing Tessa. Not because I don’t want to, because if it were up to me, they’d get their happily...until later. It’s just not there for me... and if this triangle is supposed to become crucial in the story, as I’m led to believe by comments and by that tagline, I expect it to be deeper, more developped.

That said: The Infernal Devices is looking much better than The Mortal Instruments for this particular reader, so I’d recommend you pick this one up first if you’re thinking of going into the Shadowhunter universe.


  1. Hmm hm hm... I've really been wanting to start MI because the movie is coming out. Okay, I'm going to start it first, but I'll keep in mind that these are better. :D I'm curious about the "love-triangle." I know people tend to WANT there to be more to something than what's really there.

    1. Technically there is a love triangle all right, but... Well, I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this one!

      A piece of advice? Read the TMI original trilogy first, then stop at that point and come to this other series.

      If you happen to forget to go back to TMI afterwards, it's no great loss *laughs*

  2. Will reminded me of Jace just a bit too much, too! I was never among Jace's fans, I'm afraid, there's something about him that rubs me the wrong way.
    I'm with you on the plot, though, I thoroughly enjoyed that and the worldbuilding. I have the second book on audio and I'm excited to start it next week, as soon as I finish what I'm listening at the moment.
    Fantastic review, as usual, Ron! I love it when we're on the same page.

    1. Yay! I'm not the only one! Jace was okay with me, I guess... It's just that he couldn't meassure up to Alec or Magnus in my mind's eye.

      I'm really looking forward to your audiobook impressions on Prince. Frankly, I'm scared, knowing what audio did for TMI! Hope you enjoy it :)