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Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

September 18, 2010
Cover of "The Clockwork Angel (The Infern...

Cover via Amazon

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.

Last year, when I finally succumbed and bought City of Bones, I fell in love. I devoured the three books of the series as fast as I could get my hands on them. And when I finished City of Glass, I immediately got on the web to find out when Cassandra Clare’s next book would be released. I got excited when I read about Clockwork Angel—because, have I mentioned that I’m a fan of Steampunk? I was thoroughly bummed to discover that it wouldn’t come out until August 31—that’s practically September! Then, since it came out on a Tuesday—during my first week of school—I didn’t have time to pick up my reserved copy the weekend. Argh!

By now, you’re probably wondering why I’m reviewing the book two and half weeks later. It’s not, sadly, because I loved it so much, it’s because Clockwork Angel didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Now, to be honest, that probably would have been difficult. I’d built up this book in my mind so much since I finished City of Glass that there was probably not way it could have. Knowing this should have stunted my disappointment, but it didn’t. I knew right away that Clockwork Angel wouldn’t fascinate me the way the first three City books did. I knew because I could—and did–put it down in favor of other novels that came my way. I’ve had Clockwork Angel for two weeks and I only finished it today.

I don’t mean to imply that Angel is a bad book. It’s really not. I enjoyed it. I’ll be reading the other books in the series. But neither the characters nor the world enthralled like those of the City series did. This might be because of the inevitable comparisons—between Clary and Tessa, Will and Jace, Jem and Simon. Try as I might, I couldn’t help but compare them. Making Tessa tall where Clary was short did not make them internally different. It struck me that any dissimilarity was situational, not a matter of character. Will is also very Jace-like. He’s handsome. He’s reckless. He’s a Shadow Hunter. He’s fiercely loyal. He resists his attraction to the heroine. He’s got a troubled, mysterious past. I’m not going to go on.

The other thing that I struggled with in this novel was that, for me, it didn’t really evoke the period of 19th Century London. Clare tried. She certainly did her research. She just didn’t pull it off. This might be because most of the action in the book took place indoors and not out in Victorian London. It just occurred to me that maybe that was the problem. The book lacked detail about the domestic life of people who lived in the age. Sure, there were candles and sconces aplenty, but what really evokes a period is the little things, the less obvious things.

So, what about the plot? I don’t know what to say exactly. It’s complicated. It involves clockwork mechanisms, vampires and demons. But I guessed the major twist even before it came. Clare dropped some pretty heavy hints and I was frustrated that none of the characters picked up on them. I think my biggest complaint about this book was how much it seemed like a set up for the other volumes in the trilogy. I don’t expect that each book in a series should be completely stand-alone, but though the major conflict is resolved in Clockwork Angel, in the end it largely served as the prologue.

As I say, however, I will be reading the rest of the books in the series. Clare’s writing is solid and I like the characters enough to want to know more about them. But I’m looking forward to City of Fallen Angels with far more anticipation than I have for Clockwork Prince.

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