The Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (Infernal Devices #1)
Released: August 2010
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
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Synopsis: 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.
There were two things I liked about The Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare– Church, a cat adopted by the Shadowhunters at the end of the book, and Jem (James), one of Tessa’s love interests (supposedly, but more on that later). The rest was mediocre at best if not just downright boring. 479 pages isn’t that long, but 479 pages of The Clockwork Angel took me five months to plow through.
The beginning was interesting enough. I was mildly intrigued by Tessa’s supernatural ability. And I was even more intrigued by the Dark Sisters, their icky lifestyle, and their desire to please this Magister fellow. Who is he? I wanted to know! (I’ll admit, when his identity was revealed, I was pleasantly surprised). But then, chapters 3 through 20 happened. As much as I wanted to throw the book down like I did with Heart of Darkness, I couldn’t because I spent my hard-earned money on a hardback copy of the book. I kept hoping that there would be some redeeming quality by the end of the book (besides Church, the cat) that would have made it all worthwhile. But, at the end of my reading experience, I was left wishing I could have had my lunch breaks back to spend doing something more interesting…like taking a working lunch to organize my filing cabinets.
First, the pacing is all off in this book. There are maybe one or two interesting and action packed scenes in The Clockwork Angel (ie. where vampires died and stuff), but everything else seemed to drag on for chapters. Anything interesting was but a blip amongst 479 pages of boring and stuffy writing. Just, not a whole lot happened. Really.
I also found it difficult to immerse myself in the world that Clare created. It’s Victorian England with a vaguely steampunk aesthetic, but the title and the cover might suggest otherwise. Don’t be mislead like I was. There were only two things I found remotely steampunk.
It’s like Clare discovered Steampunk was popular and thus a viable money source, so she adhered some cogs and brass to the pages of her book and called it good. If you have the audacity to try to pass this off as steampunk, at least give us something more. Like zeppelins or something.
I found the characters to be annoying as well (sans Jem and Church, mind you). Tessa was annoyingly prudent and proper, and all she seemed to do was slander England. Will was an asshole, so naturally the female main character pines for him. Jessamine could have been interesting because she seemed like the only character who had a valid internal struggle. Unfortunately, she acted like a spoiled and superficial brat. As for the rest of the characters? I can’t even remember their names. Or their personalities. Or their involvement with the story line! I think the characters in this book were one-dimensional caricatures rather than a character with any sort of depth. I’m pretty sure there was a tinkerer whose experiments always went awry [EDIT: Yes there was. His name was Henry Branwell].
Finally the romance. The Goodreads summary suggests there is some quality, love triangle action going on in The Clockwork Angel. And maybe this is expanded upon in later books. But, I’m not even spoiling the story for you by saying there isn’t one iota of a love triangle going on in this book. That should be a good thing, right? Instead, Tessa pines for Will Herondale, the book’s biggest jerk, and she immediately friendzones Jem. For shame, Tessa! Will has a shady past that he uses as an excuse to put up his guard. He’s just mean to the other characters in the book, especially Tessa. Jem has a shady past to, but he’s open and honest about it with Tessa. And he’s a really kind, caring, and genuine individual. I wonder why the female main characters never fawn over the guy I would. It leads me to believe that some authors have really poor taste in men. Someone, please explain to me what’s so romantic about a jerk who makes you question your worth. Why is this even trendy?
I didn’t like the book. And that really sucks because I’m genuinely interested to learn why Will is such a shifty character and what kind of supernatural being is Tessa. Do they have Cliffsnotes for this? Read…at your own risk. I didn’t like this book, but other people do. Take this book review from Truly Bookish– she says the exact opposite of what I do! But, if you’re a fan of the Mortal Instruments series, approach The Infernal Devices with caution. From what I’ve read on Goodreads, there are many people who loved the Mortal Instruments series but hated the Infernal Devices because it was too similar to the series they adored first.
I’m sad that this is my introduction to Cassandra Clare. So many book bloggers, nay readers, out there seem to adore her characters and the world she created. Maybe I just started with the wrong book. Tell me, should I take a chance and give Clare’s Mortal Instrument series a try?