Book Report: The Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare


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The Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

The Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (Infernal Devices #1)
August 2010
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
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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.

My Thoughts

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.

  1. The clockwork angel necklace Tessa wears. In all honesty though, you’ll probably forget all about this trinket until the very last chapter of the book. Nevermind that it’s the title of the book.
  2. The automatons. These automatons are jokes though because MAGIC and the full moon bring them to life, not…well, anything remotely mechanical or scientific.

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.

Zeppelin LZ 4 or Led Zeppelin. You pick, either will suffice.
Zeppelin LZ 4 or Led Zeppelin. You pick, either will suffice.

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?

4 responses to “Book Report: The Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare”

  1. Sarah Robertson Avatar
    Sarah Robertson

    Ooo, I can’t just leave a review like this idle. 🙂 Okay, so I haven’t read all of Cassandra Clare’s books yet, so maybe my opinion is only half-baked, but I HAVE read City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass, and Clockwork Angel. And, uhh, I also have an unpopular opinion?

    I had A TON of trouble getting into City of Bones. My experience with that book is comparable to your experience with Clockwork Angel. The only reason I bothered reading the next book was because the series is so loved by the YA book community. I’m glad I did though, since City of Ashes and City of Glass are a million times more enjoyable to read (and whenever I get around to the other books, I hope they hold up to that standard).

    Where I’m going with this is that I found that City of Bones and Clockwork Angel to be REALLY similar to each other . . . and if I had to compare the two, I’d say that Clockwork Angel is a better book. Which, uhh, makes me a little hesitant to tell you to read the Mortal Instruments. In fact, I dislike City of Bones so much that I feel hesitant telling ANYONE to read it, even though the later books are so much better. However, considering that all these books are by the same author, maybe Cassandra Clare just has rough beginnings? You might find Clockwork Prince to be much better?


    1. Jackie G. Avatar
      Jackie G.

      :O HI SARAH!

      I’ve heard City of Bones is a little rough to get through because of her writing and her excessive use of similes. I think/hope I can overlook that if the rest of the series is as good as everyone says. I’m a little skeptical of the Infernal Devices series though because I really haven’t heard that much fan squealing over it. I think what this means is I should probably head over to the library to check it out instead of actually purchasing the book– that way, I won’t feel obligated to finish reading it if I really disliked it.


      1. Sarah Robertson Avatar
        Sarah Robertson

        Hi! *waves*

        See, I didn’t like City of Bones because I found it boring and it uses a lot of tropes I generally dislike. *shrug* But yeah, I would totally go the library route. Can’t wait to hear what you think! 🙂


  2. Jo Avatar

    oh I really disliked Tessa!!!every little bit: how she is sexist to her own gender “oh but she is a woman blah blah blah”; she is trying to be “heroic” and doesn’t know how to do, well, anything; how she is soooo is love with Jem AND Will, boohoo Will doesn’t want you lets go and annoy Jem. Well, Miss Gray (ah, another Clary feature-Gray and Fray, ahh sound similar); also somehow she just happends to be special and not know ANYTHING about it- you’d think she would be clever enough to know herself a little!. I am glad to know somebody agrees with me.


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Hello, my name is Jackie. I’m a thirty-something mother of a rambunctious toddler from a small town in Michigan. When I’m not toddler-wrangling, I’m often seeking refuge from life’s most chaotic moments in a cup of hot tea. I also love getting lost in stories—both in books and virtually. I enjoy speculative fiction the most, and I am especially eager to read fantasy novels and horror novels. When I’m feeling especially indulgent (usually after everyone in the house has gone to sleep), I like to dive into video games and explore the sprawling worlds in Fallout, Elder Scrolls, Dragon Age, and Mass Effect.

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