Monday, October 4, 2010

Review: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Tags: YA, paranormal, urban fantasy, historical paranormal, Victorian London


Tessa Gray arrives in Victorian London with the expectation of meeting her brother. Instead, she is kidnapped by members of the Pandemonium Club, where she discovers that she is not human, but a Downworlder, a magical being with the rare ability of being able to transform into another person. The leader of the Pandemonium Club, the Magister, wants Tessa’s power for himself, and it is only with the aid of the Shadowhunters that Tessa manages to escape.

At the Shadowhunters’ London Institute, Tessa learns about the existence of Shadowhunters and Downworlders, and befriends Will, cheeky and close-lipped about his past, and Jem, calm and sensitive but with a shocking secret. Will they manage to find Tessa’s brother? What is Tessa, exactly? And which boy will she choose?


CLOCKWORK ANGEL is the first book in Cassandra Clare’s highly anticipated new series, The Infernal Devices, sort of a prequel to the Mortal Instruments series. It delivers Clare’s now-signature mix of gritty urban fantasy, fights, witty banter, and love triangles, and, while there’s nothing really new about the setup, it will still satisfy TMI fans, and is one of those rare books that I know will get better with subsequent guilty-pleasure rereadings.

There’s a decent amount of good to be said about all of Cassandra Clare’s books. Technically, not that much happens in the 400 or so pages her books span, but you don’t realize it because you’re so caught up in the drama and the smirk-inducing dialogue that makes you wish you had thought of that quip yourself. Her books don’t have the depth that the setup has the potential for—there is a LOT of political discussion that could surround the Shadowhunter/Downworlder dynamic—but—at least for me—the love triangle and the dialogue are typically so well done that I don’t even care that the potential for deeper issues isn’t explored.

CLOCKWORK ANGEL follows in this mold. The first 100 or so pages were frustrating for me because, I’ll be honest here, I read Clare’s books for the love triangle and the snark, and it was mostly just Tessa being damsel-in-distress-y at the clutches of the nefarious Dark Sisters. Then suddenly it was Page 200 and I’m wondering, “Did anything actually happen, or was I once again seduced by Will’s quips into not noticing that little has happened by way of plot so far?”

The actual plot of CLOCKWORK ANGEL unfolds almost painfully slowly, if we were to actually examine it. Like in the Mortal Instruments series, the villain of the book, the Magister, retains a status of “villainy” that never fully manifests into true villainy. Like Valentine, the Magister is the villain mostly because all of the other characters insist that he is and whisper fearfully about him. I suppose, though, that this is part of my emotional disconnect from the book, in that reading it felt, for me, like watching a silly-good TV show in which everyone says funny things, and drama happens, but then I shut off the TV and their voices go quiet in my head.

This is not at all saying that this is a bad book, not at all! CLOCKWORK ANGEL is good at what it is: a sinfully entertaining paranormal series with lots of flashy fights and swoony romances. Will is too similar to Jace in his humor and mannerisms for me to actually crush on him (Jace is number one in my heart, after all), but Jem’s genuine (at least, let’s hope it’s genuine) sensitivity towards Tessa’s endears him to me. The main female character is once again a breathless ninny inclined to shrieks and rescues, but hey, whatever, okay, if it floats your boat.

CLOCKWORK ANGEL once again displays Cassandra Clare’s writing strengths: snarky humor and swoon-worthy (albeit a bit predictably so) guys. Comparison to the Mortal Instruments series is inevitable, and there are a troubling number of similarities between the two books so far. I’m hoping there will begin to be differences in the next installment, but meanwhile, I’m keeping this on my shelf to reread whenever I need some smile-inducing, flutters-in-my-stomach pick-me-up reads.

Similar Authors
Charlaine Harris

Writing: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Plot: 3/5

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Cover discussion: 4.5 out of 5 - I absolutely love all of her covers. Love the metallic sheen of this one, even if that doesn't really look like the Will in my mind.

Margaret K. McElderry Books / Aug. 31, 2010 / Hardcover / 479pp. / $19.99

ARC from BEA.

P.S. Have you entered my giveaway to win one of two finished copies of Clockwork Angel plus some swag yet??


  1. Clare does have a formula that gets more noticable the more you read her novels. I think The Draco Trilogy is my favorite thing she's written, even though it's far less polished. But I still found the formula most charming the first time.

  2. I would so read this one based on that gorgeous cover alone, but your review has more than convinced me!

  3. Love your review, and I think I'll be hearing your voice when I read the book now, lol!

  4. I really liked Clockwork Angel more than TMI. You are right about inevitable comparisons, but as long as Tessa and Will aren't related, I am down for this series, lol.


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