Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

William Herondale is featured on the cover.

Clockwork Angel is the first book in the Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare.  The series itself is a prequel to the Mortal Instruments series, which was on the New York Times Bestseller List for over six months and translated into 25 languages.

I am a big fan of Clare’s Mortal Instruments.  Initially, I had been hesitant to read another book involving vampires, but the concept was quite different from Twilight and its clones.  One of my students assured me that I would enjoy it and since we shared a similar love of the Uglies, Pretties, and Specials series by Scott Westerfeld, I trusted his judgment.  (Thank you, Nathan!)

The Mortal Instruments series is set in present day New York, while Infernal Devices takes place at the end of the 19th Century in London.  Both series involve a group of people known as Shadowhunters, who attempt to rid the world of demons.  It is not necessary to read the original series in order to understand Clockwork Angel, but it does set the stage for the relations between the Downworlders (vampires, werewolves, fairies, etc.) and the Shadowhunters in The Mortal Instruments.

This book still showcases Clare’s creativity and innovation, but can be overcomplicated at times and demands more perseverance from a reader than The Mortal Instruments series did.  I consumed City of Bones, City of Ashes, and City of GlassClockwork Angel required determination.  It simply wasn’t as enjoyable.

I appreciate Clare’s attempt at adding mystery and new horrors to the plot – for example, the addition of the supreme evil-doer known as the Magister and his zombie-like creations.  Also, the main character, Tessa, is given a special ability, making her desirable to the Magister and the Shadowhunters.

As a reader, writer, and reviewer, my level of satisfaction depends heavily on the characters.  As my husband says, I am all heart.  If I can’t form a connection to one of them - if they have what I consider low likability, then I can’t completely enjoy the book.  I love books that are character driven.  Without characters to care for and believe in, the plot falls flat.  This true with Clockwork Angel.  Some of the characters are too formulaic.  Some are too predictable.  And some even seem too familiar.  For example, Will has the same angst and bad-boy vibe of Jace from The Mortal Instruments.  I adored Jace and his love triangle with Clarissa and Simon, but to see the same situation seem to play out with Will, Tessa, and Jem is almost tiring.  I would like to see truly new characters with new relationship dilemmas.

That’s not to say that all characters are predictable and unexciting.  Tessa’s brother, Nathaniel Gray, is an interesting character if only because of his human failings of greed and ambition.  And it is refreshing to see the eccentric Magnus Bane again.  Jessamine Lovelace only wants to be human and tries to deny her heritage as a Shadowhunter.  These characters offer the readers something different from the original series. 

The book begins with excitement as we realize that Tessa has the ability to change form, but cannot be categorized as a true Downworlder as no one has seen this power before.  She herself is only learning of her talent.  The momentum of the plot seems slow and plodding, but reaches an exciting climax near the end when the identity of the Magister is revealed and some characters meet their deaths against an army of man-made, but magically enhanced, robots.

According to author Cassandra Clare, there will be two more books in this series:  Clockwork Prince (Release date of September 2011), and Clockwork Princess (Release date of November/December 2012). 

As I have made it through the first in the series, I do expect to read the others, if only to see if they get better.  (I hope so!) My husband is in the process of trying to finish the first, but he keeps telling me that he’s 100 pages in and is still confused.  That may be something you want to keep in mind if you are not a stubborn, determined-type of reader.  However, if you liked the Mortal Instruments series, you may want to give it a shot.  

I don’t regret reading it.  My expectations may have just been too high.

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