Monday, December 27, 2010

Clockwork Angel Review

Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices Book 1) by Cassandra Clare

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Hardcover: 342 pages
Reading Level: YA (Fantasy/Paranormal Romance)
FYI: The first 121 pages of Clockwork Angel are available for FREE on Simon & Schuster’s website.

Summary: 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. Click here to read the rest of the summary from Simon & Schuster's website.

My review: 
I’ve spent a lot of time talking about Clockwork Angel over the last month, first in my Monsters, Myths & Oddities post where I focused on demons, and then in my Book Lovelies post. What can I say? Clockwork Angel consumed many of my I-am-not-reading-but-wished-I-was moments.

So, what drew me in?

Initially, it was the descriptions of historical England (I'm a SUCKER for anything that takes place during the Victorian era). Then came the fascinating and creepy scenes starring the talon-fingered Dark Sisters who kidnap and force Tessa Gray, our heroine, to harness the powers she doesn’t even know she possesses. The third and final clincher? Will Herondale and Tessa Gray's meet-cute moment. That being said:

My feelings about Clockwork Angel range from a quizzical brow to a hunger for the next book in the series.

I love you vs. I don't

There's something special about this book.
Picture an old fashioned weighing scale. On one side of it, I'm placing what I love about Clockwork Angel, on the other side, everything I find wanting. The outcome is a harmonious balance between the two; it's a flawed, yet perfectly balanced ensemble of skillful writing, character development, plot, mystery, suspense, and romance. Just when part of the story strikes me as not quite right, I'm immediately distracted by something that's fantastic. Here are some examples:
  • The contrived fighting scenes are overshadowed by compelling characters.
  • The misuse of metaphors are forgotten because of the witty dialogue that follows.
  • The "humanoids" are corny but the plot surrounding them is interesting.
This list could go on and on and on...

By far, one of the most compelling aspect of Clockwork Angel is the characterization of Will Herondale and Jem Castairs, Tessa's two love interests. Both boys are Shadowhunters (demon killers) and share an incredible bond, but they couldn't be more different. They both have feelings for Tessa but hold back because of separate issues. Will and Jem are tortured souls, carrying the burden of their pasts in different ways. Will is tight lipped, not wanting to give himself away. Jem is philosophical and kind but underestimates his appeal.

I didn't mention Tessa as being one of the compelling characters. She wasn't remarkable, but she wasn't annoying. She's a resolute character but flawed like any human. She can easily accept that the world is filled with Vampires, Demons, Warlocks, and Shadowhunters--and fall for one of them!--but is terrified of herself and her powers and remains so throughout the book. Though she's not compelling, she's still a good character, and I didn't mind having the story primarily through her point of view.

I could probably go on about this book forever. But, I have to stop somewhere! Here's my rating.

Cover: 5/5 (Loved it!)
Plot: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
Writing: 4/5
Ending: 3/5
Overall rating:

Since I loved Will & Jem, I want to give you a little preview of their characters through quotes (Pictures and descriptions borrowed from here).
Will Herondale
Seventeen-year-old Will is the sort of young man nice Victorian girls were warned against. He drinks, gambles, and enjoys the company of ladies of questionable virtue—at least, as much as he enjoys anything. Will hates everyone and everything, with the possible exception of Jem, and even that's in some doubt. Charlotte despairs of keeping him alive past the age of nineteen. When he finds himself oddly drawn to Tessa, his friends begin to hope that the Downworlder girl will prove Will's unlikely salvation—but as Tessa grows closer to the bleak secret that makes his life a prison, danger threatens to destroy them both if she ever finds out the truth.

"Are you implying that shreds of my reputation remain intact?" Will demanded with mock horror. "Clearly I have been doing something wrong. Or not something wrong, as the case may be."

He banged on the side of the carriage. "Thomas! We must away at once to the nearest brothel. I seek scandal and low companionship."


"So you're a Shadowhunter," Nate said. "De Quincey told me that you lot were monsters."

"Was that before or after he tried to eat you?" Will inquired.


"Dear me. Such harsh truths so early in the morning cannot be good for the digestion."

Jem Castairs
Brought up in the Institute in Shanghai, Jem's parents were killed by a demon who allowed Jem to live—but with a terrible price to be paid. Frail and silver-haired, Jem seems an unlikely demon-killer, but his skills and swift intelligence make him a formidable foe. He finds a kindred spirit in Tessa as both of them feel they are torn between two worlds, neither belonging completely to one or to the other. As Jem's affection for her grows, will Will have to hurt the only person in his life he's ever seemed to care about?

"I know you feel inhuman, and as if you are set apart, away from life and love, but... I promise you, the right man won't care."

"Sometimes our lives can change so fast that the change outpaces our minds and hearts. It's those times I think when our lives have altered but we still long for the time before everything was altered--that is when we feel the greatest pain. I can tell you though from experience, you grow accustomed to it. You learn to live your new life and you can't imagine or even really remember how things were before."