Title: Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices Book One)
Author: Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Buy The Book: Amazon
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.
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. (Summary provided by Margaret K. McElderry.)
Throughout reading Clockwork Angel I kept feeling a glint of a memory. Something tugging at the edge of my subconscious as I read. And then… I remembered. The last and only time I have ever visited London was on my honeymoon. It was the year 2000. I was 24. My husband was 23. For several days we toured London and saw the sights. One of which was the Millennium Wheel.
We didn’t actually ride the giant Ferris wheel, but at the time I remember thinking how quaint it was to build this giant spectacle in honor of the year 2000. How very Victorian. It reminded me of something I might have read in some imaginary novel from the Victorian era along the lines of: From the bridge I took in the sights. I turned to Basil* and said, “My! Would you look at that? The Millennium Wheel! What a curious spectacle!” I silently marveled at the wheel and hastily agreed with Nate that yes, the line was much too long to wait in. But I looked over my shoulder as we walked away…haunted by its presence. So modern and so antiquated. And I immediately longed to see it again.
That is how Clockwork Angel made me feel. So modern yet so antiquated. The whole book gnawing on the edge of my subconscious until I uncovered the memory of the giant Millennium Wheel. I love books like this. Cassandra Clare has created a vivid world within Clockwork Angel. A book that takes place in a long ago time period, but upholds modern ideals. A world full of rich characterizations and setting descriptions that are positively Rowling-esque in scope. When a character enters a new setting whether it’s a library, a courtyard, or a quick jaunt across Black Friar’s Bridge (love that name), Clare’s descriptions instantly transport the reader right where she wants them. She is masterful.
The main character Tessa Gray is American and it was interesting to view Clare’s distinctly original and dark Victorian London through her eyes. Victorian London is one of my favorite settings for books and movies because it has a distinctly spooky quality to it (i.e. Jack the Ripper, opium addiction, etc). By adding the Downworld section to Victorian London, Clare makes the time period even spookier. The Downworld section of London is the area where the vampires, werewolves, fairies, etc. live and gather in London. The area contains places like bars of ill repute that have been glamoured so the humans or “mundanes” can’t see them.
The clockwork creatures that pop up throughout the book are truly spooky. The way Clare used the rudimentary Victorian ideas of using cogs and gears to animate objects gives the book a uniquely Steampunk aspect (?- feel free to correct me if I’m wrong here). The descriptions of clockwork characters revealing themselves through a series of jerking and whirring motions are spectacular. Cassandra Clare is an awesome storyteller. She kept me in suspense throughout the entire book. I’m usually pretty good at figuring out plot elements ahead of time, but Clare managed to stump me. I had no idea who the actual Magister (the bad guy Tessa is promised to at the beginning of the book) was until his identity was revealed towards the end of the book.
What YA novel these days would be complete without a romantic subplot? Well Clockwork Angel has an excellent romantic subplot. It is well written and does not over power the other storylines. I’m not going to give anything away as far as the romantic subplot goes except to say I am firmly “Team Jem”.
Clare’s descriptions of the Shadowhunters and their institute bring the reader into a world rich with history and magic. Her descriptions of the runes and The Codex used by the Shadowhunters reveal to the reader a complex other world with much in it to be discovered over the next two books in the trilogy. The Infernal Devices series is a prequel to The Mortal Instruments series. I have yet to read The Mortal Instruments series and this did not hinder my enjoyment of Clockwork Angel at all. However, now I’m very excited to begin reading The Mortal Instruments series. I love that feeling I get when I begin to discover a new fictional world created by an author with great skill. I absolutely cannot wait to read Cassandra Clare’s other books!
Giveaway Alert: You may enter to win a prize package including signed copies of Clockwork Angel and the first three books in The Mortal Instruments series by leaving a comment in this post. I will stop taking entries at noon central U.S. time on Monday September 27th, 2010. All four books will go to one lucky winner! Make sure your comments have an email address attached so I can contact you. Must be 18 or older to enter.
*My husband makes me watch Fawlty Towers on a regular basis. I fear that is where I plucked the name Basil from.