Thursday, January 26, 2012

Clockwork Angel (Infernal Devices #1) by Cassandra Clare

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster)
Pages: 496
Series or Stand Alone: Book One in the Infernal Devices trilogy
SummaryMagic 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. 

I'm a fan of the Mortal Instruments books, so when I heard that Cassandra Clare was writing  a steampunk prequel trilogy, I was very excited. I ordered it when it first came out and read it. I knew when I went to read the second installment, Clockwork Prince, I wouldn't remember anything about the first, so I decided to reread it in preparation for the second.
This review is going to be on the longer side, for the sheer fact that I have a lot to say about how much I love this book/series. For that, I'm going to ditch the traditional summary in my words. First of all, the characters. Tessa Gray is the female lead of this novel. I really enjoyed Tessa's character. She managed to keep being strong throughout a really shitty situation. Her loyalty is a force to be reckoned with--she never even considers going against the Dark sisters when they've threatened her brothers life. She isn't weak and she expresses a great amount of curiosity about the world around her. Also, she's obsessed with books in a very believable, not annoying, way.
Now, William Herondale. Ah. To find an emotionally damaged boy that snarks instead of spending every waking minute brooding. Brooding is annoying. Snarky wit is attractive. But wait! He has this secret mysterious pain that is probably going to be explored in great detail at some later point in the series instead of being vaguely alluded to! Also, he doesn't wander around whining about his pain to all of the characters. Will is a breath of fresh air in the male lead pool.
James Carstairs, Will's parabatai, is entirely different from Will. Jem is one of the nicest yet totally non-boring characters to grace the pages of a young adult novel. The silver-haired violin playing Shadowhunter appears to be the only on that gets through to Will's otherwise hidden soft side. As parabatai, the two are practically brothers. Jem plays he open, brighter side to Will's closed-off darkness.
Jessamine: All poor, snobby, spoiled Jessamine wants is to be a proper lady. Unfortunately, having Shadowhunter blood and being orphaned at a young age sent her to the London Institute to be raised as a Shadowhunter. Even her delicate, ladylike parasol mades a mockery of her desires--it has razorsharp edges she can use to fight downworlders if the opportunity presents itself. I liked Jessamine's admittedly vexing character because she fights so hard against what she is--to the point where she doesn't act when she should because of her belief that she is a lady and ladies don't fight. Jessamine is selfish, grating, and generally a bitch to everyone around her--which was totally different than everyone around her. Everyone else may believe that being a Shadowhunter is a blessing and an honor, but Jessamine sure doesn't.
The inclusion of both Camille Belcourt and Magnus Bane was welcome. Camille's star-crossed-lover-intent-on-revenge schtick was pretty soap opera worthy, but entertaining nonetheless. I'm curious as to the connections between the characters in the Infernal Devices and those in the Mortal Instruments books.
As for the plot, the nefarious Magister is training Terra up to be his--wife? Interesting direction to go in. This aspect of the novel made me think of old silent films (okay, really modern cartoon references to silent films) in which a villain (usually with a mustache) kidnaps the young damsel in order to tie her to a set of railroad tracks. It's old school nefarious. Except, clearly the Magister has plans for Tessa; he's not just doing this to be a dick or to bait some sort of beige hero. However, what his plan is will not be revealed in this book--though the identities of the Magister and some of his helpers are revealed. 
Listen, I'm all for the romantic entanglements of Will and Tessa, and eventually Jem and Tessa, and the ensuing result of that love triangle, but the clear attraction between Will and Tessa was not the most interesting relationship to me (though, don't get me wrong, I'm definitely interested in that). I was far more interested in Will and Jem's friendship and status as parabatai (partnered fighters in the Shadowhunter world). Jem is the only one treated with outright kindness by Will, the rest of the characters usually subjected to bouts of snarky sarcasm. Will very obviously cares for Jem and takes care of him when his "condition" places him out of commission. They are the closest to one another, which is why I found it intriguing that they don't outright address their interest in Tessa, except for when Jem says that they both find her pretty. I'm very interested in how this love triangle will affect their friendship. It could easily go in the adversarial direction, but something tells me Clare is not going to take the easy way out. Which means totally justifiable, growth-inducing pain for the characters, which brings happiness to this particular reviewer. Sometimes, in the words of Sally Sparrow, "Sad is happy for deep people." Bottom line: William Herondale and James Carstairs are adorabros. Their histories, both shared and unshared, are entirely compelling.
Clockwork Angel provides for a satisfying enough conclusion--meaning I was satisfied with this book as a whole, but the epilogue included a mysterious teaser that definitely made me want to read the next one, but it wasn't like I was going to die if I didn't get to read it. Clockwork Angel was a well-executed introduction to the Infernal Devices trilogy, and I am very much looking forward to reading Clockwork Prince.

Rating: 5 - fantastic. Definitely shelf of favorites status.

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