Sunday, February 26, 2012

In the Beginning: Clockwork Angel

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2010

Not long ago, I wrote my review of the first book in The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, City of Bones, and I loved it. It had been quite a while since I've gotten so into a fantasy book, and it was one of my first experiences with urban fantasy. I loved this book so much in fact that I immediately abandoned my to-read list which is carefully organized on Goodreads so I could continue on with City of Ashes and City of Glass instead and they also proceeded to blow me away.

And then what should I find at my library when I went to return those, sitting oh-so-innocently on the shelf, but Clockwork Angel, the first book in Clare's prequel series, The Infernal Devices. Did I give into temptation? You bet I did.

Welcome to Victorian London. Sixteen-year-old Tessa, an orphan from New York, has come to live with her older brother following the death of her aunt whom she had been living with. Only instead of meeting Nate at the docks when she comes in, she meets the Dark Sisters who claim Nate sent them in his place. Six weeks later, Nate is nowhere to be found and Tessa is being held captive and the women force her to use a power she never knew she had: the ability to shape-shift and take on the appearance of others. Luckily, London's Shadowhunters have their own reasons for seeking out the Dark Sisters on a seemingly unrelated note and once Tessa is with them and safely at the Institute, she starts to learn the truth. She is some sort of Downworlder, a mysterious leader known as The Magister wants her for his own, and Shadowhunters are forced to grow up quickly. Amid her concern for her life and trying to find her brother, Tessa finds herself torn between two Shadowhunters her own age, the collected Jem who manages to be incredibly strong and fragile at the same time and Will, a seemingly wild-child who does his best to keep his distance from everyone except Tessa...usually.

Where do I even begin? This book was such an enjoyable trip into times past and (for me) lands far away. While you definitely don't have to have read The Mortal Instruments first to understand what's going on in terms of the Shadowhunter/Downworlder dynamics at work, I personally was glad that I had. Clare includes subtle nods to her other series that made me smile (and sometimes not so subtle *cough cough Magnus Bane, anyone? cough cough*). Clare also spends more time getting into some of the history of this fantasy world, thanks in part to Tessa reading a book on the history and nature of the Shadow World. The blend of action and description of the setting is elegantly done and I could easily visualize the Institute, the characters, and Victorian London. And as usual, Clare hits a home run with her leading cast. I could completely understand Tessa's confusion over her supernatural ability, understanding what is going on with Nate, and her feelings for Will and Jem (which were agonizing to a 21st century reader given how very...different relationships were between men and women 100 years ago). While I didn't really read this story with the same sense of urgency as TMI, I was still completely sucked in and read the novel over the course of three days. It's hard, but I actually forced myself NOT to read the sequel Clockwork Prince right away because I wanted to spread out the story and experience a little while longer. (That review has been written and will be posted in the coming weeks.)

If you like British things, this book is for you. If you're looking for historical fiction with a supernatural twist, this book is for you. If you loved The Mortal Instruments, then The Infernal Devices is a must. For me it's another case of hating that I didn't read this sooner, but I'm so glad to have found it now.

Comments welcome and as always, happy reading!

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1 comment:

  1. Clockwork Angel was so amazing. Great review. So glad you loved CA, as well. I had the same experience as you did actually, haha. Read City of Bones and haven't read the rest of the TMI series yet but started reading Clockwork Angel because I was so intrigued by it.

    And I just loved the setting. I geek out for Victorian London and Clare's descriptions made everything very real and vivid.