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Cassandra Clare – Clockwork Angel

December 13, 2010

150. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (2010)
The Infernal Devices, Book 1

Read By: Jennifer Ehle (i.e. Elizabeth Bennet from the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice. She’s also American, which I didn’t know before listening to this book, although she was obviously quite good at the accents for the British characters.)
Length: 14h 36min (496 pages)

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, and a healthy dose of Steampunk

Started: 11 November 2010
Finished: 02 December 2010

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I really liked Cassandra Clare’s short stories in Geektastic and Zombies vs. Unicorns, and I’m trying to read some more steampunk novels.

These demon hunters
are Nephilim; that doesn’t
mean they’re all angels.

Summary: After the death of her aunt, sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray has crossed the Atlantic Ocean at the summons of her older brother – an impressive enough feat for a girl alone in Victorian times. However, she does not find Nate waiting for her at the docks, but is instead kidnapped by two strange women – members of an occult organization called the Pandemonium Club – who use threats against Nate to force Tessa to do their bidding. For Tessa has a great power, the ability to transform herself into the appearance of any person, and the Dark Sisters seek to train her power so that it might be used by the Magister, the head of the Pandemonium Club.

Just when things seem bleakest, Tessa is rescued from the Dark Sisters by Shadowhunters – a group of Nephilim who use their powers to maintain balance amongst the supernatural creatures of the London underworld. Tessa’s frightened by the sudden revelation of a world she never knew existed, but she’s also drawn to the Shadowhunters… particularly Will, the attractive but sarcastic and arrogant young Nephilim that saved her. She will need their help if she’s ever going to find her missing brother, but the Shadowhunters need Tessa’s help in turn, because they’ve uncovered a plot that might destroy everything they hold dear.

Review: Clockwork Angel is the first book in the new series The Infernal Devices, which is itself a rough prequel to Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series. Clare has said that the two series are independent, that one can be read without the other, and for the most part, that was true here. I haven’t read The Mortal Instruments, but Clare did a very nice job of introducing the Shadowhunters, and the world of vampires, demons, warlocks, and other creatures that live hidden within normal London society. (As an aside, why are there so many “hidden London” fantasy novels compared with other cities? Where are all of the “hidden Atlanta” or “hidden St. Louis” books?) However, while I didn’t have any problems getting my bearings in her world or with her characters, there were moments when I felt like I was missing out by not having read Clare’s earlier books. A character would say or do something that was obviously supposed to have some meaning or resonance that I didn’t catch, and while some of these are likely to be foreshadowing for the rest of the series, others were certainly throwbacks to The Mortal Instruments that just went over my head. Fortunately, though, these moments were fleeting, and for the most part I followed along just fine.

Easily the best thing about this book was how easy it was to get lost in the world of the Shadowhunters. It’s a fascinating set-up, and Clare’s writing is very evocative and atmospheric. I normally think of steampunk as being more closely allied with sci-fi novels, so to find elements of it in a fantasy setting was quite refreshing. Clare’s characters, too, are fascinating, always with the sense that there are layers and secrets they’re not showing you. I started out with a bit of a crush on Will, as does Tessa, but by the end of the book, I found almost every other character equally compelling.

My main issue with this book was its pacing. It’s a relatively long book for YA fantasy, and it’s longer than it really needed to be. It never exactly drags, but it does lose some steam in the middle sections, and there are a number of scenes that could have been trimmed or cut outright in order to streamline the main plot. Compounding the problem is that the ending wasn’t particularly satisfying, or even really much of an ending. Obviously, the good guys aren’t going to win the war in the first book of the series, but here it didn’t even feel like they’d won a battle; they get to the confrontation at the end, and then things just sort of… stop. It was somewhat of a let-down, particularly given the long time and all of the build-up it took to get there. Overall, though, I had a good time listening to this book, and I’ll definitely be reading the next book in the series. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Definitely recommended for fans of darker historical fantasy, particularly series like A Great and Terrible Beauty.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: 25 Hour Books, Amy Reads, Book’d Out, Bookshelves of Doom, Capricious Reader, The Discriminating Fangirl, Good Books and Good Wine, Janicu’s Book Blog, Jenn’s Bookshelves, I Just Wanna Sit Here and Read, Laura’s Review Bookshelf, Lit Bites, Literary Escapism, Love Vampires, My Ever Expanding Library, The Page Flipper, Proud Book Nerd, Steph Su Reads, The Story Siren, Tea Mouse, There’s a Book, Wordbird
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: The demon exploded in a shower of ichor and guts.

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. shelleyrae@ Book'd Out permalink
    December 13, 2010 12:43 am

    Thanks for the mention!

  2. December 13, 2010 10:00 am

    I’m a little leery of steampunk, so this probably isn’t the book for me.

    • December 17, 2010 9:59 am

      bermudaonion – It’s also pretty heavily fantasy-based, which is another genre I know you don’t read much of, so yeah, you’re pretty safe skipping it.

  3. December 13, 2010 11:02 am

    Oh, Cassandra Clare. I had pacing issues with her in City of Bones, the first installment of The Mortal Instruments, as well as her falling on the wrong line of homage versus lifting directly from the source when it came to Harry Potter. (I’ve only just started the second season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so I can’t speak to that.) But it sounds like placing a series in a steampunk setting helps that.

    • December 17, 2010 10:01 am

      Omni – Hmm, I haven’t read the Mortal Instruments yet, although I’d definitely planned on starting. I had the same honoring vs. plagiarizing problem with The Magicians, though, so it’s something I’ll be on the lookout for.

      How are you liking Buffy S2? I just rewatched it this past week!

  4. December 13, 2010 11:14 am

    Thanks for linking to my review! :-)

  5. December 13, 2010 12:31 pm

    Thanks for linking to my review. Glad to hear you liked the story, but too bad you didn’t love it. I can understand that, shorter would have been better. I have read the first series too so might have helped, I don’t know :)

    • December 17, 2010 10:03 am

      Amy – It’s intrigued me enough to keep me reading, so it’s got that going for it. I just thought it needed a little bit of trimming and tightening.

  6. runningshadow permalink
    December 14, 2010 9:40 am

    Ah, I can’t wait to read this book–partly because it’s steampunk and mainly because it’s by Cassandra Clare. However, I am a little wary. Like you said, it just… stops. I’m not very patient with cliffhangers.

    On a different note, I loved The Mortal Instruments series, and I highly recommend it. Great review. :)

    • December 17, 2010 10:04 am

      runningshadow – Maybe it would be a good idea to wait until the rest of this series has been published, then? That way you could get to the end of this book and immediately dive into the next.

  7. December 16, 2010 10:33 am

    but it has such beautiful cover art!!!!

    Look away Redhead, look away! even with it’s beautiful cover art you are sure to get frustrated with pacing, paranormal stuff, and YA-ness. for the love of Cthuhlu, look away from that beautiful cover art!!!

    ok, i feel better now.

    • December 17, 2010 10:06 am

      Redhead – It really is a lovely cover, isn’t it? But yeah, if you get frustrated with YA paranormals, then this one’s probably not for you.

      Doesn’t mean that you can’t wander past it at the bookstore and admire the cover, though. :)

  8. December 18, 2010 2:51 pm

    I really enjoyed the first series. There were a few bumps, but for the most part I loved it. I’m thinking I may wait till the next book comes out before starting this one, though. I have so much trouble remembering what’s going on when I wait too long between books, and as this one doesn’t have much of a resolution, from what you say, I think waiting might be best. I’m glad you liked it!

    • December 21, 2010 10:39 am

      Darla – I always have that problem with new series… to read or to wait?? I think in this case, waiting until it’s all complete (or at least until the next book is out) is your best bet.


  1. Clockwork Angel Book One….I need the 2nd book A.S.A.P…(>_<) | Blossom Sakura's Blog

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