18 September 2010

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

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: Jem, who fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, who 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.

While Cassandra Clare's writing style is excellent, I found myself thinking that Clockwork Angel was like a past life, a total rehashing of City of Bones.  The characters lined up almost exactly.  Clary to Tessa; Jace to Will; Isabelle to Jessamine.  Far too similar for my taste.  I expected to be provided with more depth of the world -- expansion and history -- not the same characters with a different name and a new setting.

I was expecting more from Tessa's power.  It was a refreshing change for her to have the ability to shape-change into other humans, but it was perhaps only truly used in the beginning and then there was this huge gap where it wasn't mentioned at all and then used once at the end.  That irritated me because you got the impression that Tessa shunned her power but the lack of mention caused that to collapse.

Lemme just say this about the writing: it was magnificent.  While sometimes I skipped over the author's sometimes-lengthy descriptions of rooms and outfits, I did like how the information was presented and  how the writing really carried.  The author did well with the dialogue, keeping it appropriate for the Victorian era.

As I said, the characters were far too much alike for my taste, which did nothing to recommend the book to me.  I disliked Tessa's character.  For a girl who was supposed to read a lot, she sure didn't know a lot about how people interacted.  She was shallow and uninteresting and her "shining moments" sounded false.  Then there's Will.  I know a lot of people go for the tortured souls and I do have a bit of a soft spot for characters that can make me laugh.  After reading about Jace's character in the Mortal Instrument series though, Will didn't come off right.  Nothing he did seemed original to his character and he didn't come off very alluring.  My favorite character, though, is definitely Jem.  While I was expecting something more dramatic (for all the fuss they put up) about the real issue behind his illness, I really did enjoy him as a character.  The unassuming way he was described carried through and compared to all the others, he was definitely my favorite.  He was consistent and while maybe a bit too soft with Tessa, he was one cool guy.

Overall, I was pretty disappointed after all the hype that this book got around the blogosphere.  What I would love to see is Cassandra Clare take all that talent and creativity and finally put some books into circulation with strong, sensible main characters.  I'm not keeping this book, it is unfortunate to say.  I'm returning it to Borders next time I go.

Book Info:
  • pages - hardcover, 479
  • published - August 31, 2010
  • publisher - Margaret K. McElderry
  • genre - steampunk
  • series - The Infernal Devices
    • Clockwork Angel
    • Clockwork Prince
    • Clockwork Princess