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An avid reader of young adult speculative fiction, I find myself becoming increasingly aware of the stale tropes and plot devices used by so many popular authors of this genre. While this "Clockwork Angel" by Cassandra Clare was certainly not without some of these, I found myself so incredibly wrapped up in the Victorian, steampunk-esque world that I didn't even mind in the slightest.
Clare opens up The Infernal Devices series with an incredible adventure as a prequel to The Mortal Instruments series (which, admittedly, I did not particularly care for), and I sped through this book in a few hours. The world created by Clare is multifaceted and very rich, combining the bleakness of classic Victorian literature with the fresh fantastical elements of The Mortal Instruments that made that world so appealing.
Fast-paced and spooky, "Clockwork Angel" was exactly what I was looking for in the Young Adult genre, fulfilling my craving for magic, history, adventure, and romance (and an incredibly compelling love triangle!). I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed Clare's Mortal Instruments Series, as well as lovers of historical fantasy and Victorian England.
Clockwork Angel - Cassandra Clare
A while back, I was watching movie previews when I came across 'City of Bones' which is being released later this year (2013). The preview really caught my attention and I found myself picking up the book by Cassandra Clare when I next visited the local high street.
'City of Bones' is part of 'The Mortal Instruments' series and follows a group of Shadowhunters as they attempt to protect Mundanes (normal humans) from rogue Downworlders such as vampires, fae and werewolves. Of course, there is more to these books than just this, and you can find my reviews on all of the books in this set so far on my book blog elfie-books.blogspot.co.uk.
I absolutely loved the first three books in the series, though the fourth and fifth book felt like a let down and I found myself rather disappointed. It was due to this disappointment that I was unsure at first whether to read the prequel books in the 'Infernal Devices' series, though I am glad that I did.
So far, there are three books in the 'Infernal Devices' series which I believe should be it, though 'The Mortal Instruments' series was also meant to be a trilogy and then Clare decided to write more, so you never know.
The books in this prequel series are:
With all this said, I will now take you on to my review of the first book in this prequel series; Clockwork Angel.
RUNNING LIKE CLOCKWORK
"One must always be careful of books," said Tessa, "and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us."
Sixteen year old Tessa Gray journeys from America across the ocean to meet with her brother in London, England during the reign of Queen Victoria, though from the moment she arrives, she knows that the life she left behind is not anything like the life she seems destined to now.
Kidnapped and imprisoned by a mysterious couple of women who call themselves the Dark Sisters, Tessa begins to realise that she is not quite as human as she thought, though as the Sisters force her newfound ability out of her, she only feels fear and confusion. That is until she is rescued by two best friends; Will and James, and taken into the protection of the institute which is run by Shadowhunters. It is here that Tessa learns about the shadow world and realises that she is a Downworlder, though what type, she does not know, and neither do the other Shadowhunters.
Tessa feels alone and scared, and to top it off, the mysterious Magister will stop at nothing to get his hands on her and use her ability for his own gain. At the same time, she is desperate to find her brother who has seemingly vanished into this air.
And what good story would be without its love story? You would think that Tessa had enough on her plate what with trying to survive and trying to find her brother, but no. Soon Tessa finds herself fascinated, and torn between witty but moody Will and secretive James, though there will come a time when Tessa will have to choose...Save her brother or help her new friends save the world.
Magic is dangerous--but love is more dangerous still.
It seems that this prequel series was written and published alongside 'The Mortal Instrument' series, and many may think that reading 'The Infernal Devices' first would make more sense, though I feel that by reading this series after 'the Mortal Instruments' will allow you more insight into this world.
This series is set many, many years before that of City of Bones, though I found it extremely easy to fall back into this magical world. It did take me a short time to adjust from the previous time frame and characters to the ones in this book, but once the story got going, it was like I had never left the world.
The story is written from the view of Tessa and we learn at the same pace as she does, though of course, from reading the other series, we are a little more advanced in our knowledge than the character of Tessa and sometimes this is a little frustrating.
Once the first few chapters go past, I found that the action and excitement from the previous series started to pop up, and it is not long before nearly every page holds some kind of thrill. There is barely a moment to collect your thoughts throughout the whole of this book, though this is certainly not overwhelming in the slightest. In fact, this exhilarates the reading, especially as the style and flow tend to match the story pace.
The storyline itself is perhaps even better than that of City of Bones, though I know many will disagree with this opinion. There is a vast difference in the many reviews I have read on this first book, from those who love it to those who absolutely hate it. Personally, I love the fact that it is set in the Victorian era. It gives the story a whole different feel, and the settings really give a fantastic atmosphere which aids in the way the story is written.
There are some minor flaws with the story such as some elements being dragged along too fast and others being dragged out too long. It is slightly haphazard in a few places, though none of this really put me off as the story was strong enough to overcome these flaws.
With a lot of books, it takes me a while to attach myself to the characters, and this book has a slight element of this. Tessa, although written from her viewpoint, was perhaps the hardest character to understand at first. I found her characterisation slightly annoying, though I could not put my finger on why, until I met with the other characters. Most of the characters were easier to get to know, and I soon found my favourites, though I did come to realise one thing which could have been the root of my annoyance at first. Although all the characters were different to those in 'the Mortal Instruments' (well, they would have to be considering the time period difference!), they seemed a little recycled. Most characterisations of the various people in this book seemed all too familiar to those in the previous series. It was this which I found was slightly annoying, although as time went on, I did start to either love or hate the different characters, so it was not something which hindered my reading, I just feel that they could have been rewritten to a larger degree.
Although this book does contain Downworlders, which covers everything from vampires to werewolves, it is not the main focus of the story. Instead, we get an insight into the inner-stories of the humans, or rather the human sides of the characters in many cases. It is through this outlook that we see a love story beginning to arise. It is very early stages at this point in the series, and having not read the next books yet, I can not begin to imagine which way this love story will go, though the feeling is certainly here. Do not fret, though. Those who do not like any kind of love story which is in-your-face will not find that here. Other human aspects which the book looks at with great detail is such aspects as loss, grief, strength, weakness, secrets and many more.
Unlike 'City of Bones', this book is not so predictable. Yes, there were many things which could be guessed, though Clare does a much better job at keeping things hidden until the time was right.
So what makes this book any different to other books along these lines?
This story is not overly unique in its storyline, and the characters are seemingly recycled from the previous series, so not much really makes it different, though the setting and the world in which the author creates does provide some small amount of uniqueness.
In saying this, though, there are only so many different storylines available on this earth, and not every good book will be absolutely unique. This book is not very different in most ways, though the difference lies within the world and that, I think, in this case may just be enough. There is just something about this book that makes it exciting from near the beginning right to the very end. It may not be something I can put my finger on, though it is certainly there.
One thing which I find very important in a book is the ending. A story can be written perfectly, though if the ending is wrong, then it gives me a really terrible feel to the whole book, almost as though I feel my time was wasted reading it, even if I did enjoy the rest of the story.
So how does the ending of this book compare?
Cassandra Clare has a habit of creating such brilliant endings to her books which leave us wanting more. This aspect did slide a little in the last two books of the previous series, though she has certainly redeemed herself in this book. The ending was not perhaps mond-blowing, though it certainly contained the right amount of excitement which left me looking forward to reading the second book in the set.
This book would most likely fit into the young adult steampunk genre, though it has elements of many other genres and so it is not easy to place. Of course, you have the paranormal aspect alsongisde a small amount of romance with an above average dose of humour.
The story was 476 pages long, and although this is quite a long look, I read it reasonably fast as, after a certain point, I could not put it down!
CASSANDRA CLARE CONTROVERSY
I felt it was important to add this aspect to this review as I have both read and heard a number of different reasons why people avoid this book, and a lot of negative reactions to the author herself.
Cassandra Clare is reasonably well known (though not by me and I am a Harry Potter fan!) in the Harry Potter fandom by writing many fanfiction pieces (fanfiction in case anyone does not know is stories based upon actual books/films and their characters though taking on a whole new story). One particular fanfiction piece she wrote came under severe scrutiny about its plagiarism. She has also wrote some Lord of the Rings fanfiction and other science fiction writings, many of which have also been accused of plagiarism. She has since taken down these works from the fandom sites, and now writes in her author name of Cassandra Clare opposed to her surname being spelt 'Claire'.
I have looked into this further and it is also apparent that when Clare's first novel was published, she was accused of being racist and sexist, though not much is really said about this which makes me wonder how true this aspect is. I also saw NONE of this in this book or any of the others I have read.
The plagiarism problem seems to have vanished once she changed her name and stopped writing fanfiction, though this could be as she was not as well known as some people thought. What with the success of the 'City of Bones' series, and the upcoming film, this argument about her past has now come back into the light. Whether people believe this, or in fact care, is another case entirely.
I did not hear of any of this until I was part way though reading this first book of the Mortal Instruments series, and to be honest, I am not sure whether it would have changed my mind about reading it or not. The fact remains that this author has plagiarised many works which is a definite no-no in the world of writing, though can an author leave her mistakes behind and can people forgive these mistakes?
It is true that 'Clockwork Angel' is not an overly original story, though as far as I know, nothing has come up about plagiarism with this story, and even knowing what I do now about this problem in the past, I am still glad that I read this book as it was a great read despite its few negative points.
Those who have read Cassandra Clare's fanfiction work have found that the characters in this book are almost carbon copies of ones in her earlier works, and I have already mentioned that this is the case in comparison to her other series, though apart from being uninvented in this area, I do not think that you can say she plagiarized herself!
Whether this piece of information deters you from reading this is up to you, though in my opinion, I would say that if you decide to avoid it just because of this then you will be missing out.
"Will looked horrified. "What kind of monster could possibly hate chocolate?"
You may think, after reading the negative points in this review, that this is a book to stay clear of, though this is certainly not the case. I really loved this book despite everything which I outlined as flawed, and there is enough strong points to keep the reader entertained and excited.
The average rating of this book online is around 4.5/5 stars, so although many hate it, it seems that most agree with me that, yes, it is flawed, but at the same time, it is a great read.
This book is currently on Amazon from £3.66 in paperback form, £4.27 on Kindle format, and from £19.08 on audio book.
So I was pretty hesitant to read this originally, due to the fact of teen/young adult reads being pretty repetitive by authors using a tried-and-tested formula to writing young adult books. Ever heard of love triangles, over emphasis on the girls feelings and/or the heroine being basically useless and bring the 'dilemma' themselves.
But the mixture of fantasy, romance and a love of the Victorian age made this refreshingly interesting to read, and kept me captured to finish the book. The book is about 'shadow hunters' a society of humans whose blood has been intermingled with that of an angel.
They keep themselves segregated from normal humans and stay in their homeland 'Idris'. Impenetrable from any other species apart from their own. The blood they have been given gives them superhuman abilities of battle skills, speed, agility and also tend to be very good-looking.
These shadow hunters or Nephilim use these skills to collectively hunt down demons which find worm holes to our world to descend chaos and bloodshed. There are also other species in the book from warlocks to faeries to vampires. There is also a great element of steam-punk developed in these books in the clothing, weapons and enemys.
I enjoyed reading it so much so, I finished it within 2 days. The techniques and descriptions that the author used; Cassandra Clare in question, made the world she has created of demons and Nephilim seem almost realistic, and made me want to find out more about the characters backgrounds.
I recommend that you read the 'The Infernal Devices', before you read 'The Mortal Instuments'. Unlike I did, by doing so you can find out additional information about characters family trees and how they are all interconnected. Also if you have a daughter or friend this is a good book to buy them, you will probably be safe as it has action, romance and magic. I have have read all three and they are all brilliant.