Clockwork Angel

I love Steampunk.  The crazy scientist and dreamy romantic sides of me collide in this historical meets techno genre and I'm always intrigued when authors venture into it as the stories that I've read so far are inventive, creative, and unique.  When I first heard Cassandra Clare was writing a steampunk prequel series to her Mortal Instruments saga, my attention was caught.  Keep in mind, I haven't actually read the Mortal Instruments series (feel free to persuade me to do so in the comments section) but I've heard pretty positive things about it.

Back on topic, meet Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare - Book One of the Infernal Devices Series.  First off, I love the title of this work.  I read it and I find myself immediately thinking, "Ooh an angel... made of clockwork?  Is it good or evil?  Who made it?"  And the series name is even more gripping, "What are these Devices? And why are they Infernal?  Is the Clockwork Angel one of them?"

(Oddly enough most of these questions are not answered in this book, though I suppose there's the possibility for revelations in the upcoming entries in the series.  Yes, it's very much a "Book One" - don't expect the story to be concluded when you reach the back cover.) 

I also really love the cover of this book.  The London scene and the gentleman tipping his hat set the backdrop beautifully and the glowing tattoos and the sparkly angel add the steampunk flair.  If there's one thing Clare and her publicity department have mastered it's how to hook a reader before they reach the frontispiece.  I know we all say that you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover but that adage applies to humanity much more than to literature.  I'll be the first to argue that plenty of good books have been graced with less than stellar cover art, but I've also yet to meet a bibliophile who won't confess to at least a few cases of book lust based on a drool-worthy book jacket.

Now on to the story:  Theresa "Tessa" Gray is a seemingly normal sixteen year old girl summoned to England to find her brother.  Immediately off the boat in a slightly alternate version of Queen Victoria's realm, Tessa is whisked away by two women known as The Dark Sisters and along with discovering a darker side of London - with witches, warlocks, vampires, and demons - Tessa learns that she herself belongs to this odd sect of Downworlders.  Possessing a unique and powerful talent Tessa draws the attention of a malicious figure known as the Magister and soon aligns herself with the Shadowhunters, a group of warriors known as Nephilim dedicated to battling demons and keeping chaos from reigning over London.  Still determined to find her brother and learn more about her strange ability, Tessa seeks sanctuary at the Institute, the Shadowhunters' base of operations, and becomes ensconced in their world and fascinated by two friends - James and Will - each with their own secrets.

This book took me a while to get into which is odd since the action begins from page one.  I felt that the pacing and intrigue of the story were much more gripping once Tessa arrived at the Institute though the dialog became humorous and enjoyable as soon as Will entered the story.  For the most part, I never connected with Tessa as a heroine.  I felt that she was a bit too passive about her circumstances - this could be attributed to a character trait of the era, yet her behavior towards the male characters in the story never reflected that level of period decorum.  In fact, the only quality in Tessa that I really found myself connecting  or relating to was her love of books.  It was the secondary characters that really saved this novel for me as I found myself really interested in Charlotte, the director of the Institute, as well as James and Will (though I could have enjoyed the book equally or more without the love triangle).  The steampunk side of things was well played, but I do wish it had been expanded even further.  And I still want to know more about the titular clockwork angel. 

As much as I want to protest that I didn't love this book, I do find that I'm eagerly anticipating the second in the series.  The writing was solid and the story catchy enough that I definitely find myself pondering the question of what comes next.  Clockwork Prince is due to be released in December of this year and I look forward to the next episode of this saga. 

I read this book as part of the Tales to Tomes Online Book Club hosted by Tif Talks Books.  If you've read Clockwork Angel and want to join in the discussion, check out the links to our GoodReads discussion group and Twitter feed at Tif's site.  (I can be found on GoodReads here but I don't think I have the first clue of how to be succinct enough for Twitter.)  There's also a Tales To Tomes link up where you can share in other reviews of Clockwork Angel and feel free to vote for future group reads and jump in for June's discussion of Lauren Oliver's Delirium

5 Response to "Clockwork Angel"

  1. Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic says:
    June 5, 2011 at 12:30 PM

    I never really knew what steampunk meant. Great post.

  2. Jen (@ Jens Book Closet) says:
    June 6, 2011 at 7:54 PM

    Okay, I'm thinking you've read my mind because I felt the same. I think I was hoping for the same greatness that came out of the first three The Mortal Instruments books and it wasn't quite there. Tessa drove me nuts and I couldn't relate to her in the slightest. Plus, Will was a big jerk, more so than Jace ever was. I never really liked him. Jem was my book savior in this one. He was awesome and I'm excited for the next book (even though this one wasn't my favorite) because I'm hoping to see more of him and A LOT more Magnus. Hopefully it's better than the first.

    In the Closet With a Bibliophile

  3. lisa :) says:
    June 7, 2011 at 11:32 AM

    Alexis - Thanks! I'm sure there are more official definitions of steampunk out there, but I'm happy to provide my take on it.

    Jen - I'm really hoping Tessa becomes a stronger character in future books. I think I will check out The Mortal Instruments series too, since so many people have told me those are really great (and I only recently realized Magnus is in both!)

  4. Casey (The Bookish Type) says:
    June 7, 2011 at 11:50 AM

    I read this book before any of the TMI books too, and I gotta say I enjoyed it a lot more than City of Bones. Jace really annoyed me -- but I am ALL OVER The Will ;) The secondary characters definitely rocked my socks in this one, and I loved the Victorian setting. The ending was a major cliffhanger O_o bah I hate that, but I am definitely salivating for Clockwork Prince.

  5. lisa :) says:
    June 9, 2011 at 1:28 PM

    Casey - I'm a little ambivalent about Will. I loved his wit but I did think he was rather heartless towards Tessa at the end. I'm definitely interested to see where their relationship develops in the next book as well as how Jen fits into things too!

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