I confess, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel — the first book in her Infernal Devices series — when I first picked it up. I knew it was a prequel to her best-selling Mortal Instruments series (I was already a fan). I knew it took place in 19th century London. And I knew it was “steampunk.”
But it didn’t take long for any hesitancy I had about delving into this steampunk, prequel world to melt away — as the story and characters of Clockwork Angel swept me away. In fact, I quickly fell in love with the entire world Cassie has created with her new prequel series. I love the mix of old-fashioned sensibility with modern technology that sort of defines “steampunk” in this novel.
Clockwork Angel tells the story of 16-year-old Tessa Gray — as she leaves America to join her brother in London. But when she arrives, she is kidnapped and exposed to London’s Downworld and her own magical ability to transform into any other person at will. When she finally escapes from her kidnappers, she finds help with London’s Shadowhunter community — and finds herself torn between two Shadowhunters, Will and Jem — both of whom harbor some dark secrets.
Tessa is a decidedly unique heroine, and it’s delightful to follow along as she uncovers secrets about herself and her family, encounters the world of Downworlders and Shadowhunters, and finds herself torn between Will and Jem.
And then there are Will and Jem themselves. Will, the tempestuous, arrogant, cocky one. Many have likened him to Jace in the original series. Yet Will has some dark secrets and a hot-and-cold personality that make him his own. And then there’s Jem — sweet, charming Jem, with a dark yet tragic secret of his own. In a day where it’s popular to declare “Teams” during this literary love triangles, I find myself torn. With other book series, I’ve always chosen very decisively (Team Edward. Team Peeta. Team Jace.) But in this case, I really can’t choose between Will and Jem. I love the bad boy nature of Will, but there’s something so lovable about Jem that I’m drawn to him to.
And along the sidelines there is Jessamine, the very reluctant 19th century Shadowhunter. Where she’d rather be courted by prospective suitors and choosing fabric for new dresses, she’s still drawn into the Shadowhunting world she was born into. Despite her best efforts, she can’t quite escape that fate — and by the end of the book, it’s not even clear if she really wants to.
Fans of The Mortal Instruments series will recognize parallels between the characters in Clockwork Angel and those in the original TMI books — but don’t accuse Clare of rehashing the same old thing. Because while there are obvious connections between the characters in Clockwork Angel and those in the modern-day TMI books, the parallels are deliberate. Likewise, the characters in Clockwork Angel take decidedly different paths and make their own choices about their actions. And while its not necessary to have read the original Mortal Instruments books to read Clockwork Angel, having that foundation definitely gives you an edge to understanding the dynamics at play (at least in my humble opinion).
Additionally, fans of the original TMI books will be able to pick out subtle details and enjoy the thrill of recognizing one character that appears in both series. (You’ll have to read it to find out, unless you’ve already encountered the spoilers online.)
And let’s not forget the terrifying element of the automatons. Okay, I confess: I’ve always been afraid of robots. I’m always saying it’s just one small step from a Roomba to a Terminator (and the fact that part of our newscast at work is now run by robots doesn’t help soothe my nerves on this subject). Call it irrational if you must, but that fear was only heightened by the creatures in Clockwork Angel. And yes, this is definitely where the majority of that “steampunk” quality comes into play. Let me just say this: the robots/automatons in Clockwork Angel are scary as hell.
I went into Clockwork Angel a little hesitant, and came out with it a fan. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that I liked Clockwork Angel even better than the original Mortal Instruments books. And while I can’t wait to read the next book in the Infernal Devices series, part of me is also looking forward to the anticipation of waiting for Clockwork Prince over the next year.
Clockwork Angel is in stores August 31st.