Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Cover of "The Clockwork Angel (The Infern...

Cover via Amazon

The excellent writing, fabulous world-building, and deep side characters make up for the insecure and often whiny protagonist in Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel. The end of the book gives us a glimmer of hope that Tessa could someday be the heroine we’ve been waiting for.

After the sudden death of her Aunt Harriet, Tessa leaves New York City for London. She believes her brother, Nathaniel, will be there to pick her up and introduce her back into his happy life. But the Dark Sisters show up instead. They imprison Tessa, torture her until the teen’s true powers appear: she can change into anybody, and through that change, delve into their thoughts, habits, and personality. The Dark Sisters train Tessa in the use of this power for some mysterious man called the Magister. When Tessa discovers their ultimate purpose – her marriage to this unknown man – she escapes. Right into the hands of the Shadowhunter Will Herondale.

Tessa does not make a strong protagonist. She’s very unsure of herself, and discovering her new power and all its dark implications has heightened that insecurity. She’s loved books, particularly classic romance stories, since she was little. She has, however, taken what is supposed to be fiction to heart. She expects people, especially boys, to act like they do in her favorite novels. Needless to say, she is always disappointed. As Will says, “I’ve never seen anyone get so excited over books before. You’d think they were diamonds.”

Other character’s in the book have much more depth to them, especially the Shadowhunters. They are a race of beings sent down from heaven to protect humans, a.k.a Mundanes, from the Downworlders, a.k.a Warlocks,  Vampires, Demons, and Lycanthropes. Will Herondale, with his deep blue eyes and patch of ebony hair, is a troubled soul: something happened to him at the age of twelve that changed him forever, scarred his heart, led him to run away from home. At one point Will says “I believe we are dust and shadows. What else is there?” Nobody knows what deep secret he’s keeping, but all can see that it’s tearing him apart from the inside out.

Jem is a gentle boy from Shanghai. His parents died at the hands of a demon, and that demon almost killed him as well. The attack marked him on the outside, leaving his hair and eyes a silvery white. But he’s taken that change and accepted it. He is kind where Will is cruel, gentle where Will is harsh. Both teens are falling for Tessa.

All of this is set against the fantastic backdrop of Clare’s steampunk, Victorian London: the dankness of the Thames, the darkness of alleys, abandoned houses, a forgotten church that now houses the Shadowhunters.

The writing in the novel reflects this dark but beautiful world. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

  • “All around the room were scattered the remains of dark magic–bones and feathers and strips of skin, pools of blood that seemed to bubble like black champagne.”
  • “It was a sight that seemed so wrong that it was like looking at a face missing eyes or a sky with no stars. It was something that simply should not be.” ~ Jem’s thoughts

The first book in Cassandra Clare‘s Infernal Devices trilogy, Clockwork Angel, features an okay protagonist in an excellent world. Tessa whines her way through the complicated plot, but a darkly beautiful Victorian London with a steampunk flare surrounds her.

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