Review: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Author: Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
First Ed: August 2010
ISBN-10: 1416975861
ISBN-13: 978-1416975861
Details: 496 pages | Hardcover | $19.99

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare is the first novel in her new series The Infernal Devices, which is also the prequel to her first series The Mortal Instruments. Readers coming to this book without previous knowledge of the original series will not find themselves lost or confused since Clare successfully sets up the series to be standalone.

Tessa Gray, penniless and alone, journeys from New York to London to live with her brother after the sudden death of their aunt. However, her dreams of starting a new life go awry after being kidnapped by a nasty pair of witches and forced to do their bidding lest her brother pay the consequences. Through luck and good timing, William Herondale, a handsome young Shadowhunter, rescues her during his investigation of a local murder. Tessa soon realizes that the world she thought she knew is little more than an illusion and that her brother’s circumstances are far more desperate than she imagined.

Clare delivers a strong urban/Victorian fantasy infused with descriptive passages and exquisite period details that blend together into a vibrant historical landscape. Clockwork Angel evolves organically, creating a world where Shadowhunters, downworlders, and demons feel as natural and believable as the steampunk elements within the story.

Clockwork Angel is a stunning tale that begins slowly as Clare sets up her magical world within Victorian London and takes her time to establish Tessa’s situation for readers not familiar with the first series. The combination of strong characters, unique plot twists, and quickly paced action scenes easily keeps the plot fresh and exciting. While Tessa may appear a little too naïve at times, even for a young Victorian woman, she is a capable and likable character who easily caries the story. In addition, the relationship between Tessa and Will is wonderfully well-done and punctuated with confrontations that are steeped in romantic tension, all of which draws them together as forcefully as it splits them apart.

One of the strongest features of Clockwork Angel is the fully developed ensemble cast of characters. They are unique, exciting, and at times desperately funny. Each character, no matter his status, adds value to the story either through his history with the main characters or his effect on the main characters’ decisions. Other than the deeply conflicted and emotionally tortured Will Herondale, The Magister, Clockwork Angel’s cunning villain, is likely to be one of the most memorable characters in the novel.

Clockwork Angel is a true pleasure to read. With strong writing and an engaging story, it will appeal to people of all ages, not just the young adults.  While the novel builds slowly, it gains the momentum of a freight train, driving the story forward, faster and faster with each turn of the page. Fraught with gripping drama and a truly magical setting, Clockwork Angel is sure to bring readers back for the next installment of The Infernal Devices.

The U.S. book trailer from Simon & Schuster:

The U.K. book trailer from Walker Books:

About Erin Underwood

BIO: Erin Underwood is the senior event content producer for MIT Technology Review’s emerging technology events. On the side, she reads, writes, and edits SF.
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