My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Clockwork Angel is the first book in the Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare. It is set in Victorian London and has an air of steampunk – although it is not explicitly that genre. There are clockwork creations and automatons, a Shadowhunter inventor that tinkers with gears and wires, but the overall setting is not one of steam powered air machines and gear-covered outfits. As a fan of the steampunk genre and aesthetic, I quite enjoyed the subtle notes of it in this series.
The clockwork automatons are intriguing, as they are made from neither Heaven nor Hell and thus the Shadowhunters have no experience dealing with them. They create a unique foe to fight against and are a greater mystery – as our heroes do not know who truly created them, or their nefarious purpose.
Each chapter is headed with an excerpt from a poem that Tessa might have found herself reading over the years. Each is not only a wonderful addition to the story but if you enjoy them, perhaps it will lead you to seek them out in their original forms. I personally do not find myself frequently reading poetry, but the first time I read this book I fell in love with the poems selected. It caused me to go in search of them and read poetry. Perhaps you too will find yourself inspired.
As with the Mortal Instruments, our main character is a female who is unfamiliar with the Shadow World at the beginning of the novel. Before long, she is completely embroiled in the world, the politics and must learn as she goes. In this novel, our heroine is given the Shadowhunter Codex to read which allows her to quickly understand the roles of the Shadowhunter and the world she didn’t even know existed. I have always liked Tessa and felt a kinship to her, as we are very similar.
Tessa is quite tall, especially for a woman in the Victorian era, brunette and loves books more than anything else (other than perhaps her family.) Her Aunt was a very learned woman, so Tessa received a decent education and fostered a love of reading. She is able to quote from books that she loves and does not discriminate between books considered high-brow and those considered for the lower class of society. Tessa is very intelligent and not afraid to voice her opinions, even though it was not widely accepted at that time for women to be sharp of tongue. She also does not like chocolate, which endeared her to me immediately as I also am one of the few people it seems who does not like chocolate.
Our two male leads are Jem and Will, who are parabatai but quite dissimilar from one another. Jem was originally from the Shanghai Institute but found himself in the London Institute when his parents were murdered by demons. He is quiet, kind, intelligent and loves Will like a brother. Will is a Herondale, with all of the charm that comes with it. He is more reckless, boasts about frequenting brothels and dens of vice, and despite his outward attempts to appear cheerful is prone to melancholy.
The Institute is filled with other Shadowhunters and servants with vastly different personalities who bring a lot of interesting storylines with them. Charlotte and Henry are the heads of the Institute, despite their young age. Henry is a brilliant inventor, although a bit scatterbrained. Jessamine was forced to live in the Institute after the death of her parents, but she has never desired to be a Shadowhunter.
The first book introduces us to the Shadow World of London, as Tessa is invited to travel from New York to London to live with her brother. Her plans do not turn out as she had expected and it leads her on an adventure with the Nephilim. It is fascinating to see how different the Shadowhunters of this era are, and yet utterly the same. It was also interesting to see how the Shadowhunters view the Downworld. While it was not entirely equal to the time of the Mortal Instruments series, you realize that is has improved in the century since the Infernal Devices and must be leagues above the treatment in the earliest years of the Nephilim.
Whether Clockwork Angel is your first foray into the Shadow World, or not, it is a highly entertaining and well-written novel that I could not recommend more. Many people feel that this series is the best of the three, so if you’ve been considering reading any of the Shadowhunter Chronicles but were not quite sure – perhaps this is a good place to start. I personally would recommend reading a number of the Mortal Instruments before beginning this series, but that is just my opinion. Either way, if you have not yet read this book – please go do so now! It is one of my favourites and I hope that it will be yours as well.