August 25, 2012

Clockwork Angel

CLOCKWORK ANGEL: The Infernal Devices Trilogy, Book 1 by Cassandra Clare, (Simon & Schuster, 2010)
GENRE: Paranormal Romance / Historical Fantasy
AGE: 14 and up

Tessa Gray's  arrival in England is portentously unsettling. Met not by her brother, Nate, but by his self-proclaimed landladies, two women calling themselves the "Dark Sisters," Tessa is swept away and held prisoner for nearly two months. In that time, the Sisters unlock an ability in Tessa that she hadn't known she had - the ability to literally become someone else. Plunged into the Shadow World, a realm of faeries and warlocks, vampires and werewolves, overseen by the Nephelim, (angel descended warriors called Shadowhunters), Tessa struggles to master her unsettling ability and find her missing brother. When a young Shadowhunter named Will Herendale rescues Tessa, she becomes the key to discovering the identity of The Magister, the mastermind behind a plot to topple the order imposed by the Nephilim, a role the bookish, practical Tessa must learn to embrace.

Clockwork Angel is a compellingly atmospheric book. Tessa's dogged search for her brother, Nate, drives various subplots while providing momentum and color to the overall arc. The tone is pleasantly gothic with plenty of sinister houses and fog shrouded London streets, the perfect backdrop for a clockwork army and a demonic mastermind. Though the characters are somewhat idealized - the handsome, self-destructive Will who harbors a dark secret beneath a sardonic grin; beautiful, silver-haired Jem whose compassion and perspective exceed his seventeen years; and Tessa, whose earnest authenticity is balanced with a seriousness that makes her a surprisingly practical heroine - all three protagonists are oddly likable characters with flashes of real emotional resonance, though I do wish that Tessa's ability had played a more active, (and less theoretical role) in the events of the book as they unfold. The romantic aspects of the novel are age-appropriately steamy (several searing kisses and many a longing glance), while never threatening to derail the rest of the plot. Even still, the tension between Tessa and Will adds a great deal to the overall tension of the narrative arc.

Clockwork Angel is the first in a trilogy set in the same world as Clare's Mortal Instruments series. The dishy Victorian setting adds a nice bit of background to the happenings in that series, while ensuring that this new trilogy stands on its own. Despite lagging a bit towards the end (too much denouement) and fight scenes that beggar belief at times (death by parasol commonly occurs), Clockwork Angel is a well-written, tremendously enjoyable read and a great introduction to what will certainly be a popular new series.

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