The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters—including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them…
Alas, Cassandra Clare’s books and I just don’t get along. And now after giving City of Bones and Clockwork Angel a chance, I think I have learned my lesson.
I approached Clockwork Angel as entertainment material, and nothing else. I wouldn’t have minded if it was trashy – in fact, I’m a purveyor of trashy, fun books. There is, however, a problem: Clockwork Angel takes itself incredibly seriously, and when a book does so, it makes it extremely difficult to ignore the book’s faults.
For a book that takes place in the Victorian Era, Clare has tried to emulate the writing of its time – fanciful, grand, and inspired. Unfortunately, the attempt falls short, and is instead incredibly heavy-handed, unabashedly pretentious, and grandiose. It comes off as someone talking in an exaggerated British accent, saying ‘Righto, cherrio old chum!’ with air-teacups whilst adjusting imaginary monocles. Reading Clockwork Angel, I did not feel like I was in Victorian England; I felt like I was reading an assignment on Victorian England done ten minutes before it was due. Unfortunately the shortcomings in the writing also extend to dialogue, which were awkward at best and cringe-inducing at worst.
Aside from the writing style, the writing itself was an improvement to City of Bones (which featured my absolute favourite [sarcasm] simile of all time: ‘The steps creaked and groaned as they ascended, like an old woman complaining about her aches and pains‘ – yikes).
I didn’t want to say ‘I don’t get it’ too often in this review (because that would be the most succinct criticism I could offer for the book’s plot, characters, themes, writing, etc.) so I’ll use it here to describe the infamous Will and Jem: I don’t get it. They are entities of smirking, witless ‘wit’, and banter that isn’t really… banter-y. You can call a character witty and suave, but it does not make them witty and suave. For two characters that are deeply troubled (and we are frequently reminded you that they are really troubled and tragic), it felt contrived and unnatural.
But the character that takes the cake is Tessa. I didn’t care if she was a ‘damsel in distress’, I didn’t mind that she was a special snowflake, I can even forgive her utter lack of any positive qualities, but I cannot forgive Tessa for being utterly boring, completely underdeveloped, and an unimproved Clary Fray 2.0. Of all the characters in the book, she was the least interesting, and as the series’s protagonist, it doesn’t give me any shed of hope for the sequels.
Also – and I have to say it – the attic scene sprung out of nowhere. I thought I was reading it wrong, so I went back to read it again, and again, and again, but it turns out I was reading it right. A person who is hot and cold with you – irritated with you in one instance and then making out with you while you’re a soggy mess on the floor in another – is best described as a headache. Whilst I can still appreciate a romance that I’m not personally fond of, the attic scene felt like a scene written specifically for the reader. And when you write scenes for readers, there’s the risk that it isn’t worth it – and that’s what happened for me. So whilst I’m glad that many people found it swoony, it did not appeal to me, and therefore had no effect. So here I am, shrugging at this spontaneous attic scene that made no contributions to the story and made little sense to me.
My biggest criticism of Clockwork Angel is that it is painfully dull and boring. I will admit, I did find it extremely readable, but what pushed me to pick up this book over and over was my sincere hope that the book would improve, that I would finally see what was so beloved. This book may boast a hefty number of pages – and you would assume that it is an eventful book – there is nothing particularly memorable or special about Clockwork Angel.
Book Name: Clockwork Angel
Series: The Infernal Devices #1
Author: Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry books
Hi friends! Trust me, I am more sad than you (probably) for not liking this book. So many of my friends adored this, and I wish I did too!
- Have you read Clockwork Angel? What did you think?
- Does the series get better with each book? Shall I keep reading?
- (Can I expect more character development from Clary, er, I mean, Tessa?)