Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare


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.

Rating: 1.5/5

Book Information
Book Name: Clockwork Angel
Series: The Infernal Devices #1
Author: Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry books
Format: eBook

Clockwork Angel in:
Goodreads | Amazon | Foyles | My review on Goodreads

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?)

27 thoughts on “Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

  1. Nooooooooo. NOOOOOOOOO.
    I will continue to force Clockwork Prince down your throat because Will and Jem’s charms really only shine through after the first book. And you’ll be like “I GET IT” and I’ll be like “YES” and all will be right in the world.

  2. I’m sorry you didn’t like Clockwork Angel (I remember loving it when I first read it), but I really liked reading your review as well! I get what you mean, when you know you give up on an author because you’re probably not their intended audience. I’ve had that experience with Lauren E. Morrill’s novels… ;)

    • Thanks for understanding, Sue! ☺ I really wish I liked it but… I don’t know if it’s for me. I’m going to try and continue the series though because people say it gets better, and I’m hopeful! So I guess we’ll see.

      And yes! I think everyone just has that one author. What did Morrill write? :o

      • That’s cool… And she wrote contemporary YA that I thought I’d like, with bands and movies… that sort of thing. But then she’d write in a way that made me lose interest or really dislike the main characters…

  3. This review is surprisingly similar to my thoughts. To be honest, I loved The Mortal Instruments but I couldn’t enjoy The Infernal Devices much because like you said, the writing style felt overdone and pretentious.

    It’s such a shame you don’t like Jem–I adored him–but I agree with you 100% about Will and Tessa. I’d give this book 3 stars though, cause I really enjoyed the Shadowhunter world and the way this story connects with The Mortal Instruments. Better luck with your next read!

    • Oh that’s interesting! Yeah, I just don’t think Clare is for me… though I am inclined to give Lady Midnight a go? Have you read it?

      I like Jem more than Will, but I do feel like I’m not getting a good sense of his character. Maybe he will be more developed in the second book? I don’t know – I’ll see!

      Thanks! My other reads have been much better so far, so it’s allll okay! :D

      • Idk about Lady Midnight. I haven’t read it and I do not plan on reading it. I love the world that Cassandra Clare created but I have had enough of it for now. I do wish she wrote a novel based on a different world/setting–you can keep doing the same thing for only so long.

  4. Eeeep, sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy this one! Cassandra Clare’s books and I also don’t get along, and I’ve pretty much given up reading her book after the book after City of Bones (can’t remember what it’s called). For me it was the characters that took the cake – just very vapid (in my opinion), very stereotypical, with almost no unique twist on their own. Hope your next read is better!

    (And OMG can I just say I am SO EXCITED to have you back here — you’ve been missed! <3)

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one Reg. Disliking Clare makes me feel like a black sheep. 😂 I completely agree with the chapters, and tbh they are vapid to me too. I don’t feel like her books are that cohesive and it reads like unpolished material.
      And awwww gosh, thank you! I’m happy to be back! ❤

      • I feel a bit like a black sheep myself, but only on the blogosphere – my reader friends do NOT like her as well, haha. Have you read any of her more recent releases, like Lady Midnight, maybe? I’m curious because of the hype, but I don’t know whether I want to put myself through it if it’s like her older books. D:

        • I haven’t! Seeing my poor luck with her other books, I am not so sure. But I heard that her writing is better and there’s a character with a disability? I think that would be interesting. I’m curious too but… erughhghhh I am very reluctant. X’D

  5. OH NO. TT_TT I agree with Jenna! Please give Clockwork Prince a try because JEM!!
    However, I do agree with you about Tessa. Personally, I think she’s better than Clary (because the latter is super meh)… but I see your point! Tessa’s such an unmemorable heroine-especially in book one. I still love the trilogy though, hehe. >.<

  6. I hate it when eras aren’t done right. I might be skipping that trilogy. I just finished reading City of Ashes and I think it was slow at first. I need to read City of Bones, though.

  7. Love this review, mostly because I agree. I liked Clockwork Angel better than City of Bones, so I tried to read Clockwork Prince but gave up after that. The series does not improve, unfortunately, so I don’t recommend you keep reading. I’ve decided not to read anymore Cassandra Clare books because they all seem to be different versions of the same story, centering around the same type of Clary Fray heroine who has some sort of forbidden love/ love triangle. I don’t understand the hype.

    • Hahah! I am getting mixed feedback. *confused* X’D I’ve been told that the other books get better but :| I don’t know. I promised some people that I’d try the rest and soldier on. I think I’ll give this series one *last* chance.

      YOU ARE SO RIGHT THOUGH. The dynamics and the overarching plots are inherently the same, so I don’t feel very compelled. Bleh. I guess we’ll see. (I don’t understand the hype either.)

  8. Oh nooo! This trilogy is one of my favorite! But as much as I love it, I also have to admit that the attic scene also bugs me. And I also agree that Tessa is really boring and dull, but atleast she’s not whiny and lovesick like Clary! :D I think it does get better with every book, Clockwork Princess turned me into a mess! But I also think that Clockwork Prince suffer the middle book syndrome a bit. I don’t think Tessa change much throughout the series? She’s done nothing interesting as much as I can remember…

    • Hi Tasya! Oh, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I’ve been getting mixed comments and advice X’D but I think I’ve decided to give the second book a go – just one last chance!
      Hahaha yes I’m not terribly fond of her protagonists. But maybe the plot will get better?? I don’t know. X’D

    I totally see where you’re coming from though…kind of…I think I need to reread it (tbh I’ll take any chance to reread it)!
    But OMG OKAY I’ve found that Clare’s writing improves with the more books she writes…SO GIVE LADY MIDNIGHT A SHOT. Diverse characters are everywhere, there’s less of that ‘special snowflake main character’, etc. Although the love scenes are a lot more prevalent in Lady Midnight…AHH IDK ANYMORE :/

      Tbh it’s probably not the book, it just isn’t for me at all. But I’m going to give the second book a go, for my friends who like the series.
      I may! I did hear that there were some characters with different backgrounds, so I am interested and curious. I’m okay with love scenes and romance! But, anyway Lady Midnight will probably be a book I’m in no rush to read… Dx

  10. I feel I got waaaaay more entertainment value out of your review than I would from the book! I keep hearing people gushing online about Cassandra Clare’s books, but I have a few friends who’ve read her and been absolutely scathing. I don’t think this series is for me either!

    • HAHA I am genuinely glad that you think so! Quite frankly, Clare is not a good writer but I see why people like the, er, other things. *sweats, trying to be diplomatic* I’ve been asked to give it another chance, so. I guess we’ll see. Shame on me if Clare fools me three times, I guess?

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