Cassandra Clare’s latest novel, Clockwork Angel, is set in the same world as her Mortal Instruments series and is a spectacular beginning to a new spin-off trilogy. Set in Victorian London, Clockwork Angel follows Tessa, a girl who has just lost her last living relative in New York, as she is forced to travel to London to find her recently estranged brother. Once she arrives in London, however, she’s abducted by The Dark Sisters, two warlocks who mentally torture her in an attempt to train her to use her power. Tessa learns she is not a human being—she has power that even she doesn’t understand; power that, prior to The Dark Sisters not-so-gentle prodding, she didn’t even know could exist.
After escaping from The Dark Sisters with the assistance of a couple young Shadowhunters, Will and Jem, she takes refuge in the Enclave, the London home of the Shadowhunters, a group of part-angels sworn with protecting humans from demons, and with keeping the peace between the half-demons we know as vampires, werewolves, faeries and warlocks. It’s here that she learns more of who she is, who the Shadowhunters are, and the mystery behind her brother’s disappearance.
A definite page turner
As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, certain books fall squarely into the category of ‘book porn’—easy reads that don’t require much mental involvement from you, but give a whole lot of enjoyment. Clockwork Angel is one such book. I found myself only able to put the book down once, and that was after searching for an hour for a page where I could actually convince myself to find a stopping point. Cassandra Clare is a master of suspense, and to be honest, I never wanted to put this book down. There were too many mysteries to be solved, too many interesting things that I wanted to know, and too many characters that I wanted to see more of—Clare’s handleing of it all is masterful.
An awkward resemblance to the Mortal Instruments series
I couldn’t help but notice when reading this novel that the cast seems to be exactly the same as what you see in Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. Tessa takes the place of Clary, a girl thrust into a world that she knows nothing about; Jace and Alec are replaced with Jem and Will, two boys who treat her in completely different ways, yet she likes both of them; and Isabelle is replaced with Jessamine, a reluctant and rebellious girl who wishes that she could be doing something else. The only two principle cast members that are different are the heads of the London Institute, Charlotte and Henry—a charming couple who seem to complete each other in odd ways. I was rather disappointed with this because it seems like the same story is being told with different names and a few minor tweaks. The Shadowhunters are truly one of the most original and fantastic paranormal groups that YA Fantasy has seen in awhile, and different characters could have made it a completely unique, better story.
Sadly, the characters weren’t the only things in this novel that resembled the Mortal Instruments series. Cassandra Clare truly did find her niche in her writing style when she started the Mortal Instruments, and the themes present in those books are also quite prevalent in this new series as well. Teenagers questioning their parentage, teenage orphans mad at the world, and endless betrayals are featured prominently in both series.
Still fantastic characters
Despite all of of the similarities, the characters in Clockwork Angel are fantastic. There’s a depth to them that few YA authors manage to accomplish, and I love reading and hearing about them. Their stories are heartbreaking, wonderful, and beautiful, and they all evoke emotion in me. I’m rather curious to hear more about Will’s story in particular, since, aside from the few enticing tidbits we are given, it remains a mystery.
Not very Victorian
In the beginning of the novel, it’s established that this is Victorian London simply by the time-period and the method of travel. However, once that is established, there is almost no mention of it again aside from references to books that are considered ‘new’—A Tale of Two Cities, for example. I think that it could have done the novel a world of good had it been more firmly planted in Victorian times, as it would have added another layer of depth that this story desperately needed.
Why should you read this book?
If you enjoyed the Mortal Instruments, there’s no reason for you not to read this novel. It’s a fantastic addition to the series despite its flaws. If you’re someone who has never read YA fantasy before, I would suggest that you start with the Mortal Instruments, as it is by far a better and much more fleshed out version of this novel. The Shadowhunters are one of the most unique and fascinating creations in recent years and I simply cannot praise them enough, but their power shows through quite a bit more in the Mortal Instruments series.