Clockwork Princess is the third book in Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices trilogy, which is a prequel to The Mortal Instruments series (originally a trilogy, Clare has signed for an additional three titles). Clockwork Princess follows Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince.
Tessa Gray is an American girl lured to London by the dark magical forces of Mortmain. She escapes their clutches with the help of two Shadowhunters, Will and Jem. With the help of Will, Jem, and their allies, she sets out to find out why she has been targeted and to stop Mortmain from destroying the Shadowhunters.
No real surprises
If there is a young adult author out there who gets nearly as much flack as Stephanie Meyer, it’s Clare. She’s been dogged by plagiarism accusations (to my knowledge these have never been backed by litigation) since her fan fiction days under the name Cassandra Claire. Since then, she’s come under attack for writing the same story three times. While I can’t speak for The Mortal Instruments, I will say that I’ve been struck by The Infernal Devices’ similarity to her fan fiction. I’ve read in several places that these same similarities can be seen in The Mortal Instruments. Further, this is a young adult novel and follows several standard tropes, most spectacularly the love triangle.
Clare also hasn’t grown as much as a writer as I could hope for in Clockwork Princess. Everything was foreshadowed so thoroughly that nothing was deeply surprising. At no point was I on the edge of my seat wondering how it was all going to work out. The only plot twist I didn’t predict was the exact form of the deus ex machina at the end because I didn’t have enough information from earlier in the trilogy to make the connection (hence the deus). Had I been familiar with The Mortal Instruments, I may have seen it coming. However, I knew some form of deus ex machina was coming because there’s a whole lot of sameness in this book.
No, I don’t hate the book
Clare has always had skills as a writer. She’s very good at making conflicted yet sympathetic characters whom readers can invest in. Her Shadowhunter world in The Infernal Devices is well built, with a lot of places she can explore in future books. All of the pieces that first attracted me to Clare’s work are still in Clockwork Princess; I just expected more from this book than what I got. It feels like Clare is resting on the accomplishments she’s already made instead of moving forward to seek new ones and grow as a writer. Granted, with how well her books are selling, I don’t know how motivated I would be to push myself were I in her shoes.
Why should you read this book?
The Infernal Devices is an entertaining young adult steampunk fantasy. There aren’t a lot of those, which makes the series worth reading just based on that. Clare is a talented storyteller, and her tales do stick with you in a good way after you set the books down. However, this is a young adult series, and does suffer somewhat from the constraints of its target audience and publisher enforced restrictions. It is a simple, quick read that may not satisfy lovers of door-stopping tree killers. And it is ridiculously similar to Clare’s other works, which bored me. Had the trilogy been longer, I don’t know that I would have stuck it out.