Review: Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices #1) by Cassandra Clare

How strange it is to have the power to literally transform yourself into other people and yet be unable to put yourself in their place. This is the problem that plagues shapeshifting heroine Tessa Gray in Cassandra Clare’s steampunk novel, Clockwork Angel. Part of a trilogy The Infernal Devices, this first book blends romance, sci-fi/fantasy, steampunk, and adventure all together churning out 400+ pages of entertainment.

When I first started the Steampunk Reading Challenge, I considered reading this book as one of my five books but then I started the Parasol Protectorate series instead. But as the year is winding down I still needed one book for the challenge, Clockwork Angel was it!

One word…HOOKED! When I started reading the book, I knew it was more YA than adult fiction…so I was expecting Twilight with gears and steam.  While some of the romance was a little Twilight-ish, it was more action, less ‘obcessive’, and the love story involves a shapeshifter and a shadowhunter (Nephilim) rather than a human and a vampire….not to mention all the great Steampunk elements.

The novel opens with a great action sequence with best friends and fighting partners, Will and Jem, pursuing a demon through the dark underbelly of Victorian London.

After giving the audience a little taste of what is to come, the novel formally opens with heroine Tessa fresh off the boat from New York in England. Tessa’s brother, Nate, has sent her a ticket to London to join him after the death of her Aunt (leaving them both orphans). She is snatched from the docks by a pair of evil sisters (the Dark Sisters) who hold her prisoner forcing her to learn how to use her supernatural ‘talent’.

Tessa has no idea that she possesses any special power but the Dark Sisters seem to know something she doesn’t….they plan to offer her as a bride to the evil Magister but just before the fateful meeting, Tessa is rescued by Will and taken to the shadow hunter institute for safe keeping.

Innocent and scared, Tessa meets the other shadow hunters with trepidation. They eventually earn her trust and take her in so they can protect her. She quickly grows infatuated with the moody and self destructive Will….but when she finds a kindred spirit in Will’s best friend, Jem, she finds herself torn between the devoted Jem or the wild Will.

In the midst of all the YA romance there is a richly mystifying mystery involving all kinds of sci-fi/fantasy creatures….lycanthropes, vampires, warlocks, demons, nephilims, and mundanes (humans) add in the clockwork angels, automatons, and steam powered inventions and you have one perfectly constructed Steampunk novel!

One thing which stood out to me as different in this book was Tessa as a heroine. As I said earlier, she is a shapeshifter (though new to the magic) she quickly puts her new power into perspective. She recognizes her power makes her different from others–special if you will–a talent that makes her feel more alone than ever before.

Since she can change into anyone, she can literally be them–mind, body, and spirit–but she finds it hard to really put herself in their place or in their shoes which I think is ironic. This is part of the reason that she doesn’t fully understand Will or Camille, or Jem, or anyone in the Institute.

For example, when she changes into Camille she realizes she can sense all of Camille’s feelings and thought inside her but when she changed back, Tess struggles to understand Camille and see situations like she might. You will have to read the book if you want to find out exactly what I mean…..let’s just say we see Tess growing up and struggling to understand people and why they do things some times. I thought this journey and struggle that Tessa goes though really brought depth to her character and the story–a very intriguing angle.

What I liked best about the novel was it jumped right in and didn’t feel rushed. I liked that the book never really had low moments or chapters. It went a long smoothly and I found it really had to put down.

I also liked that it was move mature than Twilight but not as rated R as the Southern Vampire Mystery Series (Sookie Stackhouse). It was a nice break from overly sweet high school drama and obsession that I found Twilight to be after New Moon (New Moon was my least fav in the series). I also loved that Clare included poetry at the beginning of each chapter, some of the choices she made were truly beautiful and rather fitting in the novel.

I loved that Tessa was more of an introverted and self inspecting female…..philosophical I guess one might call her. She was strong and could be a warrior but not in the same way the shadow hunters were.

Over all it was a richly written novel and very intriguing….I literally could NOT put it down. I loved that it was still a YA romance/fantasy but without all the vampire love stuff thats all the rage right now.

Clockwork Angel is also such a well written book with lots of  vivid descriptions….it’s practically a sensory experience. I also liked the setting in old foggy Victorian London, it’s the perfect place for a book like this…’s grimy, dirty streets, the dark opium dens, the gloomy weather and air….it’s hard NOT to think that something sinister is afoot.

Both the vivid descriptions and the setting works so well with a tale like this…it’s a perfect setting for a tale of dark magic, dangerous games, and tortured love This book blend of historical fiction, fantasy, and Steampunk unbelievably well, much much more than I ever expected when I first picked it up, had I know it was going to be so good I would have read it first :).

Full steam head!!! The novel keeps up constant action and moves forward without a break leading up to the brilliant conclusion, full of twists and shocking revelations that will leave readers longing for the next book in the series, Clockwork Prince. I am so glad I pre ordered it :))

Slink off into the word of shadows and twisted machines….down into a world where you can literally be someone in body but still cannot ‘see’ them….escape into a world where we are all pulvis et umbra sumus (dust and shadows)….by the Angel you will not be disappointed in the least!

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book:  Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices #1) by Cassandra Clare 

  • Hardcover, 496 pages
  • Published August 31st 2010 by Margaret K. McElderry Books (first published January 1st 2010)
  • ISBN 1416975861 (ISBN13: 9781416975861)

This book counts toward: Steampunk Reading Challenge 

Recommendation: 5 out of 5 (it was AWESOME, a fun easy, addictive read).

Genre: Steampunk, Sci-Fi,Victorian Lit, Gaslight Fiction, YA

Memorable lines/quotes: 

It’s all right to love someone who doesn’t love you back, as long as they’re worth you loving them. As long as they deserve it

8 thoughts on “Review: Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices #1) by Cassandra Clare

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