fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy and science fiction book reviewsClockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

And then comes the final test, the infallible touchstone of the seventh-rate: Ichor. It oozes out of severed tentacles, it beslimes tessellated pavements, bespatters bejeweled courtiers, and bores the bejesus out of everybody.
~Ursula K. Le Guin, From Elfland to Poughkeepsie

Cassandra Clare
stumbles straight out of the gate in Clockwork Angel. In the opening sentence… “ichor,” one of Ursula K. Le Guin’s perfect tests for bad fantasy. The opening sentence!

Can Clare recover? Yes, she can and does.

This is Clare’s second series about the Shadowhunters, human-angel hybrids who hunt down demons and other evil creatures, protecting mundane humanity. The Mortal Instruments series was set in contemporary New York. Clockwork Angel is set in London in the late 1870s, and is the first book of the Infernal Devices trilogy. Clare’s young adult audience will feel right at home here. The book is advertised as a prequel, and many of the last names, such as Herondale, will be familiar. A couple of characters from The Mortal Instruments turn up, reminding us that they are magical and thus long-lived.

Tess Gray, the young American who comes to London to find her brother and is immediately kidnapped by evildoers, is a smart and physically courageous heroine. She has magical powers of her own, but there is some confusion as to whether she is demon, partly demon, or something else entirely. Tess is an educated young woman who has read Dante’s Inferno and Shakespeare. In a nice homage, Clare names another character Charlotte Branwell, a nod to Charlotte Brontë, a best-selling author of Victorian times. (Brontë’s brother was named Branwell.) Surprisingly, Tess never comments to herself on this strange coincidence.

The configuration of young Shadowhunters mirrors the first three books; two young men and a woman. Tess’s love interest, Will, is another tortured bad-boy, which is a shame, since the sidekick character Jem is far more interesting. Clare always makes the girl Shadowhunter adversarial with her human main character, and Jessamine, a spoiled aristocrat who dislikes Shadowhunting, is no exception. The most interesting characters in the book are the humans Henry and Sophie. Several of the human attendants are lightly sketched in, as if they don’t really matter, and it soon becomes clear why.

Clare’s action sequences are vividly drawn. She renders London with a good blend of sensuous detail. Tess and Will often quote poetry to each other, and Tess compares situations around her to classic Victorian novels such as Jane Eyre, which encourages the curious reader to seek these books out for pleasure, not merely for classroom assignments. The plot is predictable, and things that are revealed as if they are surprises are not surprising at all, but the book maintains tension, and the jeopardy, faced first by Tess and later by her brother Nate, is convincing and dramatic.

The hardback edition has an exquisite cover, and the clockwork angel itself — yes, there is one — is a delightful mystery that still has not been solved by the book’s end. Fans of The Mortal Instruments will be pleased, and the almost-steampunk setting may draw in an even bigger audience. Perhaps some of them will look up the word “ichor” and realize that it probably isn’t the slime, goop or gunk that shoots out of the exploding demon in the book’s first sentence.

The Infernal Devices — (2010-2012) Young adult. This series is a prequel to The Mortal Instruments. Publisher: Magic is dangerous — but love is more dangerous still. When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London’s Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos. Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What’s more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa’s power for his own. Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by — and torn between — two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm’s length… everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world… and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.

Cassandra Clare The Infernal Devices 1. The Clockwork Angel 2. The Clockwork Prince 3. The Clockwork Kingdom fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Cassandra Clare The Infernal Devices 1. The Clockwork Angel 2. The Clockwork Prince 3. The Clockwork Princess      fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews

See this series at Amazon.


  • Marion Deeds

    Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town.

    View all posts