In a time when Shadowhunters are barely winning the fight against the forces of darkness, one battle will change the course of history forever. Welcome to the Infernal Devices trilogy, a stunning and dangerous prequel to the New York Times bestselling Mortal Instruments series.
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…
“It is as great a thing to love as it is to be loved. Love is not something that can be wasted.”
From the outset, Clockwork Angel held a grittier world than City of Bones. The addition of steampunk elements, like the clockwork automatons, lent a darker and more mature feeling to the series than its predecessors. That being said, the Victorian Era London setting felt a bit contrived; as if it was chosen purely because the clockwork creatures wouldn’t have been as creepy or threatening if this was set in the present day.
I definitely preferred the cast of characters in this book to those in The Mortal Instruments, even though Will Herondale is basically a dark-haired Jace. Will sarcastic and holds the world at arm’s length – exactly the kind of character that I would hate in real life but adore as a fictional love interest. His parabatai, Jem, is the perfect foil: incredibly sweet and kind, with a tragic backstory. I don’t particularly enjoy love triangles, but this is one where I want them to all end up together… or, at least, for Will/Jem to be a thing.
I love when books celebrate reading and literature, so I immediately loved Tessa’s character. She’s an avid reader who finds escape and inspiration in the pages of books, and she has fierce, unwavering love for her family. After finding out that she has unexpected abilities, Tessa has to forge her own path and find out who (and what) she is. I really enjoyed watching her come into her own and use her powers for herself instead of at others’ bidding.
The only thing I didn’t like about Tessa was her internalized misogyny. Her strong views of femininity aligned with the era, but I appreciated how these beliefs were challenged and changed after her introduction to the Shadowhunters. In particular, I am glad that she had positive on-page female friendships (primarily with Sophie, but even Jessamine at times); all of these women were strong and ambitious in their own ways, and it was nice to see women expressing their own agency in this time period.
In typical Cassandra Clare fashion, there were a lot of twists and turns throughout the story, and each question that was answered unearthed more questions. While some of the twists were predictable and the villain did do several expository monologues, it was a compelling, layered mystery.
Overall, Clockwork Angel was an easy, enjoyable read. It’s been nearly 10 years since I read a Shadowhunter book, but this was an excellent re-entry point and I can’t wait to see what happens next.