Monday, February 25, 2013

Sara's Library: Clockwork Angel

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
Book one of The Infernal Devices trilogy
Margaret K. McElderry Books 2011
During Victoria's reign, a teenage American from New York, Tessa Gray, travels to London at her older brother's request.  However, once she arrives, she is imprisoned by the evil Dark Sisters, who force Tessa to use her previously untrained shapeshifting abilities and speak of a marriage between Tessa and someone known only as the Magister.

Enter Will Herondale, a reckless bad boy in the employ of the London Institute, an organization dedicated to protecting our world from Downworlders (vampires, demons, and the like).  Rescuing Tessa from the sisters,   she is inducted into the world of the Shadowhunters, who agree to help her find her missing brother, in return for her cooperation in stopping a plot against the Institute.

There were a lot of problems with this book.  I'm really not sure where to begin.  The setting was meant to be Victorian London, but the characters felt far too contemporary to have been inhabitants of it.  Will was especially anachronistic, espousing the favored sarcasm and brooding of YA love interests today.  Despite being a womanizing gambler who spends far too much time in the seediest districts, we're led to believe that because he can recite poetry, he's a good match for our protagonist.  I am well and truly tired of these bad boy characters who, with the love of the female protagonist, change into something better.  It's unrealistic and, worse than than, such pairings lead impressionable young girls to think such relationships are ideal.  I'm glad that by the end of the book it seemed like Tessa might prefer Will's quiet friend, Jem, though I doubt she will wind up with him by the end of the trilogy.

The pacing was a mess.  There were a number of times where I simply wanted to stop reading because nothing of consequence was happening and the writing was not of the quality I am used to reading. There are large portions dedicated to mundane tasks, and given that the characters are wooden archetypes, it wasn't very interesting.  But Ms. Clare did write semi-decent battle scenes, and I wasn't positive of the identity of the Magister from the beginning, so it wasn't a total waste of time.

Each chapter begins with a random quote from a piece of literature, but said quotes rarely paralleled the events of the chapter, so I'm really not sure of their purpose.  Tessa is a bookworm, yes, but the quotes were far from necessary.

And it's perfectly clear that the Victorian setting and inclusion of automatons is simply to cash in on the popularity of steampunk.  I doubt Ms. Clare knows anything about the sub-culture, though, to be fair, few people writing steampunk novels do.

One positive: Although a steampunk rip-off of Twilight, Tessa does have a personality.  And her shapeshifting abilities make her far more capable than Bella ever was.  I might read the second installment to see if it improves any, as I did like Jem, but I'm not in any hurry to do so.

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