Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare: A Complicated Love Story

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry (an imprint of Simon & Schuster)
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Steampunk
Publication Date: 8.31.10
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.

Clockwork Angel is the prequel to The Mortal Instruments series, by Cassandra Clare.

Let me put this on the table: I'm a huge fan of Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments series (which will be referred to as TMI, for the purposes of this review). Yes, I've heard and read all about the controversy behind Cassandra Clare's writing, and frankly, I don't care. That's not to say that I in any way condone plagiarism, or that I don't care for authenticity of voice; that's not the case. What I'm saying is that I don't know the whole story, or each and every little detail, and at this point, I think there's been enough controversy about it all that it's a moot point anyway. I'll let the experts argue the finer points of the case, and leave my feelings of her books to my own findings and judgements.

Having said that:

I really enjoyed Clockwork Angel. I have always found the shadowhunter world Clare created fascinating, and taking the story back into historical times was like a dream come true. I hope, by now, that you know that I LOVE historical fiction! Because I do. A lot.

While reading, I was caught up in the story. It is full of action, and there was a lot to take in. After finishing, though, the more I thought about it, the more I recognized some flaws. In fact, I originally gave this 4 stars on Goodreads, but ended up changing it to 3 stars. I have to get these reasons for that out of the way, because I can't, in good conscience, write a review without laying it all out on the table.

*This is a small spoiler, if you haven't read TMI. But if you already know who the love story is about in that series, then dismiss this warning.*
--->First off: One of the characters is a slightly less-caring, more vocal, more masochistic, copy of Jace, from TMI. I actually noticed this in the book, but didn't want to let myself think about it until afterward. But even while reading, I found myself cringing, and hoping the protagonist didn't fall for this character, like Clary fell for Jace. It seemed wrong, not only because I didn't find his character redeemable, but because it felt too much like a repeat of Clary and Jace. I don't want a repeat of that; they're untouchable, not to mention their story has already been told. I want to read about a new couple!
*End of Spoiler*

--->Second: Most of the characters in Clockwork Angel were their own character. But a few characters, instead of being copies of characters from TMI, were complete opposites! It was like reading about twins who are different in every possible way, except for that odd resemblance that when looking at one, will always remind you of the other. Very odd, if you ask me.

*Same Spoiler warning as above!*
--->Third: I was put off by the beginning of the book. As much as I tried to make my mind see it as a separate book from TMI, I failed. I'm not sure exactly what I expected, but the first few chapters were confusing, and I thought I was reading something from a different author. It didn't sound like what I was used to reading from Cassandra Clare, and it wasn't until a few chapters in, that it started sounding familiar again and I was able to read it without analyzing. Odly enough, it was about then, that the twin characters and Jace's sound-a-like came into the story, so maybe I was just craving TMI. Who knows.
*End spoiler*

--->Lastly: While Clare pretty much nailed the city and time period, she forgot one of the most important parts of a historical setting: propriety. While the characters were more reserved in their behavior, they still behaved at times, like they were in a modern setting, and things like being alone with boys in their bedrooms wasn't scandalous. Yes, I understand that the shadowhunter world doesn't follow such strictness, but the main character was certainly raised to follow it, and she seemed to have little problem in forgetting that upbringing.

Bad parts aside, I did end up really liking the story. It was, in fact, entertaining, and made its own place in the shadowhunter world. The elements I loved from TMI were there in the Clockwork Angel: big city, demons, good against evil, paranormal creatures, butt-kicking, etc...but taken back in time, the story encompassed so much more, and became it's own. There were restraints on what the characters could do, because of advancements that hadn't been made yet. Also because of the time period, everything seemed more fragile; a woman's perceived ability to run an institute, relations between Downworlders and the Clave, and even relationships between characters. That bond between the characters in TMI, isn't there Clockwork Angel. There is tension in each conversation between characters, and you can sense that the times are hard on everyone. It seemed very realistic.

I also loved the steampunk element of the story, and thought it really made it stand out. What could be worse than dealing with advanced technology? Oh, yah: not having invented the technology that is able to actually deal with it. Steampunk rocks.

And just a quick note about some of the other characters: I really did like most of the characters, despite everything. Some of them especially stood out, though: Henry and Charlotte, Sophie, and Jessamine. In fact, I think Jessamine was very interesting, and would love to see her play a bigger role in the next book (she's got a story to tell!). I thought her character was the most complex, and therefore the most interesting. And about the love story: let's just say love is complicated, and leave it at that. Any more, and you'll have a lot more spoiler warnings to sift through. ;)

All in all, I think Clockwork Angel is a good read. While I didn't like some of the characterizations, I thought the story was fun, and entertaining. If you are a fan of TMI, then you will love Clockwork Angel, as well.

Read this if:
...you want to experience the shadowhunter world before it became the way it is today...and hopefully you bring your knowledge of machinery, and downworlder politics with you.


  1. I <3 steampunk. I must try this! Great review :)

  2. Thanks, Juju! If you love steampunk, you'll definitely love this! :)

  3. I so completely agree about the lack of propriety in the story. Tessa NEVER would have kissed a boy in such an uncouth manner as she did! But, since the goal was really just "Mortal Instruments in a different setting" I didn't expect a whole lot more. Mission accomplished: it was a carbon copy of City of Bones, with a different setting.

  4. Thanks for sharing. I have not read this yet, but it is on my list!

  5. Gina: I love the way you phrased it! A lot of it did seem like TMI, but in a different setting. And yes, Tessa would NEVER have kissed him like that! She didn't even think twice about it...or about him being so close...or about being alone with him in the first place. Hmm.

    Elie: Thanks for visiting! I hope you enjoy Clockwork Angel. :)


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