Ray Gun Reviews
SF/F reviews — and ray guns!

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

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Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
McElderry, 2010, 479pp.

Steampunk books are getting quite thick on the ground, or maybe they’re not. ‘Steampunk’ has become quite the catch-all category, the bandwagon everyone wants to be on. Is your SF/F book set in the Victorian Age? Let’s call it ‘steampunk’! This is to be expected since (a) steampunk is quite popular right now and (b) marketers will put on a book whatever label they think will sell it. Are all these books actually steampunk? I dunno, and to be frank, I really don’t care. Sure, the ‘steampunk’ label will cause me to give a book a second glance, but I dig the books that are well written, whatever subgenre you want to put them in.

So that brings us to this week’s review, Clockwork Angel, the first book in Cassandra Clare’s “The Infernal Devices” trilogy. “The Infernal Devices” is a prequel to her prior trilogy of excellent urban fantasy YA novels, “The Mortal Instruments.” I really loved “The Mortal Instruments” so I bought Clockwork Angel in hardback, something I rarely do. I’m glad I did.

Clockwork Angel takes us back to the Victorian Age, to follow the adventures of Theresa Gray, who crosses the Atlantic to England to be with her brother who went over there to seek his fortune after the death of their parents. Upon arrival, Theresa is almost immediately kidnapped by the Dark Sisters who torture her until her previously hidden supernatural powers emerge. It is not long before Theresa is rescued by the Shadowhunters, agents of the angels who are dedicated to ridding the world of demons. In the care of the Shadowhunters, Theresa learns that she is a unique ‘Downworlder’ who has the ability to change shape. She soon finds herself at the center of the machinations of the mysterious Magister who wants her powers for himself.

Like in “The Mortal Instruments” trilogy, readers are given a whirlwind adventure of fights with demons paired with teenage angst and romance, this time all with a Victorian spin. Some of the characters from “The Mortal Instruments” appear here, but you don’t need to have read the previous series to enjoy this one.

So, is this steampunk? The title is definitely steampunk, but I’ve a feeling it was a marketing move, since the clockwork angel of the title is (so far) just an incidental prop, a necklace that Theresa wears. I’ve a feeling it’s going to be more important later, but it seems odd to name the book after something that is not central to the plot of the novel.

Overall, I would not rank Clockwork Angel as strong an introductory novel as City of Bones was for “The Mortal Instruments”, but don’t let that be a deterrent to you reading it.

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