Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Infernal Devices Book One: Clockwork Angel (Cassandra Clare)

I didn't really expect to read Cassandra Clare's His Mortal Instruments Trilogy until I volunteered to 'test' it for my boss' daughter. While I wouldn't count it among my favorites, the series was still fun and I'd recommend it for some light reading. Too bad I thought some of the themes were too mature for my boss' sixth-grade daughter.

When one of my favorite store clerks recommended the news Cassandra Clare series, I was only moderately pleased. But that was before I read the blurb: Victorian England! Fantasy! Romance! Victorian England! (Yes, Bibliarch Glorietta, you have done a good job again.)

As far as first books go, I found Clockwork Angel a more engaging read than City of Bones and not because I am more fascinated with turn-of-the-century London than modern-day America. Angel's Tessa Gray proved to be a more fleshed-out heroine than Mortal Instruments' Clary. In the story, a shadowy figure called The Magister is eager to get his hands on Tessa's unique shapeshifting abilities. Her only recourse is to turn to the Shadowhunters for help, Nephilim who fight to protect the world from demons and to keep order among those known as the Downworlders. For Tessa, who shares society's very traditional views and has an unfailing loyalty to her family, being with the Shadowhunters is a test of her character and strength, especially as she must work with them to find the truth behind The Magister's growing threat. Tessa's ability to change her appearance after touching another's possession and then actually feel her new form's thoughts and emotions is not just unique to Ms Clare's Shadowhunter world, but is also a refreshing touch to the old shapeshifter story.

Fans of The Mortal Instruments will love how this new series explores the original characters' ancestors, but new readers will definitely feel that they need to read TMI to enjoy this. The action in Clockwork Angel unfolds quickly (finished this book in less than a day), though rather predictably. The characters are the real draw, in my opinion. I found Tessa more likable than most YA fantasy leads, and at the same time, I was also fascinated by two new characters: husband-and-wife team Henry and Charlotte. Charlotte is repeatedly called on to prove that she is a worthy leader of the Shadowhunter Institute despite her youth and inexperience, while struggling to find her place beside a husband who seems to prefer the company of his machines and inventions more than his own wife's. And as most YA fantasies go, there is a love story, too, but I'm not too attached to it. Yet.

Truth be told, Ms Clare's new series has now jumped into my Guilty Pleasures List. It definitely has all the right elements I need to distract me from the less-than-exciting things that go on between waking up and falling asleep.

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