Written by: Cassandra Clare
Book # 2 / 3 in The Infernal Devices series
Review: 3.5 / 5 stars
Summary: In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has at last found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when rogue forces in the Clave plot to see her protector, Charlotte, replaced as head of the Institute, and the mysterious Magister remains a threat. With the help of the handsome, self-destructive Will and the fiercely devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister’s war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal. He blames them for a long-ago tragedy that shattered his life. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys on a mission and realize that the Magister himself knows their every move—and that one of their own has betrayed them. As their dangerous search for the Magister and the truth leads the friends into peril, Tessa learns that when love and lies are mixed, they can corrupt even the purest heart.
“It was books that made me feel that perhaps I was not completely alone. They could be honest with me, and I with them.”
Review: Every time I pick up the second book in any series, especially in a trilogy, I brace myself for the worst. Name almost any popular trilogy in the last ten years, and they all suffer from what I call the “second book slump”. Usually the second book is used for every possible inch of development the author can think to throw in, but it usually amounts to very little plot, or a storyline where nothing really happens in the course of 300 – 500 pages. Clockwork Prince, however, defied that theory. While many of my questions from the first book still carried on past the ending of the second, there was enough plot and character development to keep me entertained and keep me excited for the third book. At the same time, Clare didn’t wildly change anything beyond reason; the characters, by and large, remained the same, as did the purpose of the series.
The thing that I enjoyed the most about Clockwork Prince is that you begin to see the origin of certain Shadowhunter families such as the Lightwoods and Herondales, and where their paths begin to cross, and you see them develop these relationships in Victorian London. Although, once more, I wish that Clare took more advantage of this setting, she does a beautiful job with the little amount she does show, such as describing the party at Magnus’ as well as the way that even the holier-than-thou Shadowhunters treat their women – most notably, in Benedict Lightwood and Aloysius Starkweather trying to discredit Charlotte, and in the relative lack of training Jessamine and Tessa receive. On the opposite end of that, it really bothers me that they take Tessa out on so many different “missions” of sorts with so relatively little training. It’s a recipe for disaster, and a set-up that leads to far too many issues in the story. Besides this, Clockwork Prince is a solid continuation of the stories from the first book. You still have the ever-present, mostly aggravating love triangle; the mysterious and brilliant villain presence; and, my favorite part, the humor and entertainment that the London Institute’s citizens bring. Although everyone loves Will and Jem’s easy banter and running joke of “demon pox”, I believe that even side characters like Charlotte and Sophie get in a few quips that make The Infernal Devices as a whole a more enjoyable read than The Mortal Instruments. Once again, at the end of the book I was slightly disappointed for how little the plot discusses the real villain’s actions and purpose, but I can tell that the third novel will dig deeply into that.
To me, Clare’s most grievous mistake in this novel is how hard she tries to show Will as a “tortured soul”. One of the most annoying plot devices in this book is Will’s explanation to Magnus on why he acts like an angsty teenager so much of the time: because a demon put a curse on him during his childhood that anybody who loved him would die. The reason that this curse is absolutely just asinine, is because it doesn’t make any sense. Although Will manages to use convoluted reasoning to explain his connection to Jem, whose health is steadily declining, how can he possibly explain the well being of the Branwells, who have practically raised him and loved him as their own son? Additionally, just because his family is not in close proximity to him, it is clear that they still love him dearly – so shouldn’t they be dead, too? It seems to be a hastily constructed plot device provided to give means to Will’s bad behavior, but it ends up being an insult to his intelligence, and the reader’s, instead. This all happens after Will ditches Tessa, his supposed true love, to fend for herself at a Downworlder party so he can chase after his childhood demons. Furthermore, it angered me SO much when Will played around with the same drug that is ruining his parabatai’s life, and Clare continued to write about how selfless Will was in his protection of Jem. Spare me – although, I still love Will and how he seems to play the devil’s advocate for this group just as much as Jace did in TMI.
Once again, I have found myself trying so hard not to compare The Infernal Devices to The Mortal Instruments, but Clare makes it almost impossible for me to not do so with the clear comparisons between her two main characters from each series: Tessa with Clary, and Will with Jace. (As a side note: if you do not think that Will is favored by Clare rather than Jem, then I don’t think you read the book properly, but I digress.) Despite my usual interest in the dark-sided boy of the love triangle, and admittedly how well Clare writes him, Jem is once again a stand-out character to me, as he just seems genuinely good, for lack of a better word. Even the other denizens of the Institute – Sophie, Charlotte, Henry – are interesting to me, and that is so rare to have even the additional characters holding my attention and leaving me wanting more. As I said above, I love the introduction of the Lightwood family, even if their patriarch, Benedict, is supposed to be the standing symbol of everything that is wrong with the Shadowhunters’ elite. Gabriel, his younger son, seems set to follow in his footsteps of arrogance, but there are several moments throughout the book where you can tell that he’s meant for something more, and Gideon, his older son, is clearly a kindhearted soul from the first mention of him. I know everyone is more about Team Jem vs. Team Will, but my favorite ship in this series is Sophie and Gideon. If they don’t end up together, and if their relationship doesn’t change something about Gabriel’s prejudices to non-Shadowhunters, I will be SO upset.
Even Jessamine – poor, naive, gullible Jessamine – stands out to me, as I can almost feel her heartbreak and betrayal and anger throughout the novel, and can see how she is so much more than how she may appear to outsiders. (*Spoiler alert ahead*): However, her relationship with Nate, Tessa’s supposed brother, is entirely confusing to me. I know Jessamine is a girl who just wants love and attention, but how did they meet? How did this whole thing come about? Why did they get married? Why did Jessamine betray everyone who ever loved her? They give a very basic, very unsatisfying answer to all of these questions, but I need more. Nate himself is one of those villains that fails to capture my attention or appreciation. He is not intelligent or cunning, nor is he all that charming, and his purpose is blurry at best. My feelings toward him are similar to those of the “real” villain, Mortmain, who still is much of an enigma to me. Although his purpose for vengeance is revealed in Clockwork Prince, I’m hoping its successor will have a better explanation of just how much this affected him, and why he chooses the automatons as his weapons, and why he wants Tessa so badly.
All in all, the Clockwork Prince is one of the best books bridging the beginning and ending of a series that I have read – and I have read a lot. Clare keeps the story moving, while also offering additional plot and character development to add to the universe she’s created, but also doesn’t add too much frivolity to make her effort to keep it entertaining too obvious. Although the love triangle is still such a tired topic for me, and Clockwork Prince definitely focuses on it a lot, there are other things going on the novel for those who, like me, don’t want to read a romance novel. I look forward to picking up Clockwork Princess soon to finish the series and finally connect the last loose threads of The Infernal Devices with The Mortal Instruments. And I am curious to hear from you all – which of Clare’s two series do you prefer, and why? Leave your comment below!