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Clockwork Angel
Cassandra Clare
McElderry Books, 500 pages

Clockwork Angel
Cassandra Clare
Cassandra Clare made her fiction debut with The Mortal Instruments series. She lives in an old Victorian house in western Massachusetts with her family and lots and lots of books.

Cassandra Clare Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Dan Shade

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There's something in this book for everyone. Vampires, Demons, Clockwork Men (made of cogs and springs, a primitive robot), Shape Shifters, Faeries, Evil Humans, and even Werewolves make a brief appearance. Not to mention a good story. These creatures make up the Downworlders, beings or persons who are in part supernatural in origin. On the other hand, we have the Nephilim who swear their lives to fighting the Downworlders. These are humans who use magic in many forms to fight their battles against evil. They call themselves Shadowhunters. And we, mere humans, make up the Mundanes. Mostly the Downworlders want to kill or enslave the Mundanes and the Shadowhunters want to save them. This particular book, however, is about a battle between the Downworlders and Shadowhunters over a Mundane with Downworlder powers she should not have.

Tessa is a contradiction in terms. She is a Shapeshifter but there is no Demon mark on her nor is she part demon. So, technically, she is not a Downworlder, a Shadowhunter or a Mundane. She is totally unique. Her training in shapeshifting was the cruelest at hand but she has the ability to be anyone she wants to be simply by holding one of their possessions. Everybody seems to want a piece of Tessa. Yet in spite of her cruel training, she has maintained the sweetest of personalities and the kindest of dispositions. The Downworlders want her for their own evil purposes, the Shadowhunters want her to impersonate someone so they may bring down a warren of Vampires. They also want to save her from the Downworlders. And a fellow named Will? He seems to want her because she is sweet and beautiful. He kissed her in the attic and she has been aflutter ever since. And, this brings us to, perhaps, the most enigmatic character in the book.

Will is a contradiction in terms. He seems to never say what he means or mean what he says. He shrouds his true feelings behind a facade of bravado. Only Jem, another young seventeen-year-old Nephilim and Will's only true friend, ever really seems to know what Will is thinking or feeling and he keeps it as well guarded as Will does. All anyone knows of Will's history is that he turned up at the institute doors one day when he was about twelve announcing himself to be a Shadowhunter and saying his parents had sent him there. Everyone knew Will's parents but no one knew of their demise and Will said not a word. When it was discovered that Will's parents were indeed dead, he was accepted and began his training to be a Nephilim or Shadowhunter and has turned out to be perhaps the best they have. We know less about his romantic feelings towards Tessa than she does. He has kissed her once and almost kissed her another time but he has not even shared his feelings about her to Jem. I'm of the opinion that Ms. Clare is planning to develop this romantic interest more in the next two books because the question is raised multiple times here. And authors love to string us readers along with some sliver of a love story that may or may not ever come to fruition.

This gives us all the ingredients we need for a rousing story and that's exactly what Cassandra Clare proceeds to give us. My problem as a reviewer is that I'm not an English major. My degrees are in the field of human development which qualify me to discuss the relationships between characters or if they are acting on their developmental level or not. I can even predict how they might react to a particular situation or explain their behavior. What I cannot do is dissect the book and tell you what is right and wrong in correct English analytic form. So, it may at times appear that I am more psychologist than journalist.

I'm like the person who knows nothing of art except what they like. I know little of the mechanics of what makes a great novel but I know a great novel when I see one. I passed English courses with straight A's and that seems to serve me when I need it even if I've forgotten terms like denouement which is the final part of a play, narrative, or movie in which the strands of the plot are drawn together and matters are explained or resolved. This is also often referred to as the climax. This is the part of the book that keeps us hanging on to the end. Well, expect to hang by a longer rope because Ms. Clare abruptly stops the story and you know it's time for book two but that's all you know. It's not as bad as the two volume work The Mirror of Her Dreams by Stephen R. Donaldson (an excellent read that I highly recommend). Book one (The Mirror of Her Dreams) literally ends on one sentence and book two (A Man Rides Through) begins on the next.

Nevertheless, this is a great read even if the wait for volume two will be worse than expected (I found out recently that I must wait three years for the fourth volume of The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson). That's twice I've mentioned Donaldson in this review. He's one of my top five favorite authors.

I love Cassandra Clare's command of the English language. She literally paints with words but doesn't send you to the dictionary every other page. Clockwork Angel has two of the qualities Marilyn Green Faulkner considers as qualifications of a good book. Clockwork Angel has a higher level of insight than average books as well as a timelessness that will make it relevant to readers in any age. Clare's book offers much insight into human behavior and will be just as readable in fifty years as it is now. In fact, I can't wait for some of my grandchildren to become old enough to really enjoy this book. Although this is not a Dickens novel but it seems to me far more relevant that The Catcher in the Rye, which I have read at least five times and continue to find pointless. If it's teenage angst you're after, then Clockwork Angel is for you.

Stephen King does something that bothers me. He marks the time of his novels by referring to the common, everyday things of our world that might not be recognized in fifty years. Brand names are referred to the most but so is McDonald's. I love Stephen King, he's also in my top five, but I fear his books will not be as timeless as Dickens or even Cassandra Clare's Clockwork Angel.

One last item: there are amazing things that happen in this book. Perhaps it helps that the characters find them amazing as well. The Shadowhunters may be hardened warriors but they don't kill Vampires with a shrug such as one might expect from Abraham Van Helsing. And although they are as inventive as Captain Nemo, they do not seek riches or fame. The Shadowhunters are probably the last of the truly chivalrous combatants left in the world. They do not wear armor or ride fancy horses as in the days of Knights but they never stop and they never give up. Their level of dedication to fighting evil is truly inspirational. I hope you will read Clockwork Angel. I promise it's a good ride.

Copyright © 2010 by Dan Shade

Dan Shade is a retired college professor who loves to read young adult science fiction, fantasy, and horror. But he doesn't draw the line there. He also enjoys writing science fiction and hopes to publish someday. In the meantime, you can find him at lostbooks.org (under construction).


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