Solid 3.5 stars, a quality addition to the YA fantasy genre with engaging characters and dialogue, let down slightly by a formulaic plot and action sequences that lack any real sense of tension.
Clockwork Angel didn’t blow me away, nor create a yearning gap in my life that can only be filled with the next 2 in the trilogy, but it HAS got my attention, and sometimes that is enough for a first book. The characters have a lot of room to grow, and the world of the Shadowhunters is one that has clearly been well thought-out, far beyond the steampunk tropes that I have seen other readers try to solely ascribe it.
The story is surely familiar to many readers of YA, and follows Tessa Gray, who arrives in London from New York in 1878 to meet her brother, after her aunt, and sole guardian, passes away. Tessa is immediately set upon and imprisoned by two strange and frightening women – the Dark Sisters- who proceed to bully her into using the power she didn’t know she possessed. There is an inevitable rescue, and an introduction to the world of the Shadowhunters, and to two intriguing, beautiful boys with tragic pasts; Will and Jem. The plot unfolds in a rather unexceptional manner, with a ‘mysterious’ plot involving the Dark Sisters, a club of vampires and warlocks, and an evil mastermind building an army of automatons.
I really enjoyed the literary references throughout the book, and the quotes at the beginning of the chapters. It really shows how thoroughly Clare researched the ‘pop culture’ of the period, and though Tessa frustrated me – the damsel in distress plus chosen one trope combination is rather over done- I did appreciate the work that had gone into making her believable as a young woman who has been raised almost entirely by novels. I enjoyed the revealing bit by bit of the back stories of various characters who live in the Institute, and I feel like they all have plenty of room to grow and reveal more in the next two books. A relationship between Tessa and Will – with a little helping of Jem on the side- seems inevitable but I honestly couldn’t see any chemistry between them, no real chance for them to get to know each other, to justify the budding relationship/s.
One of the things that did bother me about the novel, was the rather pedestrian plot. Each chapter revealed something convenient to the plot, and even when red herrings were thrown in the way of a character the diversion ended up leading to the reveal of some important piece of information. This coupled with very hesitant action scenes left me very underwhelmed with the overall writing of the book.
For all its flaws this is still a great addition to the YA urban fantasy genre, and I am enjoying it well enough to continue with the rest of the series without any hesitation. The world has been nicely built up, even for someone who has not read The Mortal Instrument series like myself, and the scope is there for this trilogy to get better with each book, as the character-driven storyline adds more depth.