Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare – Great Start, Weak Middle, Good End

August 13, 2013

Some months ago a friend recommended Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series to me.  I picked up City of Bones, the first book, from Audible, and found it hard to get past the first few chapters.  In all fairness, that might have been due to the fact that it was the book I selected to listen to at the gym, and for various reasons (my lack of willpower mainly) I didn’t go as often as I should have.  It’s also true that City of Bones didn’t grab my attention immediately.  I will probably try again before the movie comes out.  Clockwork Angel is the first in Clare’s Infernal Devices series, which is a prequel to the Mortal Instruments set many years earlier in Victorian London.

Unlike Mortal Instruments, Clockwork Angel hooked me immediately from the Audible preview, so much so that I immediately invested in the entire trilogy in Kindle and Audible formats – Whispersync for Voice is available on these titles.  This is partly due to Jennifer Ehle’s excellent narration, and also that I found it easier to connect with Tessa than Mortal Instruments’ Clary.

What I liked

The setting/worldbuilding.  Clare evokes Victorian London with a twist beautifully.  I also really loved the worldbuilding – the history of the Shadowhunters, Downworlders and mundanes was very well done.  I look forward to reading more of the world in both Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices.

The characters. I connected more easily with the Tessa of Infernal Devices than Clary of Mortal Instruments.  Although they are around the same age I believe, as an adult reader I found Tessa, concerned about starting a new life in a new country, more like me than Clary who in the chapters I read was more concerned about boys and dance clubs. I freely admit that it is unfair of me to judge the characters when I’ve only read a few chapters on Clary, and I suspect my opinion may change as I get to know her better.   I will, of course, update you when I’ve read City of Bones.

The narration.  Listen to a sample.  It was partly Jennifer Ehle’s wonderful narration which drew me into this book, and I’m truly sorry she does not continue on for the next two books in the series.  She easily distinguishes between the characters, some with an American accent true to the book and others with a British one.  The emotions of the characters comes through clearly as she narrates.  I certainly found it a lot more interesting that Ari Graynor’s narration of the chapters I listened to of City of Bones.  Ms Graynor sounds considerably younger than Ms Ehle, which is probably right for the main characters they are playing, but perhaps a few years of professional and life experience are really showing in the narration.  Again, it’s very unfair of me to judge just on the chapters I heard of City of Bones, and I will let you know if I revise my opinion.

The writing. There was a lot of information about the world to get across to the reader and I thought Clare did this quite well – she managed to avoid massive info dumps and yet put across an understanding of the new world in which Tessa finds herself.

What I didn’t like

The pacing.  The book started off excellently, and I was quickly drawn into Tessa’s predicament.  I loved learning with her about the Shadowhunters, The Institute and about this whole hidden world.  However, after that, though, I found the action dragged until the last couple of chapters.  Personally, this drop in narrative tension rather spoiled the book for me.  

All in all I liked the book, but I would have enjoyed it better had the pacing been more consistent.  I gave Clockwork Angel three and a half stars out of five.

Which did you prefer, Mortal Instruments or Infernal Devices?  Let me know in the comments.


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