IN A SENTENCE
Clockwork Angel is a fun, fast read. It's not a perfect novel by any means, but you're guaranteed a few hours of escapism (escapism of the best kind, Victorian London + clockwork robots).
So I have rule (though since it's not written in stone, I suppose it's more of an enforced pattern). It's about keeping the momentum going with reading fiction; once I finish reading a mammoth "literary" novel I need to follow it up with something short, whether that means a short story collection, a novella, or, let's be honest, young adult fiction. It's a good exercise I think, because while young adult books rarely have prose that will set your intellect on fire, successful YA authors tend to be better at creating tight plots with strong forward momentum; you enter the world in question from page one, and you can dip in and dip out without sacrificing enjoyment. (Or you can finish them in one sitting, which is also satisfying).
Clockwork Angel sets itself in Victorian London, where babe in the woods Tessa has travelled to join her brother Nathaniel, her only remaining family. As soon as she arrives, she is captured by the cartoonishly evil Dark Sisters, who hide her away to train her to use an ability she didn't know she had.
When she escapes, she falls into the care of the Brotherhood of Nephilim, supernatural warriors charged with keeping the peace between "Downworlders" (vampires, werewolves, etc) and humans. It's a nifty conceit, because Tessa literally knows nothing about any of these beings, so Clare gets to have fun introducing long familiar tropes to the viewer through Tessa's eyes.
Which brings me to the main criticism of the novel, that Tessa is a "blank-page" character, borne with no personality of her own but has one impressed upon her through the course of the novel. I think there is some merit to that, but it didn't overly trouble me. And once we do get a sense of what she's truly made of, I was satisfied that I hadn't wasted time concerning myself with her fictional fate.
It was sort of odd that I enjoyed the book really, given that at any given point before the last 1/4th, I wouldn't have been bothered if any of these characters were run over by a bus. But by the end, I did care about Tessa and her adopted family (though in the case of "tormented bad boy" Will, I still hope for some sort of horrible death, preferably by cliche).
It's been a long time since I've read a novel that had a cliffhanger ending, that didn't tell a self-contained story of its own. In fact, Harry Potter is the last one I can think of. Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart Trilogy, which this book reminded me of on more than one occasion, still told perfectly whole stories while tying in to a larger mythology. It's frustrating because the next book's not out until September 2011. But Clockwork Angel was certainly enjoyable enough that I look forward to the next book, and the one after that.
If you've read the books, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Where do you think the next novel will go?
When I heard the name Cassandra Clare, it rung a bell that I simply could not place for ages. I did a little bit of research, and she is in fact THAT Cassandra Claire, of the legendary Harry Potter fanfic-world meltdown. This bothered me a little while I was reading the book, I re-familiarized myself with the fact of that case, and have concluded that it's a combination of honest mistake and fandom politics run amok. So I'm over it.