The Infernal Devices book 1: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
After reading The Mortal Instruments, I bought the other two series by Clare, The Infernal Devices and The Dark Artifices. (LOVE the covers!) I recently finished watching both the movie and Shadowhunters TV series, and I’m excited to get back into this world!
Read: June 26 – July 4, 2023
Book contains: foul language, referenced torture, dark elements/themes, demons and monsters
First Book; Excellent Opener!
The year is 1878, and Tessa Gray has just stepped off a ship from New York to London after the unfortunate death of her aunt. She’s to join her brother, Nathaniel, though when she gets to the docks, it’s not him who’s there waiting for her. She quickly finds herself in a world of magic and demons, and discovers that she has the power of Change, to slip into another’s skin, dead or alive, and a mysterious someone called the Magister is after her.
I had a hard time getting started on this book, mainly because I needed to start reading it on June 26 as according to my schedule, though I hadn’t finished Daughter of the Deep quite yet. It’s been a while since I’ve read two books at the same time, and I admit it was a bit of a struggle for me. Nevertheless, the moment I finished the other book, I was able to turn my full attention to this one, and I was immediately sucked in.
After reading the foreword for book 2, I discovered that as research, the author immersed herself entirely in books from the same time period as this series is set in, and I think it really shows. I’ve only read a few Victorian era novels myself (Jane Eyre and other Charlotte Brontë books; Dracula; The Hunchback of Notre Dame) and it really felt like this book was coming out of one of those. Just the way Clare was able to accurately write their dialogue and match her tone and style to the era was impeccable! I’d say her research by immersion was entirely successful; really enjoyed it!
The book, like with her other series, is in third person. It mainly focuses on the main character, Tessa, though also follows some of the other characters as well, though only after they’ve been introduced. (It doesn’t jump into any new characters without first telling us who they are.) Clare also begins each of her chapters with a quote of poetry, and while I don’t typically enjoy poetry (since a lot of the time it just goes over my head) I found it interesting. The poems, of course, tied into the theme of the chapters, and were each very thoughtfully chosen.
Tessa Gray, born Theresa Gray, is the main character, and compares her own looks to that of Jane from Jane Eyre. She makes a lot of comparisons based on books, as she is an avid reader. She always has a book in her hand, which apparently connects to her overall character (metaphysically) in being able to transform into other people, as we can always slip into the hearts and minds of characters in books.
Her two love interests are William Herondale and James Carstairs, two boys, each with darkness hovering over them like dark clouds. Will is a lot like his descendant from the Mortal Instruments, Jace, though with the black-haired, blue-eyed looks of Alec—a strange combination. He acts arrogant and rude, always making jokes but hardly ever with genuine laughter (which Tessa notices). Jem, on the other hand, is very much the perfect gentleman. He is Will’s parabatai, and is consistently patient with him and everyone else at the Institute, though he suffers from a debilitating illness which severely impacts his life and prospects of a future. He is described as silver, silver hair, pale skin, silver eyes; overall very light, which we find out later is connected with his illness.
Other characters include Charlotte and Henry Branwell, the heads of the London Institute, Charlotte being named in honour of Charlotte Brontë. Lady Jessamine is a Shadowhunter living at the Institute who doesn’t want to be a Shadowhunter, and there are three clear-sighted Mundanes, Sophie, Thomas, and Agatha, as servants. Each are unique and compelling, and I love their interactions with Tessa throughout the story.
Though, true to the time period, women are generally looked down upon, and though Shadowhunters have a slightly more modern approach, Charlotte is still struggling to be respected as head of the Institute, despite her clear skill in the job. It was fascinating, too, to see Tessa’s thought process evolve from the beginning of the book, in which she shares much the same views as regular Mundanes. She doesn’t believe ladies should know how to fight and that servants are not to be familiar with their employers.
The story is filled with strong female characters, all with their own views and ways of acting. Charlotte and Jessamine are complete opposites in how they view what a woman should be, and yet they can still get along and are both valid and true. Tessa, Sophie, and even old Agatha bring their own experiences and thoughts to the table as well.
There were only a few words that I had to look up for their meaning, but overall, the book is written for teens and young adults, so it’s fairly easy to understand. There are times in which Clare waxes poetic, but as good authors should, she uses concrete imagery when talking of the abstract, and she keeps the pace quick where it needs to be and slow during emotional scenes. There was a bit of humour throughout, mostly coming from witty remarks, but overall the tone was quite serious, a lot like your typical Classic book with mystery, adventure, and romance.
I was also not prepared for the double-cross near the end—what a clever setup!
Anyway, if it wasn’t already clear, I highly recommend this book (probably this whole series)! I think I’m actually enjoying it more than I did The Mortal Instruments, but I can’t know for sure until I finish the whole series so I can compare.