Clockwork Prince, Cassandra Clare’s second installment in her Infernal Devices series, is easily her best work to date. In most series, the sequel (especially in a planned trilogy) often lacks any sense of urgency or completion; the author merely sets up all the pins so that they may be knocked down in the finale. While Clare certainly has left herself with plenty of pins, she offers in Clockwork Prince a complex and captivating book in its own right.
Clockwork Prince continues the story of Tessa Gray, a sixteen-year old American who, when she travels to London to live with her brother, finds herself entangled in the strange Downworld of vampires, werewolves, demons, and warlocks. Tessa may even be a warlock, she learns, as she has the ability to shape-shift. In Clockwork Prince, Tessa and the team at the London Institute of Shadowhunters continue their pursuit of Mortmain, the adversary so carefully hidden in Clockwork Angel. Tessa, Will, and Jem delve into Mortmain’s past, through which they inadvertently learn about their own painful histories.
Clare carefully opens the doors to the mysteries behind her characters—who are Tessa’s parents, why did Will leave his family, why does Mortmain want to destroy the Shadowhunters—and offers the reader new quandaries with which to grapple. And, as readers of the first book will have seen coming, Clare expertly crafts the problematic attachments between Will, Tessa, and Jem. In the Mortal Instruments series, Clare navigated the murky hearts of Jace, Clary, and Simon, but (SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS SERIES) Simon was always just a distraction on the way to Clary getting together with Jace. With this love triangle, Clare has raised the stakes, impressively so, and the outcome is not necessarily a given.
Clare’s writing has also improved dramatically from the first series. Her sense of pacing creates dramatic tension and her characters’ dialogue feel more natural (although, if one more person “spins on her heel” to dramatically exit a room, I may lose it). My friends who are Victorian literature scholars may take issue with some of the historical liberties she has taken with her places and characters, but for the rest of us, Clare has done enough research to give us the look and feel of 19th-century London. She also offers us snippets of from period writers at the beginning of each of her chapters, and her characters discuss their favorite contemporary literature (Dickens, Tennyson), which gives the book a feeling of verisimilitude.
If you haven’t picked up this series yet, definitely give it a go!
Why you might love this book: Cassandra Clare at her best (so far)!
Why you might not love this book: If you have an aversion to historical fiction, you may not love the backdrop for the story.
Rating: Five out of five black cats!
Publisher: McElderry Books (November 2011)
ISBN: 1416975888 (ISBN13: 9781416975885)