Cassandra Clare's "Clockwork Princess" Review

Spencer Shannon ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff

Photo via www.shadowhunters.wikia.com.
Photo via www.shadowhunters.wikia.com.
In Cassandra Clare’s third and final installment of her bestselling Infernal Devices trilogy (a spinoff from The Mortal Instruments saga), Tessa Gray and her fellow Victorian-era Shadowhunters have their final confrontation with the villain Mortmain and his steampunk-esque clockwork army of demon-powered robots. Meanwhile, the love triangle that has formed between Tessa, the gentle, sickly Jem Carstairs, and the wild, blue-eyed, black-haired Will Herondale comes to a head.
The book shows a marked improvement and maturity in Clare’s writing. Some may not know this, but Clare began her writing career as a fanfiction author. In fact, most of The Mortal Instruments series was adapted from a collection of Harry Potter fanfictions she wrote (under the username cassieclaire) about the wizard Draco Malfoy that she published o
n fanfiction.net more than ten years ago. The fanfics borrowed many situations and lines of dialogue from popular TV shows like Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, causing plagiarism scandals on the online community that the author has largely succeeded in covering up with the help of her lawyer. Upon starting the Infernal Devices series, I was interested in seeing whether or not she would be able to create a world and plot that was entirely new and, for the first time, not adapted from a story she had already written. By the time I had turned the last page on Clockwork Princess, it is safe to say that I believe it deserves its spot on the New York Times bestseller list. Furthermore, this trilogy is one of the best YA series I’ve read in the previous year; it is quite reminiscent of Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle Trilogy, namely A Great and Terrible Beauty.
Clare has mastered the art of romantic tension and character/world building; she succeeds in making the reader really care about her characters of Will, Tessa, and Jem – their triumphs, their sufferings, their heartbreaks and redemptions. She does an incredible job of pouring real emotion into the process of falling in love – combining pain and pleasure in equal doses. Writing a prequel with all-new characters and setting (Infernal Devices is set 200 years before the events of Mortal Instruments, in Victorian England) can be a very difficult thing to do when your fanbase has already fallen in love with your previous protagonists – yet, by the end of TID, I’d fallen harder for Jem, Tessa, and Will than for any of her previous characters! Her Victorian London is entirely believable, and she makes sure to include important specific details in order to really bring the setting to life – minute descriptions of characters’ clothing, separation of classes, patterns of speech, etc.
As always, the plot is engaging, mixing equal parts breathtaking romance and intense action sequences. For longtime fans of The Mortal Instruments, Clare brings in familiar characters like the enigmatic and wry Magnus Bane. She also manages to answer a few longtime questions and mysteries about Shadowhunter lore and character origins, artfully woven into the events of the story.
Clockwork Princess was a very satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, with markedly matured characters, passionate romance, and artful plot development. The novel does take a very different and quite tragic turn from her previous books, so readers, prepare to have a box of tissues and a hefty amount of chocolate close at hand. However, like her character development and world building, she handles this surprising twist with such dexterity and passion that it’s impossible to do anything but keep reading. Clockwork Princess is a work of art until the very end, at its core the story of unconditional love shared between three young people, able to circumvent all forces against them, even the sands of time. Definitely worth a read if you’re a longtime Clare fan, even more so if you are not – it’s a refreshing and passionate piece of YA fiction containing a sense of beauty and mastery that is becoming rarer and rarer in the genre these days.

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