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Clockwork Angel: The Infernal Devices, Book One


Clockwork Angel: The Infernal Devices, Book One

CLOCKWORK ANGEL is the first volume in Cassandra Clare's new fantasy series The Infernal Devices, a prequel to The Mortal Instruments (which began as a trilogy and has not yet closed). The stage is set in Victorian-era England just as a fair, young aristocrat arrives to meet her brother. Instead of finding him, however, the girl is forced unwittingly into the malevolent underworld of London, a secret world of criminal organizations whose members are not human.

Though Americans, Tessa and Nate Gray no longer have ties to their homeland as they're orphans who have recently lost their guardian, a beloved aunt. Where Nate goes, Tessa now follows. But Nate has a propensity for gambling, and his debts have put their livelihoods in jeopardy and led him to pursue an internship abroad. Not long after his departure, Tessa receives a letter requesting her presence in London under the care of two women Nate calls "the dark sisters."

Upon Tessa's arrival, she finds that Nate's newfound occupation had been a hoax. In the guarded, unkempt estate of the evil sisters, Tessa discovers that she's locked in and her brother is nowhere near. The witches claim they are holding him hostage due to their interest in her ability to "change," some event whereby she's called in to their parlor and terrorized daily until she attempts what they ask her. At first, she has no idea what they want, but with her brother's life in danger, she must simply listen and do exactly what they say.

Each morning, Tessa is summoned and given an object with strict instructions on the exact technique she must use. As she holds the possession of another person, she finds that with the greatest effort, she can trigger a change into becoming the person it belonged to. This is a painful process wherein she's left confused and terrified, even losing consciousness. It’s always difficult, and there are times when it nearly kills her to attempt it. But Tessa is able to take on many forms, some alive and on rare occasions not, which brings her right into the experience of that person dying. She's exactly like them down to the smallest detail and does retain her own mind, but is sometimes aware of a thin veil between her own thoughts and theirs.

The dark sisters train Tessa to use her powers until the day the Nephilim come for her. She is rescued from captivity and then led into a place these creatures call "the Institute." This is a haven for Nephilim warriors, those who possess divine blood and spend their lives keeping the peace for the Downworlder races. After her kidnapping, Tessa unwittingly joins the ranks of these Shadowhunters and finds an entire world of creatures she had no idea even existed. There are many races, not just the Nephilim but also Downworlders --- those on Earth who possess special abilities but aren't human. There are faeries, werewolves and vampires, and also warlocks, who can reach beyond the earthly plane into the domain of demons and evil creatures. Humans are called Mundanes by the Shadowhunters, and Tessa finds that the fate of her brother is less a concern to them than what kind of creature she really is.

Though a prequel, CLOCKWORK ANGEL launches an entirely new series that takes place 150 years before The Mortal Instruments and shares no major characters. Clare has stated that this series works equally well as a complement and a stand-alone piece. In any case, readers should not lose any understanding by starting here. The story balances supernatural mythology with teen romance and is never inappropriate for younger audiences. It is not overtly violent either, and I would target its audience at younger teen and middle-school readers.

This first book presents a well-paced introduction to what seems to be an exciting fantasy with magical elements as well as a romantic mystery that I would expect to be developed in future installments.

Reviewed by Melanie Smith on August 31, 2010

Clockwork Angel: The Infernal Devices, Book One
(The Infernal Devices #1)
by Cassandra Clare

  • Publication Date: August 31, 2010
  • Genres: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult 12+
  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
  • ISBN-10: 1416975861
  • ISBN-13: 9781416975861