If someone were to ask me who my favorite current YA author is, I would say Cassandra Clare. She's received a lot of criticism for her Mortal Instruments series, especially the most recent addition City of Fallen Angels. However, I have been a devoted fan since first reading City of Bones. I love this world she's created. I love the Shadowhunters. I love her ability to create an entire cast of characters that are not only interesting but also engaging. I especially love Jace and his sharp, sarcastic humor. But do you know what I love more than The Mortal Instruments?
The Infernal Devices.
Clockwork Angel was my first venture into modern steampunk. (Technically, H.G. Wells and Jules Verne could be considered the founding fathers of the genre.) It totally changed my view of historical fantasy, and I fell so in love with the genre that it quickly became one of my favorites. But Cassie, more than any other YA author that I've ever read, has managed to totally capture the Victorian time period in her novels. I have never - NEVER - read another book that encompasses the culture, the literature, the art, the mindsets, and the twisted beauty of that time period as Clockwork Prince.
I'm a HUGE Victorian literature fan. It's all I read in high school, and it still holds a very special place in my heart. I'm fascinated by every part of it. Most books written about it now, however, just can't really capture the feel of Victorian England.
But this book does.
Cassie quite famously spent an extended period of time in England, walking the streets her characters walked and reading only books written during the Victorian Era. And you can totally tell! It's obvious on every page that she did her research. The language the characters use, the way they interact - it was all spot-on! I also loved the many literary and cultural references. I mean, we're talking both Brontes, Coleridge, Byron, Tennyson, Dickens. It was like walking through a literary wonderland. I'm pretty sure I squealed at least twice - once when Magnus quotes Swinburne's "The Garden of Proserpine" and again when I realized that the head of the London werewolf pack was part of the Aesthetic Movement and a disciple of Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
Along the same lines, Cassie does an incredible job with Tessa, the protagonist. I love Tessa. Seriously. She's not all that physically tough, but she's spunky and brave. She also agonizes over her behavior and how the Shadowhunters break propriety all the time. This really rang true for me. She's been taught her entire life that she must be a "proper lady" and focus entirely on her virtue and decorum. So when she's thrown into the world of the Shadowhunters, which allows for a woman to run one of their Institutes and lets her fight alongside men, she's shocked. I absolutely adored her character arc and really just her as a narrator. She's level-headed and bookish, but she's not mousy or too wrapped up in the romance.
And speaking of romance, I've got to say that this book has an incredible one! Actually, it has two. I know, I know. A love triangle. But don't discount it just yet. I went to one of Cassie's signings last year, and she said that with The Infernal Devices, she wanted to create a love triangle in which the reader really doesn't know who the heroine will or should choose. So many times in YA, it's obvious who the true hero is. But it's much harder to tell in Clockwork Prince! Will and Jem were introduced in the first book, and I've got to say that I was definitely Team Jem. He's incredible nice, patient, courteous, and loyal. Will was reminiscient of Jace from The Mortal Instruments but a lot meaner.
Then I read Clockwork Prince, which was SUPPOSED to make us love Jem, but which actually converted me to Team Will. I don't want to give anything away, but there's a huge bomb dropped on us about his past in this book. And it totally changes the way you look at him. He's now my favorite character in the entire series. (And if Tessa hadn't annoyingly referred to him as "beautiful" or "angelic" on every other page, he might have become my favorite character from all of Cassie's books. Alas!) I don't want to give anything away, but I'll just say that I totally fell in love with his character. I was really happy to see that there were sections told from his POV, so we got to see into his head. Maybe that was why I ended up liking him more than Jem - I felt like I knew him better at the end of the book than I knew Jem.
This book as the love triangle to end all love triangles. It is perfect. I never once thought Tessa was being selfish or silly. Her choices are mature and well thought-out. And, my goodness, there are some swoon-worthy moments with both Jem and Will. Like...fan yourself swoony.
Cassie has this way of creating characters that you just can't help but feel bad for. I seriously wanted to reach into the book and give both Will and Jem giant hugs. They're both hurting like crazy. And their friendship? A-freakin-dorable! I now want a parabati. And I think my favorite quote from the book is...
Jem: "Whatever part you [Will] might act to the contrary, I see you as you really are, my blood brother. Not just better than you pretend to be, but better than most people could hope to be." (p. 481)
And while this was definitely a character-driven book for me, the plot is also fantastic and the worldbuilding is complex. One of my favorite parts of the book was the urban fantasy feel to it. The world of the Shadowhunters is so realized that I feel like I know as much about it as I did the world of Harry Potter. The politics of the Clave, the role of the Silent Brothers, the blood fueds among Shadowhunter families. #OMGILOVEIT!
This is my favorite Cassie Clare book. Of them all. The others entertained me, but this one really touched me. This wasn't a book I devoured like candy. This is a great book that deserved more time with me thinking about it. The characters are all so vivid and their pain so visceral that I felt totally connected to them.
I've read some great books this year, but Clockwork Prince reminded me why I love reading, why I wade through all those mediocre paranormal romances and hollow contemporaries - so I can get my hands on gems like this one.
This book is incredible. It's beautiful. It's exciting. It's romantic. And it's my argument against everyone who says that contemporary YA fantasy can't be literary.