Monday, January 17, 2011

Clockwork Angel

Clockwork Angel is Cassandra Clare's latest YA offering; she's taken the basic plot and character types from her City of Bones/Ashes/Glass series and steampunk-ified them back into the Victorian era. The surprise is that it's still fun.

When Tessa, the main character of this one, tells Will, a Shadowhunter, that she loves to read books by Wilkie Collins, he observes that he's "never seen anyone get so excited over books before," and she asks "Isn't there anything you love like that? And don't say 'spats' or 'lawn tennis' or something silly" to which he replies "Good's like she knows me already."

One character, a friend of Will's, seems to be very obviously dying of consumption, until it turns out that it's something else altogether which ails him. Another character tells Will and his fellow Shadowhunters about the threat posed by "mechanical monsters meant to destroy the ranks of Shadowhunters" and the "binding spell that would animate these creatures not with mechanics but with demonic energies." So it's Victorian England, only not quite.

I also particularly enjoyed the part where Will kills one of a pair of demons, only to find out later that "her sister brought her back via a necromantic charm."

And I relished the histrionic descriptions, like this one of the demons' lair:
"A great crystal chandelier hung overhead, fronded with strings of gray cobweb that drifted in the disturbed air like ancient lace curtains. It had probably once hung over a grand table. Now it swung over a bare marble floor that had been painted with a series of necromantic patterns--a five-pointed star inside a circle inside a square. Inside the pentagram stood a repulsive stone statue, the figure of some hideous demon, with twisted limbs and clawed hands. Horns rose from its head.
All around the room were scattered the remains of dark magic--bones and feathers and strips of skin, pools of blood that seemed to bubble like black champagne. There were empty cages lying on their sides, and a low table on which was spread an array of bloody knives and stone bowls filled with unpleasant dark liquids."

It makes me think of the "children catcher" from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the first kind of steampunk story I ever read. The description gives me the same delicious shiver, and the same feeling of removal--this is quite clearly a different world from our own.

My one complaint about this book is that we don't learn what the Clockwork Angel of the title is for, or what it does. True, the book cover warns that this is only "Book One" of a series that will be entitled "The Infernal Devices." Clare gets credit for bringing the events of the story to a satisfying conclusion. But why use the title to make a point about the angel itself, only to string readers along? That kind of cliffhanger served to bring my father back to the movie theater every week to see Flash Gordon, but I don't think it's necessary to coerce Clare's legions of readers into seeking the next installment of anything she cares to write.


Jenny said...

Oh! The children catcher! I was so scared of the child catcher in the film of Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, when I was a little. With his scary nose! And his net!

Jeanne said...

Jenny, I was absolutely petrified when I saw the children catcher in the movie version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. That's why he still gives me a delicious shiver, just from the memory!

kittiesx3 said...

Oh my goodness, have you WATCHED that movie as an adult? It's 144 minutes long. I watched it with two of my nieces and almost croaked from the length. GAAAAAAAAAAH.

Jeanne said...

Elizabeth, I haven't watched it in a long time... I think I watched it with my kids at some point. Like with The Wizard of Oz, which also scared me as a kid, they were not terrified. Letting them watch Star Wars and Lord of the Rings movies made some of the stuff that scared me pale in comparison. As they said, after dark riders, animatronic owls are nothing.