Clockwork Prince: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra ClareOnly in London a short time, Tessa Gray’s world has already been turned upside by her brother’s betrayal and the discovery of her own strange ability. With the help of her unlikely Shadowhunter friends, Tessa has managed to make some order from the chaos of lies and mystery that surrounds her.

That order proves tenuous when rival Shadowhunters seek to displace Charlotte and her husband as heads of the London Institute. With Charlotte’s position in doubt, so too is Tessa’s place in the only home she has known since leaving New York City. If Charlotte can find the Magister, the villain cloaked in secrecy who wants to use Tessa’s powers in his mission to destroy all Shadowhunters, her position will be secured. But what if she can’t?

As Tessa helps in the search for the Magister, her future place in London is not the only dilemma presented to her. Why is Jessamine sneaking off so often? What madness leads Will to move so violently between passion and cruelty? Why does her heart still ache so much just to see him? And what of Jem, Tessa’s quiet, steadfast companion in all of this chaos?

With so many secrets, it is unclear which truths should be told and which should remain hidden in Clockwork Prince (2011) by Cassandra Clare.

Clockwork Prince is the second book in Clare’s Infernal Devices series, preceded by Clockwork Angel. This trilogy is a companion to Clare’s Mortal Instruments series which begins with City of Bones.

It’s hard to review books that are part of a series because, particularly in the case of this book, you cannot read just one book. Things are even more complicated when the series ties back to a completely different, longer, series.

That said, if the idea of a quasi-steampunk Victorian London where the descendants of angels fight monsters (even while befriending one of those “monsters” who happens to be a warlock) this is the series for you. But don’t start here. Go read Clockwork Angel first then come back to read this review.

Clockwork Prince is simultaneously compelling and painfully frustrating. Many questions from the first book (particularly about Will’s . . . affliction) are answered. Some of the answers are satisfying and add to the story. Some of them add to the general annoyance I had while reading the book.

Neither being or knowing the author, I’m not really qualified to say what each character would or would not do. BUT, for this one reader, it felt a lot like every single character walked through the book doing the wrong things. Worse, they seemed to be doing them for all the wrong reasons. Will all be resolved to my satisfaction in book three? Maybe. Then again, maybe not. Finding the answer to that question (aside from my genuine fondness for these characters and this series) is enough to guarantee I will eagerly await the release of Clockwork Princess in 2013.

Clare’s writing remains top-notch here. While the larger plot does take a back seat to character development, Clockwork Prince sets readers up for what is sure to be a stunning conclusion to a clever trilogy.

Possible Pairings: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, Sabriel by Garth Nix,  Snowfall by K. M. Peyton, These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas, The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

City of Fallen Angels: A (Rapid Fire) Review

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare (2011)

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra ClareThis book is the fourth in Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. The remaining books will be released alternating with Clare’s next two books for the Infernal Devices series. (She is writing them at the same time so the books end up referring to each other.)

When I first heard about Clare’s plans to extend the series I have to admit I was a bit worried. City of Glass tied everything up quite nicely and I was uncertain about continuing the story of those characters–what more was there to say?

On the one hand Clare brings in several new characters into this story (she also expands the roles of some peripheral characters from the first cycle of Mortal Instruments books). On the other hand, the plot felt familiar in spite of a new villain and sinister happenings in New York City. Clary and Jace still can’t be together, Simon is still having trouble with the ladies, Isabelle is still inscrutable when it comes to her heart, Alec and Magnus are still having their own problems, and yes the Seelie Queen is still asking obnoxious questions and causing trouble.

These familiar threads combined with a large amount of summary in the beginning of the story made City of Fallen Angels drag in the beginning. Being a New York Times bestseller, I can see how Clare would want to make the series accessible to new readers or readers who finished the first cycle a while ago. On the other hand, this is the first book in the series and at times it felt like every key plot point from earlier books was rehashed here (and that’s a lot of old plot points). Possibly for this reason the story didn’t really feel like it picked up until page 200 or so (a little less than halfway into the story).

I enjoy Clare’s writing and love the world and characters she created in her first trilogy. This start to a second trilogy didn’t grab me the way those books did. It often felt more like a setup for a story to be found in books 5 and 6 rather than a story unto itself. That said, I remain a fan of Clare’s anxiously awaiting Clockwork Prince and, later, know I will pick up the next Mortal Instruments books when they are released.

Ten for 2010

In no particular order, my ten favorite books from 2010:

  1. Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson: Scarlett is still living in a NYC hotel and her life is about to get way more insane when her boss Mrs. Amberson gives her the unenviable job of befriending an annoyingly perfect young Broadway star. Add to that said star’s especially annoying brother, Max, and you have a recipe for disaster.
  2. Heist Society by Ally Carter: Katarina Bishop knows a lot about stealing. So much, in fact, that she managed to steal herself a normal life. That was before she had to leave that life to clear her father of the one robbery he really didn’t commit.
  3. A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner: Sophos never wanted to be King of Sounis. But after he is abducted and presumed dead by his kingdom, Sophos realizes that responsibilities very rarely care about wants.
  4. Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta: The people of Lumatere are scattered, some trapped inside the kingdom walls while others live as exiles, haunted by the ghosts of their tragic past. But there might be hope. It all begins ten years after the five days of the unspeakable, when Finnikin of Lumatere climbs another rock.
  5. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher: Nothing leaves Incarceron and nothing enters. No one knows where the prison is or how to get to it. So why does Finn suspect he has a life Outside the Prison? And why does Claudia have a key that seems to let her talk to Finn–a prisoner Inside?
  6. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare: Tessa Gray travels to London wanting to find her brother and start a new life. Instead she is dragged into the world of Shadowhunters and London’s Downworld–people with mysterious powers not of this world.
  7. A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley: Charlie Duskin and Rose Butler have nothing in common but by the end of the summer they might help each other get everything they’ve been longing for.
  8. The Demon’s Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan: Mae struggles to protect her brother Jamie from the warlocks who want to exploit his power. The enigmatic Ryves brothers are willing to help–if they can overcome their own demons first.
  9. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins: Duh, who doesn’t have this one on their list? Do I even need to blurb it?
  10. White Cat by Holly Black: Cassel Sharpe is perfectly content being the straight arrow, ordinary guy in a family of crooked curse workers. That is when he’s not being followed by a white cat that reminds him a lot of his best friend Lila–the girl he killed three years ago.

Is it still early in the year? Yes. That said, these are my favorites so far. Maybe before the year is out there will be more but I’m not expecting it simply because there isn’t that much time to read more books from 2010. Who knows? Maybe this will end up being my top eleven or twelve.

Clockwork Angel: A (special) Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra ClareLondon’s Downworld isn’t always a safe place, especially for a human in 1878. Filled with its own magical brands of vice and iniquity and all manner of unexpected creatures from vampires to warlocks the Downworld is, in fact, almost never safe.

Only Shadowhunters, warriors trained to fight demons, stand between the human world and the Downworld’s myriad dangers.

Orphaned and penniless, sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray knows nothing of London’s Downworld or Shadowhunters. Newly arrived in England, she is eager to reunite with her brother. But Nathaniel never comes to collect her. Instead she is taken in by the mysterious Dark Sisters. Imprisoned and alone, Tessa learns more than she ever wanted to know about the Downworld, including her own strange ability.

Everyone seems to want something from Tessa. The Dark Sisters want her to use her power. A shadowy figure called the Magister seems to need her. The Shadowhunters want her help. All Tessa wants is to find her brother and to forget all about the Downworld and her own place in it . . . even if it would mean forgetting about William Herondale and James Carstairs, two Shadowhunters with their own inner demons to battle.

But Tessa can’t forget any of it.

Plans have been set into motion and Tessa must play her part for better or worse in Clockwork Angel (2010) by Cassandra Clare.

Find it on Bookshop.

Clockwork Angel is the first book in Cassandra Clare’s new Infernal Devices trilogy. The Infernal Devices is meant to be a companion/prequel to The Mortal Instruments (Clare’s bestselling trilogy that first introduced readers to the world of Shadowhunters and Downworlders in modern times). The books are all meant to complement each other with references to family names and shared characters, but Clockwork Angel stands alone.

Clockwork Angel is also exceptional. A little fantasy, a little steampunk, and a lot of period atmosphere come together to create a full immersion reading experience. Clare evokes Tessa’s London as expertly as she brings her charming characters to life including memorable secondary characters with their own complexities and motivations.

Tessa is an utterly engaging heroine who is as fearless as she is guileless. Will* and Jem are the perfect foils to Tessa (and each other). Fans of The Mortal Instruments will find a world of new characters with a very familiar wit and verve. Gripping and rich, Clockwork Angel will hold readers’ attention from the first page to the very last leaving many eager for the next book in The Infernal Devices.

*Will is the character on the cover. It is one of my favorite covers. Ever. Which is why it’s huge in this post.

Possible Pairings: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, A Breath of Frost by Alyxandra Harvey, Sabriel by Garth Nix, Mister Monday by Garth Nix,  Snowfall by K. M. Peyton, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas, The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Exclusive Bonus Content: I was very lucky to be able to attend Simon and Schuster’s Fall 2010 preview thanks to one of my lovely professors from library school. At the preview I was fortunate to not only see Cassandra Clare talking about this book but also to receive a very advanced bound manuscript of Clockwork Angel (it’s like one step earlier than a regular advanced reader’s copy and is the coolest thing in the entire world because on top of that it’s signed!). I, of course, had to read it immediately since Clockwork Angel is the one 2010 title that I have literally been looking forward to since last year. So great was my excitement, dear readers, that I had to break the cardinal rule of reviewing and post this review right after I read it instead of waiting for the August 31 publication date so that you too could share in my excitement as soon as possible.

UPDATE 8/21/10: The official trailer for Clockwork Angel is finally out! You should go watch it. Right now. It’s one of my favorite book trailers. I love the symbols that appear. I love the scene with Jessamine and her parasol (straight from the book) and Will and Jem and Tessa. The ending is awesome too. I’ve already read the book and it makes me excited about it.

City of Glass: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

City of Glass by Cassandra ClareThe Mortal Cup and the Soul Sword are gone. Valentine has disappeared once again, taking his army of ravening demons with him. For now. The dust seems to have settled in New York City. But that doesn’t mean Clary’s life is back to normal. Not by a long shot.

Her mother is still hospitalized with a mysterious coma. She is still painfully in love with Jace. Who is still her brother–and determined to be only her brother. He is also determined to do everything in his power to keep Clary away from Idris’ City of Glass–the jewel of the Shadowhunter home country and the place where Clary might finally find the key to finally waking her mother.

But after coming so far and getting so close to saving her mother, Clary isn’t about to take no for an answer.

It turns out entering Idris illegally is going to be the least of Clary’s problems. Her best friend Simon, a vampire who can now withstand daylight, has been thrown in prison. Jace still refuses to help Clary save their mother while another mysterious Shadowhunter named Sebastian seems strangely eager to offer his assistance.

Meanwhile Valentine is still searching for the last Mortal Instrument–known to be somewhere in Idris. With a demon army at his fingertips, it’s only a matter of time before he finds it and declares war on all Shadowhunters.

The Shadowhunters are fierce warriors but few in number. Aligning themselves with their Downworlder enemies could turn the tide of war in their favor if both sides can see past age-old differences in time. No matter what happens next, one thing is clear: Everything is about to change in City of Glass (2009) by Cassandra Clare.

The stunning conclusion to Clare’s Mortal Instruments trilogy (a fourth book is due out in 2011 and a companion trilogy starts in 2010) is packed with the action readers will have come to expect from the series. Demons are fought, battles are waged, and everything question is finally answered.

While readers might recognize some common fantasy themes, the story itself remains fresh–filled with twists that are both shocking and, unfortunately, sometimes heartbreaking. Clare’s writing is drum-tight throughout the story from the initial set-up to its satisfying conclusion.

Possible Pairings: Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, The Demon Catchers of Milan by Kat Beyer, White Cat by Holly Black, War for the Oaks by Emma Bull, The Inferno by Dante, Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey, Paradise Lost by John Milton, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan

City of Ashes: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

City of Ashes by Cassandra ClareWhat would you do if the worst person in the world was your parent? Valentine Morgenstern is bent on destroying the Clave–the Shadowhunter’s arm of the Law–and ridding the world of the demons that Shadowhunters are mandated to hunt and the Downworlders the Clave holds as uneasy allies. Valentine already has The Mortal Cup. Will stealing The Soul Sword bring Valentine closer to his goal? Sure, some innocent people might get in the way, but what’s a little collateral damage when you want to remake the world in your own vision?

Clary and Jace are not bad people. Yes, they might be in love. Even if they are sister and brother. But that doesn’t mean they’re destined to follow in their father’s footsteps, does it?

Clary wishes she could turn her back on the secret world of the Shadowhunters and return to a normal life with her best friend. But nothing is normal for Clary, not while her mother lies in the hospital in a coma.

Jace meanwhile tries to drown out his troubles by hunting and alienating the people he cares about. The only problem is, the alienation part isn’t that hard when no one he cares about seems to trust him anymore. Instead of seeing the Jace they knew, it seems like everyone sees Valentine’s son lying in wait to betray them.

Will Jace be able to prove he isn’t his father’s son? Will Clary’s mother wake up? And what about the Downworlder children being murdered throughout New York City? Find out in City of Ashes (2008) by Cassandra Clare.

City of Ashes picks up soon after the first book in The Mortal Instruments series (City of Bones). Clare goes over the key past events without excessive rehashing. It is likely that this book would even stand on its own although readers will miss out on a lot of the fun if they skip the first book.

This book offers more introspection for all of the characters. Clare shifts viewpoints between several principal characters offering a wider view of events and the world Clare has built. Readers also get a wider view of the characters themselves. Jace in particular is fleshed out a lot in this book.

Then, of course, there is the star-crossed romance aspect as Clary and Jace struggle to move past their impossible feelings for each other as they try to understand what it really means to just be brother and sister. It might seem like a strange situation to add to a story, but Clare handles it tastefully and well enough that it’s easy to bear with her for the length of the book (and the rest of the series) to see where things will lead.

City of Ashes is as action-packed as its predecessor but with more character and world development. Clare has created another gripping, enjoyable read sure to dazzle.

The Mortal Instruments saga continues in City of Glass.

Possible Pairings: Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, The Demon Catchers of Milan by Kat Beyer, White Cat by Holly Black, War for the Oaks by Emma Bull, The Inferno by Dante, Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey, Paradise Lost by John Milton, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan

City of Bones: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

City of Bones by Cassandra ClareFifteen-year-old Clary Fray is almost content with her boring real life in Brooklyn. Trips to the Pandemonium Club for dancing and people watching with her best friend Simon add enough excitement, even if Clary is too shy to talk to anyone.

That changes when Clary witnesses three teenagers with mysterious tattoos murder another boy in the club. Clary is ready to report the murder until she watches the body disappear into thin air. The murderers being invisible to everyone but Clary also complicates matters.

But nothing is as it seems when the murderers explain themselves to her. Not murderers at all, the teens are part of the hidden world of Shadowhunters–warriors who fight to rid the world of demons.

Clary is drawn deeper into the Shadowhunter world when her mother disappears and demons start to attack. Suddenly Clary’s boring real life is anything but in City of Bones (2005) by Cassandra Clare.

The book itself is also anything but ordinary. Reviews have cited City of Bones as an unoriginal pastiche of other fantasies–a claim that, after finishing the novel, seems unfounded.

Clare blends elements of biblical myth, urban fantasy and suspense to create a truly unique story. The writing is snappy with wit and verve that might explain the comparisons between the book and the Buffy TV series.

As Clary delves deeper into the world of the Shadowhunters and the demons they hunt, Clare creates a richly developed world filled with vivid characters that readers will look forward to seeing again.

City of Bones is the first of Clare’s Mortal Instruments books. Clary’s adventure continues in City of Ashes. The first three of the series are already published with a fourth due out in 2011. Clare is also working on a prequel trilogy called The Infernal Devices. The first of the prequels, The Clockwork Angel will be published in 2010.

Possible Pairings: Raised by Wolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, The Demon Catchers of Milan by Kat Beyer, White Cat by Holly Black, War for the Oaks by Emma Bull, The Inferno by Dante, Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey, Paradise Lost by John Milton, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan