Honest and lively YA book reviews
This book reminds me of those peppermint chocolates in the green bag you can buy at the market for like 99p. You eat one and life is great, it's sweet and melty and smooth. Fine. So you keep trucking - you eat another. And the seed of doubt is planted. Do you really like these candies? Do you?! They're very sweet after all. But you bash on. And you eat one more. And no. You do not like them. They're sickly, they're samey, they're all the sugar in the entire universe compressed into a bite sized circle of tooth-achingly saccharine nastiness. And yet, you keep coming back for more. You can't stop putting these goddam sweets into your mouth until you literally have to go lie down in a darkened room until your stomach ache eases off.
Similarly, Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare was just too much. I was so overloaded by the sheer volume of stuff shoehorned in there I had to go relax in a hot bubble bath to de-stress. The characters were so overpoweringly samey compared with every other character Cassandra Clare has ever written about. Ever. I felt the same way I felt while eating those goddam peppermint chocolates - stuffed full of the same, repetitive junk until I was queasy and shivering. But still I carry on. I keep eating and I keep reading. Why? There's something, like a masochistic moth to a white hot flame, that keeps drawing me to Cassandra Clare's writing. I don't even know what. Maybe Ms Clare hides some subliminal messaging in there somewhere. Like - "Keep reading, you know you want to. Buy my books. Give me all your money." There's really no other reason why I keep inflicting these fucking Shadowhunters on myself.
Clockwork Angel is set in the Victorian era. Badly executed. Research requires more than a google search and a cramming in of a few locations and stilted etiquette "rules" chirping out of the characters' mouths. The setting really didn't work for me. It felt like it was used as an aspect to set this series apart from The Mortal Instruments series, rather than an integral and important part of the story. It was really tacked on the end which is absurd, because having such a specific setting in such a specific time period should have more of an impact and be more of a statement rather than "this is the Victoria era y'all so all the ladees wear dresses K? And here's da servants and Hey! Everyone owns a horse and carriage." Yeah, just no. Cassandra Clare really needs to take a step back and stop trying to figure out ways to repackage her Harry Potter fan fiction. It's getting exhausting. Behind all the confused vampires, the fixit steles, the lame automatons, we're still reading about Draco, Ginny, Harry and the gang. Just give it up Ms Clare - move on!! We're done!!
So we've got Tessa (Clary) arriving in London by steam ship, under the impression that she will be living with her older brother following the death of her apparently beloved, but easily forgotten aunt only to be kidnapped and "trained" in the ancient art of shape shifting by the comically menacing Dark Sisters. Will (Jace), Shadowhunter and jerk extraordinaire, inexplicably tracks Tessa down and rescues her from the clutches of evil, delivering her to the relative safety of the Institute (Institute) (Hey wait!! That one didn't need brackets, it really is a carbon copy of the renovated church housing the Shadowhunters in The Mortal Instruments series, right down to owning the same goddam cat, with the same goddam name!!) in order that she can be manipulated for their gain. Bodies hit the ground, gratuitously; the usual blade wielding mayhem ensues and Tessa discovers that she cannot always trust in those she loves.
Tessa is an interesting heroine in that she is entirely uninteresting. She's a shimmering column of dishwater, a vision in grey. There's nothing solid, strong or even <i>real</i> about her. She spends a lot of time following other people around, day-dreaming about lurve and just going along with whatever she's ordered to do. Cassandra Clare attempts to keep with her Victorian theme, having Tessa spout little gems about how proper ladies should behave and dress and wish for, but all this serves to do is make Tessa one giant, stereotypical drip. How about having her stand apart from the expectations of her society in that time period, take some control over her life and have greater ambitions that to get married and have babies? How about having her realise, on entering the Institute that women can be leaders, that women are equal to men? That there's more to life than pretty dresses and dreaming of da boyz? No, Ms Clare. Not fancy taking on that character development? I guess not. Because that would mean breaking away from The Mortal Instruments series mould and imagining a whole new character. And that's a scary prospect. I mean, you're a writer, not a magician, right? You're only one woman, right? No. Let's just stick to the script ....
So out trots Will, Jace's clone in a past life. I'm not even exaggerating. Will is Jace. Jace is Will. Ergo Cassandra Clare - you have all the imagination of a teaspoon. Will is arrogant, rude and selfish. He has no regard for Tessa's very feminine, delicate feelings. He's a narcissistic, jumped up little prick. Hey!! Where have I used this phrase before to describe a character?! That's right - this is Jace Wayland in a nutshell. I'm all for recycling. In fact, I love it. Getting my paper, cans and plastic separated and then delivering them to the depo every week makes me feel like all is right with the world. I even have a t-shirt proclaiming that "Recycling Makes The World Go Round" but this does not apply to the literary world. It is beyond me how Ms Clare thought that simply rewriting the same characters from The Mortal Instruments with a slightly different physical appearance and different accents was ever going to be alright. Did she think we wouldn't notice?! Did she also think we wouldn't notice that Jem = Alec, a boy struggling with a hidden problem/dilemma. Or that Jessamine = Isabelle, a beautiful and sassy Shadowhunter with an unusual weapon of choice. Or that Tessa = Clary, a girl with the knowledge of the Downworld thrust upon her, who then proceeds to plod along vacantly behind the boys trying not to tumble off a cliff in the process.
Even their cause is basically the same. The gang stumble around trying to discover the whereabouts and intentions of the evil Magister/Valentine. Both characters offer great comedic value and achieve an almost skilful lack of genuine menace. The final fight? Meh. Robots spinning around slashing at everyone in eye-line and yet only managing to make fatal contact with a couple of poor, unsuspecting, innocently bland supporting characters who happened to be kicking about? Replace robots with demons and hey presto - you've got the end of City of Ashes!! Why does Cassandra Clare hate her supporting characters so much? They can never catch a break. The end generally was a hot mess. A red hot mess. It was beyond lame. The boogeyman tricks the poor little Shadowhunters and enters the castle to kidnap the princess. At the last minute, the Prince swoops in to save the damsel in distress who, don't worry - was only pretending to be dead in the dumbest plan ever dreamed up in the history of plans: "Oh great," thought The Magister. "The chick is lying on the ground and there's a bit of blood going on, I'll not get my suit dirty by physically checking that she's dead. I'll just assume she is, despite the knife being in her hand rather than her chest, despite the fact that for a moment she looked like a completely different person and despite the fact that she theatrically turned away when she stabbed herself. Yeah, I'm sure it's all cool.""
I award one star for the achievement of Ms Clare toning down her use of similes. There were far fewer "sounds like shattering things shattering" situations going on. For which I am eternally grateful. And I award one more star for the cover which is lush. But I cannot award any stars for the craft of this work. It's appalling. The pacing was atrocious - violently slow in places and then also far too brief at times. The revealing of the plot was, as per Clare's usual style, cartoonish in it obviousness. Every clue signposted. Every hint lit up so brightly you could see it from space. I was under the impression that The Infernal Devices series was supposed to be darker, more brooding, more mysterious compared to Ms Clare's previous work. I was instead treated to a rather slow episode of Scooby Doo with characters tripping over clues, making somewhat witty, if rather half hearted jokes between themselves and it even came down to practically yanking the mask off the villain's face at the end and discovering he wasn't who the gang thought he was. So yeah - we have here basically a slightly more sophisticated version of that old cartoon favourite.
I don't know why I keep tripping down the same old rabbit hole that is Cassandra Clare's writing. I guess I'm curious as to if she's capable of actually taking either of her series in a unique and interesting direction. But we all now that curiosity can be fatal (for cats anyway .....) so maybe I should quit while I'm still alive, rather than wait until I feel an overpowering urge to beat myself to death with a shovel through sheer frustration. Because that day is coming guys, it's coming!!
See y'all after. I hope everyone has a wonderful, magical and joyful Christmas next week!! Happy holidays!!