I just finished reading The Infernal Devices (Clockwork Angel, Clockwork Prince, & Clockwork Princess) by Cassandra Clare, and I am absolutely shattered. The last thing I was expecting when picking up this Young Adult Fantasy trilogy, was to close the final book questioning my own perception of love and loss, life and death. But here we are, a mere 12 hours later with swollen eyes, a headache, and a heavy heart, trying to put the pieces of myself back together.
I also feel it my duty to mention that I have been in the book space that exists online for a very long time; since the dawn of booktube (for those of you who are avid YouTube watchers, hello, welcome to my blog). Cassandra Clare is a well known name, for many reasons, including some questionable writing practices in the beginning of her career. At the time publishing fanfiction or stories like that was not the common practice it has evolved to today. I simply wrote off Clare for something I didn’t understand after reading her first novel City of Bones, and thinking it was just okay.
So why, almost exactly 10 years later, did I decide to pick up this trilogy? One of my friends sent this series to me as a Christmas gift. It is her favorite series, and reading books is one of my favorite hobbies (obsessions is a better word, but I digress). So I agreed to read them so we could talk about it together. And now here we are, a month later, and I am a mess. Thanks, Donna. LOL
This novel was a great introduction to the Shadowhunter word. Though I had already read one book set in this fantasy world, this book did a great job introducing the reader to new terms, a myriad of creatures, weapons, and ideologies. We also had an interesting cohort of characters to work with right from the start.
What I found so interesting about these novels is the way we were able to switch and follow different characters, despite not utilizing first person POV. For me this writing style almost became an extension of the story, as if we the reader were some omniscient, all powerful being watching these characters scramble about after each other.
I found this first novel very predictable. There were no shocking moments, revelations, or plot twists that got my adrenaline pumping. While it was very enjoyable, the characters drove this story forward and kept my interest more than the plot itself.
As we are introduced to many characters through backstories, flashbacks, discussions of family heritage and origins, there were a handful of times when some of the comments came off with racially charged undertones. Am I being too perceptive? Was this a character flaw designed to signal the time period? As a white woman I don’t feel qualified to decide, but I just wanted to mention that throughout this trilogy there were a handful of phrases or stereotypes used that made me pause, and squint at the page.
This first novel was incredibly character driven for me as the reader. While I was vaguely curious about what twists might happen in the next novel, I was more excited to have a chance to spend more time with these characters and watch what shenanigans they’d get up to next.
Book 2 in this series stands rather firmly with book 1 in my rating system. It didn’t suffer from book 2 syndrome, and did have a few moments that genuinely caught me by surprise. One of those surprises included something I dread: the love triangle. I almost put the book down and stopped reading, but decided I owed it to my friend to keep going, and I’m glad I did.
This novel peeled back the layers on these characters in ways I was not expecting. There were betrayals and confessions I did not see coming. Getting to secretly watch, as the omnipresent reader, these characters go about their secret lives was so entertaining!
I did find myself expecting the other shoe to drop in this novel and it never really did. I’d discover shortly that all the shoes would be dropping over and over in the finale, like a stampede on my heart.
Books 1 and 2 in this series were a solid 4 stars, but book 3 truly is the crown jewel. The stakes in this novel were astronomical. The way these characters had seemingly coasted through the plot up until this point just made the actions and consequences of this novel feel that much more brutal and excruciating to sit through.
I’ve left the review spoiler free up until this point. Here is my warning. Past this point there will be spoilers.
Part of me didn’t believe Jem died. I didn’t cry when Will felt his mark bleed, and the cord snap. Even when we saw the characters in the Institute the next day with red, puffy eyes, I refused to believe he was gone. When I found out later that he became a Silent Brother instead, it broke my heart for Will, and for Tessa. For some reason my brain never allowed that outcome to be a contender or a real possibility.
Will’s journey to Tessa is what epic fantasies are made of. I love a good, grueling, heart wrenching journey. I’m so glad Balios (his horse) survived or I would have quit reading right then and there. Will and Tessa’s reunion in the mountain was hundreds of pages in the making, and absolute perfection (even if it was fade to black – I get it, YA rating).
I could have come out of this novel with a totally different perspective if it had ended with the proposal. Knowing Jem was a Silent Brother was still a knife in the heart, but at least they had each other; Will and Tessa.
But Clare couldn’t leave well enough alone, and she had to add an Epilogue, which I’m normally thrilled to read. When I tell you I sobbed so hard I’m not even sure I read all the words on the page. My glasses were off, my eyes were full of tears, and I saw just enough to see Tessa outlive Will and her children. I saw just enough to see Jem, as a Silent Brother, caring for them both every step of the way, to the extent he was allowed. Only for Tessa to be reunited with a mortal Jem on the last few pages. Knowing she’d watch him die too.
That Epilogue has made me question everything I have ever believed about mortality, immortality, life, death, love, and loss. I will never be the same, and I think I’m thankful for it. I’m still too depressed to know for sure, but nothing could have prepared me for that final chapter. I will think about this story, and these characters, for a very long time.
So. If you haven’t read The Infernal Devices already my question to you is this: what are you waiting for? While it has its faults, it is also a beautiful story about genuine, earth shattering love between three characters who were meant to find one another. Clockwork Princess will be hard to beat as my favorite book of 2023.
What an amazing review. This was the first books I read by Clare and I fell in love with them. I like you cried the first time I read the last book in this trilogy. Up until this point they have been my favorite books she has written but I’ve recently started The Eldest Curses trilogy and it might very well take the place as my favorite because Magnus and Alec are my favorite.
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Oh my gosh! Thank you so much! I’ve been debating trying more of her novels…can my heart handle it?! I definitely need to take a little break but I think I’ll be back to this Shadowhunter world soon enough. I’ll refer back to this comment when the time comes to look for that trilogy. Can I read it without reading any others? I have no idea how her world building between books works.
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I’ve been buddy reading her books with a friend of mine and I believe we’ve been reading them in series publication order. I’ve only read the first book in this trilogy so I don’t know if you can read the whole trilogy without reading the other books but I feel like you can definitely read this one without reading the others.
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That sounds like a lot of fun! I think after a bit of a break I’ll try going back to the Shadowhunter world. 🙂
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