Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Review: Clockwork Angel

I first attempted to read Clockwork Angel a few years ago, after reading the first four books in the Mortal Instruments series.  For whatever reason, I couldn't get into the book.  Perhaps I found the transplantation of Mortal Instruments into Victorian England to be odd.  Maybe I was vaguely sick of Cassandra Clare's writing style, like I'd been binging on junk food. In recent years, though, I've noticed that reviewers I respect and admire write rave reviews of this book. After watching The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones movie, and, um, sort of liking it, I was in the mood to try the book out again.

I read Clockwork Angel through with only minimal speed reading. Truthfully, I found it to be pretty enjoyable, although I found myself making a mental list of its flaws while I read.  After finishing the book, I re-read a number of reviews for Clockwork Angel and for the next book in the series, Clockwork Prince, and ultimately decided to not proceed with the series.

It's partially a decision of not wanting to progress further and partially ethical confusion.  In regards to the first matter, I feel like there are more worthwhile books out there that I could read.  Clare doesn't write horrible novels, but she does recycle character types and contrived dramas and obvious plots. Part of me enjoys the character molds that Clare reuses and the soap opera relationships, but then again, I realize that this kind of writing is like junk food.  It's enjoyable to consume for a while, but too much junk food gets tiring after a while.

As for the ethical confusion, its quite a long, twisting story. Clare started out writing fanfiction online, and was a very popular author in the Harry Potter fandom.  She wrote a story called The Draco Trilogy, which featured a adapted forms of J.K. Rowling's characters, including Draco Malfoy and Ginny Weasley.  When Clare finally published her own book, many, many readers noticed that City of Bones borrowed many elements from The Draco Trilogy.  What made people especially irate was how closely Clare's character, Jace, resembled Draco Malfoy and how Clary Fray was obviously an iteration of Ginny Weasley.  (Weirdly enough, the most obvious rip-off was in the character's hair color — pale, blonde hair for Draco/Jace and long, red locks for Ginny/Clary.)

For all of this, I think Clare's writing is a tad little shady and seedy, much as how people disdain E. L. James and her Fifty Shades of Grey series for being a translation of her Twilight fanfiction.  There are other issues floating around out there as well: more series allegations of plagiarism and cyberbullying on Clare's part.  All in all, it leaves me confused.  I think its possibly that Clare herself might be a victim of cyberbullying, having seen some truly vitriolic comments regarding her while I was researching her publication history.

I do agree totally with Clare naysayers in one regard — Clare plagiarizes herself.  I mentioned this near the beginning of this review, briefly.  While I was reading Clockwork Angel, I realized how shockingly similar the book was to City of Bones The characters were repeats of Jace, Clary, Alec, and Isabelle, in a truly obvious way.  The plot was roughly the same as well: Girl gets into trouble. Girl meets rescuer/love interest/hero.  Girl is is taken to secret enclave and invited to stay.  Girl meets bitchy female rival with more to her than is initially realized. Girl goes to a party where important people wait to progress the plot. Girl is betrayed by someone she blindly trusts. And on. And on. And on.

It wasn't necessarily unpleasant reading the same thing over again in a different package.  Only the spark from reading something fresh was not there.  Continuing with the junk food comparisons, it was like eating a stale cookie.

Following this, what Clare did well in City of Bones, she does well all over again.  She wrote a sympathetic main character, with an interesting special power, that the reader wants to root for.  The love interest is a fully-formed character in his own right, and, despite being an unrealistic male, is swoon-worthy.  The plot — just a device for the characters to ride upon — doesn't get overly complicated or above itself.

All in all, this book doesn't need my recommendation.  It has done very well commercially.  I don't feel like I'm saying anything new, either.  This book, this author, these issues have been discussed to pieces.  I would not have written a review of this book at all if not for my promise to myself that I would review every book I read for this blog.  So, for what its worth, I don't give this book my official recommendation.  I think time would be better spent reading other, fresher novels.  However, I've read far, far worse books and feel comfortable giving Clockwork Angel three stars.


  1. I agree with the fact that the characters in this book were recycled but I thoroughly enjoyed the sequel much more (that might have something to do with my fondness for Jem) . I would say if you have the time check out the sequel but I still can't bring myself to read the last book so who am I to tell you to continue :P

    1. Lol, I am very easily swayed. I might just let your recommendation and my curiosity win me over. I have to say I'm ask, though... why haven't you read the final book?

  2. I really loved the Mortal Instruments series but as I progressed through the books, it got messy. Now, messy isn't bad, but it just made me thoroughly annoyed with the two lead characters. The series, in my opinion, got too long. It rehashed the same problems and same flaws that the characters had, except in different contexts. I've heard so many great things about The Infernal Devices but I'm hesitant in actually reading the series (I sped through them so I pretty much know what's going to happen).

    1. I know what you mean about things getting messy. You put it really well, saying that the same problems and flaws were rehashed in different contexts. The story stopped developing and started chasing its own tail. That being said, I thought the Infernal Devices, being a set trilogy, was kept pretty tight, and didn't unravel in the same way the Mortal Instruments did.

    2. (I wound up speed reading the series, too)