Thursday, September 27, 2012

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Now here's something to talk about.  So we've got these 'Shadowhunters;' The Nephilim; descendant of angels and their job is to keep tabs on 'Downworlders' who are not angelic or human but potentially dangerous enough to justify watchdogs: warlocks, faeries, vampires, and werewolves.  Both of these groups are rather indifferent when it comes to 'mundanes'--regular ass people--and there isn't a lot of party integration.

Tessa has come to London at the behest of her prodigal spendthrift, generally worthless, older brother.  She is abducted and forcibly inducted into much of the secret happenings beyond the world of the mundanes that she used to identify with.  Her life and her family is all not what she thought it to be, and her future is about to get very messy.

The plot progresses without a lot of the background material that I expected: this is a good thing.  The action is immediate if not a bit shallow; it's also a whole lot of fun and soap opera-ish.  Instead of a hospital the setting is "The Institute" a shelter for orphaned Shadowhunters (really you have to contain the eye-rolling, it's awesome I promise).  There are no doctors rather the Shadowhunters themselves, and the 'patients' are the Downworlders who generally don't need treatment but a beat-down.

The conflict lies in Tessa catching up with her brother, who has fallen in with some really bad types, and her identity crisis as she learns she isn't human, or Nephilim, but something else closely resembling warlock status.  She generally complicates her life at every turn, never more so than when others are trying to help her.  Tessa drives the plot forward even if we do wonder at her startling naivety, poor decision making, and general unwillingness to making life easier for herself or those around her.  The story moves quickly and is very entertaining.

Other than Tessa, the rest of the characters make me scratch my head from time to time.  We meet all the inhabitants of the Institute, a surprisingly small number considering the Institute's size.  Charlotte and her husband Henry, both in their early twenties, run the place.  Will and Jem are the resident seventeen year-old badasses and Jessamine, the most well drawn and yet unfulfilled character seems to assume the role of a wallflower but really develops nicely.  The Nephilim are a world wide organization that put teenagers and newly appointed college grads in control of the London Institute.  I got over that as well, but my real problem was with all the male characters as not one of them seems to behave in the manner of one their age.

Will acts like a worldly individual of at least forty, the sexual nuance, drinking innuendo, talk of nightlife and witticism aren't in line with a seventeen year old; Jem and Henry to a lesser degree, have an equal feeling of perfectly well developed characters forced into an inappropriate age as to be tangible love interest for Tessa.  Also the lead bad guy was not only out of NO WHERE but I'm not sure I bought into him being in control considering the hierarchy of things, but much like the ending (which built up to tension and a battle and a lot of awesomeness, then inexplicably choose to go on and fizzle out with a pitiful soft wet 'splat') I have strong reason to believe all will be explained--and bettered--in the the follow up.

I really don't know how to talk about young adult fiction, but I'm working on it.  Do I mention themes and subtitles as if I were writing about John Fowles or just skip to the parts where demons were being chopped apart in spectacular fashion and why I wanted to punch Will in the face for being a jerk?  There was more mention of how pretty Will was and his hair and how his clothes fit than I was prepared for, but it's no worse than George RR Martin writing female characters that can't seem to stop thinking about how great their breast look.  (Clare's writing never gets as bad as the quoted passages by Martin.)

Lots of action?  Check.  Fantasy filled with names I can pronounce?  Check.  A story that held up?  Check?  A background that makes me want to keep reading as opposed to putting the book down a third of the way in?  Check.

What's not to like?  


Marion said...

Chad -- Some of the annoyances here make a bit more sense if you've read the first three which are set in contemporary times. Clare has the same problems with her modern male love-interests-- they all act like they're thirty.

Chad Hull said...

I'd be curious to know which annoyances, but I think I'll read on and find out for myself. I thought I'd start at "The Beginning" and learn the background of what's to come, but it doesn't seem so.

Marion said...

This series is a "prequel." City of Bone, City of Ash, City of Glass are the original three (Not sure I have those titles exactly right) that introduce the Shadow-hunters, down-worlders, etc etc etc.

Marion said...

And the "Clockwork" series won't give you very good information about what goes on in the original three.