Published: 2011, Margaret K. McElderry Books
Series: The Infernal Devices, #2
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fantasy
Source: Library book
Contains spoilers for Clockwork Angel (my review)
I feel myself dissolving, vanishing into nothingness, for if there is no one in the world who cares for you, do you really exist at all?
While I did enjoy Clockwork Prince as I was reading it, looking back on it, it seems like more in-the-moment enjoyment. In many ways, Clockwork Prince did feel a little bit like a filler novel. The stakes are raised, there are a few new characters and conflicts, but, ultimately, the novel is still a continuation of the Shadowhunters' conflict with the Magister and Tessa's search for identity. Nevertheless, the novel is an entertaining second installment in The Infernal Devices trilogy.
Although the identity of the mysterious and deadly enemy of the Shadowhunters, the Magister, is known, little else is. The Shadowhunter Institute is reeling from the misdirected attack on the vampire de Quincy while the Magister was able to successfully infiltrate the London Enclave with his clockwork devices, kill a few people, and flee with Shadowhunters none the more knowledgeable about him. And now the Shadowhunters are divided: Benedict Lightwood and a few others no longer believe that the London Enclave is in good hands. In response to this challenge, Charlotte and Henry, along with their younger charges, have two weeks to try to shed more light on the Magister and learn just why he's made the destruction of the Shadowhunters into his personal vendetta. In addition to searching for the Magister, Tessa and her friends continue to seek the truth about Tessa's background and just why she's such an desired asset to the Magister.
As with Clockwork Angel, Clare's second novel in The Infernal Devices trilogy is a fast-paced adventure. Many of the conflicts remain the same (which at times made it feel as though Clockwork Prince was not really adding anything new to this series), but the stakes have been raised. In addition to the actual time limit, characters' allegiances continue to be tested and their previously held truths are put into question. With a few exceptions, however, I did not have as much trouble identifying those characters with underlying motivations upfront. Nonetheless, the plot twists were just as exhilarating to read as they were in Clockwork Angel.
The members of our leading trio continue to become further fleshed-out. Tessa will never be a fighter necessarily, but she undergoes a bit of internal growth as she must come to terms with Nate's betrayal, her inexplicable shapechanging abilities, her value to the enemy, and the ever-changing knowledge of her own origins. If I had to describe Tessa in one word, I'd say that she is a trooper. She's a pacifist and has certain expectations for how things should be, but due to her time spent with the Shadowhunters, she's become more adaptable. Will is not quite as enigmatic in this installment, even turning into a more sympathetic character as bits of his past are gradually revealed. The chance to delve into his inner psyche and the reasons behind his actions felt satisfying after enduring so many pages of his sarcasm and bitterness. Jem remains my favorite character, however. He does not possess any traits that make him stand out the way that Tessa and Will do, but he's easily the character that's most true to himself. His problems are not any easier than Tessa or Will's, yet he is the one who remains stoic, compassionate, and kind throughout the novel.
I must admit that the development of the secondary characters is very well done. With the stakes raised, readers are able to witness new growth for both Charlotte and Henry. The Lightwood family, Jessamine, and even other Shadowhunters are given their own conflicts and motiviations. Sophie may be a female servant living in a fantasy-Victorian England, but she is treated like a human (imagine that) and Tessa and others do not dismiss Sophie's mourning over her two friends even when there are currently bigger issues. In fact, overall I appreciated how much Shadowhunters took care of their own. Especially at odds with the socially, economically, and gender-divided Victorian society, the Shadowhunters treated each other with respect and equality. I am not sure the same can be said for their treatment of Downworlders...but I suppose I can't expect everything.
Perhaps the main reason I'm not a fan of love triangles is that I believe most are poorly contrived ways to keep the readers invested in the characters and their relationships. I'd even go so far as to say that some love triangles seem to develop the characters more through their convoluted relationships to others than through the personal development of that specific character. I mention this because a pretty substantial love triangle forms during the course of Clockwork Prince. Of course it centers around our protagonist Tessa. And of course the two romantic interests are Will and Jem, not only Shadowhunter friends but also parabatai. Their bonds of friendship and brotherhood should be more important than any romantic feelings. The added complication that the love triangle features two players whose bonds should be stronger than life itself bothered me to no end. It is also completely obvious that Tessa prefers one of the boys more, yet instead of doing anything, she's simply wracked with guilt. By the conclusion of the book, Clare has guaranteed that any amicable resolution to this romantic entanglement is near impossible.
The Infernal Devices will never be among my favorite YA fantasy series — in part, I think, due to the fact that I'm no longer a teen. Although this book had its fair share of annoyances, I have enjoyed the experience of actually reading both Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince so far. I definitely plan on reading Clockwork Princess upon its release.