June 21, 2013

Review: Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare
Published: 2013, Margaret K. McElderry Books
Series: The Infernal Devices, #3
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fantasy
Source: Library book
Contains spoilers for Clockwork Angel (my review) and Clockwork Prince (my review)
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“And maybe you should stop pitying yourself,” he said. “Most people are lucky to have even one great love in their life. You have found two.” 

By no means do I consider myself a diehard fan of Cassandra Clare's writing. I read the first (and maybe the second, honestly I don't remember) books of The Mortal Instruments and just lost interest in them. The main reason I decided to pick up The Infernal Devices series at the end of last year was that there was a definite ending in sight, and it was a series that so many of my friends and trusted reviewers seemed to love. Plus setting the story in pseudo-Victorian England didn't hurt.

I enjoyed the first book quite a bit. And then I read the second book and was introduced to the infamous love triangle between Tessa, Will, and Jem. I'll grant that the love triangle is more unique than most found in YA fare these days, but still I was not a fan of that aspect. But there was still enough good and entertaining within the second book that I knew without a doubt I'd have to read Clockwork Princess and see how everything ends.

Mortmain is still on the loose with his ever-expanding army of automatons called the Infernal Devices. And is it now known without a doubt that his mission is to exterminate the Shadowhunters for all the wrongs they did to his adoptive family. Coupled with the threat of Mortmain, many other challenges face the members of the London Clave. Charlotte continues to be harried by the Consul of all Shadowhunters, who wants nothing more than to get her removed from her position. Tessa is engaged to be married to Jem, and yet she cannot deny that she has intense feelings for Will. Will and Jem may have a bond stronger than blood, but is that enough? A storm is coming, one that leaves identities, lives, and love hanging in the balance.

Easily the strongest point of Clare's writing is her characterization, as it has always been for this series. Clare is an author who clearly spends a lot of time making sure she really understands her own characters, and then making sure her readers also have the opportunity to understand them, their motivations, their dreams. A major question this series poses is Tessa's identity. Is she a mundane? A Shadowhunter? A Downworlder? Something else entirely? When this question is finally answered, it feels almost anticlimactic. After all, Tessa's genetics aren't what draw me to her character, but the character traits that define her: her loyalty, her love of literature, her calm demeanor, her kindness. The same can be said for Will, Jem, and all of the other characters. They're all incredibly well-drawn, and I did appreciate continually learning little facets about their personalities throughout the series.

Not quite as believable as the characters themselves are the relationships they form. I speak primarily of the Tessa-Jem-Will love triangle. I may get a little spoilery in my thoughts, so you've been warned. Honestly, Clare seemed to allude to stronger feelings between Tessa and Will from the very beginning. It wasn't until Jem proposed to Tessa in Clockwork Prince and she accepted that I felt like Tessa gave any indication that she cared for Jem in a romantic way. And even after reading Clockwork Princess, I'm still not sure I really buy Tessa having strong romantic feelings for Jem. Their subtle, sweet feelings for one another seem more suited for a good friendship than a lasting romance. I think that's one of the reasons I became such an ardent supporter of Jem; he's really such a good person and doesn't deserve to have been treated so by Will and Tessa. All three of them do make questionable choices with regard to one another, more than once. I felt as though I did understand their actions, at least to some degree. And certain things that infuriated other readers didn't faze me. What upset me the most is that I felt as though Jem kept ending up with the short shaft, but then I guess that helps make the point that Tessa and Will really do deserve each other.

While reading Clockwork Princess, I got the sense that Clare was trying to end the series in a way that would make her readers satisfied, and therein lies the rub. It's not that I am opposed to series ending with a sense of closure, but there can be such a thing as too much closure. In fact, I found the greatest flaw of Clockwork Princess just to be a sheer amount of excess. I really didn't need to read about every minute event from a rotating cast of around ten narrators. I really don't expect for every narrating character to be perfectly matched with a love interest by the end of the book. And I really didn't need that epilogue. Sometimes it's nice when authors trust their readers at least a little, knowing that readers are generally capable of filling in the gaps. It was more than a little frustrating, perhaps even demeaning, to see storyline after storyline tied up in a neat bow and hand-presented to the readers.

I suppose the benefit of so much resolution is that we readers can be confident in the fact that Clare knows exactly how she wants her story to be interpreted. She leaves little room for ambiguities related to the major questions: Tessa's origins, the battle against Mortmain, Jem's chronic illness, Will's strained relationship with his family, and Tessa's romantic entanglements, are all addressed, among others. I do appreciate the fact that Clare clearly was not winging this series, but I just want a little (or a lot) more left for the readers to infer.

Another slight point of contention I found was my lack of knowledge on the published books in Clare's other series, The Mortal Instruments, really felt like a detriment by the time I finished The Infernal Devices. I get that the series take place in the same world, but they should should be unique series not really tied to one another, and it was frustrating to feel like my appreciation of this series is dulled because I'm not as familiar with another series. If I ever do read more Clare in the future, I think I'll wait for books set outside of this world.

Clockwork Princess is a book I can see being both praised and criticized. On a superficial level, I do think it accomplishes all that Clare intended to do with her series. All major questions are answered, everything ends very smoothly. And yet...that's nothing like real life. I want to be able to relate to all stories that I read, whether or not they take place in "the real world." Parts of the conclusion could perhaps be viewed as bittersweet, I suppose, but there was ultimately a little too much sweet for me, which I ended up equating to not enough trust placed in the readers.

Rating: 2.5 stars
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Amanda loves few things better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a book. She frequently stays up far too late, telling herself she just needs to finish one more page. When she's not wrapped up in the stories of others, Amanda works as a children's librarian in a public library.


  1. I think you're one of the few people who are not that excited about Cassandra Clare's books. I've only read raving reviews until now. :) I must say that I haven't read any of her series, although I have them both and I've promised myself countless times that I'd get to them. I'm still wondering if I should read the first book of "The Mortal Instruments" before the movie comes out...

    1. Yup, I'm the black sheep on this one lol. And I'd definitely give the first book in TMI a try! It's a fast read and still entertaining!

  2. THANK YOU. I'm not alone in my frustrated feelings towards this novel. It definitely DID feel as if Clare tried to please her readers and while I love Jem as a person, I didn't love him for Tessa and their entire plot line was so weak. Not to mention Jem didn't deserve a lot of things in this one. *sigh* I won't be reading much more of Clare in the future, that's for sure. And wonderful review, Amanda. :)

    1. You are definitely not, Keertana. I love Jem as a person and because of that I ended up just spending so much time feeling angry towards Tessa and Will on his behalf. They were doing more harm than good by denying their feelings to one another and putting him through it. Thank you for making me feel not quite like a freak and all alone in these feelings lol.

  3. I do agree with you about the epilogue. I really loved this book overall (though that probably isn't too surprising as Clare's writing seems to work miraculously well for me) but that ending left me a little conflicted. It did feel like she was trying to satisfy all parties, which may not have been the wisest approach. Sorry it didn't quite work for you in the end, but really lovely review! Very clear and articulate. :)

    1. I can totally see how Clare can work for certain people. She used to for me, but something's changed since then and she doesn't really anymore, which is sad. But thank you, Sam! I'm glad my point came across (and hopefully not in an unkind way). This is just one of those unfortunate situations, I guess.

  4. I care less about who a main character ends up with in love triangle and more about how it was revolved. I like closure and I dislike it when the deciding character is indecisive and wishy-washy.
    I was 90% happy with the way this series ended up -- I can't say what my issue was without spoilers.
    My favorite part of this series by far was the relationship between Jem and Will. YA books don't have nearly enough guy friendships!

    Jen @ YA Romantics

    1. That is true. I do love what Will and Jem have - I just wish it wasn't so affected by both of their relationships with Tessa. And I agree about the resolution of the triangle being important. I want to know why someone is chosen and have it make sense. Which this series did, to a degree.
      And oh I'm so curious what your issue with this series was now!

  5. Well, I may be the sole dissenter in your comments because I LOVED this book and loved the way it turned out. I won't spoil here in the comments but to say that like you I was very Team Jem throughout the run of this series.

    And I normally LOATHE epilogues but REALLY loved the epilogue in this book. And like Jen commented, the relationship between Jem and Will was just so beautifully written. I loved it just as much as the romance between Tessa, Jem and Will (I think that is another reason why I loved the epilogue.) Maybe I am overly emotional when it comes to these characters but I cried and cried (I know you are probably rolling your eyes right now, Amanda:)as I read the last few chapters of this book and I am NOT normally a crier! I guess I was just so invested:)

    Another good thing that came out of my reading and loving this series was it renewed my interest in The Mortal Instruments. I read the first 4 books, but as so often is the case with book series that stretch on, I grew bored. After finishing Clockwork Princess I'm now excited to get back to that earlier series.

    Plus I always need more Magnus Bane in my life:)

    1. Trust me, you're not the sole dissenter here, Heather. :) And that's totally fine with me. I love discussing differing points of view with other readers.
      hah I didn't roll my eyes, I promise! I just feel like part 1 of Tessa's life ended so quickly, if you know what I mean. She made her choice at the end of the book and then in the epilogue it's already over. I needed more than that as a reader.
      That's great you are going back to TMI now. Renewing interest in a series is always a good thing. I did like Magnus. He's an interesting character for sure. Worth reading the novellas?


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