I fully admit that I’d heard enough about Cassandra Clare and various fandom, fanfiction, Harry Potter related controversies (although I never read Harry Potter fanfiction in any form) that I was hesitant to even think about reading her published works.
I was very judgmental. And then I got over myself.
Having been in the Twilight fandom for a few years, I know that fandoms can be harsh, persnickety places where many people get inflated senses of themselves (and I don’t claim to be totally immune to this, I just hope I’m not as bad as some I’ve seen). Maybe Cassandra Clare was one of those types of people I ran away from in my fandom. Maybe I would have run away from the people who a little Googling will prove still hold a grudge. Maybe people got jealous that she catapulted her fanfiction into a lucrative and hugely popular line of books – which I imagine most of us fanfiction lovers dream of doing.
That’s not the point.
The point is that she wrote a bunch of books that a bunch of people told me were really good and that interested me so I got over myself and dived in. And this is my review of The Infernal Devices trilogy.
I know there’s a whole order to how one is “supposed” to read The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices but if you know me at all you’ll know that I don’t do things the way they’re “supposed” to be done. This time I credit my bucking of the system, and it is a true credit because it worked out perfectly, to my sister who told me I should read The Infernal Devices first because I love history and these books are historical fiction. Thanks, sis!
The Clockwork Angel was just a little bit slow getting started, I’ll say that. It helped to remember that it was a trilogy so I knew the plot would span three fairly good sized books, thereby allowing for a bit of a slower introduction. The Clockwork Prince, and I admit I’m still not totally sure who the title refers to (anyone know?), is the staple of these young adults series in that the love triangle takes center stage. The Clockwork Princess is a rollercoaster of emotions that brings the trilogy to an absolutely satisfying conclusion.
That is the series in a nutshell but there’s more than just a nutshell here.
The antagonists; automatons and so-called infernal devices and their creator, is steampunk (and these are my first steampunk books, a very good start) and Clare lays it out in such a way that it makes sense, it’s believable, and it carries through all three books. It could have fallen flat but it doesn’t.
The idea of an Institute and a Clave of Shadowhunters who protect regular humans from so-called Downworlders; vampires, werewolves, warlocks, and the like, fits in with the ever popular ideas of the supernatural. It’s heavy on Heaven and angels (Shadowhunters being born of angels) but it’s not heavy in a preachy, religious sort of way. Mentions of heaven and angels are used in such a way that they work with the ancient ideas of something holy being the only thing that can counter the things humanity has always been afraid of.
The three main characters; Tessa Gray, Jem Carstairs, and Will Herondale, are the love triangle. Clare hasn’t let it be that simple, though. Far more important, I think, than whether Tessa finds love with Jem or with Will is the friendship between the boys. That’s what I love about these books – the relationship between Will and Jem. That’s what made me keep turning the pages. The moments when Will begs Jem not to die and leave him alone, those are the things that made me misty-eyed.
It seems strange to say that since the book is centered on her but it’s true. She’s not the strongest character. Her relationships with the other characters are not the strongest relationships. She supports the larger story, she is the larger story, but she does not make the larger story.
There is a larger story there, one that I will read again and again. No doubt about that.