Monday, September 20, 2010

A Confession (and my review of Cassandra Clare's latest)

I may have accidentally, possibly, blacked out in the bookstore.

Really. There's no other explanation for how I ended up with Cassandra Clare's City of Ashes AND City of Glass on the passenger seat of my car when I haven't even finished City of Bones yet. I mean, I work in a library, I could just check them out, right? Apparently not.

I think it was book fumes. The smell of paper and ink? Book fumes.

Yeah. That was it. The fumes were too strong, and I succumbed to them. Book fumes convinced me that I needed to OWN the first three books of The Mortal Instruments, not just to read them.


The first book, City of Bones?

Yeah. I bought that too. But--it was on a different day! It isn't my fault!

Okay, well, it kind of is...but there's an explanation!

See, I read Clockwork Angel.

And it was really, really good. Seriously good. And it was more than just me liking the whole Victorian setting, much more. I could not put it down. It was fantastic, addictive, I couldn't get enough. And when I finished it, I was talking with some of my book-lover friends, and they were shocked to hear I hadn't read The Mortal Instruments books yet. Frankly, so was I. Because the second I put down Clockwork Angel, I thought, "Hey! maybe there are parallels between the two series! I need to know about them, don't I? Don't I?" And by the time I'd finished that sentence, I had City of Bones in my hands and was on my way out of Walmart. The truth is, I think I just needed more Cassandra Clare, not another episode of Laura's Fun with Literary Analysis.

I mean, Clockwork Angel is wonderful! I loved it. Really loved it. It's the kind of book I like to read instead of watching television, because I hate commercials so much, I stopped watching television. TV on DVD, all the way.


You want me to talk about Clockwork Angel? While avoiding spoilery?

Well, I think that can be arranged.

Lots of people urged me to read The Mortal Instruments, but I have a LLLOOOOONNNNGGGG list of books to read. It's really long. But Clockwork Angel is a new series, and it's actually set BEFORE The Mortal Instruments, so I thought I'd be okay starting with Clockwork Angel first.

It was more than okay. I never felt confused about anything Shadowhunter-y. So don't worry about reading Clockwork Angel first.

Naturally, I can't tell you if it's a better idea to read one series before starting the other, but I can say with great confidence that Clockwork Angel in no way spoils City of Bones (or the first 255 pages of City of Ashes I don't think I've put these books down since buying them). I doubt it spoils anything.

I might be a tad biased. I LOVE Victorian literature. I am also quite fond of contemporary works set in the Victorian era.

Clockwork Angel follows Tessa Gray, newly arrived in London. Tessa believes she is meeting her brother, but instead she meets up with the Dark Sisters, who claim Tessa's brother sent them to escort her to her new home.

Unfortunately for Tessa, the Dark Sisters kidnap her and force her to develop a supernatural talent Tessa never knew she possessed. Tessa attempts to escape, and in the process meets up with Shadowhunters Will and Jem (Jem! *swoons*), who bring her to London's Institute, where she will be safe while they work to determine why she was kidnapped, what the Dark Sisters were planning, and what force the sisters served.

All that is paraphrased from the publisher's blurb. No spoilers.

Now I will say my piece, avoiding spoilers.

One fault I often find with many contemporary books with historical settings is that characters often think or behave in a way contrary to what was socially acceptable during the time they lived. Cassandra Clare does not in any way, shape, or form fall into this trap. She gives us a simple and elegant explanation for her characters' "modern" behavior: The Shadowhunter world is set apart from the mundane world. So, Shadowhunter relationships are without the strict social separation between classes. Mercifully for Tessa, Shadowhunters are also more open to women (HOORAY!). Tessa is permitted far more freedom at the Institute than she could have had anywhere else. That little explanation makes the whole book tons of fun to read, even after all the classes I took in college that stressed the strict social order and the lack of women's rights through history. Believe it or not, it was this solution that made me love Clockwork Angel as much as I do.

Character analysis time.

Tessa is American, brought over to a new country and, sadly, left alone and friendless. I immediately liked her. Why? She loves to read! Moreover, Tessa is the kind of protagonist YA lit (and every other genre of literature) thrives on. She isn't the most beautiful girl in the room, she's nervous about taking on new challenges and meeting strange people, she misses her brother and her aunt, and she makes mistakes. That means readers like you and me have an easy time relating to Tessa. We can see ourselves being her friend, or even BEING Tessa, were we dropped in a foreign country and left to fend for ourselves in the 1800's. Tessa makes Clockwork Angel appealing from the moment you pick it up.

I often wanted to clout Will, because he ought to know better. Also because he shouldn't act the way he does with people who care about him. He's arrogant, overconfident, and narcissistic--on the surface. We can only guess what Will is really like. I think something Very Bad happened to Will, and he doesn't want to deal, so he stalks the streets of London with his weapons looking for a fight. I think he's trying to atone for...something. If he would just start being kind...But I can relax, because Cassandra Clare mentioned on Twitter that Will would be smacked about in the future, so I won't have to think about doing it myself all the time.

I adore Jem (And not just because he's well behaved around Tessa). He's compassionate and a true gentleman. In Tessa's day, that was a Big Deal. I think it's a Big Deal NOW. He opens up to Tessa about his storied past rather than KEEPING SECRETS (*cough* Will), and what he went through only makes me like him more. But Jem has problems of his own. I only hope he can solve them before--

I stopped myself, see?

There is also some question (in my view) as to whether Jem told us--Tessa, that is--the whole truth. But that might just be my own paranoia...

Cassandra Clare can be very proud of Clockwork Angel. She's totally won me over. I am hooked. And with the sheer volume of books she has coming out in the next two years alone, we won't be left waiting for long.

If you want to ask question or chat about the book with Cassandra Clare (and who wouldn't? I have!) go to Goodreads and join in the discussion


BookendGirl said...

Good review! I enjoyed it.

wabashteens said...

Thank you! I'm glad you liked it!