Octopus Review: Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare
genre: period, romance, paranormal
rating: 4.5/8 tentacles
**SEQUEL ALERT: BEWARE OF SPOILING CLOCKWORK ANGEL**
Our demon-killing, shape-shifting, cane-carrying, magic-wielding, corset-wearing, book-quoting friends are back!
Okay so let’s start with things I didn’t like so we can end on a positive note.
I found the plot of this novel to be much less well-crafted than Clare’s other work. I particularly like The Mortal Instruments series for its forward-moving plots that are centered on some kind of mystery or adventure—like where’s mom and who are these weirdos with pictures on their arms? I enjoy romance when it’s a subplot, but this trilogy’s romance is creeping into the forefront, greedily elbowing the actual plot out of its way. In Clockwork Prince, the Magister and the clockwork angel and Tessa’s unique abilities all take a backseat to her love triangle with Will and Jem. The romance is a spicy bonus but I’m reading the book because I want to know the secrets behind the Magister’s sinister scheming, why Tessa can shape shift, and who her parents were.
The one thing about Tessa that makes her interesting, that makes her stand out as a character, is the fact that she’s a shape shifter and had no knowledge of this fact until some demon sisters trained her to do it properly. She should be using this ability, exploring its possibilities. This is what I was looking forward to when I read Clockwork Prince, but Tessa only shape shifts three times in the whole book: twice because it’s part of a plan and once in the heat of battle. Why isn’t she sneaking around in other bodies, getting into scrapes, and spying on people? Why isn’t she using her skills for peronal gain or even just out of personal curiousity? It’s such a fun, promising idea that I’m surprised Clare didn’t do more with it. The subservient role of women in this time period lends itself to unique opportunities in this plot line.
I also had minor issues with some historical aspects of the novel. There was a kind of half-way attempt at period dialogue, but all Clare really did was use “shall” and get rid of contractions. I’m pretty sure that people used contractions in Victorian England. I think, with period speech, you either have to do research—which isn’t too hard, read some old letters or something—and really go for it, or you have write in the present day vernacular (avoiding obvious anachronisms) and it will just be understood that the character’s words are being translated in storytelling. Like in the movie Everafter. It’s set in medieval France, and yet everyone speaks with vaguely old-fashioned diction in English accents. It’s understood that the speech was adapted to aid the audience’s understanding. Maybe that’s what Clare was doing, but something about it felt off, or forced to me.
Clockwork Prince could have done with a little less classics-quoting. On the one hand, it’s interesting to know what was popular at the time and the books mentioned help set a historical backdrop. On the other hand, it’s a bit of a pet peeve of mine to read books that constantly quote other books. It feels a little bit like name dropping, or like a cheatery way to give the characters more depth.
Ta da! I’m done complaining.
I did like Clockwork Prince. Not as much as Clockwork Angel and definitely not as much as The Mortal Instruments, but I enjoyed it. It’s the kind of book that has this magnetic pull to it, that makes you think about it constantly when you’re not reading it, that makes you count down the minutes to the end of your work day even more urgently than usual because you have a book to get home to, that makes you stay up reading late into the night. I’m trying to think of specific praises to balance out my review full of criticisms and the robot battle scene was pretty cool and the Jessamine thing was intriguing (and oh my god I forgot to complain about Will’s secret but this is getting long), but I think this addictive quality is so wonderful and rare that it balances out all of the little flaws on its own.