The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare
My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars and A Lot of Romantic Swooning
Let me get it out of the way up front: This series made me “squeeeeeeeeee” like a fifteen-year old fangirl! I admit it. I’m a hopeless romantic, and a growing fan of steampunk, and the series worked for me on every level. It was crazy good, for what it is. Is it “Great Literature?” Probably not. Do I care? Definitely not. Why? Because I was pulled into the world from the very first book, Clockwork Angel, and wasn’t sent back to the merely mundane (pun intended) world until the last page of the last book, Clockwork Princess. And frankly, I really didn’t want to return to reality at all. I wanted the story to go on and on and on, kinda like the theme song from Titanic!
I have been a reader all my life, and I have read love stories by the greatest writers of our time…and before our time, as well. WAY before. There is a rumor going around that I was a Beta Reader for the Bronte sisters and helped Elizabeth Barrett Browning get the meter just right on several of her sonnets. Of course, I deny this. I’m old, but not quite THAT old. I have, however, plenty of experience with books of a far more literary nature. And I am here to tell you that none of that matters if I am reading something written in such a way that I connect with the characters on level like I did with this trilogy of books. The second book, Clockwork Prince, left me unable to sleep for nights after I finished it. I will never forget the tortured Will Herondale for the rest of my life. And I will also never forget the relationship he had with his parabatai (sort of like a blood brother, only more so), the dying Jem Carstairs. There is a powerful love story linking these two young men with the mysterious Tessa Gray, and my heart hurt for all three of them. But it is the love and commitment of the two boys that changes the dynamics of this tale so greatly. It is not your typical, formulaic Young Adult triangle, by any means, and the love shared by all three characters is heart-wrenching and powerful. It is all the things you want a love story to be. Setting the tale in gritty Victorian London, with elements of steampunk woven in perfectly, just makes the story even more compelling.
The Infernal Devices books are a prequel to Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. I will say that I almost missed out on this second series, because I was NOT pulled into the first two books of the Mortal Instruments tales. But, shallow person that I am, I picked up Clockwork Angel because…ready?…it was PURTY! The cover was simply beautiful. It sort of mesmerized me as I stood in the aisle of Books-A-Million, and I could not resist buying the book, even if I thought it might end up as mere Shelf Candy. I needn’t have worried.
I have said many times that good Young Adult books should be written with exactly the same maturity and quality as any good fiction, only with less sex, violence and language. In other words, they should be written the way books used to be written, before sex, violence and language became an integral part of our culture in such an obvious way. This doesn’t mean I’m always offended by those elements in books. It merely means that a well-written book doesn’t have to have them in order to be worth the read, and I appreciate writers who are able to tell a compelling story without resorting to them. Cassandra Clare accomplished just that. And she wrote one astonishingly romantic love scene in particular, that took my breath away, without a trace of anything graphic. It worked to perfection. In fact, it will probably become my Gold Standard for love scenes for a long time.
I won’t say Cassandra Clare’s writing was lyrical or poetic, but it was strong and imaginative, and her characters were real enough that I expected them to step off of the pages and into my living room at any moment. And from time to time, there were lines of dialog that were profoundly beautiful. Plus the final book, Clockwork Princess, brought some twists and turns I never saw coming. Maybe I was blinded by the tragedy and romance, but I don’t think so. I think it was just a very cleverly conceived story.
One warning for those really romantic souls like myself. You will cry. Probably a lot. Forego the mascara while reading the series. Will Herondale’s character is this generation’s Heathcliff. Jem’s story is gut-wrenchingly sad as well. I cried more over these books than I have since I read The English Patient. No, I’m not comparing them to that type of literature. I’m just saying that they had an enormous impact on my emotions. But because there is redemption for all, often in unexpected ways, the series manages to avoid being depressing, in spite of all the pain and sadness involved through much of it.
If you are a fan of love stories, and are intrigued by elements of steampunk, I recommend these books without reservation. Definitely my favorite reads of the last year or so!
See, I told you I was squeeeeeing like a fangirl.
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