Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Princess
by Cassandra Clare
Read: March 20-21, 2013
Published: March 19, 2013 by Margaret K. McElderry Books 
Source: Purchase
Category: Urban Fantasy, YA
Series: The Infernal Devices (TID) book 3

Note: Clockwork Princess is the third book in a series. My review is (mostly) spoiler free for the first two books in the series. I do give warning at the part with spoilers, but read below at your own discretion. My thoughts are safe for the final book. 

Danger and betrayal, secrets and enchantment in the breathtaking conclusion to the Infernal Devices trilogy

Tessa Gray should be happy - aren't all brides happy?
Yet as she prepares for her wedding, a net of shadows begins to tighten around the Shadowhunters of the London Institute.
A new demon appears, one linked by blood and secrecy to Mortmain, the man who plans to use his army of pitiless automatons, the Infernal Devices, to destroy the Shadowhunters. Mortmain needs only one last item to complete his plan. He needs Tessa. And Jem and Will, the boys who lay equal claim to Tessa's heart, will do anything to save her. (From Goodreads)


"You know that feeling," she said, "when you are reading a book, and you know that it is going to be a tragedy; you can feel the cold and darkness coming, see the net drawing close around the characters who live and breathe on the pages. But you are tied to the story as if being dragged behind a carriage, and you cannot let go or turn the course aside."
This was essentially how Tessa and I approached the last book in Cassandra Clare's Infernal Devices series. If you follow my blog at all you know that I have a pathological dislike of love triangles. I think the third book is where they usually fall apart, and I was upset by another triangle series that recently concluded that I had previously adored. Because this series has the trickiest love situation I have ever seen, I was very wary about starting Clockwork Princess. Thankfully, I have thus far had tremendous faith in Clare’s writing. I know she plots her series mercilessly, so I was hopeful that she would give her characters the ending they deserve, and that while undoubtedly painful, it would also be satisfying.  In the end, I believe she accomplished exactly that

Of course, Ms. Clare doesn't make anything easy for her readers. Going into the final book in this series, she had created an impressively complicated knot of love between Will, Jem and Tessa. Let's break it down. Beware of SPOILERS for the previous 2 books in the listing, skip to the paragraph below this section if you haven't read them. 

Jem loves Tessa.
Tessa loves Jem.
Will also loves Tessa.
Tessa loves Will too.
Will and Jem are best friends and parabati.
Jem and Tessa are engaged.
Jem does not know that Will loves Tessa.
Will does not know that Tessa loves him back.
Jem does not know that Tessa loves Will.
Jem is dying. There is no cure for his disease.
Jem dying will destroy Will.
Jem dying will destroy Tessa.
Will is determined not to benefit from Jem’s death and will not be with Tessa when Jem is gone. 

I don't think the fact that Tessa (and I) thought that she was barreling towards an enormous precipice of tragedy is that unreasonable under the circumstances. However, for me, the more important point about this complicated love triangle, and what has set it apart from any triangle I've read before, is the fact that it is a true three-way relationship. Will, Tessa and Jem all love each other. If one of them falls, they ALL loose something. Throughout this story, I was continually amazed at how strongly Clare was able to emotionally tie them all together - and me to them. Even more, none of them had absolute power over the others, which is the case in most triangles where the girl is the one holding all the cards and essentially has to pick which heart to break. Every decision/outcome came with a sacrifice for all of them. 

Another part of this story that I loved, for itself and also for how it enhanced the love triangle, was the Victorian setting. Clare (for the most part) kept her characters mentally within the confines of that world. People living in Victorian England lived under a very different set of social rules than we do today, including a strict code of propriety and decorum. I think the historical time period helped me to focus on the high emotional content of the triangle, without suffering through some of the more annoying features of most love triangles (i.e. a constant back and forth between the two guys). Don't get me wrong, there are some great kissing+ scenes throughout this series, involving both guys. But that wasn't the focus of this series, as much as how their love for one another impacted each individual relationship. I think the story worked better because of that. 

Although for me, the main focus of Clockwork Princess – at least emotionally – was the love triangle, that is in no way all that happens in this book. These characters face very stressful life and death situations outside of their own personal dramas, especially from Mortmain and his Infernal Devices. Amazingly, Clare ties off all the loose end from the previous books (including questions about Tessa's origins), and answer new ones from this book. There are also lots of incredible secondary characters, who have their own relationship issues, all of whose stories I was highly invested in. One of my favorite parts of this book was seeing the small connections between this series and the Mortal Instruments. You aren’t missing anything if you’ve not read both series, but it was a fun addition to the plot. 

Clockwork Princess is Cassandra Clare's strongest written book. The story took me longer than it should have to read, because I was  focusing so much on her characters' incredible words and thoughts. Clare has said that this series is a loose retelling of A Tale of Two Cities, and the way that Dickens' story weaves into this one, was particularly moving. One thing that continues to impress me about this author is how well she knows the inside of her characters, and as a result how very complex they all are.  But most of all I appreciate the grace she has shown to Tessa, Will and Jem. Although this book is incredibly heartbreaking at times, and each of the three carries burdens and faces impossible sacrifices, I felt like they all would be proud of their place in this story and in each others' lives. 

Love Triangle Factor: HIGH all around - but I still loved this book*!
Cliffhanger Scale: Series conclusion. Loose ends are tied. No room for a sequel for these characters. 

A personal note: As much as I loved this book, I still don't really understand love triangles. Although I got caught up in Tessa's world, and can completely understand how you can love multiple people in your lifetime, I rolled my eyes a few times at how much Tessa was equally in love with both guys at the same time. I truly wanted it to work out for all of them - which is a testament to how well Clare crafted her characters and their story, but I think my heart will always romantically choose one over the other. But that just explains how amazing this series is, because I still believe that this triangle was extremely well done and satisfying, and that you should read it.  


  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed this book, Lauren, and that you were able to help me with so much of it as well. I think it's amazing that so many readers were so overjoyed by this conclusion and I wish I was one of them. I feel like love triangles can just never work out with me - I have yet to read one that has - but maybe, someday, one will. Wonderful review, dear, and seriously, THANK YOU for all the e-mails! ;)

    1. I love discussing books with you, K! But I'm really sad that this one didn't work for you. I understand your love triangle burden, including your thoughts in relation to this book. But I still loved it. However, I doubt another series like this will come along for me. Mostly triangles drive me nuts!

  2. Gorgeous review! Mine is mostly rambling, but you are so concise and eloquent in yours. I only just finished yesterday, so I probably should have given myself time to digest it before writing up a review, but I might have said more than I should have otherwise. ;) I, too, loved seeing little details from TMI appear in these books, though I definitely prefer this series. :D

    1. Thanks, Jen! I totally understand the feeling of just finishing a book, and having all sorts of jumbled thoughts. And also being afraid to say too much. I haven't read your review yet, but I doubt it's as you describe! I agree that this is a better written/stronger series, but I do have a soft spot for TMI, and I'm looking forward to CoHF. So happy that you loved this one as much as I did!

  3. It is SO hard to write a spoiler free review and you did such a great job! I agree with a lot of your general thoughts on triangles. I think the main reason they annoy me is that a) they often seem to come out of nowhere and b) as Jen above has stated, they often give one person all the power. This was NOT the case here and it worked for me. Mostly. 97%.

    1. Thanks, Jen. You're right. It's so tough not to let everything spill out on paper. But I'm thankful to have been able to discuss this book more in full with you - that was helpful. You know that I fully agree with your statement about the annoyance of love triangles. Grrr. Glad you enjoyed this one as well, though.

  4. I am so glad that you found this to be a fitting conclusion to the trilogy, Lauren! You know my thoughts on this love triangle - it may be super complex, but I'm still not a fan - but I'm hoping that Clare will make me appreciate it more in this final book. That also makes me feel quite a bit better knowing that she really has plotted her series well and seems to have planned how everything would end up. I can't wait to read this myself! :)

    1. I'm very curious about your thoughts on this one, Amanda. Especially, because you've read the books much closer together than I have. I'll definitely be checking out your review when you get your hands on a copy.

      Knowing that an author plots her series is definitely comforting, at leas you know that the book wasn't thrown together in a rush without thought to where it was going. However, that also means that if it doesn't go your way, it really just means that you and the author's vision do not match up, and sometimes it's better to move on from them. I hope that this does work for you, though.

  5. Stellar review, L!! Wow. I love that first part where you broke down the love triangle! That was awesome! And my heart is already breaking for poor Jem and I haven't even read CP2 yet! I am so scared to start this book (and so ready at the same time!)

    I'm really impressed that you think this is Clare's best written work to date. Strong praise indeed. Well after the last series wrap up, which did not end well in either of our opinion's, I am SO very happy this one is a success:)

    1. I can't wait to talk about this one with you, Heather. Hope your schedule clears enough for you to read it soon! CC certainly created a tough situation here. Will! Jem! Tessa! AHHHH the madness.

      I do think that this series is stronger and more cohesive than TMI - also more mature, though I love that one too. There are also some really beautiful/profound statements in this story as well. Of course you also get standard Clare writing - lots of beautiful faces with planes and angles. But that is also part of it.

  6. Such a beautiful review! I was waiting to hear your thoughts because I know you are not a fan of love triangles. I agree about what makes this one so unique is the three-way love that all have for each other. Will and Jem might not have had a romantic love, but it was unconditional and just as strong. I also think this is Clare's strongest book. It makes me more excited for this new series after TMI. :)

    1. Thanks, Sara. Yes. Unconditional love between Will and Jem made this book stand out. Even when you read love triangles that feature brothers, they're rarely as close as these two are. I'm so thankful that CC took time to cultivate that as much as their relationship with Tessa. Also, YES! Lots more Shadowhunter fun to come.

  7. Trickiest love situation you've ever seen? - WOW.
    I skipped almost the entire review because you know how I love to be as spoiler free as possible and I could see that you've listed out *something* so I read the first and last paragraphs. I didn't realize this was loosely based on A Tale of Two Cities. This makes me EVEN MORE excited to restart this series and is that even possible? I don't even know. I'm first in line for this book at the library and I own the first two. I really wanted to audiobook this series, but I'm not gonna let the fact that there is a line for the audiobooks get in the way of reading it when the book finally comes in at the library. AS SOON as they call me, I'm getting in my car and going to get it. I feel like I've been waiting forever. FOREVER. And after BEA, I'm lifting my print book ban! (which is fairly loose anyway)

    Your fine print makes me chuckle. :)

    1. So you started this series, but didn't continue it? I need to find out how far you got. Yes. She wrote this as a loose retelling of the classic and the characters talk about it throughout the series, and especially in this book. Have you ever actually read A Tale of Two Cities? I know you and British classics ;). Though I think I first learned that story by watching an episode of Wishbone. Do you remember that? The dog who acted out classic books. I've heard the audio book of this one is FANTASTIC, though it's a different reader from Ed Westick who did earlier books. I hope you do start this one soon and that it is a better experience for you than that other love triangle series *ahem*.

  8. I finished Clockwork Princess last night and was an absolute wreck. I managed to go through the whole book without crying but then I reached the epilogue and just crumpled on the ground into a sobering mess. Really I couldn’t control the tears as they fell…THE FEELS!
    I love how you point out the victorian setting definetly helped benefit the love triangle in this book because I also felt it really did. I was a definite Will shipper in this book but i have the say I loved how the love traingle reall felt like a love traingle and that like you said "if one falls they all do" because it's extremely true and I loved how that just made the triangle seem that much more real. There were certain parts throughout the whole series I felt she might have loved one boy in parituclar more but the whole ending to the series really was just beautiful.

    Lily @lilysbookblog

  9. Seeing it all listed like this made my head spin! And god, I loved that quote you started your review with. Clare really DID find perfect words for her own book.
    Like you, I dislike love triangles on general principle, but there was just something about this one that truly worked. Perhaps it was the lack of jealousy from everyone involved. Perhaps it was that they ALL loved each other. I wouldn't know. I just know it broke my heart against all odds.
    Wonderful review!

  10. Man, I really need to start reading this series! AMAZING review, btw. I had to skip the list because I haven't read the previous two books, but that will be remedied soon :) It sounds like a great series. And I love heartbreaking books so I can't wait for the emotional ride. Great review, Lauren!

    Sunny @ Blue Sky Bookshelf


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