Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

My third audio book and another fantastic audio experience!  I purchased this at when they were having their massive sale in January. The driving factor in this purchase was that Jennifer Ehle was narrator and that Ed Westwick had narrated the sequel, Clockwork Prince.  Clockwork Angel is the first book in the Infernal Devices series which is the prequel to the Mortal Instruments series.  Follow all that?  I have not read the Mortal Instruments series or anything else by Clare so my opinions are completely limited to this single novel.

Sixteen year old Tessa Gray boards a ship from New York to London after her aunt’s death to live with her brother, Nathaniel.  Upon arriving, a mysterious carriage and two creepy sisters explain that they have been sent by her brother to pick her up – they even have a note from Nate.  We next find Tessa held captive by The Dark Sisters as they are prepping her to marry the Magister (whoever he is!) by teaching her how to use her secret power – the ability to shape shift into other people, dead or alive.  Right before she’s meant to be married off (completely against her will, obviously), a young man, Will, rescues her – bringing her to some place called ‘The Institution’, explaining that she is an ‘Underworlder’, and that he is a ‘Shadowhunter’.  What follows is an exciting romp as Tessa learns about this new world, her true identity, who has it out for her, and whatever happened to her dear brother.

I decided to leave the synopsis vague.  If you read YA, you already know about this book and if you don’t, I think you’ll have a better experience the less you know going in.  The story is exciting, expertly paced, and has really great action scenes that leap off the page.  This story would do well on the big screen.  Another plus – while there are vampires and other supernatural creatures in the story, this book is NOT a book about vampires.  Refreshing.

Tessa is a YA heroine I can enjoy.  She’s sassy, sharp-tongued, and not afraid to voice her opinion – for better or worse.  She also manages to keep the whining to a minimum.  The fact that she is a reader only makes her more lovable. I was less thrilled with the cliched love triangle between Tessa, Will, and Jem.  Thankfully, the romance plot line does not take centerstage and is content to sort of play in the background with just occasional starring moments.  Will plays the tortured soul bad boy with a mysterious past and Jem counters this by being sweet, open,and intelligent with a tragedy all his own.  If you know anything about me, you know I’m immediately Team Will (not that I do that kind of thing…nope, not me!).  Unfortunately, the romance brings nothing new to the table.

I adored the secondary characters who all come to life vibrantly and play vital roles.  A couple of twists along the way kept me turning the pages and I loved the decidedly steampunk vibe throughout.  Clare’s Victorian London comes alive with its rain, chill, and foggy mornings.  The worldbuilding is largely based in reality – seeing the extraordinary born out of the ordinary adds a layer of realism that is always welcome.

I’m not sure how much my experience was improved by listening rather than reading, although I suspect it did help.  Jennifer Ehle’s mastery of various accents brought the characters to life in a way they probably wouldn’t have in my head.  She’s a brilliant actress (and the best Elizabeth Bennett ever) and that definitely shows with her narration.  All 14 hours I spent listening were a delight.  I plan on listening to Clockwork Prince as well, but I’ve decided to read the Mortal Instruments series as a comparison.

While I don’t have a ton of reading experience in the YA genre, I wholeheartedly recommend this story and look forward to exploring the rest of Clare’s work.  The third Infernal Devices book, Clockwork Princess, is set to be released in September 2013.

Side note:  After reading, I was doing some research on the book’s history and discovered a ton of drama involving Cassandra Clare’s Harry Potter fanfiction and the issue of plagiarism.  I honestly don’t care what people do in fanfiction, so this in no way colored my reading and won’t in the future. 

Second Side note:  Does anyone go out and buy hardcopies of audio books they enjoyed?  Or am I all alone in this?