Clockwork Princess - Cassandra Clare

Unmarked spoilers for Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince follow.


So, here it is. The final book of the Infernal Devices Trilogy. The end of one of only two YA series that I've ever finished (the other one being The Hunger Games). And... it was okay? It could've been worse? Everyone was promising something gut-wrenching, something heartbreaking, something huge, and I don't really think I ever got that. As with City of Glass, Clare has made a really good buildup to a really disappointing finale.


There were things I liked. Plenty of them, actually. The thing that comes immediately to mind is Clare's great prose. The prose associates itself with the era its written in while still being comprehensible to today's readers, and in that regard, it couldn't have been better. It also had some very nice flourishes, it flowed really well, and some of it was just downright beautiful. There is a slight lack of editing that I never noticed before, most memorably when a character is referred to by the wrong name. But it was a small issue; for the most part, Clare's writing is on par with her typical level of quality.


But my feelings about the rest of the book are a lot more conflicted. The biggest problem I can think of off hand is Clare's handling of the love triangle. In Clockwork Prince, it was awesome. I wanted so badly to think that after the reveal of Will's curse, that he wasn't actually a jackass, coupled with Jem's proposal... I wanted so badly to think that Clare knew what she was doing, where this all was going.


I didn't get that reassurance.


Upon reading the second half of the book, I knew right away that I was wrong; that Clare didn't know how to resolve this, that she didn't know what she was doing. Instead, my feelings are one big [spoiler]beam of disappointment. WHY THE FUCK WOULD WILL AND TESSA DO IT AFTER JEM DIED? No. Fuck no. I simply cannot get passed that, which is why I'm breaking my formal streak for this paragraph. Tessa had just found out that her fiance had died, Will was still getting over the loss of his Parabatai, WHY THE FUCK WOULD THEY BETRAY HIM LIKE THAT SO IMMEDIATELY? That is the opposite of slow-burning, that is the opposite of realistic development, that is the opposite of LOGIC. I was also a bit disappointed that Tessa didn't have to chose between Will and Jem; of course she got a long life with both. I was really looking forward to how Clare would handle the choice, especially considering Jem's death, but to have him not actually die, to have him be able to be with Tessa after Will's death... it was all a cop-out.[/spoiler]


The interactions of the secondary characters were far better written, to the point where I wanted them to be the main characters instead of Will and Jem and Tessa. In particular, I enjoyed Cecily, Will's sister. Her coming to terms with the Shadowhunters, with the loss of Will's innocence... it was all beautifully done. I also liked the Lightwood brothers, Gabriel in particular; it makes me feel bad for pinning him as an asshole back in Clockwork Angel. All of them were just as well-developed as the leads (minus the still relatively-underdeveloped Tessa), and I'm glad that Clare does feel the need to flesh out her minor characters; it's something that not a whole lot of authors do. Moreover, the side characters' interactions were far better handled, particularly in the second half. (For the first half, the love triangle actually wasn't that bad, if not a little repetitive.) And yes, there are some similarities to characters from The Mortal Instruments (particularly in Sophie being like Maia), but it's a much smaller issue here.


In terms of plotting... this book was a massive failure for me. For the first half, the pacing was unbelievably slow. Granted, Clare's books have never been incredibly fast, but she normally puts the slow pacing to good use, in terms of character development and the like. That's not the case here, to say the least. In the first half, even less happened than the normal Clare-standard, and the character interactions got a little repetitive after a while. Once the second half started, it was better, in terms of pacing, but things relied largely on characters (namely Will) acting hugely deviant from their personalities, and the ending was an enormous anti-climax.


The ending was... better than I expected, I'll say that. And up until the epilogue, I actually thought I'd be really satisfied with it. City of Glass was a happy ending in almost every way possible; other than <spoiler>Max's death</spoiler>, there were no sacrifices made, nothing standing in the way of the happily ever after. That didn't appear to be the case here.

Sure, Jem was alive (via dues ex machina cop-out), but he was a Silent Brother; Will and Tessa could only see him once a year. Plus, Will would die, eventually, and Tessa never would.

(show spoiler)

 This would've been a wonderful ending. Phenomenal. I would've gotten a sense of happiness, but not everything was perfect; as with real life, there were sacrifices. But then the epilogue came.

Through an even bigger dues ex machina cop-out than before, Jem is no longer a Silent Brother. How? Why? Don't ask me. All I know is that NOW TESSA GETS TO LIVE WITH HIM, TOO, HOORAY! And, we're back to City of Glass level ridiculously happy ending; Tessa gets MORE HAPPINESS, NOTHING ELSE IS GOING WRONG! ISN'T HER LIFE GREAT?


On a more serious note, I think that the fact that the ending was so happy in that way (Tessa getting to be with both boys without having to chose, almost nobody dying, ect.) says a lot about the emotional goals of the series, and Clare's writing as a whole. With this book, Clare has made it abundantly clear that her books are about making you happy. Everyone survives! Everyone gets what they want, except the villains; they're too dead to care! There's nothing wrong with happiness, there's nothing wrong with wish-fulfillment, but it has to come organically. This wasn't organic. This was cop-out to prevent the readers from feeling too much unhappiness. And throughout the book, Clare never seems to want us to feel unhappy. There's not a sad moment that wasn't more than equalized by a happy one later. No where is this more apparent than in Jem's death; other than Will, we don't get to see anyone grieve him, we don't see the death itself, and - Surprise! - he's not actually dead. There was no grief, none of the bad emotions that should've accompanied the death of a lead. It was all about happiness, even sacrificing logic for it. We're supposed to ignore how unlikely it all is and just see that it's happy and be done with it. This isn't something that sits well with me, not something that I can accept.

(show spoiler)



There was one other thing that I liked though, and if not for this, I wouldn't be able to give the book a third star: the worldbuilding. Not just the Shadowhunter world, but also London. It really came to life for me, as it did in the first two books. I could see the smog, feel the snow, see the Blackfair's Bridge. Clare's obviously done an enormous amount of research, and the book feels just as intelligent as the ones that came before it. Clare is clearly an intelligent, talented author, whatever misgivings I might have about her plotting and endings.


But overall, this book was pretty disappointing. It had its good elements, sure, but overall... I felt disappointment. Clockwork Prince was just <i>so promising</i>, and this just didn't live up to it. At all. I wish that I could give this a positive rating, I wish that this was the book that Clockwork Prince promised us, but it's not. I'll never get that book.


(See, Clare? In real life, NOT EVERYTHING TURNS OUT OKAY IN THE END. This didn't.)