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Clockwork Angel - Cassandra Clare An admission: For no good or meaningful reason, I went into this reading experience expecting mediocrity from Clockwork Angel and The Infernal Devices. Maybe I put on my overly-impressionable pants and fell prey to the smattering of one-star reviews with quotes like: "Without any doubt, in my not-so-professional opinion, this book is a little, flaccid d**k waving free in the breeze of literature trying its very bestest to hardened up and bugger us all in the a**." Jeesh! Harsh stuff! In the end, the preponderance of positive reviews won the propaganda war, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the book.

First the criticism. I'd like to propose a moratorium on starting chapters with snippets of other people's poetry. Clare does state at the end of the book that the works are by Victorian poets who for the most part would have been familiar to someone like Tessa. And Clare does have Tessa state repeatedly how much she loves the written word. Fair enough. However, the intro-poetry-snippeting trend--apparently popular as heck in YA circles--could end immediately without hurting my feelings. Jumping right into chapters is a good thing, especially in action-oriented books like Clockwork Angel.

Beyond the intro-poetry matter, I have no real complaints about the story. The characters are appropriately likable, complex, and/or despicable. I'm really intrigued by the face-challenged Brother Enoch and the Silent Brothers. Creepy but helpful! Clare was smart to leave the Silent Brothers/City shrouded in mystery for now.

Jem's and Will's creed-like beliefs also interest me:

(Tessa begins.) "But you hunt demons. You must believe in damnation!"

"I believe in good and evil," said Jem. "And I believe the soul is eternal. But I don't believe in the fiery pit, the pitchforks, or endless torment. I do not believe you can threaten people into goodness."

Tessa looked at Will. "What about you? What do you believe?"

"Pulvis et umbra sumus," said Will, not looking at her as he spoke. "I believe we are dust and shadows. What else is there?"

Jem's dualistic idealism stands in stark contrast to Will's Book-of-Ecclesiastes-like cynicism. The interpretation of Nephilim as fallen angels, the offspring of humans and angels, or heroic beings suits this Clave of Nephilim. These beings aren't your garden variety angels. They're moody, insecure, mistake-prone, and sometimes combative. And these imperfect beings are our great protectors and Rule-of-Law maintainers! In The Infernal Devices universe, the entire human enterprise teeters constantly on the edge of disaster. What can I say? I like a splash of impending doom with my fiction.

A clockwork army, demons, vampires, warlocks, goblins, shapeshifters, werewolves, mad science, Victorian style, teen angst/awkwardness, an unforced cliffhanger ending--there's plenty in Clockwork Angel to pique a reader's interest. Will's thoughts on London put a nice bow on this story of human-spirit and natural-supernatural intersections:

"Milton thought Hell was a city, you know. I think maybe he had it half-right. Perhaps London is just Hell's entrance, and we are the damned souls refusing to pass through, fearing that what we will find on the other side will be worse than the horror we already know."

Is the truth really so horrifying? Does our happiness require that we remain oblivious to the way things really are? Must we deceive ourselves to stay sane? Clare has two full books left to let me know if her universe is loving or Lovecraftian. Ah, the suspense! Bring on the second book.