The Mountains of Instead

Championing fiction as an escape from pandemics, politics and bad TV.

Bittersweet Symphony (Review of Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare)

Clockwork Princess
Cassandra Clare
Walker Books 2013

Clockwork Princess is the third and final book in Cassandra Clare's Infernal Devices series.  This review contains spoilers for the previous two books (Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince).  You have been warned.
The Institute of London is full of wedding preparation, surprise siblings, unspoken and forthcoming infants.  Life, for Tessa, Will and Jem is being lived.  Yet all is far from well.  Will continues to hide feelings that he cannot control, Tessa continues to feel torn between the two people she cares most for and Jem continues to approach the end of his life with untimely haste.  Over and above all, Mortmain, with his Machiavellian machinations and clockwork minions, continues to lurk in the shadows – poised to strike at any time.  In this, the final instalment of Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices, the inhabitants of the London Shadowhunter institute must make a final stand against a seemingly insurmountable enemy while Tessa must also come to terms with who she is, who she loves and the prospect of a long, long life.
Tessa Gray has come a long way since the start of her story.  She’s learnt some difficult truths, faced some catastrophic situations and met people who will be part of her for the rest of her life yet her core personality remains largely unchanged.  She remains hugely and enjoyably stubborn, extremely loyal and still a little in awe of the world that she now inhabits.  Her inability to forget about Will, despite her engagement to Jem should make her unlikable but it’s hard not to pity her rather impossible situation.  Her slow acceptance of her immortality and how she deals with it is interesting and her attitude towards it slowly starts to mirror Magnus’s in being one of careful, yet never entirely selfish, self-preservation.  When you know you’re going to outlive everyone you love, perhaps leaving them before they can leave you is something we all would consider and Clare looks at this idea towards the end of Clockwork Princess to interesting affect.
Jem, while playing a powerful and fascinating role in this final book, remains largely in the background.  He’s dying, and his inherently kind nature shines through as he starts to prepare everyone for his demise.  Of all character arcs his is perhaps the least easy to predict and easily the most compelling in that it is pivotal to the story of each protagonist.  Jem, from the outset of the Infernal Devices, has been a delightful character but occasionally seemed a little too perfect.  Here, Clare finally subtly displays an edge to his character in a later conversation with Tessa, proving that still waters run deep.  And then there is Will – and this is very much Will’s story.  In fact, one suspects that the Infernal Devices have all been Will’s story. Now released from his presumed curse he finds himself able to love and express love and this now extends far further than his feelings towards Tessa.  His sister Cecily is now a Shadowhunter, much to his consternation, and brings out harsher and softer aspects to his previously sardonic personality while his friendship and love for Jem become almost transformative.  He’s extremely well written and utterly heart-breaking in his devotion to those he cares about, perhaps especially when he shows it least.
Other characters are all well represented, each telling their own story, however small.  The Lightwood brothers remain pretty interesting, particularly Gabriel who struggles to pick the right path despite being clearly aware what that path should be.  Magnus is as welcome a character as always and his friendship with Will is truly touching explaining why, perhaps, Magnus is later so instantly fascinated by Alec.
The story itself is a more than adequate ending to what is arguably Clare’s strongest series.  Mortmain is the best kind of villain – one driven by utter conviction that he is righting the world of a terrible wrong.  This wrong, in fact, once more casts a light into the less savoury aspects of the Shadowhunters as do the letters that pass between Consul Wayland and Idris throughout the book.  Clare’s inclination to highlight the dark politicking (surely a name for another series right there, yes?) of the Clave has always made her stories that little bit more interesting – the Shadowhunters are a fascinating bunch, indeed.  Much has been made of the epilogue at the end of Clockwork Princess. Epilogues are always contentious but I suspect that had Cassandra Clare not written hers she would have been asked, ad nauseum, the questions she answers in those final pages.  Like it or not, and I absolutely did, it’s extremely skilled and pleasingly circuitous storytelling.
The Infernal Devices has been a joy to read from start to finish.  From the brilliantly envisioned Shadowhunter Victoriana to the incredibly moving denouement it deserves all the praise it has received.  For the eagle eyed reader, it feeds beautifully into the Mortal Instruments series both answering and presenting some interesting questions.  Certainly, each character in Clockwork Princess receives an ending that seems fitting – even if certain endings bring many tears to the eye.  Finally, as if it weren’t already pretty damn brilliant, the story contains a Hollow Mountain.  Which may or may not contain an Evil Lair.  And everyone knows that Evil Lairs in Hollow Mountains are cool.  For that, and everything else, tops marks, Clare – top marks. 
This review was brought to you by Splendibird.  Clockwork Princess is available now, wherever you buy books and we'd like to thank Walker Books for providing us with a copy of this title to review.
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