The Infernal Devices is a trilogy set in a clockwork punk Victorian setting. Though, I’m sure many would scold me for throwing in the “Victorian” descriptor since this is the most typical time period for such stories and they are almost assumed to be Victorianesque. I do it so I can complain about the misappropriation of the word “punk” for sub-genres like “steam punk”, “diesel punk”, and even “Now punk” to describe “punk” set in a current time frame. The “punk” descriptor was appropriate for “cyberpunk”, but is not usually appropriate for these other subgenres. Indeed, “punk” has practically become synonymous with “subgenre of speculative fiction”, which I find completely annoying. And if you don’t know why “punk” is appropriate for cyberpunk and not for any of these others subgenres, don’t waste my time commenting on my complaint. If you don’t know anything about the punk movement, keep your comments out of my review.
I decided to read this trilogy (actually, I listened to the audiobooks) because Cassandra Clare was a fan-fic writer turned pro and I wanted to support someone who has gone through alternate publishing routes. After listening to all three books: Clockwork Angel, Clockwork Prince, and Clockwork Princess, I can see why she was pushed into publication by her fan support and not picked up in a more traditional manner. The writing itself is mediocre, but it does elicit a strong emotional response, and to the average reader, this is what is most important. Her characters are not complex and indeed, I find them a bit tedious because they are never tested, never put into any real moral quandaries. Well, aside from the classic love triangle between Tessa, Will, and James.
Can they go three full books without two of the three screwing each other while the two guys love each other, and not in a gay way? Well, it turns out they can’t. But they do make it through 2.5 books swooning over the fact that one of the guy’s thumbs happened to brush Tessa’s bare wrist. It seems none of them realized that Tessa’s corset may have been a little too tight (Will and James have no excuse). if this is how they’re getting their jollies, perhaps someone should have suggested auto-erotic asphyxiation. At least one of them would have gotten a pay-off much earlier in the story.
Okay, so I’m not really into the faux Victorian love stuff. If this is how you like your love stories, you’ll love The Infernal Devices trilogy. There is plenty of that tediousness. And I do mean plenty.
Since so much description went into furtive eye glances and Tessa’s navel gazing about being in love with two guys, there wasn’t much room to spare for plot, but the story does manage to travel in a straight line. There’s no surprising twists. No sub-plots of note. Unless you consider filling in character back stories to be sub-plot. These complaints aside, it’s not a bad story. Again, it’s just a simple one, and that’s fine. I actually have no complaints about this, except that once all the crap is thrown out, there is really only one, maybe one-and-a-half, real novels here.
I’ve read through a number of other reviews and this trilogy really does seem to be a love it or hate it type of story. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re into Victorian sensibility love stories where nothing actually happens, then this should work for you. If not, you’ll be wanting to skip around a bit. For me, it was meh. I forced myself to endure each successive book to get to the end hoping for some grand payoff. After all, Cassandra Clare has gotten famous for this type of writing. There had to be some reason she was so popular. Sadly, it’s not because of her rich stories, or her complex characters, it’s because of her ability to elicit an emotional response. If that’s what you’re looking for, that’s okay. We all read for escapism and that means we all read for different reasons. But for my money, I’d prefer something a little more nourishing. I am usually generous with my ratings, but in this case I am truly torn between 2 and 3 stars out of 5. Because each book was narrated by a different person or persons, I think I’ll go with 2 stars because I hate it when a series doesn’t have the same narrator throughout.