CLOCKWORK ANGEL (The Infernal Devices #1)
Simon & Schuster
Tessa Gray has just been sent a ticket to London by her brother. Perfect timing. Her aunt and guardian just passed away, leaving Tessa practically penniless and incredibly lonely. She hopes London might be a new beginning for her and Nate, one where they can lean on each other for support and make their way in a world that has done it's best to cripple them with loss.
But what's waiting for Tessa in London isn't Nate. And it certainly isn't the promise of a better life. Instead she finds herself at the mercy of the Dark Sisters, two strange and horrifying women who introduce her to London's magical underbelly. It seems Tessa is something special, possessing an ability never before seen by Downworlders (demons, warlocks, vampires and the like).
Tessa can physically change form, shifting her body into that of another as long as she has an object of theirs to guide her. This gift allows her not only to change physical form, but also gives her the ability to slip into the mind of the person she mimics as well, making her a much sought-after commodity. She's quickly thrust into the confusing world of the Shadowhunters, facing creatures that shouldn't exist while searching for her brother and jostling an attraction to one shadowhunter in particular. She quickly learns that though she can change shape at will, she can't change her feelings as easily, and her vulnerable heart is perhaps her most threatening foe.
Ms. Clare has a gift for writing a stunning cast of characters that slips seamlessly under the reader's skin and takes root, forcing us to feel for them and with them as they traverse their physical and emotional obstacles. Tessa is a wonderful heroine, strong willed and independent, and lacking the passivity of her time. She's not broken by her circumstances with the Dark Sisters, accepts the existence of the occult with admirable aplomb, and despite the bleakness of her time in London, keeps her heart open and her mind clear.
Will is both deliciously attractive and incredibly aggravating. He cuts a swath through the pages with his arrogant attitude and abundance of sarcasm, seemingly leaving broken hearts and empty alcohol bottles in his wake. It's glaringly obvious however that the snark and bravado are defense mechanisms, keeping those who might break down his emotional barriers at arm's length so he doesn't have to reveal any truths about himself. He's of the mindset to show people the worst so they can't ever claim to be disappointed.
Despite his lofty attitude and periodic emotional vacancy, Will is quite charming, and that charm is not lost on the reader. We can't help but be drawn to him as Tessa is, fighting the voice in our head that says he's trouble, and rather submitting to the instinct that says he's damaged, but not destroyed. Damaged means there's hope of restoration, and there's a vulnerability to him that sneaks through a crack in his facade every now and then, leading us to believe that he wants Tessa's comfort and affection despite the actions that definitively say otherwise.
Jem is the gentleman to Will's roguish playboy. He's the voice of reason in a world of unpredictability, and he possesses a sensitivity and wisdom far beyond his young years. The differences between him and Will are astounding, and the two together with Tessa make for a love triangle of epic proportions. Watching the relationship between these three unfold and evolve is something I am greatly anticipating.
If brilliant characterization weren't enough, there's also a story that's masterfully executed, clues artfully placed with just enough information to pique curiosity, but not so much as to give any significant details away. There's mystery after mystery to keep the reader enthralled, virtually begging for more as the pages fly by with blurring speed. Ms. Clare has brought an entirely new dynamic to a familiar story for fans of The Mortal Instruments, and it's like coming home with all the comfort of recognizable objects and terminology, yet we are given a drastically different tale that prevents that familiarity from turning stagnant and repetitive.
Tessa, Will, and Jem are characters of depth, with an intoxicating humor and intelligence that demands we pay attention to their story. I'm fully invested in their world, worrying about them, hurting for them, and laughing with them. That kind of investment is fairly rare and is the mark of a book that has successfully embedded itself in my heart and mind and will be staying there for some time.