Tessa Gray should be happy – aren’t all brides happy? Yet as she prepares for her wedding, a net of shadows begins to tighten around the Shadowhunters of the London Institute. A new demon appears, one linked by blood and secrecy to Mortmain, the man who plans to use his army of pitiless automatons, the Infernal Devices, to destroy the Shadowhunters. Mortmain needs only one last item to complete his plan. He needs Tessa. And Jem and Will, the boys who lay equal claim to Tessa’s heart, will do anything to save her.
Tell Me More: 2013 brings another trilogy to its long-awaited conclusion in Clockwork Princess, and like many YA readers, I was eager to know exactly how Cassandra Clare would tie up all the loose ends in The Infernal Devices. Unfortunately for me, only disappointment lay down that path.
It’s been about 15 months since I last read Clockwork Prince, but I do still think of it with fondness, mostly because so much of that story was centered on Jem Carstairs. He has consistently been the most developed character, more than anyone else in the series, and I enjoyed getting to know him better. But in Clockwork Princess, Clare tries to bring the story back to focus on Will, Tessa and Jem, and it doesn’t quite work so well. I have never really felt like this was Tessa’s story, despite the fact that both main male characters and the main antagonist both want her. Clare’s female characters, with the exception of Charlotte Branwell, have always felt one-dimensional to me, and there is very little mystery to them. Three books are devoted to the truth of Tessa’s parentage, but the actual revelation falls flat, and I’d guessed it back when I read Clockwork Angel. But really, even after the massive build up and all the suspense poured into finding out what Tessa is, I don’t think anyone could have been surprised by it.
(Lots of spoilers ahead!)
Tessa is half-demon, half-Nephilim, an impossible child made possible. Okay, now what? Mortmain wants to use her to breed a new race that will eliminate the Nephilim. It wasn’t a shocking plan, or one that required a whole lot of creativity on Mortmain’s part. He is a villain that relies on the strength of others to put his plans into motion, and while that’s the usual case, it just didn’t interest me as a reader.
The bigger disappointment, however, is the love triangle between Will, Tessa and Jem, and the fact that Will and Jem’s bond of friendship is built up so much only makes it worse. I have read Clare’s posts about both pairings, and I must confess I find myself stunned by most of it. I wrote a little bit about my thoughts on what was going to happen in my review of Clockwork Prince:
It’s no secret that I dislike Will. But I do think that Tessa is going to pick him in the end. Clockwork Prince may be Jem’s book, but all signs point to Tessa choosing to throw caution and reason to the wind for Will. They deserve each other. I’m not saying that in any negative way, but simply as a statement of fact. There is something in Will and Tessa that calls out to each other and I don’t think that either of them can resist it. Many of the events in Prince reference that draw, and set up a final installment which cannot have a perfectly happy ending.
Admittedly, I am not a lover of the bad boy, so Will has always been a harder character for me to get to know. But I do love him with Jem, and I love their friendship so very very much. It bespoke of a comfort and an understanding that so few people find in their own friends, it was nice to see friendship so highly praised and respected in YA. But it also made me wonder how in the world Clare was going to resolve the love triangle. Short answer? She doesn’t. She writes herself out of the tiniest corner, and as a reader, I honestly feel like I’ve been tricked. And after rereading my review of CP, I feel like I should have seen it coming, but it doesn’t make the truth any less unsavoury.
The Infernal Devices seems to have an a very deep attachment to happy endings and punishing those who don’t conform to that ideal. Every single character ends up with somebody–Cecily and Gabriel Lightwood in particular don’t make sense to me, and they feel like they were just put together because it would tie everything up nicely. Likewise, Gideon and Sophie were characters I enjoyed, but I didn’t see why they needed to be together. I realize that for many readers, happy endings and ships coming together are exactly what they wanted out of this series, but I was not satisfied with that.
But a forced happy ending is exactly what Will, Tessa and Jem receive. Jem’s death hit me hard, but not as hard as the sex scene that followed Will and Tessa finding out about it. I have read Clare’s post about this, and I personally disagree with her. I do not think it was justified, nor do I think it was right in any sense of the word. It was very possible for them to comfort one another without sleeping with each other. You can’t excuse it by saying Jem would have been okay with it–he’s a sixteen-year-old boy, not a saint, and even saints felt jealousy and anger. It felt as wrong as how Jem and Will were constantly described as loving only Tessa and Tessa alone, while Tessa was “a heart divided.”
Will and Jem were so bound up in each other that Will finding Tessa, being with Tessa, comforting Tessa, was the closest that Jem could get to doing those things himself.
It still doesn’t make them the same person. And it felt even worse knowing that they were friends of the deepest sort. I can see how Clare was trying to make this an equal love triangle, but it did not work for me. They might think they can feel this deeply for each other now, but time will pass, and it won’t always be this easy or clear-cut. I don’t want perfect characters–I never have–and I cannot suspend my disbelief to accept Clare’s insistence that Tessa, Jem and Will are perfect enough to carry this out at sixteen years old.
And yes, the ending did bother me immensely. It felt contrived for that aforementioned “happy ending,” and was not satisfying in the least because I don’t think any of the characters got the fair treatment they deserved, especially Jem. The literal deus ex machina that saved Tessa didn’t surprise me, and I think I even groaned a little bit when I realized where it was going. By the end of the penultimate chapter, the story just hadn’t risen to the expectations I’d had at the start, and it was almost a relief to close it and be done.
The Final Say: Lush historical detail and humourous lines scattered through out this novel do not make up for frustrating plotlines and romances. Clockwork Princess was disappointing, despite my best efforts to enjoy it, and I would not recommend it as a satisfying conclusion to the Infernal Devices trilogy.
Cassandra Clare was born overseas and spent her early years traveling around the world with her family and several trunks of fantasy books. Cassandra worked for several years as an entertainment journalist for the Hollywood Reporter before turning her attention to fiction. She is the author of City of Bones, the first book in the Mortal Instruments trilogy and a New York Times bestseller. Cassandra lives with her fiance and their two cats in Massachusetts.