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“The Infernal Devices” – What Went Right and What Went Wrong

Updated on March 20, 2013

Although it is far from perfect, Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices series is much better than a lot of other YA books out there. Here are just a few reasons:

We’ve given the post-apocalyptic/ dystopian worlds a break

The Infernal Devices is set in the world “as we know it” – even with it being set in 19th century London. Although the plot climaxes with an unrealistic fantasy-type crisis, it is not half as nightmarish as what is portrayed in The Hunger Games and other similar novels.

The romance is quite bit more healthy and believable

Unlike most other YA novels (Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, etc), the heroine of The Infernal Devices is not faced with the moral dilemma of choosing one jerk over another jerk. Jem Carstairs is an absolute sweetheart; and although Will Herondale is flawed, he is still heroic and would never have done anything to hurt Tessa.

The prose is slightly better

Now before you navigate away from this page, let me make it clear that I 100% agree Cassandra Clare is by no means a master wordsmith! However, when you compare her writing in The Mortal Instruments with the way she wrote The Infernal Devices, it is hard to believe the two series were written by the same person. The answer to this comes down to you are what you eat: Cassandra Clare started The Mortal Instruments right after she had been writing Harry Potter fan fiction; and it certainly shows! I did not enjoy City of Bones for several reasons, but one reason is because I wanted to puke over how bad the writing is. However, Clare said that while she was doing research for The Infernal Devices: “For an entire year, I read nothing but books that were either set in the Victorian period or written about the Victorian period.”

1776 engraving of Blackfriars Bridge, where Cassandra Clare got her inspiration for The Infernal Devices
1776 engraving of Blackfriars Bridge, where Cassandra Clare got her inspiration for The Infernal Devices | Source

Some of her prose in Clockwork Angel is absolutely stunning. Her writing is still horribly clichéd, but it is at least correct. At any rate, none of the books begin with a stellar example of the U.S. educational system such as My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. – Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight.

Unfortunately, her prose starts slipping in Clockwork Prince and is really quite awful by Clockwork Princess. The clichés just get worse and worse and she started recycling elements she had previously used in The Mortal Instruments – something she had refrained from doing in Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince. And that leads me to:

What Went Wrong

I am horribly disappointed by Clockwork Princess. The prose is the least of the problems. Spoiler alert! Spoiler alert! First of all, let me warn you of a spoiler caused by the book’s design: I read the Clockwork Princess edition with the ISBN number 141697590X and inside the dust jacket of this edition is a family tree for the Carstairs, the Herondales, and the Lightwoods which reveals the fates of several characters, and also gives you a pretty good idea about what happens to Will, Jem, and Tessa. I imagine just about every other hardcover edition of Clockwork Princess has the same family tree inside the dust jacket. Be warned and don’t look unless you want to get an idea about the ending.

The explanation of Tessa Gray’s birth and what Mortmain wants her for is basically what I expected and I will not go into it here. I did not read The Infernal Devices for the fantasy thrill: I read it because I liked the romance. If you have not read Clockwork Princess and do not want me to spoil the ending, you had better stop right here

Jem’s Fate

I cannot at all agree with the way Cassandra Clare ended The Infernal Devices. I was a little afraid she would turn Jem into a vampire. But turning him into a Silent Brother is even worse.

The moment he found out about Will’s love for Tessa, Jem entirely lost his ardor. He passively says he would not have proposed if he had known about it, and then carries the pity-party even further by giving up everything, including his music, for an unending life of weird torture.

And before any of you who like the ending start asking me if I think I could write it better, let me answer it for you: No, I don’t think I could have written it better. I have absolutely no clue how it “should have ended”. But let me ask you about this: Jem’s miraculously finding a cure in 2008 which finally enables him to be with Tessa may seem bittersweet. But doesn’t it also leave it open for Cassandra Clare to write yet another series on the Shadowhunter subject, rather than letting some of these poor people rest in peace?

Publication – is the Auction

Of the Mind of Man –

- Emily Dickinson

Did you like the ending to Clockwork Princess?

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