After the events of Clockwork Angel, Tessa finds herself living in the London Institute surrounded by Shadowhunters whose future looks increasingly uncertain. The Enclave remain dubious of how the Institute is run, with the bullish Benedict Lightwood heading the charge in terms of change of leadership. Outwith the Institute's doors, Tessa's brother remains at large along with the darkly mysterious Mortmain not to mention his army of clockwork minions. Within the Institute, emotions rise as investigations continue and Tessa, Jem and Will find their lives increasingly entwined. Meanwhile, the Magister remains out of sight, pulling all of their strings like a Machiavellian puppeteer, manipulating a figure at the very heart of the Institute to heartbreaking effect.
Now that Tessa has found her London feet, so to speak, she emerges as a strong-willed figure. Unwilling to sit in the background looking pretty, she remains at the forefront of Clockwork Prince. Betrayal at the hands of her brother seems to have imbued her with a steely determination that is admirable and her character development is believable and interesting. Her interactions with other characters are also enjoyable to read. Her friendship with Sophie, fraught as it is by social convention, is touching and believably difficult – in part due to Tessa's unfortunate yet endearing habit of speaking before thinking. Equally, her interactions with Charlotte reflect both Tessa's increased confidence in her own ability and the vulnerability that lies under Charlotte's carefully controlled facade.
While Tessa remains the lead protagonist, Clare gives almost equal face time to Will and Jem, writing several sections of the book from their alternative viewpoints. While in Clockwork Angel, Will was a rather dark, unpleasant (albeit attractively mysterious and attractively, er, attractive) here he emerges as a character who is running from a fate he feels he cannot escape. His family history is explored and his rather confusing interactions with Tessa explained in heartbreaking manner – all the more so for Tessa's obliviousness. Particularly well written are the scenes that Will shares with Magnus Bane which illustrate not only the extent of Will's own despair but also the depth of Magnus's kindness.
Clockwork Prince, however, really belongs to Jem. In Clockwork Angel Jem verged on pleasant blandness, his somewhat beatific benevolence giving no clue to his real character. The only interesting aspect of Jem, in fact, was his painful and fatal addiction – something played out beautifully in Clockwork Angel – but it too verged on imbuing him with an air of sainted martyrdom. This was manageable, however, because it was clear that Clare had plans for the character and she expands Jem beautifully in Clockwork Prince. While he is still good and kind and fair, an edge appears that builds throughout the book building to one scene that is beautiful in its tenderness and one that is shocking in its anger. He's a character that one cannot help but feel for and when Sophie advises that Tessa had better not break his heart, readers will be with her all the way. Sadly Tessa really has no clue what she is doing with either boy. Their individual relationships with her and, more worryingly, with each other are clearly to be a focal point in the next installment of the series.
As always, Clare's writing is superb. While Clockwork Angel, out of necessity, spent time building Tessa's London and introducing the core story line, Clockwork Prince adds layers to the plot, the characters and the mythology. While many will sigh at talk of yet another love triangle, Clare has created one with such subtly and sadness that it is genuinely uncomfortable to read; it's hard to envisage how it could possibly end happily for anyone. The Shadowhunters remain brilliant creations, gifted with angel blood but cursed to live hard and isolated lives while the Downworlders watch with interest, sometimes helping, sometimes not. Clare certainly has no problem in heaping misery upon her characters – all are a little broken, a little conflicted and (in all honesty) they all seem a bit depressed – yet she cleverly gives imbues them with true faith in their mission allowing them to appear warriors rather than martyrs to the cause.
The Mortal Instruments is a series that I have successfully recommended many times, but in many ways The Infernal Devices is an easier sell. With it's steampunk Victoriana, compelling cast and underlying sadness Clockwork Prince joins Clockwork Angel as an unputdownable and, as with anything by Cassandra Clare is a given on many “favourites” shelves. Highly recommended for anyone looking for thrilling action, hilarious asides and genuine emotion – all in one great book.
Clockwork Prince is available now. Thank you to Walker Books for sending me this title to review.