A couple of semesters ago, a classmate recommended Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel to me. I looked it up at the library and the cover had this awesome, almost  steampunk look to it, so I added myself to the waiting list with eager anticipation.

Maybe I’m just ever-so-slightly too old for this kind of fiction, but I found all the characters to be rather bland and angsty in their own way. Jem suffers in silence, dramatically refusing to search for a cure to his illness because the risks involved aren’t worth the danger to his friends. Will holds everyone at arm’s length, blowing hot and cold by turns. And Tessa… well, Tessa reminds me of a little girl who, finding herself in a situation that she doesn’t like, has gone limp in order to make it impossible for anyone to move her.

I understand how frightening being plunged into a completely foreign and deadly world can be, but it seems like Tessa out and out refuses to adapt to it. Her confusion and fear are totally merited, by the way, but it wasn’t written well. Neil Gaiman does it so much better in Neverwhere. Tessa deals with her fear by refusing to trust anyone and by cowering behind stronger characters instead of becoming strong herself.  Every once in a while, she’ll give it a half-hearted try, but only because her brother is in danger.

That’s one point where I share the character Will’s frustration. He finds Tessa’s constant fretting about her brother, along with her insistence on making this backstage character seem like a saint, grating. By the middle of the book, I did too. Yes, I know your brother is involved with this bad crowd. And, yes, I know he’s all you have left, so you’re very protective of him. And yes, I know that you want him safe and you’re scared… so, stop whining and DO something about it!

Beyond the helpless female character, I found the “love” triangle really dull and predictable. I still felt bad at the end, when Will basically leads Tessa on and then stomps on her, but that happens every time there’s a teenage love story – one of the two desirable males will act like a jerk because he doesn’t want to admit his feelings. And I’ll bet you ten bucks this is the one who will get the girl in the end.

I think I went into this book expecting another Neverwhere – and that’s probably the reason I was so disappointed (not many can write creepy and surreal like Gaiman can). To be fair, Clockwork Angel has a lot of potential – I just wish it had gone another direction than your typical teen fantasy/romance novel. Too much wishy-washing between angsty characters and not enough fantastical magic and creepiness, in my humble opinion.

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