Monday, July 18, 2011

Steampunk and the Supernatural

Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices, Book 1)
Sometimes I am intimidated by the sheer size of Cassandra Clare's books. I have only read the first of the Mortal Instruments series because they are sooo big! But I was talking to my sister about them the other day and she made a very good point- they might be big, but they are so good you fly right through them. She was right! I am glad I picked up Clockwork Angel, the first book in the new Infernal Devices series, a prequel to the Mortal Instruments series. Had I not, I would have missed out on so much supernatural goodness!

Tessa comes to London to meet her brother. She hasn't seen him since he left New York and now that he is the only family she has left, she is anxious to reunite with him. Immediately she is captured by two vile women who call themselves the Dark Sisters. The Dark Sisters kept Tessa for months, forcing her to get control of a power she never knew she had: shape-shifting. But Tessa's is no normal shifting, she can actually become the person, thoughts and all. The Dark Sisters use her to tell them what happened to people they thought might be dead, as Tessa could relive their last moments. The shifting was terrifying for Tessa, especially since she thought she was dying along with the person she had become. Finally, when Tessa is finished training, they prepare her for her wedding (magical) to the Magistrar, the head of a very powerful supernatural group who wants to control London.

When Tessa sees an opportunity to escape, she takes it. Luckily it happens to be at the exact same time a wild young man named Will comes in to investigate a dead girl he tied to the Dark Sisters. He takes Tessa back to the Institute, a place where Shadowhunters are trained to control magical folks and if necessary, hunt and kill them when they threaten the mundanes (non-magical folks). There, Tessa finds people she can trust and who will help her find her brother, who is now missing. The people at the institute track her brother Nate to a mundane who dabbles in the supernatural. He directs them to a vampire who controls the most powerful London coven and seems to have forgotten the Accords, laws created by the Shadowhunters that prevent magical people from hurting non-magical people. When Tessa shifts into a vampire and goes with a Shadowhunter into the vampire's party, she finds evidence the Accords have been broken as well as her brother Nate, bound and ready to be eaten by the head vampire. The Shadowhunters break in and kill most of the vampires, but the head of the coven escapes. Now they must find him before he can give life using demon energy to his army of robotic clockwork minions, because he won't stop until he has Tessa all to his own, even if it means killing every last Shadowhunter.

For those of you who don't know, Steampunk is an interesting subgenre of science fiction. It involves alternate history with interesting technological advances for the time period (usually 19th century). The movie "Wild Wild West" was a type of Steampunk, as well as a lot of stories by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. This book is not only full of your typical supernatural beastlies like warlocks and vampires and werewolves, it also has these creepy automatons that are being created as a new, unstoppable army. The uses of clockwork cogs and wheels to led to the name "clockwork army". It is a really interesting subgenre, and one our kids might not have had any exposure to.

The story is interesting from start to finish and although it is long, it doesn't feel like it is long. Instead, you find yourself plowing through all 500 or so pages like it was a couple hundred, shocked when you get to the end. The story is a little sophisticated, but not in terms of adult content or language. Instead, it just seems like a grown-up story, which would appeal to kids who don't like "childish" stories. The alternate history, science fiction, and Steampunk might appeal to those a wide range of students, including quirky kids who are hard to find a book for. It is exciting and engaging. While the size of the book might intimidate some kids (or adults!), don't let that keep them from starting this series- it's too good not to give it a shot!

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