I went into this book with a “hope for the best, fear the worst” attitude. Both Steampunk and YA fantasy have been over-bred recently, and a novel that starts out with an orphaned teenage girl of unusual latent powers and a couple of smoking-hot troubled young men sounds like it’s going to tread on overly familiar ground.
But Clare’s book managed to redirect me away from pet peeve land at every turn. When I felt surprised and dismayed at the un-Victorian way in which the servants address their employers, so did her protagonist. When I started to feel irked at the supposed superiority of the half-angel heroes, the heroine echoed my sentiments. When I rolled my eyes at the stupidity of people who should know better, so did the other characters.
The book has many of the familiar Steampunk tropes: clockwork creatures, Victorian London, parasols, magic and semi-magic artifacts, and corsets. It has dark and gloomy houses, secret societies, vampires, warlocks and demons. It’s steeped in Christian mythology, which I dislike, but forgive. The characters are well-nuanced for this genre, and the action well paced.
This book is obviously the first of a series. At the beginning of the book, we want to know what the Clockwork Angel is for, whether Tessa is human, who the Magister is, what he wants her for, and what happened to Tessa’s brother. Two of those questions are answered, the other three are left for later volumes. The last chapter has a teaser, presumably the first chapter to the next novel.
If you like YA and Steampunk fantasy, this is well worth your time.