The Story: In this conclusion to Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices trilogy, Clockwork Princess picks up where its subsequent novel left off, starting with Tessa and Jem’s engagement and Will’s startling familial revelation. But the crux of the plot hinges on whether or not the Shadowhunters can survive their greatest threat who will stop at nothing to bring them down all in the name of revenge. And Tessa’s true nature just might prove to be either their biggest asset or their largest liability in their war for survival.
My Take: I actually started out enjoying this trilogy and thought it had strong world-building, compelling characters, and solid paranormal facets. Overall, the first novel, Clockwork Angel was a satisfying read but its follow up, Clockwork Prince, missed the mark by a few degrees. But Clockwork Princess was an utter disappointment for me.
Thankfully, the world-building, Steampunk environs, and paranormal aspects still hold together here, so I took no issue with those. I also didn’t dislike any of the main characters here (or ever) and I still think Will, Jem, and Tessa were fairly developed and given a good amount of internal and external conflicts to contend with, which helps them evolve.
So why did I award this one star on GoodReads (which translates to “did not like it”)? Well, I have found that most final novels tend to let me down and it’s rare if they don’t. In most cases, I’m split between feeling ether partially pleased or abjectly annoyed.
First, I thought some of the characters made less than fully informed decisions, especially Tessa and Jem. When we leave their storyline in Clockwork Prince,Jem and Tessa are engaged. That’s all fine and good but the problem is that their relationship is doomed from the start as Jem is living on borrowed time. Logically, it makes no sense to marry someone who is not going to fulfill his marriage vows to protect and care for his wife. Jem is no position to do so, thus I felt their decision to wed was made simply on the grounds of mutual attraction and a slight spirit of impulsiveness, not anything deeper or based on common sense.
Likewise, Tessa’s relationship with Will changes, which is fine because I actually preferred seeing Tessa end up with Will (at least until Will dies) as I felt their chemistry was organic and dynamic. However, the way Tessa and Will consummate (literally) their relationship ruined my opinion of both of them. This is entirely my own opinion, but I take issue with books for teens that seem to imply that, as long as two teen characters love each other, sex is a natural part of the equation. While I do not think young readers are automatically swayed by what they read, I do know ideas can get mentally implanted, whether or not readers act on those thoughts.
Lastly, the biggest story arc that carried over into all three novels was uncovering Tessa’s origins. In Clockwork Angel, I thought her shapeshifting skills were set up and utilized nicely; thus, I was eager to finally learn where she got them from and why she could interact with paranormal beings. The answer comes in this novel where we learn that Tessa is half-Shadowhunter and half-demon, bred entirely in the hopes of eliminating the Shadowhunters, which, of course, never happens and Tessa is never really put into a position where she even desires to do such a thing. Thus, it was kind of a moot point for me. Likewise, the reveal scene was very anticlimactic and, overall, I felt like it meant nothing at all to the trilogy as a whole.
In the same way, Tessa’s rekindling of her relationship with Jem left me feeling cold. While I admit that this was a different take on the typical love triangle I’m used to seeing in YA fiction, I actually felt a bit cheated. Tessa ends up with both men whom she has affections for, which didn’t seem entirely fair. Likewise, I thought Tessa and Jem’s reunion was too forced (especially since he seems to be cured far too easily and swiftly though the trilogy also built up how serious Jem’s condition was).
Overall, there were good parts in this novel that basically were carried over elements previously established in the other novels, such as the setting, Steampunk elements, and the paranormal world-building. Yet plot-wise, I felt like I was just getting more of the same with an even more convoluted and not entirely believable love triangle, so this was nearly a DNF for me.
Language – Minimal/minor profanities crop up (including some British terms) but they are not pervasive.
Violence – Most is of the fantasy variety, so it’s more of a swords and sorcery-brand of violence than guts and gore. That being said, horrific beings abound, so even some of the non-fight sequences involve demons, monstrous creatures, and creepy automatrons. Certainly nothing bone-chilling or hair-raising, but readers who scare easily might not enjoy these parts of the novel.
Sexual Material – As mentioned earlier, Will and Tessa do have sex and while the scene isn’t graphically portrayed, it does take its time in describing the characters undressing, kissing, and fondling though it concludes without describing the act itself (but it’s fairly obvious what’s going on). Again, this always disappoints me to see this in teen literature as I don’t think it encourages good behavior. Other than this moment, the rest of the novel is essentially clean in this regard.
In the end, if you loved this trilogy from the start and managed to get through Clockwork Prince without complaining or feeling a bit bored, then you will probably be quite satisfied with how it closes out in Clockwork Princess. But if you were just a casual fan, such as myself, and felt the strongest contender was the first novel, then you might find yourself on the fence with this one. I actually wish I could say I was on the fence, but there were too many plot hiccups for me to even say I passively liked it.