In genre novels, vast amounts of information must be told concisely. Readers must know about character and it must be written in a way that compels the reader to follow the story because they care. Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel is Tessa’s story—a girl who thinks she is human, but she is forced to change. Tessa must learn to be who she really is a Shapeshifter.
The character details at the beginning of the novel set up the compelling character. We learn that Tessa loves her “clockwork angel,” a tiny brass statue passed down from Tessa’s mother to Tessa (6). “[S]he had never taken it off” (6). This object is important because it connects her to her lineage, which is vital later in the story, but also because it sets her up as a character of depth—she loves her family and the reader wants to root for her because of it.
Tessa has “sold most of her clothes to pay for her aunt’s funeral” (7). From this we learn two things vital to understanding her story—when her mother died, she lives with her aunt, so she is connected to the female members of her family. Tessa cares so much for her aunt that she sells all of her things to pay for her aunt’s funeral (7). Tessa’s brother sends for her and tells her it was warm in England, but she faced the wet and dampness with only “a woolen shawl that had belonged to Aunt Harriet, and a pair of thin gloves” and has “sold most of her clothes to pay for her aunt’s funeral” (7). Her things may have been more valuable, but I believe she also keeps her aunt’s shawl for another reason. Tessa wants a connection to her aunt—she would rather have her aunt’s shawl. Tessa wants her aunt’s shawl because it connects to the aunt like the necklace does to her mother.
Tessa is a young girl out of her depth. She travels from New York to Southampton, England, by boat and expects her brother to pick her up (7). She is cautious when she first meets the Dark Sisters, but accepts that her brother sent them because of the letter they give her (9-11). She doesn’t have money for transportation—she is destitute because she spent everything on her aunt’s funeral. Her only recourse is to trust them and her brother. The Dark Sisters appear nice at first, but then their tone changes and they reveal themselves for who they are—her captors who force her to shift into other beings (19). The sisters want to Tessa to marry the Magister against her will (27).
Tessa’s priorities are to stay safe and find her brother. But while that is her objective, she truly loves novels more than anything, and this trait is endearing to bookworms and readers of all types. This is particularly interesting in Clockwork Angel because novels are the objects Tessa treasures. She doesn’t want money or clothes or jewels—she wants to read. When Will rescues her from the Dark Sisters’ trap, she wants her books and Will promises more (39). Later, when they’re in the Institute’s great library (86), Will says, “I said would get you more books, didn’t I?” (87). Tessa loves books and by showing her the library, he helps her understand their people in a way that is comforting to her—through special books (89). Throughout the novel, Tessa comes back to reading because it comforts her and because she learns through it (39, 86, 115, 133). “’One must always be careful of books,’ said Tessa, ‘and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us’” (87). Tessa is right—it is through reading she learns of the Shadowhunter heritage and her own.
All her life, Tessa thought she was human, but she is actually a shale-shifter and a “downworlder” (60). Clare defines a downworlder as “a person—who is part supernatural in origin. Vampires, werewolves, faeries, warlocks—they are all Downworlders.” (60). Tessa is told she is “Eidolon” and a “Shape-changer” (55). What is interesting is how Tessa explores this new life. Through knowing what Tessa knows and doesn’t know, we explore the hidden world of Clockwork Angel. Characters in coming-of-age novels are transformed through their interaction with their environments. Despite challenges, they must work through challenges to discover who they are. The characters that stay with us the longest are those who face their challenges with bravery and a will to do what’s right despite the odds, just like Tessa.
This book is rated 3 stars. I will read this again.
Clare, Cassandra. Clockwork Angel. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2010. Print.