Oh boy this is a stupid book.
I honestly don’t mean “stupid” as an entirely bad thing – I like plenty of things which are “stupid”, and there’s nothing guilty or ironic about my affection for them. I mean “stupid” as in, Clockwork Princess is unashamedly romantic and melodramatic and hand-wringing and bosom-heaving. And if that’s what you’re reading this series for: fine. You’ll love this final instalment. Everyone’s paired off neatly, more or less, and everyone gets a tidy ending. Hurray.
I guess I’m more about plot than romance, though, and the plot is disappointing. For starters, it’s thin, so thin the novel’s sharp-clavicled cover model would look at it and be like “Seriously, eat a sandwich, plot”. But it seems weightier than it is because half of every page is devoted to characters ruminating on the exact same problems they were ruminating on a chapter ago. (“I love Tessa but Jem loves Tessa, woe!” “I love Sophie but Sophie is a mere servant girl, woe!” “Gideon tricked me into wasting scones, woe!”) There are whole pointless chapters you can just glance over without losing the thread of the story – which is a hallmark of Clare’s work, and not a great one.
It’s the resolution to the plot that’s most disappointing. (Book, I am disappoint.) Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince told us that Tessa, our immortal heroine, has mysterious powers unknown even to her, which make her vitally important to the cunning plans of Mortmain, our villain. Well, Mortmain seems to do a pretty good job building an unstoppable army of robots without relying on Tessa, and even after finishing this book I’m still not clear on exactly why he needed her so badly. (Something to do with using Tessa’s shapeshifting ability to make her transform herself into Mortmain’s dead father, so Mortmain can access dear old dad’s memories and make his automatons even more powerful. Or something. Like, is that all.)
And the ending just feels so… easy. Tessa is torn between her love for two best friends, Will (who’s beautiful and arrogant and less of a dick than he seems) and Jem (who’s beautiful and kind and suffering from a fatal illness that will kill him any day now). She ends up with Will, but not because she has to make any sort of sacrifice or choice: Jem – impossibly, implausibly nice Jem- goes and joins an order of immortal monks (… kind of), despite saying early on that he’d never do that, freeing her up to marry Will. Easy. But then, after a century or so, when Will’s long dead, Jem leaves the order and hooks up with Tessa anyway. Even easier! So she ends up with both of them. The cake is both had and eaten.
And Mortmain is defeated pretty easily, because Mortmain is a dull villain who’s evil mostly just because he’s evil (another Clare hallmark), much as Clare tries to flesh him out with a backstory. He exists because someone needs to be working to destroy Tessa and Jem and Will and the rest of their demon-fighting Shadowhunter friends, right?
I kind of feel bad coming down harshly on Clockwork Princess. It is what it is. It’s not terrible. (And it’s a lot better and more inventive than the increasingly over-the-top Mortal Instruments series, which this Infernal Devices series precedes). Other people will read this book for much different reasons than I did. And those people will probably like it a lot better.