The Infernal Devices Book One
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 496 pages
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Simon & Schuster’s Children’s Division
How do you discuss, critically discuss, a book that is a legend before the uncorrected proof's ink has even dried? It would be so simple if I had disliked it and not found it an engrossing diversion between my home town and Vancouver. To be honest, I will enjoy any book that has the ability to make air travel these days less obnoxious, but, the book grabbed me right at the beginning with the shock of Tessa's brother delivering her, unwittingly, we believe, into the hands of women so heinous that damnation should, to them be considered a leniency. And the shocks continue on, with papier mache servants and flawed heroes.
I found the "clockwork angel" for which the story is named, a distraction as it performs just one time in the tale. I kept thinking, "But what about the clockwork angel?" But the idea of it, a trace from the world in which 16 year old Tessa finds herself to her family's past is the keyhole through which the plot flows.
With a cast of characters ranging from primitive robotic to eternal absurdity, from hero to villain and everywhere in between, we understand that the steam punk world is not so much about the magic of science as the science of magic. That is, if two magical beings mate the result is another being imbued with magic. When you bring science to alchemy in the industrial era you get steam punk. Evil awaits such unwarned innocence as the emigrating Tessa. Like a young foreigner being rolled by "helpful friends" she is forced to learn her ability in ignorance of what it is and what it could do. She is duped into knowing herself. When she is ultimately betrayed by the very person she should trust most, it is devastating to her and to us. She is the most sympathetic of characters. Innocent beyond the constructs of good or evil, she faces a lifetime of abuse, or one of usefulness to the gallant cause of the Nephilim Shadow Hunters some of whom treat her as a class of supernatural below their mixed angel/human genome.
Regular humans like, well I assume, like, you or I, are called mundanes and are of relatively little importance. So, what place do we take in the book? The best books involve their readers, right? If we become involved here we are of the lower class of beings. I am not so sure I like that. Maybe we are intended, because of our humanity to affect the noble nature of the Shadow Hunters. Otherwise who are we?
I have included the two video inserts above because, unless you have seen them, they do seem to give some insight into the story, and into the author's legitimacy as a writer. I hope you also find them of use.
I think the accouterments to the basic struggle between good and evil are less important to the story, with the exception of the two potential love interests, Will and Jem. Will is emotionally and psychologically a complete mess, the quintessential bad boy who women believe love will magically bring to heel. Jem is his counterpart, balanced and wise, but ill. They are best friends like brothers. If one could fuse them together they would make one incredibly awesome super nephilim. It is hard to say which guy the girl will choose, and it creates much tension throughout the second half of the story.
The next book in the series will give us some answers to the future of the characters in this well researched story, in which magic and machine face off in an archetypal battle twixt good and evil.