The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare

275px-Clockworkprincesscover Last week, YA author Cassandra Clare released the final book in her Infernal Devices trilogy, Clockwork Princess.

Cassie Clare is a controversial online figure, to say the least, but that discussion doesn't really have a place on this blog, so I want to set it aside and just talk about her latest book.

If you're looking for gorgeous, careful prose, then this definitely isn't the book for you. This series belongs in the same world as books like Hunger Games -- you don't read them for the quality of the writing. However, if you're looking for addictive storytelling, with compelling character drama and laugh-out-loud dialogue, this is worth checking out.

Perhaps these books are just perfectly attuned to my sense of humor, but the series made me laugh out loud many times, something that I pretty much never do when reading or watching TV alone. Some of the dramatic speeches of love also made me groan out loud in despair, but if you read it at a hungry speed (and the addictive quality of the plots and characters will certainly make you hungry to see what will happen), then your eyes can glaze over the flaws and enjoy the cliched, but vivid and exciting world underneath.

The series follows the adventures of Tessa, a recently orphaned American girl who moves to Victorian London and discovers that she has the power to take on anyone's shape and memories just by holding one of their possessions. When evil genius Mortmain wants to use her as part of his clockwork-army powered world domination plan, she seeks shelter with the Shadowhunters, a group of supernatural demon hunters, who include the sexy Jerkass Woobie Will, and quiet and sensitive musician Jem. Of course, she begins to fall for both of them, and the books follow our starring trio as they puzzle out their relationships with each other, struggle through turmoil in the Shadowhunter ranks, and try to stop Mortmain before he kills them all.

Despite being set in Victorian London, the Infernal Devices has a more diverse cast than most YA books (or books period). Half-Chinese Jem is one of the love interests, and bisexual half-Dutch half-Indonesian warlock Magnus Bane is one of the best characters in the books. The series has a pretty even number of male and female characters, and these characters are full of variety. All of the female characters learn to fight (and the story would be full of their deaths if they didn't), but they're not Strong Female, not-like-other-girls  characters. The Shadowhunters are led by a woman, Charlotte, who was given the position because others thought she would be malleable, and who spends the entire series fighting for her due and proving them wrong, while also acting as a kind of mother figure to the younger characters. The books don't handwave over the morals and sexism of the time period, but neither do they let them stand. Meanwhile, friendships form between the female characters, particularly between Tessa and the sweet maid Sophie, and even the most conventional Victorian female character, who wants to marry a rich husband and get away from the whole Shadowhunting mess, is treated with complexity and depth. Although readers may object to the whole concept of the novel, it handles its subject matter, and its characters, with awareness, sensitivity and surprising complexity.

The question, then, is whether you want some paranormal/steampunk YA love-triangle fiction that pays serious homage to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Harry Potter in your life. If the answer is no, then steer clear. If, however, you love a little bit of melodrama, romance and action from time to time, and want a book that'll work its way into your heart (or your "feels," as I suppose Tumblr would say) without putting any strain on your mind, The Infernal Devices is more than worth a look.