Book Review – ‘Clockwork Princess’ (#3 The Infernal Devices) by Cassandra Clare

Steampunk magical zombies and so many men who just want to get married.

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Fantasy

No. of pages: 567

A net of shadows begins to tighten around the Shadowhunters of the London Institute. Mortmain plans to use his Infernal Devices, an army of pitiless automatons, to destroy the Shadowhunters. He needs only one last item to complete his plan: he needs Tessa Gray.

Charlotte Branwell, head of the London Institute, is desperate to find Mortmain before he strikes. But when Mortmain abducts Tessa, the boys who lay equal claim to her heart, Jem and Will, will do anything to save her. For though Tessa and Jem are now engaged, Will is as much in love with her as ever.

As those who love Tessa rally to rescue her from Mortmain’s clutches, Tessa realizes that the only person who can save her is herself. But can a single girl, even one who can command the power of angels, face down an entire army?

This concluding novel of the Infernal Devices trilogy brought everything to a dramatic climax and Tessa, Will, and Jem are all tested to the extreme.

We start to see more of the Shadowhunter lore and lifestyle instead of that of the 1800’s London society. It’s full on magic and paranormal. And it was such a fun adventure, though, to be honest, with did feel like a weak ending to the trilogy… maybe because it’s continued on in other series in the Shadowhunter universe in some form or other, or that I was a little over the too-frequently used tropes that Cassandra Clare loves to employ in her writing.

The secondary cast members get to play a greater role in the narrative in ‘Clockwork Princess’ you can get the sense of a strong team forming when facing the treat of the clockwork zombies that are immune to the defences of the Cleve’s magic protecting the hub and home of the London faction of Shadowhunters. I really enjoyed following their individual stories, their character development to have a break from the angsty love triangle of Tessa, Will, and Jem.

The concluding chapters dealt some twists that I did not see coming – but some that I did not altogether appreciate. While these plot reveals can sometimes be masterful, I found a few to be all too convenient and a bit of a cop out. But that’s just my opinion. I think because I was craving a bit more personal tension and drama for our trio at the centre of the series.

I’m not sure if it’s all the propriety of 1700’s society, or the way the relationships were written, but I wasn’t as sold on the Tessa love story; not as much as I was in Clary’s from the Mortal Instruments series – maybe because if felt a little copy and paste tropes of the bad boy with a heart of gold, and an everyday girl with a one-of-a-kind special talent that can save the world. I was craving something a bit different, more original. But the rest of the story, and the Shadowhunter universe I was really enjoying.

Mortmain was a weird antagonist – always in the periphery, out of reach. Not quite in the Shadowhunter, or Downworlder world. And as a consequence not someone as I thought of as all that scary. He came across as more annoying than maleficent. Though I appreciated the whole circumventing magic and wards with the invention of his clockwork army. That was true genius.

Now I’ve tucked this trilogy under my belt, I’m eager to finish off the Mortal Instruments series (the second trilogy) to see what happens with this background now established. I’d still recommend this collection, even though the ending didn’t quite stick for me. The concept and element of The Infernal Devices was truly entrancing. But maybe for those who love the Shadowhunter world – it’s not something that can be enjoyed in isolation… each of these trilogies sets up groundwork for the following trilogy.

Cassandra Clare’s writing style is light and manages to draw out period details expertly, I was never pulled from the narrative apart from moments when I was eye-rolling from the overused tropes. ‘Clockwork Princess’ was mostly predictable, a few surprised, but on the whole a solid read.

Overall feeling: Lukewarm

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Clockwork Prince’ (#2 The Infernal Devices) by Cassandra Clare

Beautiful Victorian London, steampunk villains and paranormal creatures.

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Fantasy

No. of pages: 502

In the magical underworld of Victorian London, Tessa Gray has found safety with the Shadowhunters. But that safety proves fleeting when it becomes clear that the mysterious Magister will stop at nothing to use Tessa’s powers for his own dark ends.

With the help of the handsome, tortured Will and the devoted Jem, Tessa discovers that the Magister’s war on the Shadowhunters is deeply personal and fueled by revenge. To unravel the secrets of the past, the trio journeys from mist-shrouded Yorkshire to a manor house that holds untold horrors. When they encounter a clockwork demon bearing a warning for Will, they realize that the Magister knows their every move—and that one of their own has betrayed them.

Tessa is drawn more and more to Jem, though her longing for Will continues to unsettle her. But something is changing in Will. Could finding the Magister free Will from his secrets and give Tessa answers about who she really is? As their search leads to deadly peril, Tessa learns that secrets and lies can corrupt even the purest heart.

A steampunk Shadowhunter tale with the bad boy, his well-behaved best friend, and a girl who may or may not be a warlock.

While I really enjoyed this story, the pacing suffered at times. There were also many reveals, but none that fully rocked me to the core – so as a consequence, ‘Clockwork Prince’ did not engage and wow me as much as pervious titles in this series. Plus the character trope of male characters being a rude pig for the good of a potential love interest is tiresome and not a trope I particularly enjoy.

Though we see Tessa becoming more ingratiated into her Shadowhunter family, and joining the fray as they police the Downworld and uncover mysteries, there did not feel like her character got much development. Plus all this priority of the 1800’s society and etiquette vs the Shadowhunters culture seem to clash, and the English customs felt to serve only as a plot device to set up a situation between Tessa, Jem, and Will.

As mentioned above, I was beginning to become tired of the bad boy image hiding a genuine gentle soul that Will embodies. I just don’t understand the need to be obnoxious to keep people at an arm’s length. There are other ways to do this without falling into this trope. But I guess it is a favoured character trait in YA. Though where the story ends in ‘Clockwork Prince,’ I am interested to see how Will develops in the final instalment in this trilogy as he has no excuses to be the way he has been anymore.

Jem felt as if he was more in the background and a bit of a plot device for ‘Clockwork Prince.’ Apart from the growing relationship between him and Tessa, there was little else to his story.

This love triangle – and its developing story – felt a little off in this middle novel. It seems like Cassandra Clare quickly moved the chess pieces where she needed them to be for the finale and then treaded water. I think that’s why I felt the pacing suffered in parts. There was no character driving the story forward, it was more about positioning plot points for ‘Clockwork Princess.’

We do get resolution to a major plot point which was very satisfactory, and a few minor ones which all went the way of sensibility and practicality instead of some elaborate backstory.

Overall I really enjoyed ‘Clockwork Prince,’ but it did lack a certain something. But that is the way of many middle books in trilogies… I’m excited for ‘Clockwork Princess’ knowing what is left to be resolved, and how it will ultimately tie back into The Mortal Instruments series; and in true Cassandra Clare style, will no doubt be epic with many twist and turns.

Overall feeling: Pretty great fare!

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Clockwork Angel’ (#1 The Infernal Devices) by Cassandra Clare

Getting back into the Shadowhunter universe.

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Fantasy

No. of pages: 479

The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters—including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them…

This review comes from a re-read for me. I had read this initially about 7 years ago when it was first released but never wrote a review… and then abandoned the series when we moved states as the books were hidden away in moving boxes for an extended period of time. I think I initially had awarded it 5 stars. Now that I’m completing the series as a part of #BeatTheBacklist, I needed to re-read ‘Clockwork Angel’ to refresh and catch up to where I last left The Infernal Devices collection.

Clockwork Angel’ is a steampunk historical fantasy in the Shadowhunters universe, set as a sequel to the Mortal Instruments. I found this an easily engrossed read. I slipped into the past seamlessly and powered through this novel despite its 480 page length. It reminded me of all the things I enjoyed about The Mortal Instruments series all those years ago. I’m definitely excited to catch up on all the published novels in the Shadowhunter universe.

We follow Tessa Gray after her Aunt passes away and she is sent a ticket to travel to London to live with her last living relative, her brother Nathaniel. Upon arriving in England, she is secreted away by the Dark Sisters and forced into strange rituals that bring out her latent shape changing abilities Tessa did not know she had.

We meet Shadowhunters Will and Jem (James) who rescue Tessa from the Dark Sisters when they are investigating a murder involving Downworlders. From there Tessa is slowly introduced to all the elements of the Downworld and Shadowhunter alike, discovering that she is a part of this world too.

Tessa starts as a typical society lady, but soon notices that her deportment means little in the new magical world she has found herself in, and after having no-one to rely on but herself and her intuition, she has to find the strength to stand up for herself and carve her own path. I found Tessa endearing, if a little waifish at times – but that is a result of the society of the times, not of her character. And we see Tessa shed the older version of herself and become a strong and intelligent entity in her own right.

Will is a rakish teen, who’s good-looking and knows it. He’s rude and appears as being self-absorbed. I’m not a fan of intentionally rude love interests, so I’m not all that taken with Will. But we have only scratched the surface and I’m sure a tragic and involved backstory is going to be revealed in the next two sequels.

As too with Jem, a POC infected with demon poison which is slowly killing him. He’s all sorts of gentile, caring, and empathetic and I love the way both he and Tessa interact. Again, there is a backstory we’ve yet to uncover, which has me keen to jump into the sequel ‘Clockwork Prince’ as soon as possible.

We meet an early version of sorcerer Magnus Bane, and ancestors of the main characters from The Mortal Instruments. It had all the elements of magic that I loved about from the debut series, though I have to admit, I was hoping for more of this… and more action. But it’s just the introductory novel in this trilogy, so I’m confident that I’ll get my fix in the sequels.

Cassandra Clare’s writing style is eloquent and she painted the cold, damp, and drab atmosphere with aplomb. I was easily transported to 1870’s London. The pacing is what I’ve come to expect from her writing, she drops clues to keep us enticed every few pages, and does not neglect character development. If I was being really picky, I would say this was the tiniest bit waffly, but because I enjoy this universe so much, it did not bother me much.

I can’t say anything about the plot, because I had read this before, so there were no surprises… but I think on the initial reading the ending really got me. There’s a few twists and red herrings that make this an enjoyable read.

Happily recommend ‘Clockwork Angel’ to lovers of historical fiction, steampunk, fantasy, magic, and fans of the Shadowhunter universe.

Overall feeling: Felt like coming home after a long day.

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘The Business of Death’ (#3 Death Works) by Trent Jamieson

This series gets better and better – talk about apocalyptic endings!

Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy

No. of pages: 225

Life is tough at the top when work is a matter of life or death.

It’s one thing to run Mortmax International as head of a team, but it’s quite another to rule alone. Staff fatalities have left Steven by himself on the Throne of Death, and there’s no time to get comfortable. The Stirrer god’s arrival is imminent, threatening life as we know it. Plus Steven has managed to mortally offend the only ally strong enough to help out.

And how can he ask someone to marry him when the End of Days seems inevitable? As if they’re going to think he’s committed. The portents don’t look good as a comet burns vast and looming in the sky and Steven can almost hear a dark clock ticking. He will have to play nice if he wants his ally back, and must address the madness of the Hungry Death within himself if he even has a chance at defeating the Stirrer god.

If he fails, Hell and Earth are doomed and wedding bells will be quite out of the question.

This was the cinematic ending (sort-of) I had been anticipating. I say sort-of because, though touted as a trilogy, there is a forth novella in this series, which supposedly re-boots the Mortmax universe. Leaving the series open for more possible sequels, or just concluding with a more open-ended and hopeful tone. The ending of ‘The Business of Death’ concluded with a PERIODT. It’s very final. Very satisfying in a romantic sort of way if you follow the tone set throughout the series, it makes sense. But I can see some readers not getting the sayonara they wanted.

In this instalment, Steven de Selby has gotten another promotion to Orcus as the managing directors of the worlds regional chapters of Pomps (grims) committed suicide, and transferring their collective power to Steven so he would stand a chance in fighting off a war of the coming Stirrer god. A god. One who rules over the dead, who is forcing an apocalypse and plans to decimate and take over the Earth.

There is all the sarcastic wit I’ve come to love from this series. I liken it to the Buffy franchise with the dark comedic tone. There were a few elements that held me back from truly getting sucked into the narrative this time around however: the first half of the novel is clunky. It didn’t have that flow, which made it feel like the plot was floundering even though it wasn’t. Because of this the pacing was patchy and I put the book down a lot. When things start to get really interesting in the second half the plot is magnificent, though I was pulled from the narrative again with really short and consecutive chapters. It was almost like Trent Jamieson really struggled in writing this conclusion. But that is the worst of it – some pacing and formatting issues. Jamieson’s writing is a pleasure to read, he can weave a great plot, surprise you, make you holler and laugh, and craft appealing and flawed characters, all wrapped up in Australiana – set in and around Brisbane (where I currently reside.) So the story strongly resonated with me, and I was so proud to have this calibre of writing come from my home town.

I was surprised to see even more character development from Steven as a main character, drying out from his alcohol addiction, facing death at least four times with consternation. He wasn’t this confident hero, blustering with bravado, Steven is a normal man, out of his depth, floundering for a victory with nothing but his determination. I really loved this trait and had me rooting for the underdog all the way through this series. I feel like we have an undervalued writer and under-hyped series on our hands. I’d really like to see this collection get more exposure internationally. A strong recommendation from me.

Overall feeling: Seriously cinematic!

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘The Boy on the Bridge’ (#2 The Girl With all the Gifts) by M.R. Carey

A great companion piece for fans of ‘The Girl With All The Gifts.’

Genre: Y/A, science Fiction, Dystopian, Horror

No. of pages: 400

Once upon a time, in a land blighted by terror, there was a very clever boy.

The people thought the boy could save them, so they opened their gates and sent him out into the world.

To where the monsters lived.

This was a romantic conclusion to the duology. ‘The Boy on the Bridge’ loosely mirrors the debut in the series. An intelligent teen taken under the wing of a scientist and educated as what is left of this dystopian world eagerly scrambles to find a cure for the Hungry plague.

I feel more accurately ‘The Boy on the Bridge’ is a companion novel rather than a sequel as the timelines overlap. ‘The Boy on the Bridge’ takes place a little before ‘The Girl With All The Gifts’ but also manages to pick up after so that you can conclude characters journeys from both novels. The writing style here is excellent, I really envy M.R. Carey’s wordcraft. However, I did not feel as driven with my reading experience. The narrative jumps perspectives with every chapter and the pacing was slow. We do get plot points in each chapter, but there was an element of intrigue or desperation that was missing for me. It did not get interesting until after the half way point, and even then the pacing was only at a clipped pace. There was no cinematic culmination.

Having said that, though, ‘The Boy on the Bridge’ pays off on fan service. It has all the elements from the first novel. I was hoping for some new insights regarding the Cordyceps fungus infecting the world and zombie-fying all of humanity, but alas, no maas. What we get is another road trip comprising of military and scientific personnel, and a wayward teen who is emotionally stunted. I feel awful saying that because the teen Stephen ‘The Robot’ Greaves is on the autism spectrum and somewhat of a savant. I only say it in that manner to illustrate strong parallels to that of Melanie from ‘The Girl With All The Gifts.’ It stopped me from forging a strong emotional connection to the protagonists – that continual switching of points of view and the emotional unavailability of the main character – it was too distant. So when something shocking did happen, I just rolled with the punches, not even an inkling of a sigh, gasp, or tear.

I really like this duology, its desolate tone, a world evolving and scratching for survival. I appreciated Carey’s writing and look forward to tackling another of his titles.

Overall feeling: Damn girl, that’s pretty good.

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Highway Bodies’ by Alison Evans

A zombie apocalypse Aussie style!

Highway Bodies Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Horror, LGBT

No. of pages: 376

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Who will you rely on in the zombie apocalypse?

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Bodies on the TV, explosions, barriers, and people fleeing. No access to social media. And a dad who’ll suddenly bite your head off – literally. These teens have to learn a new resilience…

Members of a band wield weapons instead of instruments.

A pair of siblings find there’s only so much you can joke about, when the menace is this strong.

And a couple find depth among the chaos.

Highway Bodies is a unique zombie apocalypse story featuring a range of queer and gender non-conforming teens who have lost their families and friends and can only rely upon each other.

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Once I got into ‘Highway Bodies’ I could not put this book down – I stayed up until 3am to finish it, and every tap, scratch, and spook noise from outside my widow and I’d freeze like I was living in a zombie apocalypse too. Having lived in Melbourne, Australia for over 7 years, it was great to recognise many of the landmarks referenced in this novel. And it was additionally a breath of fresh air to read a story where cis, straight-gendered people were the minority. ‘Highway Bodies’ has a lot going for it.

Told in three alternating perspectives from differing groups of teenagers as they witness the initiation of a viral outbreak from a meat processing plant, turning the population into flesh eating zombies. One of the narratives in particular is expressed in dialect slang – which is jarring at first – I didn’t like it so much, but then as the novel progresses and you get used to it, it really shines through and separates this perspective or Eve from the other two. Eve is transgender and flees from his home after his father turns and attacks Eve’s mother and brother. There is a lot of gore in ‘Highway Bodies’ think ‘The Walking Dead’ starring a diverse group of teens.

Highway Bodies Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleDee leads the second narrative, a member of a rock band renting a house in the countryside while they practice and write new songs. Dee identifies as bisexual and we see many expression of genders and sexuality in her bandmates and throughout the novel. After the power cuts off and they cannot access the internet or get cell service they venture into town to find bodies everywhere, the whole town slaughtered. It doesn’t take them too long to run into their first zombie.

JoJo is our final non-binary protagonist, one of a pair of fraternal twins from a previously abusive home. Their mother is a nurse and after she returns to work and does not return home, JoJo and sister Rhea sneak to the hospital to investigate. Finding their mother, turned, and amongst a horde of caged zombies from a military presence.

After that things really to go hell in a fight for survival: from the zombies, the elements, and other survivors.

It took me a bit to click to what was going on with the switching of narratives in the beginning, it’s not until 50 pages in that you get a sense of the rhythm of ‘Highway Bodies’ and after that the pace and tension keep increasing right up until the end. I enjoyed Alison Evans writing style much more in this novel than I did in her debut ‘Ida.’ ‘Highway Bodies’ has a gruesome realism befitting the dystopian landscape. I found myself invested and caring about these teens plight. The conclusion is a bit of a one-two punch, but satisfying.

The three things holding me back from awarding a perfect score for this novel were the fact I didn’t know what was going on initially with the switching of perspectives. Maybe some chapter titles to let the reader know whose story we were following would have been helpful. The other was the affirmation of gender pronouns to be used when characters were introducing themselves to each other. I get the practicality of it, but in the setting the dialogue did not feel natural and true to the characters… but it is only my opinion. I would have liked to have seen a more intimate setting, or a correction to make this scene feel more authentic. And finally, though there is romance in ‘Highway Bodies’ it wasn’t given enough time to develop to a point for me to really get into the couplings. They were cute and I was rooting for them, but it missed some angst or something.

I have to applaud the representation in ‘Highway Bodies’ it helps raise awareness and give a voice to minority groups. I’m enjoy experiencing a world through the eyes of someone other than a straight white cis-gendered protagonist.

I liken this to Mindy McGinnis ‘Not a Drop to Drink’ it has the same level of brutality, a survival story – and as such is mostly predictable. You want the protagonists to stay alive and make it to the end of the novel; but the journey there has many unexpected turns. ‘Highway Bodies’ is one of my most favourite zombie apocalypse reads to date. And I can’t recommend this enough.

Just some trigger warnings for younger readers for assault, violence, gore, murder, and you know general zombiness.

Overall feeling: Aussie Awesomeness!

Highway Bodies Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Highway Bodies Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

#bookporn

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I was actually looking for some moody covers to photograph in the same colour palette, but discovered they were both by Alison Evans – so this is an author themed shoot. These  look super interesting and can’t wait to start knocking down my TBR.

Book Review – ‘Immunity’ (#2 Contagion) by Erin Bowman

Bacteria fuelled telepathic zombies (sort of).

Immunity (#2 Contagion) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Science Fiction, Horror.

No. of pages: 434

From Goodreads:

They thought their nightmare was over, but Thea, Coen, and Nova’s rescue was only the beginning. After being imprisoned on a ship they thought was their ticket to safety, it’s clear that the threat they left behind isn’t as distant as they’d hoped—and this time the entire galaxy is at risk.

Now that threat is about to be unleashed as an act of political warfare. To prevent an interstellar catastrophe, the survivors must harness the evil they faced on the planet Achlys and learn to wield the only weapon they have left: themselves.

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This was a great conclusion to the series. Plenty of action. Copious twists and turns. All the sci-fi things that I love!

We follow the three escapees from Achlys: Thea, Coen and Nova, and introduce Amber as well as Naree – all taking pivotal roles in not only a political war, but one against the spread of the deadly bacteria.

We get the omnipresent perspective and insights into all the characters, and I like how the sections of the novel were broken up into locations.

The only thing that didn’t quite ring true for me was the pacing. Thea and Coen spent half the novel locked up in a cell, so it sapped all the action and pacing out of the novel.

There is slightly more romance and some of it tied into the Psychrobater achli with bonding pairs, but that felt a little forced rather than borne from a biological imperative, so it felt a little corny – as too did the telepathy. But the latter was a major plot point for the story so I can forgive these interesting side effects of the contagion.

Immunity (#2 Contagion) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

While ‘Immunity’ is heavily plot driven, we get some character development as well. With everything the teens have to overcome and sacrifice, they grow up real fast and start taking into account the safety of planets above their own. Also having a spectrum of cultural backgrounds and sexuality as something every day and matter of fact was refreshing.

I absolutely loved Erin Bowman’s writing style and am definitely picking up her taken trilogy next. Hopeful I have discovered my next auto-but sci-fi author.

I can’t say I predicted this series all too well, I was always surprised by the plot twists and loved how Erin Bowman can craft a reveal.

Totally recommend this to sci-fi geeks like me everywhere, but the pacing wasn’t as good as the debut.

Overall feeling: Oh My SpaceOpera!

Immunity (#2 Contagion) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Wreck Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.