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Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

September 10, 2010 5 comments

Last week, Cassandra Clare came to my local library to do a signing as part of her book tour.

The Mortal Instruments (MI) series is at the top of my favorites list, so I had been waiting for this new book, Clockwork Angel.

Clockwork Angel is the first book in a new prequel Shadowhunter series called The Infernal Devices.  It takes place in 1878 in Victorian London, which is (obviously) such a contrast from modern New York City, where MI takes place.

Here’s the synopsis:

Magic is dangerous–but love is more dangerous still.

When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London’s Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What’s more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa’s power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by–and torn between–two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm’s length…everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world…and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.

(By the way, you can read the first 100 pages here.)

Like I mentioned, I have been waiting for this book for a long time, and when I was in line with it, waiting to get it signed, I had this brief moment of panic when I thought, “What if it’s bad?  What if I don’t like it?”

I don’t know how I could have ever thought that.

I loved this book.  Loved it.  And it quickly earned a place on my favorites list.

I already loved the whole Shadowhunting world, but add witty and clever protagonists and steampunk villains, and what more could I want?

This book was quite funny.  A lot funnier than most of the MI.  Maybe because Tessa is really clever and doesn’t put up with flack from anyone, whereas in MI, all the wit comes from Simon and sometimes Jace.

I really liked the main characters and found them to be believable and lovable.  They’re really easy to like, although Henry is certainly high on my list because of his red hair.

I was happy to find that Tessa, the  main girl in the story, was so different from Clary (although she faces similar conflicts).  Although Will, who is an ancestor of Jace’s, seems so much like Jace at times, you wonder if snarkiness and self-destruction are inherited traits.  I don’t think it’s bad that they’re so alike, because it feels more like they’re supposed to be.  Because they’re two apples from the same crazy Herondale tree.

Meeting Cassandra Clare was awesome.  She was cool and funny and everything I hoped she’d be.  She had hot shoes and purple streaks in her hair that really made me think about dying mine, too.  I felt like a big dork, which I am wont to do when I meet people who are obviously so much cooler than me.  But Cassandra Clare was nice and cool about it.  So, thanks for that, Cassandra Clare.

Thanks for being cool to all the dorks out there who love you.

After that picture, I went home and started reading Clockwork Angel right away. I finished it the next day.

I have no self-control when it comes to books.

Thank goodness that her next book, City of Fallen Angels (MI #4), comes out in 207 days.

Five stars for being totally brill and living up to the hype.  Too bad Clockwork Prince (ID #2) doesn’t come out for another year.

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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith and Jane Austen

August 12, 2010 1 comment

Oh, Jane Austen.  I’m so sorry that your good name is attached to this bad book.

Here’s the basic idea:

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (by Seth Grahame-Smith) was SOOOO popular that the publishing company apparently decided to cash in on it and write a PREQUEL.

(There is also a movie in the works starring Natalie Portman as Elizabeth.)

However, this book has a different author than P&P&Z who: a) is not as clever as Grahame-Smith and b) has obviously never read neither Jane Austen’s beloved original OR Grahame-Smith’s mash-up masterpiece.

I REALLY wanted to like this book, but… I just didn’t.

So.

I’ve decided to write a letter to the author.  (Which I will, of course, not really send, but leave here as a substitute for my review.)

Dear Mr. Hockensmith,

First of all, you decided to name the Bennet parents Oscar and Prudence?!?!  Really?!  There is no way in H-E-double-hockey-sticks that their names are Oscar and Prudence.  And while I get that the whole book is supposed to be a joke, it’s supposed to maintain enough integrity of the original that you actually believe the characters are the same.

Which I do not, by the way.

Just drop the P&P&Z from the title and change the names of all the characters.  Let people think it’s an entirely new book– a horror story set in Regency England.  Historical horror– it could spurn a whole new genre.  As it is, this book only resembles Jane Austen’s in that the people and places have the same names.

EXCEPT for Purvis Lodge.  It’s Purvis in the original, but you kept referring to it as “Pulvis Lodge.”  Which, I have to say, bugged me way more than it should have.  Which is to say, a lot.

For the record, I really liked P&P&Z.  I liked it so much that I went out and bought it.  I recommended it to my friends, my mother…  I thought it was comical genius.  Seth Grahame-Smith did such an excellent job fusing Austen’s classic romance with monster horror that I believed it.  I. believed. it.  He sold me on the idea that yeah, sure, Elizabeth Bennet could have been a zombie slayer in her free time.

But Mr. Hockensmith, you didn’t write anything that even closely resembled that character.  And I get it, it’s a PREQUEL.  The Bennet sisters are young– Elizabeth is 17, Lydia is 12.  The girls only vaguely resemble their future selves.  You could excuse that by saying they haven’t grown up yet or what have you.  But they don’t even seem to be on the way to being those characters.

And the Bennet parents– they’re nearly brand new characters.  Mr. Bennet hardly laughed or mocked once in the whole book!  And say what you will about Mrs. Bennet, she’s utterly absurd of course, but she would never cheat on her husband.  ESPECIALLY not with a limbless Army captain.

(Which I have to say, was actually a really funny part of the book.  But you kind of went for the cheap laugh there.  I mean, how can you NOT laugh at a blustery, moustachioed captain with no arms or legs being pushed around in a wheelbarrow by a pair of soldiers he’s dubbed “Limbs”?! )

But the captain was really the only funny part.  And the whole book was supposed to be funny, wasn’t it?  I mean, it is a parody of some sorts, right?  I just spent most of the book thinking, “I don’t know these characters at all!”  and “Oh no, he didn’t!”

Fail, Mr. Hockensmith.  Actually, D+.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the zombie of Jane Austen is on her way to eat your brains right now.

One and a half stars for a great concept, poorly executed.  I mean, Seth Grahame-Smith made the first P&P&Z such a cultural phenomenon, he practically handed you a bestseller!  But you blew it, sorry.

Murder at Mansfield Park by Lynn Shepherd

July 26, 2010 1 comment

I first heard about this book just from perusing the lists on LibraryThing.  But then, I won it on the Early Reviewers page!  I was so excited 1) because I never win anything, and 2) because I read a lot of Jane Austen “fan fiction”– sequels, rewrites, and the like.  So I fancy myself knowledgeable about this particular genre.

I love the word “fancy” as a verb– it seems so Austen-esque.

By the way, don’t you just fancy the cover?  It’s lovely, I think.

Anyway, here’s the blurb from the back of the book:

“Nobody, I believe, has ever found it possible to like the heroine of Mansfield Park.” –Lionel Trilling

In this ingenious new twist on Mansfield Park, the famously meek Fanny Price–whom Jane Austen’s own mother called “insipid”–has been utterly transformed; she is now a rich heiress who is spoiled, condescending, and generally hated throughout the county. Mary Crawford, on the other hand, is now as good as Fanny is bad, and suffers great indignities at the hands of her vindictive neighbor. It’s only after Fanny is murdered on the grounds of Mansfield Park that Mary comes into her own, teaming-up with a thief-taker from London to solve the crime.

Combining genuine Austen elements—the same characters, and the same episodes, but each with a new twist—with a murder mystery scenario, and complete with romance, intrigue, and crimes of the heart, Murder at Mansfield Park is an irreverant new twist on an old classic.

Austen-lovers have long been debating Fanny Price.  She’s either loved or hated.  Some MP fans love her romanticism and respect her gentility.  Personally, I spent most of the original Mansfield Park want to throttle her and tell her to get up off her rear and take control of her life.

I didn’t like Fanny Price in this book either, but you’re not really supposed to.  She’s the spoiled, horrible, and mean one, while Mary Crawford is the heroine—more closely resembling Elizabeth Bennet than the original cunning, condescending character she’s named after.

I’m usually not a murder mystery reader, but I really enjoyed this one!  And it wasn’t obvious who the killer was.  (Although I must say, I’m not terribly observant when it comes to these things, and I don’t really try to hard to figure it out, either.)  If Jane Austen had written murder mysteries, this book is exactly what it would be like.

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press for sending me this book.  I really enjoyed it and will be recommending it to all my Jane Austen-loving friends.

I also really enjoyed hearing Lynn Shepherd’s background about the book, which you read here.

Four stars = fabulous fun!  Well-written in Jane Austen’s own style, and much better than the original Mansfield Park.