When I started my re-read of this series, I was all ready to be cynical and jaded and complain about love triangles, etc, etc, etc, but this series–despite still being ridiculous at times–has managed to melt my icy little heart. I’m a sucker for books about the power of love and hope and family and that’s ultimately what this, even if it has a bit of a flare for the dramatic.
To my mind, each book of this series is representative of a different lead. Clockwork Angel was Tessa’s book, Clockwork Prince was Will’s book and, finally, Clockwork Princess is Jem’s book. It’s always been clear that he has a soul of iron but the agony of his situation is made raw and fresh in this conclusion. I maintain that Jem is the strongest character emotionally in all of CC’s books. My other favorite character in this book was easily Charlotte Branwell — kind and caring to all her charges while still managing to have nerves of steel.
Interestingly enough, despite all of the romantic relationships forming among the various characters, the connection that shone the strongest for me was the parabatai relationship of Will and Jem. Each one of their interactions teemed with a desperation, a beauty, and a pain that surprised me. ( Will? Is it you, Will?) The scene where Jem sends Will after Tessa in particular shredded my heart. I think what draws me to them more than anything else is despite the fact that this book is wild and unrealistic and fantastical for so much of the time, the terror of impending loss that colors this book feels staggeringly, agonizingly, real. There’s a line from a Mary Oliver poem that I love: loss is the great lesson That sentiment is echoed here in a hundred different ways, elevating this from a typical YA romp to a story about grief, and how to move on when it feels like you’ll be trapped in the agony of the moment forever. Magnus says, in response to how he manages to survive such pain over the years: “There is no great secret. You endure what is unbearable, and you bear it.” I cannot fully express how true those words rung to me, and how they captured and crystallized the experiences of pain and loss I have had in my own life. I was not at ALL expecting to have that experience reading this book, and I’m grateful for it.
Still, there are definitely parts of this that made me roll my eyes. Magnus’ presence at every major problem felt like a fairly disappointing cop out. Also, I was frustrated with the furious matchmaking of every single remotely important character in this book to another character. Henry and Charlotte were a given, and Sophie and Gideon I could understand, but it began to get a little tiring when Cecily and Gabriel were pushed together. There’s only so many dramatic confessions of love between different couples that I can handle in one book without them losing and semblance of meaning. Not to mention that every couple was heterosexual and white (save for Jem). I’ll also be eternally angry about the friding of Jesssamine–I feel like her redemption arc had a lot of potential.