Set in England during the Victorian Age, Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare is the second book of the Infernal Devices series, a paranormal chain that combines the realms of mysticism and the supernatural. The subject matter has a global appeal; however, the story itself loses the reader through the twisting maze of characters and institutional hierarchy within its secret society.
Reminiscent of the Arcane Society conjured by Amanda Quick, aka author Jayne Ann Krentz, Clare’s secret society is a group of humans whose supernatural qualities like possessing witchlight make them Shadowhunters. Their mission is to locate those humans who practice dark magic and threaten the well-being of England’s Victorian society.
The interlocking links within the society of Shadowhunters include numerous institutions such as the Clave and Council, the Covenant and Consul, and the Reparations. The Shadowhunters are held accountable by a checks and balances system which includes Downworlders and Inquisitors. Each of these professions and institutions are a metaphor for actual professions and government institutions in the reader’s real world. The work of the Shadowhunters is representative of law enforcers. The Downworlders are reflective of civil liberty unions, and the Inquisitors are liken to prosecuting attorneys.
The story enables readers to draw parallels between their world and the paranormal world that the author creates; however, the complexity of this otherworld is oftentimes over-bloated. Not that the real world isn’t overly inflated by layers of legality and multiple channels to go through to accomplish a single goal but it makes the novel burdensome to move through and the plot hard to follow.
The government system for the secret society is described as overly complex and the cast of characters is equally superfluous. The story begins simple enough with a conversation between a Shadowhunter and a ghost. The direction and purpose of the conversation is clear and apparent to the reader. As the story progresses and more characters are introduced to the reader, the story becomes convoluted. Its direction is clouded by a deluge of characters coming at the reader. Differences between the characters are not distinguishable so everyone’s voice sounds like each other. The differences between Tessa, Sophie and Jessamine or between Will and Jem are undiscernible.
The author tapped into a subject matter that piques people’s interest, entering the realms of mysticism and the paranormal. In the author’s effort to create a parallel universe within the real world of Victorian England, the story becomes overly layered and complicated, and subsequently loses the reader within its heavy mass.