Tuesday 12 October 2021

The Infernal Devices #1 - Clockwork Angel

Oooh, yes, yes, yes.

Love is the most dangerous magic of all....

Something terrifying is waiting for Tessa Gray in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Tessa seeks refuge with the Shadowhunters, a band of warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons. Tessa finds herself fascinated by and torn between two best friends....

First in the best-selling prequel series to The Mortal Instruments, set in Victorian London.

Bought this on a whim. I occasionally get this mad fantasy itch and go hunting for something to scratch it. I'm exceedingly picky and haven't had much luck lately, but this one was delightful. Ticked all the boxes. Something almost Diana Wynne Jones-esque about it, with the kick-ass female character, the moody, broody Welsh arsehole of a magical male lead, and the detailed fantastical world in which they live. I guess DWJ meets Rivers of London. Very enjoyable, and choosing between Will and Jem is impossible. 

There's a lovely lick of steampunk in there, with an army of demonic automatons and, of course, the titular clockwork angel. 

I also loved that each chapter started with a homage to some of the greatest gothic and classic verse. Rossetti's Goblin Market was in there, Byron, Wilde, Kipling and Tennyson. It was joyous. A chocolate box of fancies. You can find a full list here.

It's not a long life, killing demons; one tends to die young, and then they burn your body - dust to dust, in the literal sense. And then we vanish into the shadows of history, nary a mark on the page of a mundane book to remind the world that once we existed at all.


"Nice place to live, isn't it? Let's hope they left something behind other than filth. Forwarding addresses, a few severed limbs, a prostitute or two..."

"Indeed. Perhaps, if we're fortunate, we can still catch syphilis."

"Almost the first thing I realized when I came here was that my father never thought of himself as British, not the way an Englishman would. Real Englishmen are British first, and gentlemen second. Whatever else it is they might be—a doctor, a magistrate or landowner—comes third. For Shadowhunters it’s different. We are Nephilim, first and foremost, and only after that do we make a nod to whatever country we might have been born and bred in. And as for third, there is no third. We are only ever Shadowhunters. When other Nephilim look at me, they see only a Shadowhunter. Not like mundanes, who look at me and see a boy who is not entirely foreign but not quite like them either."


"They have all kinds of odd magic and things in Wales, you know."

(I think this formed the Howl connection for me).

Warlocks in this are known as 'Lilith’s Children,' which has been an interesting part about my research for Sargon. The name Lilith comes from the word lil in Sumerian, lilu (m)/lilitu (f) in Akkadian. They are spirits of the unburied deceased. They can also appear in child form, Sumerian kiskil lila, Akkadian ardat-lili, and rank among the type of demons that need to be banished. (Thanks to Leif Inselmann for that information). So, the thing about warlocks and procreation makes sense, as the Children of Lilith are dead anyway. 

The only thing that gave me pause was the pronunciation of Boudicca/Boadicea throughout the book. In the UK, she's commonly pronounced Boudicca (boo-dika) or, for the Romanisation, Boadicea (bow-da-see-a). The latter is usually among the older generation, I think? There has been a shift towards Boudicca over the years. However, the book narration keeps referring to her as bowa-da-see-a, which I'd never heard before. 

(click to enlarge)

So, according to the phonetics it is a legitimate pronunciation, though it's not one I'd ever heard before. It makes sense when the American character says it that way, but it's much more common to drop the (ɘ) in British English or use the modern pronunciation, Boudicca. I suppose they kept the pronunciation the same throughout so as not to confuse listeners too much, but as the American character learns about Boadicea from an English character, it might have been better to go with a more common British pronunciation. 

I realise I'm over-thinking this. Either way, Boadicea/Boudicca wins the prize for the most confusing name in history, and the narration of the audiobook was absolutely excellent. 

Highly recommend. I very rarely get into a series, but I downloaded the second one of these before I'd even finished the first.

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