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Coupla Short and Sweets

Not that the books were short, just the reviews. I’ve been reading so many good books lately that I want to get to others, so here are two abbreviated reviews.

If you are a Downton Abbey fan, as I am, you will probably relish the new teen novel, Cinders & Sapphires, by Leila Rasheed, the first volume of a new series. Lady Ada Averley and her family are moving back to England as a result of her father’s dismissal from the diplomatic corps in India. Ada is not clear on the details of her father’s disgrace, but she knows that she can help the family to regain its good name by marrying a suitable husband. Unfortunately, she has fallen in love with a most unsuitable Indian student, Ravi, who only encourages her unfeminine desire to attend university. To add further spice to the story, her widowed father has married a wealthy woman with dreadful children, one of whom is a young woman who becomes Lady Ada’s rival for the affections of a very eligible nobleman. The master / valet relationship that is only hinted at in Downton Abbey is a more important part of this story, and Ada’s younger sister is headed for heartbreak. Cinders & Sapphires is a fun read with all of the sprawling estates and exquisite dresses one could desire. My only complaint is that it is a true series opener in that nothing is resolved at the end of the book. Look for the next volume, coming soon!

Slipping into the final installment of a beloved series, though, is like coming home to friends and family. Such was the case with the third book of the Infernal Devices series, Clockwork Princess, by Cassandra Clare. I think I liked this steampunk series, set in Victorian England, better than the Mortal Instruments series, set in the same London church, but in the present day. This does not mean, however, that I will not be in the theater for the opening night of the movie version of City of Bones in August. After all, Cassandra Clare is always excellent.

The Infernal Devices series centers on Tessa Gray, who journeys to England from New York to find her missing brother. She is kidnapped by two hideous women who torture her and force her to discover a gift she didn’t know she had: she is a shape-shifter. Eventually, Tessa is rescued by two young men (gorgeous, of course) who are Shadowhunters, a group of people who are devoted to “the Angel” and fight the Downworlders, who are vampires, werewolves, demons, etc. Eventually, Tessa realizes that her parents are not who she thought they were, and she is not sure what sort of creature she is. In the meantime, there is the usual love triangle with Tessa and artistic but sickly Jem and sarcastic but hot Will, which is further complicated by the fact that the two guys are parabatai, warriors who are sworn to protect one another until death in a Jonathan / David ceremony. Ms. Clare brings this triangle to a huge mess by the end of book two, Clockwork Prince, and one compelling reason to read the last book is to see how she’s going to get Tessa out of this one. The entire Shadowhunter community is threatened by terrifying clockwork creatures that have been created by an evil mastermind who wants to marry Tessa and force her to use her powers to destroy everyone she’s ever loved. Great, juicy stuff, and Tessa performs all of her courageous deeds while properly dressed, corset and all.

If you like fantasy and have not yet discovered Cassandra Clare, you can start with Clockwork Angel for the Infernal Devices series or City of Bones for the Mortal Instruments series. I highly recommend both of them, and some of the characters appear in both series. (They’re immortal, remember.) This is a lighter read than the Lumatere Chronicles that I reviewed earlier, somewhat less literary but more action-packed. I am really looking forward to seeing what Ms. Clare has in store for her readers next time.

Disclaimer: I read library copies of both of these titles. My opinions are entirely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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