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Monday, July 28, 2014

Review: The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason

The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason
Series: Stoker & Holmes #1
Publication Date: September 17, 2014
Publisher: Chronicle Books
A Young Adult novel
Pages: 356
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Steampunk
    buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery
Evaline Stoker and Mina Holmes never meant to get into the family business. But when you’re the sister of Bram and the niece of Sherlock, vampire hunting and mystery solving are in your blood. And when two society girls go missing, there’s no one more qualified to investigate.
          Now fierce Evaline and logical Mina must resolve their rivalry, navigate the advances of not just one but three mysterious gentlemen, and solve murder with only one clue: a strange Egyptian scarab. The stakes are high. If Stoker and Holmes don’t unravel why the belles of London society are in such danger, they’ll become the next victims.
If there is one thing that I will ever admit to anyone in my life ever, it's this: I love Sherlock Holmes. If there was a second thing that I would admit promptly after that statement, its that I also am a huge fan of the steampunk genre. Now, when you put the two things that I love into one mystery-induced story then I am wont to explode. So having heard about Colleen Gleason's Stoker & Holmes series where the sister of Bram Stoker and the niece of Sherlock Holmes team up to solve the mystery behind the deaths of high society debutantes of steampunk London, how could I not pick up this novel? It has everything I could want and more--did I mention there is some time-travel as well? And Gleason suctions it together with a mystery surrounding Egyptian mythology. Though the story sounds extremely compacted with everything under the sun, it is an engaging and fun read.

Granted, The Clockwork Scarab had me itching to re-watch the BBC Sherlock seasons and Benedict Cumberbatch kept overtaking the image of Mina's uncle Sherlock in the story making me crave more insertions of his side character. The steampunk is commented on variously by the term "cognogin" to exemplify one who is enamored with the steampunk mechanisms of the world. But besides the steam gun Mina borrows from her uncle Sherlock and the steamcycles, the only other way that this world is in the steampunk universe is through the knowledge of London's ban on electricity and incorporating the entire country with the power of steam as a replacement. I would have loved to read more of the elements to this steampunk world, but Gleason has plenty on her plate in this novel, which leaves departments of this story and it's world lacking in some various details.

Characters Mina Holmes and Evaline Stoker both enchant the story in their own quirky way. Between Mina's sleuthing for the case and about the boy who'd traveled back in time, and Evaline's charismatic persona and superhuman abilities as a vampire hunter, it was a blast reading and uncovering evidence for the mystery through the eyes of both these girls. And despite their history and blood, the girls struggle with their identity that their family members have made famous, and whether or not they are meant to follow in the family business. It brings the two famous females of the novel down to a level that the reader can understand and the pressure of living up to expectations has on all teenagers.

The secondary characters were of an interesting array ranging from a Scotland Yard detective to a pickpocket. Some of the vernacular that Gleason was trying to write in with more of the lowerclass characters of London society was difficult for me to read and took some time mumbling it over both in my head and out loud, ultimately pulling me out from the story from time to time just to translate. It also stunts my connection with the character, Pix being one of them. But their interaction within the story helps put Mina and Evaline in some interesting situations and move the mystery plot along quite nicely.

Final Summation: Fans of Bram Stoker and fans of Sherlock Holmes are those that I'd recommend this novel to. Especially if you're looking for a spin-off of these classics. Even mystery lovers, a great read with twists and turns at every corner. It's a cute, light read with cleaver characters. I cannot wait to see what is in store for Stoker and Holmes in the next novel, and hopefully Gleason gets to the bottom of the time travel sub-plot.
Three targets slayed. The Game is Afoot, Stoker & Holmes! Hop to it!