Title: The Clockwork Scarab (Stoker and Holmes #1)
Author: Colleen Gleason
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Publication Date: September 17, 2013
Summary: 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.
You know, you’d never think that two teenage girls, one related to Bram Stoker from Dracula, the other related to Sherlock Holmes, could ever manage to work together to solve mysteries and save the day. And you’d be pretty much right. These two ladies definitely did not like each other and were not above making sure the other one knew it.
First we have Alvermina Holmes, who unsurprisingly goes by Mina, a young lady who was abandoned by her mother, lives with a brillant father who is never home, and is known to mostly because of her crime solving uncle, Sherlock Holmes. She is headstrong, just as brilliant as her uncle, unfortunately not very fashionable, and definitely socially awkward. Mina brings the brains and determination, the logically side to the duo. She is also my favorite out of the two. I loved seeing how her brain works, working out clues and determining all of the possible explanations. But I could still relate to her because she wasn’t just a robot, she was still an awkward teenage girl. And I loved how she had kind of the feminist streak in a time where women aren’t really supposed to do anything improper. She didn’t care about propriety, she just wanted to use her brains and help people, and was constantly annoyed when people underestimated her because she is a woman.
Evaline Stoker was a bit more difficult for me to like. She was beautiful, has super speed and strength, and has never killed a vampire despite her abilities. She made a few rash decisions in the book that she obviously didn’t think out, nearly getting both girls killed, and that annoyed me. I also didn’t like how she kind of seemed to put herself up on a pedestal because she was prettier and had more gentlemen interested in her than Mina. But I did like how she still tried her best to be a good addition to the team and use the strengths she had to help. I can appreciate when a character knows their strengths and weaknesses and can admit when they are a bit out of their league. I also found the whole vampire slaying thing to be really interesting, although we don’t get any of it since there are no vampires in London anymore, but I did like the few bits we got on her family history when vampires were still around.
As far as the romance goes, we have several cases of forced insta-infatuation and even a love triangle. Yep, the dreaded love triangle. Evaline falls for some guy that I can barely understand because he uses a strong Cockney accent, and wears a barrage of disguises. But the best part is that he is named Pix. Like a pixie. Don’t ask because I really don’t know. Then we have Mina who is getting all swoony over some Irish detective, but who could blame her with an accent like that? But she is also panting over some boy that is from the future of a parallel world. When she first sees the future boy, she immediately gasps over how attractive he is. Two second later the detective walks in, and she again gasps at how attractive he is. I’m pretty sure Mina is just going to become obsessed and insert herself into the lives of every eligible bachelor she meets. Really, with both girls, their relationships don’t really get to in depth, it’s mostly just a steamy attraction sort of thing, so it was of little to no interest to me.
I was actually really pleasantly surprised to see that this is a steampunk book. Very light steampunk for sure, but it’s still there and adds a little unexpected fun to this story. So this book looks kind of like a hot mess, considering just in the first few chapters we already have steampunk, vampires, time travel, and an evil Egyptian society, among other things. But I actually found that the author did a fairly good job of making things flow together well. She didn’t shove the steampunk stuff in your face or make it feel forced, so the little mentions we got of it were very intriguing.
The plot itself was pretty fast paced and fun. The mystery wasn’t anything amazing, especially since it really didn’t even get solved in the end, which I’m sure will tie into a later book. But I did really enjoy the world, the steampunk parts were very interesting and I loved the more traditional historical London feel too. I did enjoy seeing the girls kind of dance around each other, not wanting to work together or cooperate, only to become a bit closer by the end. Their banter was really entertaining, as well as seeing their different lifestyles and how they were both kind of jealous of each other, even though they would never admit it. As for the time travel part, that mystery wasn’t figured out, a pretty stereotypical explanation was given and that was that. I’m convinced that time travel is only in the book so the author could bring a ridiculously attractive boy from the future for Mina to fall in love with, only for there to be a huge amount of drama once they find a way to get him back to his own time.
The villain in this book was really strange to me. I get that the author wanted them to be mysterious, but literally no one in this book could tell if it was a man or a woman. Mina at one point thinks she knows who it is, but even then, I don’t get how there is literally no way to figure out what sex the person is. It absolutely drove me crazy and I didn’t understand the relevance of having the villain be like that in this story. It seemed really random and confusing.
While this book wasn’t anything amazing, I would consider it to be a light, entertaining sort of read. If you just want to settle down with a fun mystery, attractive young men, witty banter, and a hint of supernatural stuff, this would be the book for you. Just don’t expect to have your mind blown by an ingenious plot or character development. I’m pretty sure you’d be rather disappointed.