stoker & holmes

On Following Legends | The Clockwork Scarab Book Review

Reading Colleen Gleason’s The Clockwork Scarab has me disappointed…

Disappointed… that it’s another series! Its steampunk, alternate London filled with glam and intrigue has me riveted and I’m disappointed that I have to wait - yet again - to find out more about the two dashing heroines! It is rare these days that I find myself reading a book straight through and yet that’s what I’ve just done, which goes to show that this novel is something else…

The story’s protagonists are Evaline Stoker, sister of the famous Bram, and Mina Holmes, niece of the famed Sherlock, who were both recruited into a secret society under the orders of the Princess Alexandra to solve a mystery plaguing the high society of London with only a clockwork scarab as a clue.

Your assistance is requested in a most pressing matter. If you are willing to follow in the footsteps of your family, please present yourself…

The main characters are well-rounded, equipped with all the faults and graces that come from having famous relatives. Evaline is a fierce vampire hunter - a twist I rather liked - whose failure at a mission left her traumatized at the sight of blood. Mina, on the other hand, is intelligent and knowledgeable in the  deductive arts, whose reclusive nature leaves her insecure at times. Both are strong female characters driven by their desire to prove their worthiness at an age where women are deemed inferior. Despite their initial rivalry, both comes to like the other and their journey there had endeared them. The three main male characters are perfect foils for the ladies - the impish and stalwart Pix, the refreshing Dylan and the nonsensical, brooding Inspector Grayling. They complement their ladies well, their interactions helping the plot along instead of just being asides.

The story may have been set in the Victorian era where a lady’s life revolves around social functions, but this novel revolves mostly on the mystery and the non-stop action, giving Evaline and Mina a chance to display their skills. It is narrated between the two heroines which gives deeper insight to their characters. The setting might be a bit complicated as the alternate London envisaged by Gleason involves additional street levels and items (e.g., Tufference’s Super-Strenght-Mop-Wringer) that are rather too much. Her descriptions are a tad more detailed which I find both eases the imagining of the characters and the setting, but lengthens the story.

I applaud Gleason’s tenacity in keeping up Pix’s Cockney accent - I thought she’d expose him sooner - and in maintaining a traditional Holmes-esque monologue for when Mina’s deducts. I like how she melded together Egyptian mythology, steampunk, Holmesian mystery and time travel (yes!) seamlessly in one.

The cover art is rather brilliant, showcasing a photograph of a real clockwork scarab held in the palms of lace-covered hands. The title script is slightly curled in elegant gold with the series name in simple font.

Overall, it is a charming and witty read, with characters you can get behind and an adventure that will whet your appetite for more! Look out more Stoker & Holmes novels!