Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Book Review: 'The Clockwork Scarab' by Colleen Gleason

✰✰✰ In this first installment of a new series, young, wealthy women are being mysteriously killed in a steampunk version of London in 1889. Each victim happened to have an unusual Egyptian styled clockwork scarab in her possession. In order to uncover the murderer, Miss Irene Adler, under the request of Princess Alexandra, calls upon the unique talents of two young women. One just happens to be the niece of Sherlock Holmes, and the other is the much younger sister of Bram Stoker. However, these aren’t your ordinary teenaged girls. Miss Mina Holmes is logical and composed, while Miss Evaline Stoker is a fast-acting vampire hunter. While each is gifted in her own way, each struggles with a secret as well. Mina doubts herself, and Evaline gets queasy at the sight of blood.

Out of necessity the two young women form an uneasy alliance to try to solve the mystery before more of London’s finest young ladies are murdered. Add a pickpocket, a police inspector, and a time traveler into the mix, and things start to get interesting. Together Mina and Evaline discover a dark side of London filled with interesting characters, danger, and even a little romance.

The Bottom Line: This story is told from the differing viewpoints of Mina and Evaline with more emphasis given to Mina. While the two characters are unique, their viewpoints can be confused at times as the two often sound quite similar. The two young women fall into obvious stereotypes. As their relationship evolves they begin to discover that their strengths and weaknesses complement each other. Unfortunately, both are easily wooed and distracted by potential romantic involvements.

I was originally drawn to this book because of the combined elements of mystery, historical fiction, steampunk, and time travel with a twist of paranormal. Additionally, there is an interesting focus on the Egyptian obsession of the Victorian Era. Also, the detailed descriptions of the clothing and outfits will appeal to young women. Thus, the intended audience, girls in grades 8 - 10, may find this novel amusing. Nevertheless, while a few questions were answered, too many loose ends were left hanging. Without spoiling the ending, I was left somewhat annoyed by the lack of resolution. The unsatisfying conclusion was obviously meant to string the reader along to the next installment. While I’m not sure that I’ll pick up the next one set to publish in 2014, I hope it does have a more complete ending.

Note: There is a discussion guide available for book groups or classes.

Details: The Clockwork Scarab: A Stoker & Holmes Novel by Colleen Gleason.  Paperback ARC published by Chronicle Books in 2013. 356 p. ISBN: 978-1-4521-1070-7 Note: I received a review copy from Chronicle Books in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible by the Early Reviewer program at LibraryThing.

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