THE CLOCKWORK SCARAB : A Stoker & Holmes novel by Colleen Gleason
jacket flap blurb
“Tonight, I ask, on behalf of her Royal Highness, the Princess of Wales: will you do what no other young women are called to do, and place your lives and honor at the feet of your country?”
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, so to speak. And when two young society girls disappear—one dead, one 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 a murder with only one clue: a strange Egyptian scarab. The pressure is on and the stakes are high—if Stoker and Holmes don’t figure out why London’s finest sixteen-year-old women are in danger, they’ll become the next victims.
Despite saying “a Stoker & Holmes” novel on the front, this is, in fact, the first of a series. A series which I will not be continuing with, for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, I should go over what works. The world is this steampunk alternate history thing with a lot of a really cool world-building touches, such as the steam gun. It was interesting and neither overshadowed the plot nor got lost within it.
Of course, part of this is because the plot is so iffy. There are a lot of characters who seem to serve precisely two functions. One for plot and one for love interest. For instance, Inspector Grayling. He is, essentially, Lestrade for Sherlock Holmes, representing the Scotland Yard end of things. His other purpose? To be Mina Holmes’ love interest. Well, one of them.
The other live interest is Dylan, who mysteriously time traveled from the future. Or possibly an alternate reality future, which is identical to our own (he has an iPhone, for instance). Besides being a love interest, he exists to provide mystery. He was transported via Sekhmet statue—the same Sekhmet statue that the Society of Sekhmet is using to, supposedly, raise Sekhmet herself (this Society is headed by an androgynous figure known as the Ankh).
I didn’t find Grayling very interesting, and to be honest neither was Dylan. The only love interest who seemed to have an ounce of depth was Pix, Evaline Stoker’s love interest. He is also a mystery figure who speaks with a fake Cockney accent (we know it’s fake because at one point he accidentally drops it in surprise). He appears in all sorts of strange places and seems to have a personality and life outside of Stoker, Holmes, and the Society of Sekhmet plot.
Other, less important characters include Irene Adler, Sherlock Holmes, and Mycroft Holmes. Mycroft doesn’t appear in the story, but he is mentioned. He’s Mina Holmes’s dad. Her mother apparently walked out of their life when Mina was a child and she isn’t given a name.
Sherlock appears entirely for the purpose of fanservice. He gets one scene that takes place over one page worth of text. He is shown with a group of police, but I guess he must be working on another mystery that isn’t mentioned because he vanishes from the story thereafter. You’d think, if he was working on the Society of Sekhmet mystery, he’d come up again. And possibly solve it before Mina. But no.
It leads to the question, why is he even in the story? Why wouldn’t the author have had him die before the story begins, thus cutting out his potential to usurp Mina or otherwise get involved in her dealings?
And then there’s Irene Adler. She’s mentioned as being just as intelligent as Sherlock, and just as crafty, yet she displays none of this supposed skill. She is the one who recruits Mina Holmes and Evaline Stoker to work on the Society of Sekhmet mystery, and she is essentially their handler. But her part in the story is so small it’s practically inconsequential. You could cut her out and leave an astonishingly small number of loose ends.
If I were writing this story, I would cut her. I would have Mycroft take her place. It brings him into the story, gives a new angle and tension between Mina and Mycroft. Mycroft (to my knowledge) is a manipulator, but he’s also very nationalistic. He would put the needs of the country above Mina’s, and use her desire to please him to get her to do what he wants (like teaming up with Evaline Stoker, who Mina initially dislikes).
And Mina would enjoy the fact that she’s allowed to do all this “male” stuff like science and investigating, but she’d also want Mycroft to be at least a little concerned for her, because he is her father and she’d want some proof that he cared about her as his daughter.
In addition, if Irene Adler were Mycroft, her absence in parts of the story could be explained by Mycroft’s numerous other duties.
Now, onto Evaline Stoker. On the surface, she sounds interesting. A vampire hunter from an illustrious family. Desperate to prove herself as a vampire hunter in a world where vampires are nearly extinct. Afraid of blood, but can still kick just about anyone’s ass with her combat skills and super-senses.
But, in reality, she’s just not as engaging as Mina Holmes. The way she narrates isn’t as interesting (though the author gets points for trying to make them distinct voices) and, generally, the things she picks up on aren’t as relevant to the story. She seems fixated on Pix. Besides giving an outsider’s view on Mina and trying to figure out what’s up with Pix, Evaline doesn’t seem to do much.
Possibly, though, this is because I couldn’t attach to her as well as I attached to Mina. The first couple chapters are all in Mina’s perspective. By the time we get to Evaline, the stage has already been set. Not to mention, her first portion consists entirely of internal monologue and a meeting with Pix.
But on to the plot.
Ah, the plot.
Where do I begin? How about the fact that from around the halfway point to the end of the book, absolutely nothing changes. Not our understanding of the characters, not the power position of the villain, nothing. The only change is that Mina and Evaline grow a tiny bit closer—or, rather, they realize they don’t hate each other anymore. It’s pretty clear to us readers by the halfway point.
Mysteries at the halfway point: Who is the Ankh? How did Dylan time travel? Who is Pix? What happened with Mina’s mom?
Mysteries at the end of the book: Who is the Ankh? How did Dylan time travel? Who is Pix? What happened with Mina’s mom?
Not to mention the lesser mystery of Jack the Ripper. He is mentioned several times. Is he going to end up part of the plot? Are these just throwaway comments to help with world-building?
The only thing that happened at the end was that one girl was saved. That’s it. That’s all. After half a book of buildup, not a single major mystery has been revealed. I felt cheated. I mean, I read this whole book and I don’t even get a single answer? What was the point of the last half of the book?
I have no problem with book series where the entire series is all about one major problem. Like the Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan, and the Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. Or how about Broadchurch, the TV show detailing one investigation? Those were all good (well, the Lynburn Legacy isn’t over, but the first two have been good).
But this, this is not good. It’s like the author took their story and stretched it out too far. There’s no sense of accomplishment at the end of the book, but nor is there any sense that things have gotten any worse.
rating out of five stars