Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Review: The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason

The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason
Series: Stoker and Holmes #1
Published: September 17th, 2013
Publisher: Chronicle Books
356 pages (ebook)
Genre: Young adult historic fiction (steampunk)/mystery
Acquired this book: From the library
Warning: May contain spoilers
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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.


From the moment I read the synopsis of The Clockwork Scarab, I knew I had to read this book. Sherlock Holmes’s niece and Bram Stoker’s sister? Steampunk? Count me in! With great elements of historic fiction, steampunk, mystery, humour, and timey-wimey goodness, this book was a lot of fun.

I really liked both Mina and Evaline. Mina was like a teenage girl version of her Uncle Sherlock - highly intelligent, observant, and antisocial. She’d been through a lot in the last few years, and it made her different from other girls her age whose lives basically revolved around social engagements and courting. Evaline was a kickass vampire hunter with super-human speed and strength, but a debilitating weakness at the sight of blood. The girls were very different (yet also very similar) and didn’t like the idea of working together; they each had their own strengths and weaknesses, and they slowly learned that they balance each other out and could work well together if they got over their desire not only to work alone, but also to prove themselves to other people.

Because Mina and Evaline were so different, the dual POV telling worked perfectly. Each girl had a distinct voice, and it was fun to get inside their minds and see their ‘process’, as well as learn firsthand their strengths and weaknesses. The girls were the perfect choice for this investigation - they knew they’d be underestimated and overlooked just because they were women and it was the 1800s, and naturally women couldn’t be useful for anything but looking pretty and attending parties and balls. They used that to their advantage, and were very clever in the schemes they came up with.

I loved the steampunk element of this book, and thought it was really well executed. In an alternate Victorian London where electricity has been outlawed, the city is powered by steam. I was fascinated by the inventions, and I liked how Mina was really into gadgets and was always coming up with ‘cognoggin’ solutions to problems. I felt immersed in the time and place, able to picture it all clearly.

As for the mystery, I was fully engrossed. I liked how the Egyptian mythology was worked in, and thought it was a really unique idea. I’m always fascinated with books about secret societies, and the whole steampunk/Victorian London element made it all the more interesting and mysterious. 

Now let’s talk romance. There were three boys in this book - a mysterious and charming thief, an intense and handsome Scotland Yard inspector, and an accidental time traveler from the 21st century. The romances weren’t a main focus of the book, which I appreciated, because the book was more about the girls coming into their own, learning to be partners, and trying to solve the mystery. There was just enough romance to make things interesting, show a different side to each girl, and to make me curious how things will turn out in the next book(s). The (potential) love interests challenged the girls - usually in very amusing ways - and even though I'm a total romance junkie, I liked that there was just a touch of romance and it didn't consume the whole book.

I know The Clockwork Scarab is the beginning of a series, but it felt like there were too many loose ends left at the end of the novel. Nothing was really resolved, and while that makes for more interest in the next book, I was left sort of scratching my head and thinking ‘that’s it?’ There were far more questions than answers. Also, while I liked the time travel element, it felt like it was thrown in and never really expanded. I liked Dylan but we didn’t actually learn anything about him, so he sort of felt like he was just there and not really part of the story.

The Clockwork Scarab was an exciting story with great characters, a wonderful setting, and fascinating elements of mystery, steampunk, and time travel. Mina and Evaline were memorable characters, and I can’t wait to see what they get up to next in The Spiritglass Charade


Have you read The Clockwork Scarab? What did you think? If you haven't read it, is it on your TBR? Do you enjoy steampunk? Historic fiction?


  1. Wow, this sounds super interesting! Girl detectives? Cool! I'm relieved to find out that the romance wasn't the main focus of the story. I like how it focuses on the girls and their journey. It sounds like an interesting read! Thanks for sharing. Great review! :)

    -Kimi at Geeky Chiquitas


  2. So glad to hear you liked this one! It seems like hardly anyone has actually read it, so it was neat to read someone else's thoughts :)

    There were way too many loose ends for me to LOVE this book, which is unfortunate - it felt like a super long lead-in for the actual plot line.

    But I also thought it was a really cool idea for a story and that the characters were so interesting!

    Brenna from Esther's Ever After

  3. I'm thinking I need to read more steampunk. Sigh!


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