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Tick, Tock, Bzzzz

Colleen Gleason’s The Clockwork Scarab introduces two awesome ladies with the last names of Stoker and Holmes who are so much cooler than their more famous relatives.

Tick, Tock, Bzzzz

BOOK REPORT for The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason

Cover Story: Nature vs. Mechanics
BFF Charm: Heck Yes x 2
Swoonworthy Scale: 6
Talky Talk: ‘Ello Governor
Bonus Factors: Alternate History, Steampunk, Egyptian Mythology, Mysterious Loner Dude
Anti-bonus Factor: Time Travel
Relationship Status: Partners in Crime (Solving)

Cover Story: Nature vs. Mechanics

I typically really hate big bugs, but the natural color and beauty of the scarab draws me in. And the steampunky gears add an element of intrigue. I am very impressed with the photoshopping going on here.

The Deal:

Alvermina Holmes is the daughter of Mycroft Holmes—and the niece of famed consulting detective Sir Sherlock Holmes. Mina, as she prefers to be called, has taken more after her uncle than her father and spends much of her life indoors, conducting experiments and honing her deductive reasoning skills.

Evaline Stoker, on the other hand, spends much of her life training and patrolling the late night streets of London. Evaline is a Venator—a vampire hunter—and the latest in a long line of family members to be gifted with the enhanced strength, speed and healing that comes with the role. (She is also sister to Bram, who, during the plot, is working on a book about a very old and very cunning vampire named Count Dracula.)

When the two women are called late one night to a mysterious meeting at the British Museum, they’re tasked with an investigation that will lead them into strange and dangerous situations—and force them to learn how to work together.

BFF Charm: Heck Yes x 2

Mina Holmes has the smarts and pragmatic nature of her famed uncle mixed with a softer side and a unique way of looking at things that might be thanks, in part, to her “feminine nature.” She’s extraordinarily observant and open to the idea of new technologies. She can, however, be a bit brash and unthinking at times, but so long as one realizes that she’s not being rude on purpose (most of the time, at least) and is merely stating facts/her very informed opinion, she would make a very good friend.

Evaline is very nearly Mina’s opposite. She’s a much more physical woman, having been trained to battle vampires or other unsavory creatures and defend herself and other innocents from a young age. Her instincts have been honed more by feeling than observation, and she’s got much more of an appreciation for a sharpened wooden stake or a heavy pistol than the latest in steam-powered gadgetry. She can, however, be rash and impetuous, but she goes into nearly every fight with a clear head and the odds for a favorable outcome weighing heavily in her favor.

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Both Mina and Evaline come face to face with men that strike their fancy (or cause them pause) throughout the story, but as The Clockwork Scarab is set in 1889, most of the swoon is more along the lines of “My fully clothed leg touched his fully clothed one!” and “I’d never seen a gentleman’s bare chest before!” than full-out sexytimes. It’s very appropriate for the time period, with a couple of scandalous* moments.

There is, however, the start of a very antagonistic “I hate his stupid face … but it’s such a handsome face” relationship, which I love.

*For the time period, that is.

Talky Talk: ‘Ello Governor

Colleen Gleason writes both late 1800s upper-class English and Cockney slang with ease. The multitude of apostrophes in the slang used by the lower class characters might have been distracting in other situations, but in The Clockwork Scarab, it works very well when juxtaposed against the much more posh speech of the upper-class characters. Gleason writes dialogue the way I can imagine people in the 1880s actually spoke. And even when she introduces original terms to describe this version of London’s many steam-powered devices, the strange terms don’t seem out of place.

Bonus Factor: Alternate History

The Clockwork Scarab takes place in a London that has outlawed the use of electricity because of the danger the technology poses to human beings. Steam and gas power most devices in this world, and the city has grown up—quite literally—and is filled with extemely tall buildings held up by “sky anchors” (mini blimps) and covered in multiple levels of walkways which can traversed by the use of steam-powered lifts.

Bonus Factor: Steampunk

Some people find the idea of steampunk kind of ridiculous, but I am fascinated by the odd mix of new and old. Gleason has created a world filled with steampunk-y technology, but the inclusion of the gadets in the story isn’t obtrusive. I particularly love the ideas of a steamcycle, a steam-powered motorcycle, and the Steam-Stream gun, which uses compressed steam as a projectile. Were I to live in the world of The Clockwork Scarab, I would very much be a cognoggin (a person with a heavy interest in this type of technology).

Bonus Factor: Egyptian Mythology

The investigation Mina and Evaline are conscripted into involves some semi-paranormal aspects of Egyptian mythology, particularly scarabs (natch).

Bonus Factor: Mysterious Loner Dude

Evaline runs into an MLD multiple times throughout the book, and each time her normally calm demeanor is left shaken. What is it about MLDs that is so dang appealing, even to the most collected of us?

Anti-bonus Factor: Time Travel

I’m typically all about time travel … when it’s done well. As it is used in The Clockwork Scarab, however, not so much. The time travel element in the story felt totally out of place with the rest of the story, and I kept expecting it to be explained as I got closer to the end of the book, but it never was. (Perhaps it will be in future books in the series?)

Casting Call:

Taylor Dooley as Mina Holmes

Elizabeth Gillies as Evaline Stoker

Relationship Status: Partners in Crime (Solving)

I liked you from the moment I met you, Book. A couple of your personality quirks left me a little confused, but, overall, I really enjoyed our time together, and am excited to see where our adventures take us next.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free review copy from Chronicle Books. I received neither Earl Grey Tea (hot) nor money for this review (dammit!). The Clockwork Scarab is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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