The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason
What happens when a genius, a vampire hunter, and a time traveler walk into a museum?
I don’t even know where to begin with The Clockwork Scarab. This book is probably the craziest mismatched hodgepodge of different elements I have ever read…and yet I enjoyed it immensely!
The novel introduces Alvermina Holmes and Evaline Stoker, niece of Sherlock and sister of Bram, a detective and vampire hunter tag-team duo called to investigate missing persons and a murder. It really is such a shame that they hate each other and refuse to work as a unit–or maybe not, since their antics are hilarious! Enter a time-traveling teen and the cult of an Egyptian goddess in a steampunk Victorian London, et voilà! A masterpiece of strangeness.
Alvermina is perfect for Sherlock’s niece–incredibly smart and perceptive, she runs through scenes the same way he does. Each aspect is noted and examined, all the way down to the minute and subtle tells. I can’t even explain how happy this made me–those deductions are my favourite parts of anything Sherlock Holmes and without them, it just wouldn’t have felt right.
Mina is also just like her uncle in the social sense. She shines in deduction, and her intelligence is off the charts, but when it comes to social interaction and making friends, Mina starts to fumble. She cares a lot more than Sherlock about this–she’s a teenage girl, after all!–but that insecurity or ineptitude when it comes to being ya know, normal, is there.
Evaline, so-far-on-the-other-hand-she’s-on-a-different-planet, is your typical nose held-high high society girl (except of course that she hunts vampires). She’s used to being the centre of attention and commanding all eyes at a ballroom–her social aptitude becomes a major source of contention (read: jealousy and flaunt-ery) with Mina dearest. What sets Evaline apart, though, is her insecurity about hunting abilities–so at odds with the image she puts forth–and her sheer determination to prove herself worthy. In that regard, she and Mina aren’t so different after all.
Together, the two are an awful pairing, which is interesting because usually the two MCs are love interests or BFFs already. Mina and Evaline work terribly together and as the book goes on things just get worse…until they get better, and you watch them grow to become a more cohesive unit. And most importantly, friends.
I quite enjoyed the other characters too, and loved the certain cameos we get of familiar figures. There’s a run-in with Sherlock Holmes on a case, a few meetings with one Irene Adler (you Sherlock fans know who I mean 😉 ), and a very awkward conversation with Bram Stoker while he pens Dracula. Then there are the new characters, like time traveler Dylan (who is fun when he’s not busy being all depressed about being, stuck in the past), mysterious rogue Pix (who’s flirty and enigmatic, and probably a criminal which is all just very fun for me), and arrogant asshole Grayling (who is actually not such an asshole and is a very good detective who just doesn’t appreciate Mina’s takeover–what else is new?).
Guess what guess what guess what?! WE GOT ROMANCE. Both girls have some kind of prospect, and each of the guys has a veeeeery different personality which makes for two totally different love stories in the novel. Evaline and her prospective beau are a lot more flirty and back-and-forth, and you know they’re going to get together at some point somehow no matter how much they’re fighting. Mina’s got a wee bit of a love triangle, also with very different guys and more on the sweet, romantic side of things. It’s also more passive, more subtle–she’s Sherlock’s niece after all; romance ain’t a priority. Actually, just in general the romance isn’t a priority, and even when it is it’s woven into the story remarkably well. Evaline’s romance, for instance, is directly linked to the central plot and only as they delve further into the mystery–prompting her to seek answers from a certain someone–does their relationship develop. Mina’s is just a tad less connected, but only because it’s partially connected to our resident time traveler, whose presence doesn’t exactly make sense to the plot yet either.
The setting is steampunk London, taking steampunk to the extreme. I don’t mean this in the sense of most books, with all the clockwork monsters and sophistication; in The Clockwork Scarab, steam completely replaces electricity–the entire city’s lifeblood is steam. The inventions are almost all steam modifications of what we have and they had–and it’s really freaking cool.
Also, I’m getting the vibe they’re in some kind of alternate reality. Maybe? Has yet to be confirmed–I’ll keep ya posted 😉
I mentioned early that this is a hodgepodge of elements and I wasn’t exaggerating. The plot is crazy, so unusual that I would have had difficulty accepting it except that everything else is already acceptably unacceptable. Again, the main issue is a cult attempting to raise an Ancient Egyptian goddess while a teenage genius and VAMPIRE HUNTER are called to save the day. Does any of this make sense to you? Me neither. Does it work? Oh, yes.
If you can’t tell already, I really truly genuinely enjoyed this book. Never outside of wonderland have I ever encountered anything so crazy that works so well as this–what’s next? A ghost plot? Magical china? An errant vampire riding around on a steam-powered bat and drinking the blood of middle-aged men? (okay, that one may have gotten a little too weird) No idea! But I can tell you for certain that with how much fun I had reading The Clockwork Scarabthat I cannot wait to find out!
Click here for the book synopsis on goodreads!