Hello! Today I will be reviewing a book called The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason. I have some mixed feelings about it, so this should be interesting...
The Clockwork Scarab seemed to be everything I wanted and more. It claimed to be a steampunk, Victorian London, crime-solving, supernatural book. Not only that, but it also features Sherlock Holmes's niece, Alvermina Holmes. If you didn't already know, I love Sherlock Holmes with a passion; see my review of The House Of Silk or my tumblr for evidence.
Anyways, I sort of felt that this book had so many different things going on that none of them could be done spectacularly. But I'll elaborate on that later, in the spoilery part of this review. For now, the synopsis-
Alvermina Holmes and Evaline Stoker never meant to get into the family business. But, as the sister of Bram Stoker and the niece of Sherlock Holmes, these things seem to be in their blood.
But as young girls are being abducted and killed, Mina and Evaline are called by Irene Adler to investigate in the name of the crown.
In addition to trying to solve a crime to which there is only one clue- a small, clockwork Egyptian scarab, they must sort out their feelings for three young gentlemen, learn to deal with each other and get over their rivalry and avoid being the next victims of this strange mystery.
I did enjoy this book, I really did. There were some things about it that were rather annoying, but all-in-all, it was fun and enjoyable, and I would recommend to anyone who likes mystery, history and girl power.
Right. I'll first get the things I disliked about this book out of the way, and then I'll elaborate on why I still loved this book despite there being quite a few annoying elements.
Firstly, there was just too much going on. Time travel, supernatural summoning of long-lost goddesses, steampunk mechanics, a love triangle, vampire hunting and a weird cult. It was like a huge pot of all these different storylines that are all good individually, but together, there was just too much going on, and it was therefore not as good as it could've been.
I didn't really like the whole time travel element. Because Sherlock Holmes and his world has always been about facts and science to me, it was hard to believe that things like vampire hunting and time travel were even possible in that world. I felt like Dylan was just squeezed in there, like he was just an addition because there was so much going on. Hence, because he was barely involved, I found him to be quite a boring character. There was no room for character improvement, for him or anyone else, because there was just so much going on.
Then there was the issue of labeling this novel as a "steampunk". Now, I love steampunk, I really do. It's one of my favourite genres. I would not label this as a "steampunk" novel. Once again, the steampunk elements were sort of jammed in where ever they could be. It was mostly little things like robot-like machines that helped one train or do up corsets, and guns that fire steam. I think the only real thing that made it feel somewhat like a steampunk was the fact that electricity was banned, and steam was used to power everything, but overall, this was mostly just set in a more alternate London. It certainly didn't have that iconic steampunk feel.
The focus of this story was mostly on the Egyptian mythology and the whole Sekhmet Society, which is understandable considering that it was ultimately about the mystery/crime. I liked that there were elements of Egyptian mythology in there, but to be perfectly honest, I would've preferred that some other elements had been cut out to accommodate more of it. Although this part of the story was focused on the most, it still felt incomplete and rushed. And it was so incredibly infuriating that we never even found out who the Ankh was, or why she was doing what she was. The end felt very incomplete, and I'm hoping that everything gets tied up in the next book. Even more so, I'd love it if there was a big criminal mastermind behind it all, like the female parallel to Moriarty. That is what I want most in the world.
My main issue with this story, the main thing that made me groan and facepalm, was the romances. *shudders* I totally would've preferred that the story focused on the relationship between Mina and Evaline, and shown how they went from being apprehensive towards each other and merely tolerating each other to being pretty much friends. The amount of time spent on ridiculous romance could've been spent on developing Mina and Evaline's characters and relationship.
It seemed unlikely that over the course of the book, one character would find herself in the middle of a love triangle (however, if I had to pick a side, I think I lean more towards Grayling) and the other with some strange, slightly stalkery man who's obviously not of solid morals. I just generally disliked the romance in this book. It's obviously not a stand-alone, so there will be time for romance in future books. I felt it was unnecessary in this one.
The storyline really wasn't too complex (probably because there was no space for it), which was a shame because that's something I really love about the Sherlock Holmes world. Things were easy to guess and nothing was really too much of a surprise. In addition to the simple storyline, the characters were also simple. They were both basic and undeveloped throughout the story, however I'm hoping that in the next few books, they will develop and become deeper and more complex.
Despite all of this, this book was incredibly fun, it really was. Even though it was easy to guess, it was still fun reading through and watching things unfurl. It was exactly what I needed to get me out of this reading slump I'm stuck in- it was easy, fun and quick. I genuinely enjoyed it, and I have ordered the next book so I can continue this series and see where it goes.
I loved the Egyptian mythology, the Victorian setting, the chemistry between these two girls who are obviously fighting their own prejudices and preconceptions to come together as friends and companions, Irene Adler making an appearance and the all-round girl power feel to it. Most of the main characters in this are girls, even down to Irene Adler being their mentor and that they work for Princess Alexandria. The girls are not the typical Victorian girl; they're not submissive, Evaline is physically strong and Mina is incredibly intelligent. But at the same time as showing that these girls aren't the archetypal female of the time, the story doesn't inaccurately portray the social construct at the time.
Overall, this was a really fun read, but it was by no means perfect. I would probably rate it 3.5 stars out of five.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree, or disagree? Want to recommend me another book? Leave a comment below, send a tweet to @lilypherondale or an ask to my tumblr, sherlockcrumpets. Or send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for business or just to say hi!
See you next week with another post!