A struggle with a scarab

The Clockwork Scarab: A Stoker & Holmes Novel - Colleen Gleason

An average YA book. To tell the truth, I expected much more from it than it delivered. The story is interesting though: a murder mystery (kind of) set in an alternative London circa 1889 in a steampunk-ish milieu. There are murdered girls there, a secret Egyptian cult, time travels, and two intrepid heroines. Well, not very intrepid but a little bit for certain.

The protagonists are two teenage girls: Mina Holmes, a niece of Sherlock Holmes, and Evaline Stoker, a younger half-sister of Bram Stoker. The crazy mix of real and imaginary personages and situations continues from there, making this fictional world a fascinating one. There are gadgets galore in this world but electricity is illegal. There are society balls and corsets, but a policeman rides a flying motorcycle. There are airships and multiple walking levels on any street, but the plumbing seems as rudimentary as it was in reality of that time. Absurdities pile up on top of one another plot-wise, as our protagonists investigate.

Why do they investigate? Because of their stupidity – I don’t have any other explanation. And here lies the root of the problem with this book. While the story is a fun romp across urban fantasy tropes, the characters are flat and boring, totally artificial. I couldn’t bring myself to care for either of them. They behave like silly girls more often than not. Their flaws and quirks seem to be sewn to their dull, colorless silhouettes by an inept seamstress. Nothing is organic, and nobody is alive. The same is true for the secondary characters as well.

It was a struggle to finish this book, but because of the promise of the story and the kooky world the author created, I’m giving it 3 stars.