Saturday, 3 January 2015

The Clockwork Scarab


Book Title: The Clockwork Scarab
Author: Colleen Gleason
Series: Stocker and Holmes #1
Date Started: January 2nd 2015
Date Completed: January 3rd 2015
Genres: Mystery, Historical, Adventure, Fantasy, Romance
Quality Rating: Three Stars
Enjoyment Rating: Five Stars
Final Rating: Four stars

I'm not usually a huge fan of half-hearted novels that aren't really serious and are supposed to just be entreating to read. I get bored. But for once, the silliness actually clicked for some reason and this book was just so fun to read. The strong links to some of my favourite cultural topics from around the world probably helped, mind you.

Upon receiving a mysterious letter requesting their attendance at the British Museum Miss Evaline Stoker and Miss Mina Holmes meet and are pulled into a dangerous investigation surrounding the suicides of young girls around London. But it isn't until they stumble upon another body within the museum itself and find a strange boy that doesn't belong in 1889 that they realise this is more than just another case for Scotland Yard.

The writing was not the best. There was a bit of unbalance between dialogue and then description; there were long sections of narrative, then fleeting conversations. Both character's dialect and how the narrator communicated their narrative seemed to switch between old-fashioned and modern stylings a lot which wouldn't have bothered me so much normally, but since there's a character from modern times mixed in with the 19th century characters, I would've liked to see more of a consistent difference between how they spoke.

The thing that made this book brilliant for me personally was the mix of stuff in it: not only was there a huge span of genres it was crossing over and a lot of different influences over the place, but it tied in with Egyptian mythology, the 19th century and old-fashioned crime-solving. These just happen to be three things I really enjoy learning about, and having them mixed together was really lovely. But there's a lot more thrown in than just that, we've got secret societies and fancy balls, underworld gangs and romance between the classes. The great thing about this was that there was so much to get interested in no matter what you specifically find interesting, and the consistent atmosphere for the 19th century murder mystery was really strong so kept everything related. However, when trying to involve so many different things, you're going to run into a few issues. The main ones for this book being the continuity and the little flaws dropped along the way that just took away from the story being serious (though that didn't matter too much) and started to edge towards it being too far-fetched to ignore. At the same time, the romance was kind of silly and predictable, but actually I did find some of it sweet and it didn't become the main focus for either heroine.
The ending was kind of anticlimactic, but just as enjoyable as the rest of the novel. I really love how everything isn't completely worked out: the main mission is over, so we aren't sat asking what all of that hassle was about, but at the same time there's a lot of opportunity for the next book to turn in a lot of directions, both with the character's development, and some of the mysteries left over from this time.

The characters, whilst reflecting the rest of the book through not being entirely solid, were still really good, and I ended up really rooting for them. Their gradual development throughout the story was what really won me over though, I felt like I was really travelling with these characters.
The main problem with Mina was that she was arrogant. Intentionally, of course, so that she would have some need of Evaline, but at times she was a bit too arrogant. Having said that, Mina was my favourite of the two heroines because I do feel she was more actively involved in the investigation, and was ultimately helping more people as she went along the way.
Evaline got on my nerves at times, I won't lie. But her complex of being a vampire hunter but her limitations within that affecting her outside was well tied into the plot, and she definitely did both learn and teach things to Mina throughout the story. Obviously, both of the girls are clearly made to have obvious flaws so that their impact on each other stands out a lot more. That isn't entirely clear just yet, but I don't think it would hard to achieve in future stories.
Dylan was a really good addition to the team, and one that I wasn't expecting. However, you would expect a boy transported more than a century into the past and left stranded there would be more of a central focus that it ended up being.

I thought the pacing was really good in this book. We're thrown right in at the start of things, and we're given pieces of information as we go through the story. Gleason didn't fall for the typical trap in a mystery story of dumping too much information at significant points in the plot, and so the reader can actually make some of their own deductions amongst Mina's if they want to. I also thought that actually the relationships between all the characters built solidly throughout the book, but still weren't entirely fixed by the end: this was important for me because it added some sense of realism when most other aspects were very imaginative and crazy.

The Clockwork Scarab is a brilliant read if you're looking for something entertaining, but something different too - it's not often you get a historical, time-travelling murder mystery with two strong heroines and hints of the supernatural. It only look me 24 hours to read, so it's a fast-paced adventure as well. If you're not quite sure whether the premise sounds a bit silly (I fully admit it, I thought that), then maybe look at some other reviews or try reading a sample - but it really clicked for me, so it might for you.

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