Evaline Stoker and Mina Holmes never meant to get into the family business. But when you're the sister of Bram and the niece of Sherlock, vampire hunting and mystery solving are in your blood. And so, when two society girls go missing, there's no one more qualified to investigate. Now, the fierce Evaline and the logical Mina must resolve their rivalry, in order to navigate the advances of not just one, but three mysterious gentlemen, and solve a murder with only one clue: the strange Egyptian scarab. The stakes are high. If Stoker and Holmes don't unravel why the belles of London society are in such danger, they'll become the next victims…
©2013 Colleen Gleason (P)2013 Audible, Inc.
"The mishmash of popular tropes (steampunk! vampires! Sherlock Holmes!) will bring readers in, but it's the friendship between the two girls that will keep them." (Kirkus Reviews)
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
What a promising premise to Colleen Gleason's first "Stoker and Holmes" novel, The Clockwork Scarab (2013)! Irene Adler, AKA "the woman," the American opera singer who got the best of Sherlock Holmes in "A Scandal in Bohemia" and is now the keeper of British Museum antiquities, recruits Alvermina (Mina) Holmes, the great detective's niece, and Evaline Stoker, Bram Stoker's younger sister, to be secret agent/detectives discretely risking "life and limb for their queen, their countrymen, and the Empire," just as many young men but no other young women do. And the girls quickly find themselves investigating a deadly scheme to bring the Egyptian goddess of death Sekhmet back to life. The story is set in a steampunk 1889 London, for Parliament has passed an act banning electricity and promoting steam power. Thus the city hisses with myriad "cognoggin" gadgets of every size and purpose, including self-propelled Refuse-Agitators and Night-Illuminators, steam-powered lifts and trolleys, mechanized Tome-Selectors and corset removers, Steam-Stream guns and finger-sized steam throwers, and clockwork hairclips and dragonfly pins. Steam-London is a city of sky-scrapers, the tops of the swaying buildings held in place by helium-filled balloon-like sky-anchors. Did I forget the airships? As if all that weren't enough, Gleason tosses in time travel and alternate worlds in the person of Dylan Eckhert, an American from 2016 who believes that Sherlock Holmes is a fictional character and asserts that electricity has never been illegal. This leads to some amusing culture shock, as Mina encounters iPhones, Nikes, and slang like "cool" and "hot."
At first I liked the independent and spunky 17-year-old Mina and Evaline, trying to solve a macabre mystery while chafing at the restrictions, dismissals, and ignominies of their patriarchal culture. Tall and gawky Mina is a true Holmes, a girl of observation, deduction, and planning, while petite and pretty Evaline is her family's vampire hunter, a girl of action endowed with superhuman strength, speed, and healing ability. While Mina becomes winded during strenuous action and feels abandoned by her parents, Evaline becomes paralyzed before spilled blood and has to deal with Bram's wife wanting to marry her to some man who will take care of her. Mina is a willing recluse, Evaline an unwilling socialite. They complement each other.
Alas, the more I read, the more flaws I found. Like so many YA novels, Gleason's is narrated in the first person, the girls taking turns, but despite Mina's more intellectual vocabulary, their narrative voices are too similar, both using the same exclamations (drat, blast, blooming, etc.) and both tending to over-describe people, clothes, and devices. Here is Evaline on her older brother Bram: "I'm petite and elegant, and he's rather stocky. . . He has a full beard and a moustache, with an auburn tint in the growth nearest the lips." Mina on her outfit: "My skirt was a sunny yellow flowered polonaise, pulled back up into a bustle that exposed a cheerful gold, blue, and green ruffled underskirt. The tight fitting basque bodice I wore over it was pale blue, trimmed with yellow, green, and white ribbons, making the ensemble bright and summer-like and complimenting my golden brown hair and hazel eyes." And Mina on the "large bubble-like reservoir of ink" (1st time) and the "bulbous reservoir" (2nd time) atop Inspector Grayling's "fancy" phallic "self-inking pen." Such descriptions too often convey details that have nothing to do with the plot and make the girls seem oddly superficial. Both girls also use the same words to describe the several tall, broad-shouldered, sleek-muscled, warm-bodied, thick-haired, square jawed, minty/spicy/smoky/sandalwoody/lemony-scented young hunks they repeatedly run into and their febrile reactions to them: sweaty palms, dry mouths, flushed/warm/heated/burning cheeks, fluttering insides, flipping hearts, frozen brains, and discombobulated minds. As a result of all this, I often found myself thinking, "That's Gleason, not Mina/Evaline!"
For that matter, too often Gleason writes overwrought romance: "My whole body was hot and trembly. My knees shook, and I could do nothing but stare at him for a moment, my lips moist and throbbing, my heart thundering like a runaway horse." Given the many moments in the novel criticizing male-dominated Victorian society and Mina and Evaline's brains and bravery, before young men they steam too easily.
Finally, to increase suspense Gleason has the girls do some stunningly stupid things (which I'll avoid spoiling) and undergo some stunningly rapid changes in morale, Mina going in three pages from "I realized I wasn't enough of a Holmes" to "The game was afoot," and Evaline in two from "I had no right to call myself a Venator, a vampire hunter" to "You're a Venator. You're strong. Fight." And the climax is absurd and the resolution incomplete (Gleason cheating to make us read the sequel?).
Despite its neat premise, then, The Clockwork Scarab disappointed rather than fulfilled me. I even realized that the steampunk setting is superfluous, for the scarab need not be clockwork, Grayling's steam-cycle could be a motorcycle, and the villain's main devices are electrical or supernatural. As interesting as it is for steam to be the lifeblood of Victorian London and as nifty as the cognoggin devices are, I wish the novel explored the ramifications and meanings of such a society. Laurie R. King's The Beekeeper's Apprentice (1994), about the relationship between fifteen-year-old Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, is much more convincing.
Jane Entwistle capably reads the novel, deftly handling the American and British and Scottish accents and male and female speakers, though I found her Evaline a bit grating.
Jolyn in LA
Other reviewers complained about this book being for teens only. Trash! A good story is a good story… and one that's smart and fun, even better! I am not ready to leave Steampuke London, or Mina & Evaline just yet… so I guess I'll be listening to this again, soon!
Not wanting to give anything away, I just loved the way Mina & Evaline butted heads in their efforts to work together. I loved the way the author let us be in both their heads, seeing through their eyes.
EVERYTHING!!! I've listened to Jayne before, as Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce (amazing books!) I have never read this author before, and gave it a try mostly because of Jayne Entwhistle! Great narration, great story!
If only I could, but I am sure that would be grounds for divorce.
What great characters Mina Holmes and Evaline Stoker are, and putting them in a Steampunk version of 1890's London, inspired! Now, where is Book 2!!!!!
Yes, I love to listen to books while I make my long drive to and from work.
I loved that this book had two young ladies as crime-solvers and the fact that it took place in a steampunk past.
This book was amazing and kept me interested!
I love to read and since 2011 I have been mostly listening to audiobooks because oftentimes there is nothing like a good narrator.
I like the genre, the sherlock holms like sleuthing and the british narrators, and this book did deliver that but it is clearly not geared towards adults. Many of the plot developments are obvious to an adult and if anyone had read Sir Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes novels, one particular development would have stood out like a sore thumb. I'll not say more because I don't want to spoil the story for anyone but as I said, to anyone who has read the original Sherlock Holmes it would be obvious. Even at the end, there would have been a blaringly obvious development being setup for the next book(s) in this series.
That said, I did enjoy the book to a degree, enough that I don't regret purchasing it but I do wish it was properly labeled. This should be in the teen or pre-teen sections.
i sometimes feel that a little steampunk goes a long way, but my first action when i finished this rollicking and suspenseful adventure was to log on to audible to purchase and listen to the sequel. (which isn't out until october 7th... guess what i'm doing that day?) i love that the characters seem true to their respective patrimonies as relations of sherlock holmes and bram stoker, while still being very much the original creations of connie gleason, AND seeming like authentic and realistic teenage girls. as for the vocal performance, i'm pretty sure jayne entwistle could read the london telephone directory and still be riveting; with this material she is clearly enjoying herself as much as we are.
I'm Audible's first Editor-at-Large, the host of In Bed with Susie Bright -- and a longtime author, editor, journo, and bookworm. I listen to audio when I'm cooking, playing cards, knitting, going to bed, waking up, driving, and putting other people's kids to bed! My favorite audiobooks, ever, are: "True Grit" and "The Dog of the South."
Strong young-women heroines, friendship, bravery, mystery-solving, and romance in Steampunk Victorian England? Yes, please!
Colleen Gleason takes several well-established tropes and blends them together to get something fresh and kick-ass.
Sherlock Holmes's niece, Mina and the Bram Stoker’s sister, Eveline are brought together to solve a mystery involving a Steampunk Egyptian mechanized scarab. Holmes has the logic, Stoker has the passion. They must overcome their rivalry and learn to trust each other to save the day.
The set up is genious, but it's the friendship at the heart of this story, as dynamic as any love affair, that keeps you listening.
Narrator Jayne Entwhistle makes me drool. I happily spent hours in her audio-company.
I hovered between liking this and really liking this. I was intrigued by the alternate reality steampunk Victorian London and the dynamic duo of Sherlock Holmes' niece and Bram Stoker's sister (who is a vampire hunter) investigating murders and disappearances of prominent women. There was even time travel. But we had not one, but two angst-ridden budding teen romances, told from the point-of-view of each main character. It got annoying. The book improved as it went on and I will likely give the sequel a chance.
I listened to this and the narrator is the same woman who narrates the Flavia books. She unfortunately uses the same voice she uses for Flavia in the Alan Bradley series for Miss Stoker in this one. It was distracting. I kept seeing Flavia.
This book seems to promise a teen steam punk novel featuring two strong female characters. Well....it fails on just about every level. The characters are horrible in many ways. The plot fails on every level. Also, I get that having fictional characters as real people is a thing in steam punk, but if you're going to have Sherlock Holmes's neice, then why not have the other character be Mina Harker (from Dracula's) relation of some kind? Why have one 'historical' and one 'fictional' one?? Really, it's not a great book, and I definitely won't be buying any of the sequels.
So to start off, the characters. Mina and Evelyn are useless, together and separately. Mina is a completely one dimensional character. I get that she's different because she's a Holmes, but the author is so busy with that, she ends up very uninteresting. Evelyn is just useless. She agrees to be a part of this secret team and then does absolutely nothing for days on end for no particular reason. Even if they have their own quirks, they're not exactly great roll models, since every time any young male character so much as looks at them they go all "fluttery" and blush and become completely useless. It's painful to read.
Then there's the plot. It's supposed to be twisty, I suppose, but it's so cliche that it's almost painful to listen to. From the word go it's pretty obvious exactly what's going on and about to happen. The only mystery in the whole thing is the time travelling, and the mystery is: why is it in the book? The time travelling has absolutely nothing to do with the 'mystery' at hand. Nor does it provide any essentials to solving the mystery. It's really just thrown in there for no reason. Maybe it's important in the second book, but I'm not going to stick around and find out.
I think the biggest failing of this book is that, while the plot isn't completely resolved by the end of the book, the big, lingering mystery (aka who is the Ankh) would be so easily solved if Mina was actually half as smart as she's supposed to be OR had the thought processes of a normal human being, she'd already know the answer. If she looked at the whole secret investigation business with any sort of suspicion she'd know that the Ankh was the one person who is continually referred to as the only person always one step ahead and who is mysteriously missing at important points of the story.
Anyway, long story short: very disappointed :(
A better narrator. Faster pace. More believable dialog. Characters that took actions in character.
No. My friends are all adults.
No. Nor would I read a book by this author again.
I would eliminate a character. The boy from the future. Not needed. Not utilized. He didn't belong there. Anything he added could be gotten by other means.
This was not marked as a juvenile book. The idea was intriguing. For a reader with less of an idea of how the world/people/emotions works, in other words what reality is, this would be a good book. A book for teens. This might be a good choice for a pre to early teen. But the dialog is period true and there for stilted. I felt the action was slow at times the story crawled. I have reviewed this book as an adult. This is not on the level of Harry Potter, which an adult can appreciate.
"5 Words: Sherlock Holmes, Time Travel, Steampunk."
So this was a bit of a surprise for me. For one, it absolutely flew by. It ended and I was actually surprised because despite everything wrapping up quite nicely, I was prepared for more.
Jayne Entwistle does a fabulous job of reading this. The next book in the series is on my audible wishlist and so are a few of her other readings.
I liked the distinct voices. Even if I wasn't paying attention to the beginning of the chapter, where it told you who the narrator was, I was never lost. It wasn't just the voices that the actress was giving the characters were different, it's that the characters themselves were so distinct.
This plays on Sherlock canon, adds a dash of Steampunk and a touch of time-travel, picks up some Bram Stoker on the way and then runs madly into the wild, flailing its arms around hoping to pick up some ancient Egyptian lore. And it's excellent.
I love Steampunk and I loved the Holmes and the Stoker books so to have a combination of them all is just brilliant. Lots of fun and a great reader too.
"Lost the plot a tad."
I enjoyed this but I think I'll have to save it for one sitting listenings because it's quite hard to keep track of the plot in places.
"Stiffly written & read in style of Dick Van Dyke"
It's an okay story, but if you're British and/or have ever read actual Victorian fiction this will drive you nuts. A few Americanisms creep in, which is okay-ish, but the language is just off enough and wrong enough to be a little painful.
And the reader is dreadful. She has an ear for accents like Dick Van Dyke and also miss-pronounces some common words.
"Much better than expected"
No I have none hence listening to audiobooks all day.
I'll continue with the series, the characters are all likeable, that's the most important thing to me in most books. too many people aren't.
I bought this book because of Ms Entwhistle having listened to her on the Flavia de luce series, the narrator on audible is not as good so I had to get them from iTunes. ||||||
|She has a lovely tone to her voice though one criticism I have is that it is difficult to concentrate on which character is speaking at any time, I feel Stoker and Holmes sound too similar. It would be improved if one of them sounded more distinct say like Daphne in the De luce novels.
Joyfully not a Vampire (or vampyre if your cool) in sight. Like the Theodosia series ancient Egypt makes a welcome return.
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