Review: The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason

17084242The idea behind The Clockwork Scarab is a good one, and the cover is exquisite, but the potential synergistic fireworks-kapow-bam effect of Sherlock Holmes plus Dracula just didn’t happen for me. The two protagonists and their stories clashed throughout the book, the plot felt underdeveloped and reminiscent of a Harlequin historical romance, and the ending left me unsatisfied with the many loose ends. Adding Egyptian mythology and time travel to the detective-vampire-romance mix, The Clockwork Scarab is too overloaded with “good” ideas that resulted in its identity crisis and lack of drive.

It’s 1998 in London, and Evaline Stoker – sister of Bram Stoker, who later wrote “Dracula,” and descendant of a line of vampire hunters – and Alvermina “Mina” Holmes – niece of Sherlock Holmes – have been summoned to investigate the disappearance of society girls, who have each left behind an Egyptian scarab. Using the scarabs as the first clue, the two use their respective talents to infiltrate a secret society with the help of three handsome men: Dylan Eckhert, who is trying to find his way back home; Inspector Ambrose Grayling, a young detective who is at odds with Mina; and Pix, a mysterious rake with his eyes set on Evaline.

The concept of protagonists as relatives of famous fictional characters is very interesting, and it’s what made me pick up The Clockwork Scarab in the first place. Mina Holmes thinks and acts like the Sherlock in my head (which is BBC’s Sherlock, if you must know). But whereas Sherlock (in my head) comes off as confident and a loner, Mina seems insecure and lonely. Evaline also has her own insecurities due to old vampire traumas that are only mentioned briefly and very vaguely, so I couldn’t really sympathize with her because I didn’t know her backstory. Both protagonists look down on each other because they have such diverging strengths and personalities, and even though I expected a friendship to develop at some point, sometimes I wondered whether they would ever be able to understand each other due to the tension and hostility in their interactions throughout the story. What also irked me was that Mina and Evaline carry out investigations individually more often than as a team, and when they do work together, they suck at it. But since Gleason is making this into a series, I’m assuming that Mina and Evaline’s relationship will get better with time.

Despite their differences, the one weakness that both Mina and Evaline have is boys. In Mina’s case, she has two men whom she feels attracted to, but her feelings don’t go anywhere because no one takes action. And Evaline gets all the action, since her dude comes straight out of the pages of some historical romance paperback, and he makes the headstrong Evaline feel all mushy inside with his deep voice and sleek body and pushing-girl-against-wall tendencies. Honestly, I could’ve done without the boys because I wanted more friendship and action action, but I think The Clockwork Scarab is trying to gain a foothold in multiple genres at once.

In addition to the smidgen of romance, The Clockwork Scarab also incorporates many themes that are popular right now. Egyptian mythology, for one, is the most prevalent, seeing as how Egyptian scarabs are used as the main plot driver. I think Gleason did a decent job incorporating Egyptian mythology into the storyline, scoring somewhere between the other two books I’ve read that included bits of Egyptian mythology; but because the story ends without much of a resolution, I still don’t understand why Egyptian mythology was used. Again, this is probably something that will be given more attention to in the sequel. And there’s also some time travel bits that haven’t been fully explored, as well as the vampire stuff, so altogether I have very VERY high expectations for the next book or else.

Even with the interesting premise, The Clockwork Scarab is off to a rough start in terms of relationship and plot development. It’s an all-in-one kind of book that’s “getting there” – getting where? That I don’t know. But many potential storylines have been started, with none fully resolved, so if this book is on your list, you might want to wait until the next one comes out before reading this one.


2 thoughts on “Review: The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason

  1. “Pushing-girl-against-wall tendencies.” I sort of want to see a female character that has pushing-boy-against-wall tendencies. It would be an interesting dynamic, I think. Plus, we need more submissive/quiet guys in YA.* (This is not at all because I think they are cute. Not at all.) Weird comments aside, it seems that that this book suffers from the fact that it relies on you to read the next books in order to fully “get” the story.

    I don’t necessarily think that this is bad all the time, but it sounds like the character relationships only get a little bit of development and that things that are introduced aren’t properly explained (like the Egyptian mythology). And the book’s ending without much of a resolution worries me a bit, since I generally don’t like endings like that >_<

    Also, even just by reading your review, the romance feels a little strange among all the other great things it has. It's like the author is trying to say "protagonists related to famous literary characters, time travel, Egyptian mythology…. And yeah, romance. Gotta have romance." I know I shouldn't be judging when I haven't read the book, but the overflowing of romance in YA is starting to irk me, and it's beginning to feel like authors feel obliged to add in love interest.

    Despite my pre-reading complaints, I will be picking up this book, though. Because, seriously, A PROTAGONIST RELATED TO SHERLOCK HOLMES! Ahem… Great review.

    *I realize that I am making it seem like I want guys to be pushed around O_O I want to make it clear that I just like the idea of the girl being the more forward and/dominant one in the relationship, while still paying attention to what the guy wants to do, so they are still equals. Okay, that still sounds a little bad… Oh, sudden thought: Don't you think that there should be more LGBT protagonists in stories that aren't contemporary LGBT?

    ^ Yes, I did it. Rewrote my comment. I'm so proud. I'm sorry for going off on a tangent πŸ˜›

    • Ahhh Lesley, your comment made me smile. πŸ˜€ Especially that side note, haha. Thanks for rewriting your comment! It’s true though, I rarely read about girls physically pushing guys around in books... or if they do, the guy barely budges because he’s obviously stronger. (Or he’s just humoring her and thinks it’s cute.)

      For the ending, I probably wouldn’t have been as disappointed as I was if the sequel is already out. But I’ve been seeing these kinds of endings a lot recently, where there are so many questions that haven’t been addressed at the end of a book. It works for TV shows, but I get more frustrated for some reason when I see it in books.

      And yeah, I’m starting to get tired of love interests in books, particularly if it’s insta-love. BUT YES, let me know what you think when you read it! I’m still going to pick up the next book when it comes out. Anything Sherlock-related is worth a try. πŸ˜›

      In terms of LGBT protagonists, I’m sure many of them exist in the 18+-romance-books form, but I completely agree that there should be more of them in non-contemporary genres. I would highly recommend Mercedes Lackey’s fantasy series, The Last Herald-Mage, and some books with non-contemporary LGBT protagonists on my TBR list are Lynn Flewelling’s Luck in the Shadows and Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith. Let me know if you’ve read these or have any suggestions for me!

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