Rated Reads

The Clockwork Scarab (Stoker and Holmes, book 1)

by Colleen Gleason

Rated: Moderate

Mina Holmes is the niece of the famed Sherlock and daughter of Mycroft. She’s 17 but prides herself on her deductive skills and is always working to hone them and learn new things that could come in handy. The main problem is that she’s a young woman in Victorian England, and she’s mostly expected to find a husband and do boring things.

Evalina Stoker is the sister of Bram Stoker, and they both come from a fabled line of vampire fighters. Bram doesn’t have any special skills, but he loves to research and write. Evalina, however, was born with the gift of hunting vampires and has trained to do so.

The two young women, whose viewpoints switch back and forth in the book, are both asked to help the Princess of Wales with a special project: to find who has killed two society girls. Both are found with scarabs near them.

Both Mina and Evalina are unusual for their day and both are proud of what they can do, so either they should get along wonderfully, or they might feel more like rivals. The latter is mostly the case as they try to work toward their common goal. They use their particular skills to fight the Ankh, who is apparently trying to bring back the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet.

This story has a clever premise and, therefore, potential. It even imagines a steampunk Victorian England, which could be fun, too. But the book kind of fell flat for me; it just felt forced for much of the story. There are some potential love interests for both girls, but which don’t really feel natural (there’s plenty of swooning and “but why am I feeling this way?/I shouldn’t feel this way” on the two narrators’ parts, but they seem inorganic).

The plotline is only partially resolved at the end of the book, which should make me want to read more, but I don’t care enough to do so.

Rated: Moderate. There are a few uses of mild language and some regular use of “British curses.” There is one kissing scene. There is a strange and secret society worshiping Sekhmet, and in one scene late in the book there are actually young society ladies lounging around smoking opium and being served by shirtless men, a la “The Arabian Nights,” as Evalina notes. What really makes this more of a moderate rating for young readers are the descriptions of the ritual the villain undertakes to accomplish her ends: it involves some of the supernatural, which is creepy, and ends up with a dead young woman who’s at the very least been electrocuted. It’s actually a bit disturbing.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for more than 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • The Clockwork Scarab (Stoker and Holmes, book 1)
  • by Colleen Gleason
  • Rated: Moderate
  • Genre: Young adult
  • Reviewer: