When Mina Holmes, niece of Sherlock, and Evaline Stoker, sister of Bram, get called to the British Museum by Irene Stoker, they are in for a surprise. Young society girls in London are disappearing and dying, and they all have a connection – they all were in possession of a clockwork scarab before they died. Mina and Evaline are called to solve the mystery, and with Mina’s sleuthing capabilities and Evaline’s vampire slaying superpowers, what could possibly go wrong?
This book tried to do a lot of things, and it did none of them well.
Mina Holmes is supposed to be a female version of Sherlock Holmes. She has great deductions and is smart. Unfortunately, this is where the similarities end. While Sherlock himself is constantly two steps ahead of the rest, is fearless, reckless, and has no care for manners or others’ feelings, Mina has none of these traits we know and love. Basically, she’s an insecure nerd. Every time Evaline, the other main character, brings her into a slightly scary situation Mina cowers and runs away, trying to save her perfect hair and dress. This book deserves an A+ for character depth, huh? When she’s trying to be nice and proper in her interactions with the society people, I wanted to bang my head against the wall. Evaline Stoker didn’t really have the same problem, seeing as she wasn’t based on an already existing character.
However, there was another problem with the characterization in The Clockwork Scarab. Even though the book was supposed to empower women, the male (potential) love interests somehow always triumphed in the end and saved Mina and Evaline. I may be wrong, but damsels in distress don’t exactly scream girl power. Along with character issues, the world is very unclear and difficult to understand. The genre is steampunk, but this doesn’t go beyond some steam powered inventions and dresses with gears on them. There is an indication that London has platforms above surface level along the sky scrapes, but they aren’t described well and I find it unclear as to what they actually are. The time travel element of the plot left a lot of questions unanswered – all of them, actually. That was actually a recurring problem throughout this book. An interesting question would come up and never be mentioned again. For example, there aren’t any vampires in London, even though Evaline is a vampire hunter. Even though it seems like a pretty important part of their world, this is mentioned twice in the book and never explained. All of these problems overshadow any good part of The Clockwork Scarab, and made an exceedingly disappointing book.