Audiobook Review: The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason

Audiobook Review: The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen GleasonThe Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason
Narrator: Jayne Entwistle
Length: 8 hrs, 25 mins
Series: Stoker & Holmes #1
Published by Audible on September 17, 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Mystery, Mythology, Steampunk, Time Travel
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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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…

Colleen Gleason’s The Clockwork Scarab is a fun romp through 19th century England. It’s got steampunk devices, literary figures, strong heroines, handsome young men, time travel and mythology. There’s a lot going on, but it’s all pretty easy to follow. Though highly improbable, The Clockwork Scarab‘s also highly entertaining.

What I find most appealing about steampunk stories actually is not the gadgetry that defines them. Actually, I love the opportunity to see history rewritten with more strong women. The ability to play fast and loose with history is delightful, because reading about the subjugation of women gets really depressing. Gleason has written two powerful heroines, Evaline Stoker and Mina Holmes. With them, she focuses on two different types of strength: Evaline’s physically powerful and Mina mentally strong. Often in fiction, strength is defined as physical capabilities, so it’s nice that she’s holding both up as useful, and there’s definitely a sense that the brain is the strongest weapon.

Mina, niece of Sherlock Holmes, aims to be just like her Uncle. Though he claims women cannot be good detective because of their emotions, she plans to prove him wrong. Mina’s scientific, observant, and disdains all things girly and emotional. Evaline, though also feeling herself above social engagements and other women of her class, loves fashion and is a little bit boy crazy, much as she would like to deny it. She’s also a vampire hunter, sister to Bram Stoker, who is in the process of writing about her adventures. While I’m not generally a fan of melding fiction and reality, I think it was done fairly well here. Both Bram and Sherlock make only brief cameos in The Clockwork Scarab.

The plot revolves around a series of murders, accompanied by a clockwork scarab. At the behest of the Queen, Holmes and Stoker are hired on to research the situation using their unique talents. It turns out they are precisely the correct people to engage, as regular police forces would have difficulty obtaining entrance to the meetings of the society of Sekhmet, a woman’s group determined to bring the goddess back to life in exchange for the goddess’ helping to change the status of women in society. Their methods may be suspect, but look at women trying to make a difference!

As a whole, the plot could use some tightening up. Most especially, the time traveling element felt out of place. Dylan does perform some minor roles, mostly by use of his iPhone, in the investigation but they could have been worked out easily enough some other way. I suspect he’ll be more important in a later book, but, for now, he’s essentially a dangling plot thread.

There’s not much romance in The Clockwork Scarab, but there are love interests poised and waiting for both heroines. For Evaline, she seems to have the choice between Pix, a streetwise scamp, and a gentleman her brother’s wife would deem a good match. Mina, unattractive though she is considered because of her large nose, has two potential suitors as well: Inspector Grayling and Dylan. By the way, Pix and Grayling are my choices.

An audiobook can take a poorly done multiple POV novel and turn it into a good one, by the use of multiple narrators or one highly talented narrator. By that same token, an audiobook can take what might have been multiple well done points of view and make them indistinguishable. That latter case occurred here. Now, I cannot say whether in print Evaline and Mina have two distinct narrative voices, but I do know that, in the audiobook, they sound exactly the same. Given how different these two characters are, it’s a shame that Entwhistle decided to read them in such similar voices. I constantly had to remind myself which character I was currently listening to, which is not a good thing. She did voices for some of the other characters, so I can only assume she thought she’d made them more distinct than she actually had.

Sadly, I must advise going for the print over the audiobook in this case. The Clockwork Scarab isn’t ideal for a serious read, but if you want some fluffy paranormal fun and can overlook some of the odd moments, it’s a good choice.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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One response to “Audiobook Review: The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason”

  1. “There’s a lot going on, but it’s all pretty easy to follow.”

    This is what impressed me the most about this book. I also loved the plain guts of the author throwing time-travel on top of everything else.

    I agree with your ships, but the love interest bits left me a little uncomfortable because young as these protagonists are the story makes it pretty clear they’re considered “eligible,” so I’m wondering how long they can walk the line between adventure and conforming to society (half of each of their options are pretty conventional, and Holmes in particular is screwed between “traditional” guy who would expect her to make up her mind at 17, and the “modern” kid who would agree it was crazy.

    (I suppose that wouldn’t be a problem for the alternate ship, but I’m looking at logistics, here.)

    [Was that too spoilery? I’m new at book blog comments.]

    I read it, so I didn’t have the similar voices to mix up my ear, but I still had to remind myself who spoke based on the action rather than the [written] voice. But I fully enjoyed it.
    Amy Jane (Writing Hope) recently posted…Make Up Your Mind ~ Is this a game, or something More?My Profile

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