August 29, 2013


My newly-six-year-old nephew started his first day of school last week, and suddenly I'm stunned with the idea that SUMMER IS OVER. It all happened so fast; we went from bright sun to foggy mornings, he went from a Charlie Brown headed little baby to... a Kindergartener.

It's the Book Season in the publishing world as well; the end of those short weeks with Fridays off, and the beginning of the season of new books! I've got three September releases just burning a hole in my desktop here, and I'm beginning with the one which has gotten a ton of buzz. I've seen the author interviewed all over, have read about this book, and have admired the cover from afar, and am glad to have my own copy at last!

Now, I'm not normally a big fan of book trailers, however, I love the way this book trailer is made - from the typed words to the the period silhouettes and the way each cameo comes with each girl's strengths, like a video game character (indeed, there's a game-board look to the way the little pieces of the family trees fit together). Since YOU can't yet read the book, until later in September, you can at least look at the book trailer with its treacherous and dangerous sounding music, and reorganize your TBR pile.

I'll also take this moment to remind the FCC that my ARC of this book was provided courtesy of the author and Chronicle Books, via Edelweiss.

Reader Gut Reaction: This book was good fun for fans of the original Sherlock Holmes. From start to finish, there was a clarity of prose that reminded me so much of the writings of Arthur Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker, of a sort of 19th century British sensibility, with vocabulary and word choice and pacing - half of the time. The other half of the time, the writing was much less 19th century, and much more steampunk - cognoggin, if you will. I liked that the voice and the characterization of both girls was so distinct, and I liked that they were both, at times, equally annoying. And, there are Irene Adler cameos! That made me very happy, too.

The other gut reaction I had was, "Is there a Throckmorton in the house?" Because BOY, did I miss my Theodosia books, reading this. Her teen self would fit right in.

Concerning Character: Evaline Stoker is beautiful - which is useless to her. She is also quick and twice as strong as any man she's met, energetic, restless, and -- brash. She leaps in with both feet, without a plan and no other backup but her own two hands, and a sharpened stake. It's the way of things, after all - she's a Stoker from the long line of vampire hunters, after all. She's got to prove herself. Okay, so she gets a bit... off at the sight of blood, and clearly, leaping in with both feet sometimes means not seeing the cliff ahead of you - which is something Mina never does. No matter. She is who she is - she's going to live up to her name. Someday.

Alvermina - a ridiculous name - is neither quick nor strong, but she can observe, while other people simply look. Other people can be so tiresome and slow, plodding and dull. Mina is a Holmes, and she doesn't have to prove her superiority - it's evident, isn't it? Elementary, my dears. She's a serious scientist and doesn't have time to muck about with society. Never mind that she doesn't really know... how, feels dreadfully insecure, and wishes, just sometimes, that the gentlemen who cluster like flies around Evaline would look at her at least once... Never mind. The men in her family - and in this investigation, blast it - are going to take her seriously, starting now.

Armed with their particular skills - and hangups - the girls set out to solve a strange and frightening crime. This book immerses the readers in a world with bright, creaky, and colorful new clockworks - and vocabulary - on nearly every page. The heroines are not always likable; they're both arrogant and exasperating, because of who they are - and because of their insecurities. Their gentlemen foils are also elusive and evasive - and mostly upstaged, which is as it should be. Steampunk, time travel, mystery, and vampires blend together in a read-it-in-one-sitting whodunnit that you won't solve before the novel's end. And, like the best of the Holmes mysteries, there looks to be a recurring arch-nemesis... and no, it's not a Moriarty, it's ... someone ... worse. Maybe. The fun is in the not-knowing.

Recommended for Fans Of...: Gail Carringer's ETIQUETTE & ESPIONAGE, of course; Maureen Doyle McQuerry's THE PECULIARS, the FLORA SEGUNDA books by Ysabeau Wilce; the Theodosia Books by Robin LaFevers; Kate Elliot's COLD MAGIC and its sequels; Jenny Davidson's THE EXPLOSIONIST, and its sequel, INVISIBLE THINGS; Y.S. Lee's AGENCY novels; the SALLY LOCKHART mysteries of Phillip Pullman; and, obviously, the books of Arthur Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker, what we in the trade call "source documents."

Cover Chatter: If you've been to the San Diego Comic Con, you might have seen the work of the steampunk folk who make clockwork-looking insects. Well, the scarab on the cover of this book is the real deal, made by Mike Libby of Insect Lab. Their work shows on the East Coast in Boston and Maine, and two years ago showed up in the NY Times. It's an amazing cover, and I can't help but say how COOL IT IS to a.) not have a cover featuring the girls - ruining our idea of what Alvermina's dreadful blade of a nose looks like, or Evaline's super sophisticated and icy beauty, and b.) have the whole steampunk thing made really real with an actual bit of clockwork. It's a stunning cover, full kudos and applause to the design team. I'm sure they can rest on their laurels for at least five minutes after this one.

Authorial Asides: Though author Colleen Gleason may be new to many in YA circles, apparently she's been known to write a vampire novel or two.

After September 17th 2013, you can find THE CLOCKWORK SCARAB by Colleen Gleason online, or at an independent bookstore near you!

No comments: