Colleen Gleason has written a lovely late-Victorian era steampunk tale of mystery and adventure!
Mina Holmes, niece to the famous Sherlock Holmes, and Evaline Stoker, sister of Bram Stoker and descendant of a long line of vampire hunters, are both eager to live up to their respective family legacies. Mina has inherited her uncle’s keen powers of observation and deduction, while Evaline has the supernatural strength, speed, and rapid healing ability bestowed by her Vampire-Hunting ancestry. When two society girls go missing, Evaline and Mina are called in to help investigate by Irene Adler, representing the crown.
Though Mina and Evaline don’t exactly hit it off, they must find a way to work together to solve both murder and mystery, starting with a strange clockwork scarab as the first clue. The stakes are high and they are not the only ones following the trail. The ladies must also deal with the strange and “foreign” Dylan Eckster, the intelligent and logical Inspector Grayling, and the mysterious and mischievous Pix. Can they solve the mystery and find the nefarious person behind it all – before it is too late?
I highly enjoyed this tale of 1889 London – a steam-powered place where electricity is outlawed and “sky-hooks” secure the towering buildings.
Mina is intelligent, logical, and secretly lacks confidence. Since the departure of her mother, Mina has been largely unsupervised by her parents, which means few social functions and a lack of experience with both young men and parties. She’s tall but clumsy, and although she puts on a brave face, she hides behind her wit and intelligence.
Evaline took me longer to like. Fierce and strong, she too is plagued by dwindling confidence and an inability to see blood without freezing up. She also puts up a brave front – it’s no wonder she and Mina don’t hit it off. Beautiful and certainly no stranger to society, Evaline is more interested in dodging potential suitors and hunting the Undead during the night than in enjoying the company of the upper-crust.
Irene is working for the British Museum and apparently the Princess of Wales, and although she pushes the young heroines into action, she herself remains mostly in the background. I, for one, have a few suspicions about her.
Then the young men! First there is Dylan, who clearly comes from the future, however improbable that sounds. He’s a little ignorant of the expectations for gentlemen in London 1889, and mostly just wants to go home. That won’t stop him from getting involved in solving the mystery or causing Mina to blush a lot.
Inspector Grayling is tall, Scottish, and rides around town on a brilliantly fast steam-powered contraption. Investigating the deaths of several young women on behalf of Scotland Yard, Grayling is keenly intelligent and seems an excellent match for Mina’s mind. Grayling and his partner are not too pleased with Mina and Evaline barging in on the investigations.
Pix keeps running into Evaline – in all sorts of unlikely places. He seems to be able to fit in to all sorts of unexpected roles, much like a chameleon. With a cockney accent and a lot of swagger, he seems forward, frustrating, and unexpectedly chivalrous.
Solidly young-adult, this is a charming steampunk tale. Better yet, it’s the first of a series! The second book, The Spiritglass Charade, appears to be coming out … sometime this year?
4 / 5