In a steampunk version of Victorian England, Irene Adler has a mystery that she can’t solve, rife with references to Egyptian mythology, and recruits the help of the niece of Sherlock Holmes and the much younger sister of Bram Stoker.
Such is the premise of this supernatural mystery and adventure novel. Good grief, that’s a lot of name-checking and keyword-checking in a one-sentence premise, isn’t it? Steampunk. Victorian England. Irene Adler. Egyptian mythology. Sherlock Holmes’ niece. Bram Stoker’s sister. Even without any further summary, that would evoke a very clear image of where this is headed. And that guess wouldn’t be too far off from the contents of the book… Though there are a few further twists. I haven’t even mentioned the boy who traveled back in time from our world.
But then again, this straddles the line between middle grade and young adult, and at that age, cliches are less of a distraction. In fact, at that age, I think I would have leapt upon this book with gusto.
As a person who was very into the world of fanfic as a teenager, I’m certain that this would have been right up my alley at a certain age. Even now, despite my cynicism, I felt myself drawn to Mina Holmes and Evaline Stoker. These characters are written with clear roles within the narrative: Mina is the cool-headed thinker and Evaline is the action girl who acts before she thinks. Their relationships with their more famous relatives (Sherlock and Bram) are well-developed, but not so much as to distract from the main plot, I was gratified to find.
The plot itself is fairly simple. It’s more about the atmosphere, the interplay between the characters, and the attention to detail. Those three elements were, I felt, done quite well. I also thought it was rather brilliant to make Mina and Evaline co-heroines. In this book their relationship goes from one of mutual frustration with each other to a sort of tentative respect and the beginning of a friendship. While I was disappointed that they are still somewhat wary of each other at the end, I do look forward to seeing their relationship develop further into a deep friendship. Additionally, because this aimed at a younger audience, I very much appreciated that Mina and Evaline are essentially young, female versions of Sherlock Holmes and Van Helsing (both experiencing limitations to their abilities in the form of stumbling blocks that are a part of youth).
I have to admit, I did feel like the time-traveling boy from our time was a little bit much. But as a character, he played well off of Mina’s character, and exposed a side of her to us readers that we had not yet seen.
This is the first volume in a series. I was disappointed, in fact, at how little resolution there was at the end of this book. Many of the subplots were left open-ended, making it difficult for me to give a clear verdict. I can only say that I enjoyed this book for what it was; I think that it would be a great read for people in the target demographic age group, assuming they have the patience to read through an entire series.
On another note, I’m beginning to feel like I should have a “Rewritten History” tag…