"And then she mouthed a word at me—an unmistakable word that told me everything I needed to know. “Checkmate.”
Evaline Stoker & Mina Holmes have reluctantly agreed to act as social chaperones and undercover bodyguards for Princess Lurelia of Betrovia, who has arrived in London to deliver a letter that details the secret location of an ancient chess queen that’s been missing for centuries. But when the letter—which will heal a centuries-old rift between England and the Betrovians—is stolen out from under Evaline and Mina’s watchful eyes, the two girls are forced into a high-stakes race to ensure they find the chess queen before anyone else does…including their foe, the Ankh. For the chess queen is not only a historic symbol of a woman’s political power, but it has literal power as well—the queen will unlock the chessboard, revealing both treasures and ancient secrets the Ankh would kill to possess. It will take Mina’s smarts and Evaline’s strength to beat the thief and untangle this mystery before it is too late."
Carolyn's thoughts on the book:
The Stoker and Holmes series is one of my favorite book series. Kickass crime-fighting and vampire-slaying heroines related to the most revered literary figures of the era? Check. A lush, gorgeous Victorian-steampunk setting? Yep. Social commentary on women's rights at the time? Awesome. An enigmatic and mysterious supervillain? Got it. A running plotline throughout the series dealing with time travel and alternate history? Why not?! But it is Gleason's masterful writing that brings all these elements together to create such a superb series, and the third installment of the Stoker and Holmes series does not disappoint. In The Chess Queen Enigma, the stakes are raised considerably as international politics come into play with visit of the princess of the (fictitious) country of Betrovia looming throughout the novel; though Evaline and Mira see their role protecting the princess as little more than glorified ladies-in-waiting/bodyguards, the reappearance of the Ankh and the threat of ruined diplomacy motivate our heroines to reevaluate their duties and return to their crime-fighting and mystery-solving roles we saw in the first two novels. While readers have puzzled over the identity of the Ankh for the past two books, the third book dives headfirst into the duo's suspicions first brought up in The Spiritglass Enigma...resulting in even more confusion than before, though certainly not without new revelations. However, the daring adventure of the novels isn't even the best part of the book - that distinction would go to Mina and Eveline's friendship, a rare gem among YA fiction that so often maligns female friendships into an either giggly and superficial connection or a tense, frenemy-style resentment. Instead of succumbing to these tropes, their friendship is at times tense and fraught, but their shared values and goals form a solid relationship that is the foundation of their work (and indeed, even the novel as a whole). Their complex relationships with their potential love interests are also well-written, avoiding devolving into a period romance novel level of swooning that derails the plot in favor of incorporating their romantic struggles into the action itself - a far more realistic and accurate depiction of young women in any era.
The Chess Queen Enigma is a perfect read for fans of mystery, adventure, fantasy, and time travel, and I can't wait for the release of the untitled fourth novel this year.
Carolyn is a teen blogger who shares her favorite YA reads and favorite book related finds with readers on Fridays.