Title: Gilded Hearts
Author: Christine D’Abo
Series: The Shadow Guild (Book #1)
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Format: Paperback, 400 Pages
ISBN-10: 1455550523 (Forever/Hachette)
ISBN-13: 978-1455550524 (Forever/Hachette)
Reviewed by: Steph
Samuel Hawkins, Sergeant in the King’s Sentry, has been called in to investigate a murder case. As he awaits the Archivists to arrive—the team who will use a special device to extract the memories of the dead man to help find clues to his murder—he never expects to come face to face with the woman he’d left behind when he’d fled the Archives five years earlier.
Piper Smith has grown from the girl Samuel remembered into a strong woman and full-fledged archivist. Shadowed by her mentor, Master Ryerson, Piper will be performing her first extraction. When she sees Samuel, she must push aside her childhood crush, else risk her standing within the Guild.
As the two begin working together to find the killer, Samuel and Piper explore their intense attraction to each other. But “Jack the Ripper” proves to be harder to catch than the two originally thought. What’s worse, they discover he may very well work for the Archives. Now, Samuel and Piper must battle internal and external threats as they try to foil a plot against the Crown and stop Jack the Ripper from taking his next victim.
Quick & Dirty: Sam thought he had put his past at the Archives behind him. Then, when Jack the Ripper makes his appearance in New London, he comes directly into contact with his past, in the form of the woman he left behind. Now they must work together to catch a killer in this thrilling addition to the steampunk genre.
Opening Sentence: The cold bite of the late fall air against Samuel Hawkins’ cheek had long caused it to go numb.
Steampunk has always been hit or miss for me, so I was a little nervous when I started Gilded Hearts. By the end of Chapter One, I was intrigued. By Chapter Three, I was hooked. Christine D’Abo has created a steampunk version of London that is fascinating, easy to understand, and full of great possibility for future books.
Years ago, Sam escaped the Archives, the most powerful Guild in New London. The Archivists (or zombies as they’re known derogatorily on the streets) are responsible for collecting memories from the dead and storing them for posterity. Sam was put through hell during his tenure with the Archivists and finally could not take it anymore and ran away. He started a new life for himself and is now a member of the King’s Sentry. One night, a prostitute is killed, and the Archivist assigned to the memory retrieval is none other than Piper, the girl Sam left behind when he ran away. The spark between them reignites, and neither of them is strong enough to resist its pull, despite the fact that Piper’s duty as an Archivist means she can’t be involved with a man. Piper and Sam’s paths continue to cross, however, as more prostitutes are being murdered. It seems Jack the Ripper has made his presence known in New London, and he won’t rest until his mission is complete. As the danger ramps up, Sam and Piper must decide if their love is strong enough to withstand Jack’s killing spree and the wrath of the Archivists.
The characters in this book practically leap off the page. We get scenes from both Sam and Piper’s points of view, and I honestly didn’t prefer one over the other. There is a lot to admire in Piper as a heroine. She is very strong-willed for a woman in this time period (albeit an alternate time period). She’s having to come to terms with the fact that the Guild that’s protected her all of her life may not be entirely what it seems. Watching her struggle with this realization while still moving forward with the investigation made me like her even more as a character. Sam has suffered immensely in his life and managed to come out on the other side a stronger person. While memories of the Archives still haunt him, he doesn’t let that affect how he pursues this investigation. Again, a very admirable trait.
While I loved the characters, I think my favorite part of this book dealt with the use of flashbacks. So often, flashbacks in novels only serve to disrupt the flow of the story. Not so here. Flashbacks to Sam and Piper’s past at the Archives are interwoven so seamlessly into the narrative that there’s no disruption at all. Everything fits together so perfectly. The flashbacks serve to make the reader feel more connected to the characters while giving them information that’s pertinent to the story.
Before reading this novel, I had never read any of Christine D’Abo’s work. That will certainly be changing now. I’ve become completely hooked on this steampunk version of London and find myself eagerly anticipating book 2, as it deals with one of my favorite side characters from this novel. Fans of steampunk (and even readers who’ve never read steampunk before) should definitely check this series out!
She stood with her back pressed to the wall, her palms flat against the stone. Chin lifted, she stared right into his eyes. “The Archives and the Guild Masters aren’t perfect. Yes, they took me from my mum so long ago that sometimes I wonder if the dreams I have of her are real or simply my own fantasies. I wonder constantly of the life I would have now if I’d stayed there with her. Grown up under her watchful eye until a time when I was to be married off. They took that life from me, but they gave me something else. A place in society that I could never have obtained on my own.”
“I didn’t mean-”
“Yes you did.” Her chuckle was as sad as anything he could ever remember hearing. “Don’t worry. I’ve known since we were children how you felt. I wouldn’t expect years of living on the outside to change that perspective. Reinforce it, more likely.”
Christ. There shouldn’t be this gap between them. Yes, it had been five years, but they hadn’t changed that much since they’d last been together. If anything, they’d become more of what they’d always been. They’d grown into themselves, but still felt much the same as they had back then. About the Archives, and about one another.
Keeping his gaze locked onto hers, Samuel tried once more to close the distance between them. He took a small step, watching for any sign that Piper didn’t want him. She didn’t move.
“I’m glad you were taken by the Archives, Pip.”
Her eyes widened as she pulled her shoulders back against the wall. The blast of annoyance he felt from her was only visible by the tightening around her mouth.
Samuel chanced another step closer.
“If it meant that you were pulled from society, that another man wouldn’t be able to touch you, then I will be forever grateful. Because you see,” he cupped her cheek, “even though we’ve never so much as kissed, you belong to me.”
The Shadow Guild Series:
FTC Advisory: Forever Yours/Hachette provided me with a copy of Gilded Hearts. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.