Author: Karina Cooper
Genre: Steampunk/Historical Urban Fantasy
Series: St. Croix Chronicles (Book 1)
Publication Date: June 26, 2012
Format: Paperback, 384 Pages
ISBN-10: 0062127640 (Avon)
ISBN-13: 978-0062127648 (Avon)
Reviewed by: Sheila
My name is Cherry St. Croix. Society would claim that I am a well-heeled miss with an unfortunate familial reputation. They’ve no idea of the truth of it. In my secret world, I hunt down vagrants, thieves . . . and now, a murderer. For a monster stalks London’s streets, leaving a trail of mystery and murder below the fog.
Eager for coin to fuel my infatuations, I must decide where my attentions will turn: to my daylight world, where my scientific mind sets me apart from respectable Society, or to the compelling domain of London below. Each has a man who has claimed my time as his–for good or for ill. Though as the corpses pile, and the treacherous waters of Society gossip churn, I am learning that each also has its dangers. One choice will see me cast from polite company . . . the other might just see me dead.
Quick & Dirty: A dark and dangerous hunt for a serial killer where magic and science clash in opium-laced perceptions.
Opening Sentence: I was nine years old when I picked my first pocket.
Steampunk is a beautiful blend of the Victorian Era and Industrial Revolution: Tarnished takes this one step further. The London of this world is split into two distinct areas; above and below. The pollution and poverty was left on the ground when the movers and shakers of London decided to “rise above” their fellow man and develop the city above the fog and decay. The caste system reflects this obvious line of distinction. Cherry St. Croix attempts to live within both worlds while keeping them separate from each other. While she makes every effort to do so, there are people and events at work that strive to have her spinning plates come crashing down.
Cherry’s different lives are, literally, like night and day. By day, she is one of the well-to-do. She has a house, a staff, and a governess intent on her marrying well. Though her family history is less than stellar, she still must maintain propriety as if it were. Her actions and every move are dissected and analyzed by the elite. For someone with a naturally fiery disposition, her life under the microscope is stifling, at best. By night, she is a far different woman. Known only as Ms. Black, she dresses as a boy and works as a collector, a bounty hunter, to subsidize her opium addiction. Her life before becoming a “lady” was much darker than her other counterparts in polite society. This part of her character is always at odds with the one she must present in order to keep her household safe and protected. I absolutely LOVE this extreme within Cherry. Her disillusionment about people and her innocence in personal relationships is as gripping as it is heart-breaking.
The main story revolves around Cherry’s acceptance of a job hunting down The Leather Apron, a serial killer that has been killing prostitutes and taking their organs. Although she is seriously outclassed and has no leads, she is determined to find the killer. It is not some random people that are being massacred; it is girls that Cherry knows personally. Her sense of responsibility only goes so far; they did offer her opium in addition to money and that seals her help.
The love interests in the book reflect the two sides of Cherry; Lord Compton for the light and Micajah Hawke for the dark. Lord Compton is as high up on the social ladder as you can go. He is handsome, charming, and heir to his family’s fortune and prestige. For whatever reason, he is interested in Cherry. His manners and upbringing make him an ideal candidate for marriage, if she was interested in such things. Though polished on the outside, Compton reveals more of a darker nature throughout the book. Micajah, on the other hand, is the ringmaster of the Midnight Menagerie; a den of flesh and decadence in the heart of seedy London. He is dark, sexy, and master of his domain. His feral sexuality calls to Cherry in ways she is not willing to look deeply into. A man of action, Micajah shows a compassionate and honorable side when Cherry is at her most vulnerable. He is a man of magic whereas Compton is more a man of science. Both of the men have their good and bad sides; perhaps they are not as different as they would have us believe.
A riveting tale mixing both magic and science, Tarnished is gem among the rubble. I found it extremely hard to put this book down. Cherry St. Croix and her world are definitely worth the visit.
Who would make a useless piece of jewelry?
Although whomever had, he had certainly been a craftsman. The make was exceptional. Delicate gold filigree framed a burnt umber oval, striking in both design and color. Polished to a beautiful sheen, it set off the black silhouette raised in the center.
The tips of my fingers skimmed over the features of a lady I couldn’t see. I could feel the cut of her cheek, the graceful sweep of her neck and her shoulder. I traced what seemed to be a wealth of hair, or perhaps the folds of a gown.
It felt expensive. And thicker than a bit of jewelry should.
Most assuredly so. I caught myself as I started to grin. Surely someone would remember making it, seeing it. Even hearing about it.
I had to go find Ish. I turned.
“No!” The rasping, oddly muffled voice sliced through the dark. “Give it back!”
I whirled. And then the world exploded.
The St. Croix Chronicles:
2. Gilded (December 26, 2012)
FTC Advisory: Avon graciously provided me with a copy of Tarnished. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review. The only payments I received are hugs and kisses from my little boys.
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