The Qwillery | category: The St. Croix Chronicles


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Review: Transmuted by Karina Cooper

Author:  Karina Cooper
Series:  The St. Croix Chronicles 6
Publisher:  Carina Press, January 26, 2015
Format:  eBook, 290 pages
List Price:  $3.99
ISBN:  9781426899485
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: Transmuted by Karina Cooper
Book six of the St. Croix Chronicles

In this final installment of Cherry St. Croix's adventures, only one thing could compel the disgraced countess to return to Society--the threat of immortality.

All is not peaceful in the wake of the Midnight Menagerie's ruin. Although the Karakash Veil has been forced to flee its stronghold, the mysterious head of the criminal organization is not content to fade away.

Above the foggy drift, a priceless diamond vanishes. In the dangerous Underground, a murderous rampage demands retribution. The hunt for the mastermind behind these misdeeds sends me back to Society--and into the unforgiving embrace of the world I'd left behind.

Nothing is what it seems. Enemies, allies--and a man who struggles with a nature even devotion cannot tame. Torn between the scars of the past and fragile new beginnings, I must create balance in the world I have chosen--and with the people I have come to love. The game has changed; should the Veil achieve the immortality it craves, I will have nowhere left to run.

Melanie's Thoughts

Transmuted is the sixth and final book in the St.Croix Chronicles. It starts a few weeks after the end of book 5 which found Cherry alive and well and living back with her loved ones. She also managed to save the enigmatic Hawke from the clutches of The Veil but she is determined to make him pay for what he did to her, to Hawke and her friends at the Menagerie. Of course, the path to revenge is never straightforward and takes Cherry from the smoggiest slums of London to the dizzy heights of high society.

I enjoyed Transmuted and thought that Cooper wrapped up the series well. She brings back almost all of the characters from previous books including those that died at either her hand or The Veil's. Cooper uses the sub-plot of trying to find a rare diamond stolen from the Queen's vault's as the means of bringing Cherry back into high society and as a result, back in the company of her brother and mother-in-law. Her introduction back into society came on the arm of her brother-in-law Piers. These scenes were dramatic, amusing and worked well to both develop the plot and tie up some loose ends.

As much as I enjoyed Transmuted I did think there were a number of flaws. Cherry seems to spend quite a bit of time lamenting the death of her husband Lord Compton and very little time mourning the death of his murderer and her best friend. I thought that it was odd that Teddy barely got a mention considering he died at her hand and was her closest, if only friend. I didn't enjoy the diamond sub-plot which was the focus for the first third of the book but then side-lined until the very end. In fact, I completely forgot about the stolen diamond until the very end of the book. I was also much less enamored with the former ring master Hawke in this final book. I thought he acted like a bit of a jerk to Cherry by pushing her away and being jealous of Ashmore. I know they had a fairly unromantic romance but Cage was almost mean to the fallen socialite.

Flaws or not Cooper has created a gritty and colourful steampunk London for her characters. This series has been a bit of a roller coaster for me with it's ups and downs but if I look at this series as a whole I think there is something for everyone with a strong heroine at its centre. I'm looking forward to reading more from this author.

Review: Engraved by Karina Cooper

Author:  Karina Cooper
Series:  The St. Croix Chronicles 5
Publisher:  Carina Press, August 11, 2014
Format:  eBook, 288 pages
List Price:  $3.99
ISBN:  9781426898815
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: Engraved by Karina Cooper
Cherry St. Croix returns to the fog-ridden streets of Victorian London, where the balance of power threatens all that she loves.

I will not wither without laudanum. Sober and determined, I have chosen another way-- alchemy, and the pursuit of wellness it embodies. My name is Cherry St. Croix, and though freedom is finally at my fingertips, I return to the blackened streets intent on righting the wrongs I'd left behind.

All is not well in London low. Caught in a war between gangs, men are torn limb from limb, and I am called on to ascertain how. The immoral Karakash Veil is no doubt involved, and Micajah Hawke, a prisoner in his own Menagerie, cannot soften the danger this time.

Armed with the alchemical arts I have learned, my ever present guardian, and what few friends are left to me, I embark on a campaign to rescue the ringmaster I cannot abandon, save the Brick Street Bakers from annihilation, and finally face that which frightens me the most--my own heart.

Melanie's Thoughts

Engraved is the 5th book of The St. Croix Chronicles and finds Cherry back in London, laudanum free. She has been joined by her mentor/lover/guardian Ashmore to rescue the enigmatic Micajah Hawke. The London that she has returned to, free of the fugue of heroin, is not what she was expecting. Everywhere she turns her friends and loved ones are victims of the changes that the Karakash Veil has spearheaded since she left the city. There is now a war between the street gangs and the sweets from the Menagerie who had protected her are being are being broken and tossed aside. The most horrifying event however, is what has happened to her reluctant lover, Hawke. Cherry finds that Hawke has been imprisoned by the Veil but it is not clear whether he has been caged by his master or has chosen to be caged. It would all seem quite bleak and hopeless, but not for Cherry. Things couldn't really get much worse than the events of book 4 (Tempered) when her mother, from beyond the grave, tried to kill her and take over her body. Stopping the war and freeing Hawke seems almost like a walk in the park in comparison. Dark forces are at work and Cherry will have to use all her skills from years as a Collector and the new ones learned during her time with Ashmore in order to save her friends and her love, Hawke.

This instalment was a refreshing change to the previous novels where everything seemed so hopeless as Cherry sunk deeper and deeper to the grip of her heroin addiction. It's not like Cherry is running in fields of flowers or playing with kittens with balls of strings in this novel but at least she now has a clear mind and is empowered with the alchemical arts taught to her by her former guardian, Ashmore. As much as I could see Cherry's attraction to Hawke in the first 2 novels I am more convinced that it is Cherry's innate self destructive nature that draws her to his anti-hero. Hawke offers her up as a sacrifice in book 3 and is physically abusive to her in book 5 but she is still convinced he is worthy of her love. I wasn't entirely sure. I think I would find it hard to forgive a lover who hurts me physically and mentally. I suppose she can't resist a bad boy!

Many of the characters from previous novels make a re-appearance in this instalment, even those who died or were killed in the other books. Her short lived marriage to Lord Compton is prominent in her mind in the early chapters as she is forced to rely on her brother-in-law for help. Even though the tragic demise of Lord Compton is a feature of the first half of the book Compton's murderer and Cherry's dear friend Freddy is barely mentioned. I was expecting Cherry to be forced to come to terms with what Freddy did and the part she played in his downfall and the murders he committed to draw her attention. There was a lot to cover, however, with Cherry trying to save Hawke, the Baker boys, her friends and to escape the Veil and the evil he has spread across London.

I enjoyed this instalment, much more than book 4. Cherry's return to London signaled to me that Cooper was going to return to the gritty, steampunky, noir feel of the previous novels. I also feel this is down to the return of characters from previous books, as well as, the familiar setting of London. I didn't especially like that Cherry was still a victim of Hawke's but at least she is able to stick up for herself a bit more now due to her newly found powers. This read like the final book of the series to me. I think that Cherry could now be left to live her life. However, Cooper has one more of Cherry's story to tell (Transmuted) and I will be happy to read it. This is a dark series and not for anyone who has a problem with a heroine with a drug addiction or a hero who isn't that nice to his love interest. If however, you have a like a conflicted heroine and a perpetual bad boy living in the smog of a steampunk London then this is the series for you.

Review: Tempered by Karina Cooper

Author:  Karina Cooper
Series:  The St. Croix Chronicles 4
Publisher:  Carina Press, February 10, 2014
Format:  eBook,
List Price:  $3.99
eISBN:  9781426897924
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher via NetGalley

Review:  Tempered by Karina Cooper
Forced out of London's coal-blackened streets, Cherry St. Croix is faced with her most difficult undertaking yet: sobriety.

At long last, my guardian, the enigmatic Mr. Oliver Ashmore, has revealed himself-and his order is clear: I am to be dried out at once, regardless of my wishes.

I loathe the country estate I am imprisoned within. Footsteps follow me, voices call for me, and my sanity wavers. In my fevered dreams, I am haunted by those I failed, while waking proves no protection from the ghosts of my reckless past. The craving for laudanum plagues me. I require a distraction.

To unravel the alchemical mysteries of my mother's family, I must rely on Ashmore's tutelage. I am lured to the art and drawn by the secrets my guardian possesses. Yet the deeper I delve, the more I believe that something dreadful disturbs these haunted corridors. In my madness, I fear that what it wants me.

Melanie's Thoughts:

*This review contains spoilers*

Tempered is the fourth instalment of the Cherry St. Croix Chronicles and starts immediately after book 3, Corroded. Cherry has been rescued from The Menagerie by her guardian, Oliver Ashmore. He is taking her to the family estate to recover and to dry out from the opium that has ruled her life for years. Cherry's withdrawal from the drug is a living hell with the inevitable physical pain but also with nightmares that force her to relive the multitude of horrific events in her past. Cherry's drive and fight is whittled down during this period and it is a life or death struggle for sobriety. Cherry only has to pull her way through the pain and the fugue left by her drug addiction in order to learn about Ashmore, her mother and the alchemical arts studied by both her parents. Secrets are lurking at every turn and it will take everything Cherry has and more to fight her addiction and find out who she really is and what she is capable of.

I was really looking forward to Tempered as Cooper managed to leave us with such a huge cliff-hanger at the end of book 3 even after wrapping up so many plot threads from the previous books. Tempered almost felt like a stand-alone book as Cherry's story is told at her family's cold and crumbling estate and far away from London and the Menagerie where the last three books have been set. The story focused mainly on Cherry and Ashmore's relationship. He becomes the tool for her to learn about her mother. The chapters of the book involving Cherry's withdrawal from opium were particularly harrowing due to the realistic and believable way they were written. It was almost like you were there, suffering along with Cherry.

I didn't, however, warm to Oliver Ashmore as a character. I thought it was a bit odd how often comparisons where made to the colour of Cherry and Ashmore's hair and I thought that he was going to end up being related somehow. However, later in the novel I thought it even more unusual when these comparisons continued even after he becomes a romantic interest. I wasn't sure if I was 'reading' too much into this or I was missing the point. I also thought that given Cherry's character that she would have been less likely to pursue a romantic relationship with Ashmore given the disastrous way her first sexual encounter with Hawke ended. She was going through opium withdrawal so I will let her off with bad choices at this point. It felt in parts that the story is moving more towards PNR rather than its beginnings in steampunk or noir. I hope this isn't the case.

Cooper manages to wrap up yet another plot line that started back in book 1. It feels like she is really tying up loose ends. But what of the enigmatic Micajah Hawke?  He is mentioned but does not play a part in this instalment, much to my dismay. Hopefully, book 5 will see more of the Menagerie's bad boy ring master. I didn't enjoy Tempered as much as the others books in the St. Croix Chronicles. I thought it was quite similar in some respects to Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. In Wilde's story the young Dorian's life is linked to his portrait which stores his sins while he leads a life of debauchery and vice. In Tempered however, Ashmore stores the 'life force' of his victims in their portraits and fuels his immortality from them. Perhaps it was this similarity that helped me to predict what would happen next, something that I hadn't been able to do so far.  I do really enjoy the series though and I like the way that Cooper deals with a character that is so flawed and with such a debilitating addiction. I am looking forward to see what Cherry is up to next. Bring on book 5!

Review: Corroded (The St. Croix Chronicles 3) by Karina Cooper

This review discusses plot points in previous novels of this series. There are SPOILERS!

Author:  Karina Cooper
Series:  The St. Croix Chronicles 3
Publisher:  Carina Press, September 23, 2013
Format:  eBook, 264 pages
List Price:  $3.99
ISBN:  9781426896392
Review copy:  Provided by the Publisher via NetGalley

Review: Corroded (The St. Croix Chronicles 3) by Karina Cooper
Hungry for vengeance, Cherry St. Croix is forced to the fog-ridden streets of Victorian London. My rival, a collector of bounties like myself, has murdered one of my own. In consequence, I have been removed from my house, my staff and all who would support me. I have nowhere else to turn, so I beg asylum within the Midnight Menagerie, London's decadent pleasure garden. Micajah Hawke's dominance there will not tolerate my presence for long. I am fixated on revenge, but I walk a razor's edge under his scrutiny. His wicked power is not easily ignored, and I must not allow myself to submit--no matter how sweet the sacrifice. Challenging my rival to a race is the only way to end this--no small task when the quarry is the murderous Jack the Ripper. As my enemies close in, I fear the consequences of this hunt. I am trapped between two killers, and what doesn't kill me may leave its scars forever.

Melanie's Thoughts:

The third in the Cherry St Croix series adds a new dimension to dark and foreboding. Cherry continues her search for both Jack the Ripper and the 'sweet tooth' who murdered her husband on their wedding day. She barely escaped being locked away by her vindictive mother-in-law who has always thought Cherry was not good enough to marry her son. Determined to find justice for her husband, her friends and the murdered sweets Cherry continues her search in the underbelly of London.  Luck is definitely not on her side as time has run out and The Veil wants the concoction that her father had poisoned her with in book 1. Cherry neither has the serum or the desire to give it to them but her hand might be forced as no one betrays The Veil and goes unpunished. The future looks as bleak as the landscape for the reluctant heroine.

Cherry's addiction to opium completely takes over her life and becomes more than just a crutch. The focus of her every step is dependent on when or how much resin she has to consume. Through her dependency we get an insight into her life before she was rescued as a young girl. Her time in the circus was truly horrific and it is plain to see how she came to be addicted to laudanum in order to escape the nightmare of those years. Despite this Cherry still manages to stay true to herself and to her mission despite the fact that most of it is seen through the fugue of a heroin high.

The enigmatic Micajah Hawke is ever present in Cherry's life as she uses the Menagerie as her base. Rather than learning more about Hawke I was left with ever more questions although there was plenty of development of his character during their interactions. Very few of the other characters from Cherry's life are present in this installment but this makes complete sense as she is hiding away from them in order to find the sweet tooth. Her sense of loneliness is palatable as is the sense of loss and regret for the life she never really fit into. She doesn't have too much time to feel sorry for herself as her personal mission to find a killer keeps her more than busy.

I found this review very difficult to write. Not that I didn't enjoy the book because I did. Cherry's life is so bleak and has been since book 1. It keeps getting darker and darker without much of a reprieve in sight. I was quite maudlin at the end of book two when Lord Compton died. I didn't think it could get more depressing but it seems to. Cooper is a master at creating pathos and has developed an environment that lends itself to conveying this feeling.

Cooper resolves the sweet tooth plotline in such a perfect and subtle manner. After so much focus on this plot throughout the series the resolution just seems to pop in, almost to fuel the action in later scenes. Cooper creates a mystery within a mystery in Corroded and leaves the reader with a magnificent cliff hanger. She certainly does know how to tease as I thought the ending of book 2 was cruel enough to my already frayed nerves but Cooper does it again. I am more than eagerly awaiting book 4 but I beg of Cooper...please, please, please have something nice happen to Cherry!  Maybe she finds a penny on the street or she gets a hug from a stranger or she gets to play with some kittens or puppies.  Its almost getting too dark and I need a tiny little light at the end of the Cherry St. Croix tunnel.
Review: Transmuted by Karina CooperReview: Engraved by Karina CooperReview:  Tempered by Karina CooperReview: Corroded (The St. Croix Chronicles 3) by Karina Cooper

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