Tarnished (St. Croix Chronicles #1) by Karina Cooper
Publisher: HarperCollins/June 26th, 2012
Kind thanks to HarperCollins for providing a review copy
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.
I’m a huge fan of Karina Cooper’s, so when news came that she would be starting a brand new Victorian London/steampunk/paranormal series, I was so there! Cherry St. Croix is the daughter of a genius, considered by many to be a madman, and stands to soon inherit the estate and holdings left to her by her late father. Not quite part of the peerage, yet still considered within polite society, Cherry is no lady, and I mean that in the best possible way. By day, Cherry does what polite society ladies do (sorta), entertaining visitors, spending time with her friend and caretaker Franny (while exasperating her at every possible turn), and reluctantly attending society balls. By night, Cherry ventures beneath the drift, where the Midnight Menagerie dwells and the toxic fog gathers, to work as a collector, capturing bounties for the enigmatic Micajeh Hawke. When news that a brutal killer is targeting the “sweets” that work the streets, women that Cherry considers friends, reaches her, she knows that she must find this man and put him out of commission, even if the cost proves higher than she ever imagined.
Just like with her Dark Mission novels, Ms. Cooper has created an imaginative, rich environment for her characters to play in, but this time it’s in an alternate Victorian London. Fully realized are the teeming streets, bustling humanity, and grit of London below, and I was happy to follow Cherry along on her escapades. Cherry is easy to like, and her weaknesses only enhance her character, making her someone to identify with and root for. Tarnished definitely spent some time setting the stage for books to come, and steampunk fans will love it. With nods to Jack the Ripper and Frankenstein, Tarnished takes you on a rollicking ride with characters you’ll want to see more of. Add in a dash of romance, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for steampunk adventure. Can’t wait for more books in this series!