ARC Review: Tarnished by Karina Cooper
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.
Seriously, offering me a book where Steampunk meets Jack the Ripper? Are you kidding me? It’s like chocolate with peanut butter on top! Oh, the goodness! Darn, did I give it away to early? Sorry, I just couldn’t wait to say that I really loved this book. Now I can act in a more orderly fashion. In this steampunk debut by Karina Cooper we are introduced to orphan and heiress Cherry St. Croix (love the name!) who is caught between two worlds – London below the drift and London above the drift… yes, in this alternate universe London has been divided in to two levels- the original level which is considered below the drift and the new level – constructed to escape the ever growing fog, above the drift, where the more privileged dwell in a fog-free area.
While Cherry lives above the drift, in a house with her guardian (a man we see little of but of who Cherry is terrified) she works a collector (a kind of bounty hunter) below the drift, in the foggy depths of London’s less salubrious neighborhoods. I keep thinking how much can I give away without completely revealing the entire plot…so I’ll say this: Her childhood left her with an expensive habit, one she can only pay off by getting an additional income.
London above the drift is ruled by society, and Cherry is at its outskirts, not quite a pariah but very close. So she is incredibly surprised when she gets invited to one of the society events of the season. Where she meets Lord Compton, the prodigal son who has returned to the arms of his loving mother – one of society’s leading ladies who loathe Cherry…
Meanwhile, London below the drift is rules by the Midnight Menagerie… a circus filled with every kind of pleasure, for those who can pay the price; and if you can’t pay the price, they will make sure you pay. Using collectors if necessary. Here Micajah Hawke is the ringmaster for the menagerie…and well, lets just say this ringmaster can run rings around me any day. ;)
While attempting to collect her fee from the menagerie, Cherry runs into one of it’s lady’s of the night who wishes to hire her to look into the disappearance of some of the menagerie girls, found brutally murdered. Yes, the infamous leather apron (one of the names given to Jack the Ripper) and from here on in the pace of this story just increases. As Cherry tries to discover who leather apron is, and could he be a collector? She is also embroiled in other menagerie business, stumbles upon a connection with her dead parents and all while trying to be a proper society miss who has caught the interest of Lord Compton, a man she doesn’t mind being caught by.
In fact, my only problem with Tarnished is that I sometimes felt a bit lost. I was trying to both understand the incredible universe created by Ms. Cooper while piecing together the plots and characters. There was just so much going on here! Now, this is something I have often seen happen in first books in a series, so I understand why it was like this, I just really needed a little bit more insider information on the St. Croix Chronicles universe.
As for the characters themselves, they each jump off the pages and are so easy to picture in my head. Cherry is a very sympathetic character though she is most definitely not the type-cast heroine. Her past, her current problems, they all make for a page turning read. It looks like Ms. Cooper is setting Cherry up for a bit of a love (lust?) triangle and frankly, I know where my loyalties lie…. Did someone say Hawke?
Tarnished is an absolutely riveting series debut and a must read for steampunk lovers. I am truly looking forward to Gilded which is set to be released in December…In fact, I may go re-read Tarnished now in anticipation.