Gilded (The St. Croix Chronicles #2) by Karina Cooper
Okay, so I finished the second of the St Croix Chronicles a few days ago but was literally stunned into silence and needed a few days to absorb events. This book is quite the riot of emotions ending on a final note of utter shock. I’ve tried to stay away from reviews for this series to avoid spoilers and it worked because the ending of this took me totally by surprise, and yet at the same time that it blew me off my feet with it’s unexpected quality it also felt sort of inevitable!
Gilded is the second in the St Croix series the first being Tarnished (my review here). I really do recommend reading these books in order and not just jumping in at No.2. Gilded pretty much starts off where Tarnished ended. Cherry is determined to find out what took part in the underground tunnel (and I won’t say more for fear of spoilers). We still have two killers on the loose on the streets of London down below and on top of this there now appears to be a new murderer on the scene – intent on killing professors from London’s finest educational establishments. Aside from all of this Cherry is in debt to the menagerie, is being pursued by the Earl, castigated by the upper echelons of society and suffering illness from the side effects of her double life and secret addiction. It’s quite daunting just to think about it.
Ms Cooper certainly doesn’t make it easy to review her books because there’s very little to say without giving away spoilers. This is a new murder mystery and really apart from a few tidbits of information doesn’t really take us too much further in pursuit of Cherry’s original goals and yet there are certain elements that make you realise that so much is connected. It’s a sort of bring them up to watch them fall instalment.
Gilded is quite a fast paced and intriguing instalment and in fact I would say even more enjoyable than the first (which is a surprise given the very short space that Mr Hawke makes an appearance for). Cherry is without doubt a flawed character. She makes mistakes and she can make you feel frustrated as anything. But, I like her and given the constraints placed upon her in this faux Victorian era she’s actually very forward thinking. She’s torn between wanting her friends and family to be happy and wanting to maintain her own individuality. What’s a girl to do? Aside from all that of course is that Cherry is basically, deep inside a good person. She tries to make the right decisions. She’s wound up in a situation where she’s indebted to the wrong sort – and this is a result of the night time activities she pursues in order to raise money to buy laudanum (which she only uses to quell her night terrors). She also seems to have drawn a lot of negative attention both above and below London. You can’t help feeling quite a lot of sympathy for her whilst also wanting to shake her occasionally!
Anyway, there are two new murders and clearly these are the work of somebody different from the Sweet Tooth and the Ripper. The academia are being targeted and Cherry is given a riddle to solve which will unwittingly take her into the path of danger yet again. The plot culminates in a fantastic masked ball which ends with a bang!
Murder, mystery, alchemy, fog, rippers, dashing Earls, sexy Micajah Hawke – and an ending that left me without words! Yes, this feels like a guilty pleasure and yet I don’t actually feel guilty at all in fact, quite the opposite. Bring on number 3.