Tempered and Engraved – No.4 & 5 of the St Croix Chronicles by Karina Cooper

Today I’ll be reviewing two books in preparation for reviewing the final episode, book No.6, of the St Croix Chronicles.  This review will definitely contain spoilers for previous books so please be aware of that.

If you’re unfamiliar with Cherry St Croix she’s led a very chequered past.  Orphaned at an early age and then sold into the circus her life was on a downward spiral involving crime and drugs until she was rescued by her guardian (Oliver Ashmore) and placed in one of the upper households (of London above) to be transformed into a lady!  Her past has a strange hold however and whilst she could languish in relative comfort she returns frequently to the streets of London below – where she has become a Collector (a bounty hunter) hired by the Veil and becoming more entangled with the lives of those within it’s grasp.  The Menagerie, and more to the point The Veil, are not for the faint hearted as Cherry is becoming all too aware – unfortunately she needs the money to fund her habit!


At the start of Tempered Cherry has once again been rescued by her guardian who has literally plucked her from the grounds of the Menagerie to place her within the confines of a mansion, deep inside the countryside and away from temptation.  Ashmore intends to break Cherry of her addiction whether she wishes to be sober or not.

No.4 has a decidedly different feel to the first three books and one that I really liked.  The story is confined entirely to the strange mansion where Cherry is being held and due to this the novel has an oddly dark and gothic feel to it.  There are decaying wings, strange dreams, dark shadows where things lurk not to mention the suggestion of hidden laboratories.  It all has a lovely creepiness to it that speaks of a combination of Frankenstein and Udolpho.  At the start of the story we see Cherry brought to her lowest yet, the previous book saw her tormented by addiction and this book sees her struggle to break its hold – even if this isn’t voluntary!  We learn a good deal more about her Guardian – Ashmore and he really does turn into quite a character.  On top of this there are a number of twists – yes, I had the inkling when something didn’t feel quite right but even so when certain elements were revealed I was still a bit stunned!  Be prepared for surprises, not least of all, in the absence of some of the more steampunk elements of the story – the introduction of alchemy and the search for immortality!


At the start of No.5 Cherry and Ashmore have agreed upon a plan for Cherry to return to London.  She may now be dry of her addiction – although admittedly this is always a constant struggle, but she’s not free of the feelings she holds for the Menagerie’s Circus Master – Hawke.  The last time Cherry was in his presence he betrayed her trust and yet still she would return to try and rescue him.  Things in London down under have changed drastically.  The fighting between the street gangs has escalated and is about to break out into all out war – unfortunately one of these gangs seems to have aligned themselves with the Veil and in doing so have acquired inhuman strength and killing ability and at the centre is Hawke!

I’m not going to deny that Cherry seems to spend a good deal of time running backwards and forwards in this book and sometimes I struggled to understand exactly what she thought she was achieving and between her dizzying episodes and Hawke acting like an animal the plot sometimes got a little muddled.  However, to be honest I just went with the story.  I have to hand it to Karina Cooper – she’s rather excellent at evoking the emotions and setting the scene.  When you’re in the midst of fight you can practically smell the fear, sweat and bloody, if there’s a fire you can feel the heat as it sears victims alive – and make no mistake, there’s plenty of action going on here!  Not to mention, a perfect setup for the final book!

I won’t deny that I have criticisms about Cherry – sometimes she doesn’t seem to think very clearly (to say the least), she’s self centred and she’s led a very shady existence – however, if you’ve followed the series from the start you’ll know her story and it will make things more understandable.  I would definitely say this is not a series that you could just start in the middle.  I think you need the gradual build up, the picture of place laying out and the history that has brought Cherry to her current self.  And, that makes it all the more satisfying that at the end of this story her actions felt more reasonable and thought through.

This is certainly a twist laden and entertaining tale.  Now, I will mention that I’m not really a romance reader and that includes PNR – so, I’m not an expert where either of those is involved – I think this series is described as Urban Fantasy but I’m inclined to also veer towards PNR, or at least say that this borders on it.  I’m not an expert on what constitutes PNR so perhaps somebody else can help me out with that aspect.  There is certainly a strong theme of love running through the book (whether or not people will admit it!) and lets just be honest there’s a tad of sex, although this isn’t what the story is all about.  Basically, adult themes, sex, drugs and violence are included and I can’t deny that Cooper can make a scene sizzle!  That’s all I’m saying. Personally, I find myself torn now as I really like Ashmore!

Anyway, on to No.6 and to find out how all this ends!  I have no doubt that it will be fast paced and written in Cooper’s tongue in cheek style.

One Response to “Tempered and Engraved – No.4 & 5 of the St Croix Chronicles by Karina Cooper”

  1. January – in short | Lynn's Book Blog

    […] Tempered – Karina Cooper […]

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