Transmuted, Book 6 of the St Croix Chronicles by Karina Cooper

Just finished reading Transmuted which finishes the St Croix Chronicles by Karina Cooper.

As far as ends in series go I think this particular one managed to find a happy balance whilst being realistically a little sad at the same time.  It’s always sad to say goodbye to characters that you’ve grown quite attached to and with a series like this you always wonder how the author will manage to make it all work out.

The St Croix Chronicles follow the story of Cherry and her unusual exploits.  In this final chapter she’s going to go up against the Veil and in doing so will have to reintegrate into the Society of London above – a society that never accepted her and that she was only too pleased to escape from.  Going back is going to open up all sorts of old wounds for Cherry and others and there will be victims.

For the final instalment KC has come up with another unique plot.  I can’t say that the plots are always the easiest to follow however the story here basically hinges on Cherry returning to London’s elite society in order to draw out the Veil from wherever he is hiding.  Clearly somebody is providing him with sanctuary and he’s now hatching the final step of his plan for immortality.

Cherry will not only be forced to go above London but also below, to the disused tunnels that have become the home ground to violent gangs.  On top of this, one of the strange and feral beasts that were created through the machinations of the Veil, and something of a blunder on the part of Cherry, is still on the prowl!

There is without doubt plenty going on here and no shortage of pace or action and as usual the author sets the scene well flitting between the well heeled grounds of the upper classes to the grimy haunts of London’s criminal classes depicting perfectly the fact that criminal behaviour transcends wealth and position.

I have to hand it to KC here for creating two rather delightful mind candy characters in Hawke and Ashmore.  Yes, I think the two of them together definitely bring a certain appeal to these books and I unashamedly admit that.  I may have mentioned in previous posts that these books border PNR/Urban Fantasy – with certain books definitely falling on the PNR side of the fence while others tend to stand firmly more on the UF side.  This particular book remains more with UF with little emphasis on the romance side although there are a couple of brief altercations involving Hawke.

Strangely enough, I find myself at the end of the series having fallen definitely for Ashmore rather than Hawke – which is unusual to say the least.  Hawke was definitely the beast of the piece – the brawn if you will – to Ashmore’s more refined brains and aloof presence.  But, I would certainly read more adventures with Ashmore.  Personally, I feel that KC has judged perfectly when to bring the series to the conclusion in terms of Cherry and Hawke but an Ashmore spin off would definitely be welcomed by me.

I think towards the end, and this is my only real criticism, I found both Cherry and Hawke a little bit more ‘bark worse than bite’.  Cherry constantly seemed to wag her finger in a ‘there’ll be trouble now’ type of way whilst Hawke was constantly ‘growling’ and yet they, in fairness, didn’t really live up on their foreboding promises!  Still, that being said, Cherry does without doubt prove the saviour on a couple of occasions.

On the whole, this may not have been my favourite book of the series but, I thought it was a very satisfactory conclusion!

And this is the first off my own personal challenge list to complete a series per month for 2015.

I was approved for a copy of this through Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

 

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!

Tempered

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!

Engraved

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.

Roll Up, Roll Up….

Art it Up.  This is a weekly meme hosted by Tabitha over at Not Yet Read.  The idea being to see if you can come up with some inspiration for a little sketch or doodle from your last week’s reading or just anything else in general. this week I’ve reviewed The Just City by Jo Walton – which is all about a city that aims to be just and also I’ve read Karina Cooper’s Tempered (No.4 of the St Croix Chronicles review to follow – 1, 2 and 3 here).  If you’ve read any of the St Croix books you’ll understand my circus ‘big top’.  For the Just City I went for the Statue of Justice – but I’ve changed it and tipped the scales!  Both very good reads.  Sketches – well, a bit ropey but strangely I enjoy having a scribble.  Now, check out Not Yet Read for all the goodies!

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Corroded by Karina Cooper (No.3 of the St Croix Chronicles)

Just finished reading Corroded by Karina Cooper – and, what just happened!  Okay, first things first – this review may contain spoilers so I advise not to read if you’re at the start of the series.  I’m being serious – do not continue…

At the end of the last book Cherry has lost, quite literally, everything – now, didn’t I tell you not to read on if you didn’t want spoilers!!  She now lives in London below – and for those of you who are still reading without the benefit of knowledge from the first two books (which, btw why?) – London below is now covered in smog – only the poorest people live there and consequently London Below is rife with crime and debauchery.  London above – is where the upper classes live – raised on some high fanangled hydraulics it sits above the smog and filth.  Home to the upper echelons – who lets face it – are not adverse to the idea of paying the odd visit to their inferiors.  Quite literally the lower classes are really the lower classes.  A world of technology filled with steampunk gadgets and gondolas and other forms of flying transport that convey people from one deck to the next.  

At the start of the story Cherry is in a world of hurt, regret and guilt.  Her husband, murdered on the night of their marriage, all her goods possessed by his family, her home is now the menagerie where Mr Hawke stalks.  She lives there under duress – both from herself and the Veil.  Cherry is a collector – which is basically similar to a bounty hunter – however her game is massively off at the start of the book.  She’s also something of an opium addict (which helps to quell the nightmares that she experiences from her early childhood experiences) and her addiction has unfortunately, fuelled by anger and remorse, become worse.

I won’t deny that the start of this book is quite difficult.  Cherry has sunk low and to a certain extent is on borrowed time in terms of the menagerie.  You could be forgiven for wondering why she calls herself a collector at this point as her abilities to capture seem to have become almost redundant in her chase for the bliss of opium.  Yes, it’s a difficult read – made even more so by the fact that not just the Ripper but a far more lethal killer stalks London’s streets and not only does he seem to follow, nay, stalk Cherry, but he seems to believe that they are both involved in some sort of duel.

It’s a very dangerous game that Cherry is now involved with – everyone she knows is in danger just by befriending her and she has to harden her heart against those who she loves.

So, okay, yes, there’s quite a bit of grim going on here but you have to hang on in there.  Things turn around and to a certain extent Cherry makes amends.

Now, – what the hell just happened with Hawke – I can’t say more which I realise is a big teaser.  Hawke is basically the man candy of this novel – and I’m just going to chuck it out there and say that things get a bit steamy – and, then, they get totally wtf!

OMG – the sweettooth!  Didn’t see that coming at all.  And, what the holy hell with the rest of the ending!!!

Well, let’s just say.  Yes, this feels like a totally indulgent read but, it’s a VERY good indulgent read and Ms Cooper has a knack of making you want, nay have, to pick up the next book.  Next step – one click!

To recap, steampunk, Victorian London, High class society, slums, serial killers, magic and, well, ahem, other things!

What I love about this is the fact that it feels like a great book to read in between your epic chunksters – and I mean that in the most positive way possible.

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.

 

 

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