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Tarnished by Karina Cooper
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I am a huge fan of steampunk novels so I was really excited to start this series. This ended up being just an okay investigative steampunk romance novel. I had some trouble engaging with the characters and the plot, but the world-building was intriguing.

On the surface this book had a number of things I love about steampunk series; the Victorian setting, interesting devices and a heroine that’s torn between the underworld and a glittering high society. Unfortunately all of this just kind of fell flat for me. I had trouble engaging with and enjoying Cherry as a character and didn’t find any of the surrounding characters to be all that intriguing either (in fact a week after reading this book I would be hard pressed to tell you any of the side characters’ names).

The plot mainly involved Cherry tracking down a man who was eviscerating prostitutes (very Jack the Ripper). There is a love triangle between Cherry, a society man, and a man who rules part of the London below. The chemistry between the characters was just so so.

I did enjoy the idea of a London below and some of the world-building around this; that was my favorite part of this book.

Overall an okay investigative steampunk novel but not great. At the end of the book I wasn’t dying to read anymore about this world or characters. There are much better steampunks series out there. ( )
  krau0098 | Jul 10, 2016 |
Tarnished is a delicious appetiser which left me hungry for more. It introduces you to dark, gritty and very visual steampunk London where Cherry St. Croix leads a double life.

During days she is up above the black smog of London among the strange cluster of mansions for rich and privileged, bridges and air gondolas, designed by her father and lifted above the city to escape the contaminated air. During days she is Cherry St.Croix, an unconventional daughter of a mad scientist, forced to behave according to high society standards otherwise her guardian will stop her allowance and her scientific experiments.

At nights, Cherry is a different person. Ms. Black is a collector (as in bounty hunter) in the blackest areas of London, fitted into a black garb with armoured corset, respirator and night vision goggles, she hunts the streets for thieves and those unfortunate indebted to Chinese mafia of Karakash Veil and their dangerous and seductive representative Micajah Hawke. She is a flawed heroine who is driven by her opium addiction acquired as a child, when she grew up as an acrobat in a street circus before her guardian found her.

Cherry and her gritty harsh world undeniably reminded me of the series I adore - Downside Ghosts by Stacia Kane. She is trapped in a vicious circle of nightmares and addiction just like Chess is trapped. She might not be poor but she is surrounded by secrets. Her guardian has one, deliciously sinful Hawke has several, and even her powerful aristocratic admirer, Lord Compton hides something.

Cherry manages to stay under a radar of London crime lords until few prostitutes approach her asking to find and stop a mad killer who is butchering their friends. She starts the investigation and in the process finds unexpected links to her past, a powerful magical solution which weakens the link between body and soul, so the body can be possessed, and the most dangerous of all, - she gets indebted to Karakash Veil...

I won't give anything else away, but this an exciting, exhilarating read, with an albeit abrupt ending, and I highly recommend it not only to the fans of steampunk, but to anyone who loves Stacia Kane. I, for one, am determined to find Ms. Cooper's backlist and start reading it. ( )
  kara-karina | Nov 20, 2015 |
I have picked up "Tarnished" on recommendation from Book Chick City, and I am glad I did.

The book is set in the steampunk version of Victorian London, where the rich live above the toxic fog while the poor struggle for survival below. Our heroine, Cherry St. Croix, is a daughter of a mad scientist, and as such is only barely accepted in society above. Cherry moonlights as a 'collector' (basically, a bounty hunter) below, to feed her opium addiction (in that, she reminded me a bit of Chess Putnam from Stacia Kane's Downside series). Then are men Cherry is attracted to (darkly hansome Micajah Hawke below, a blonde mysterious earl above), a mystery to solve (someone is killing prostitutes and now is trying to kill Cherry, too), and memories of her past to deal with.

Warning: "Tarnished" is book one of the series, and is not meant to stand alone. While we learn a few things, mostly one gets the feeling that everything is getting set up for the events in the next installment, "Gilded" (which I promptly requested from the library as soon as I was done with "Tarnished"). ( )
  WeaselOfDoom | Mar 31, 2013 |
After going through several (5 or more) steampunk novels last month I took a bit of a breather, only to be broken when I couldn't resist the synopsis for Cherry's first exploits and I am glad I did. Fun, easy and with a new outlook on alchemy and steampunkey (not to mention London!), Tarnished is a fun, entertaining read. The beginning novel of a new series blending steampunk, mystery and the paranormal, Karina Cooper delivers up the goods in her first outing of the Chronicles: a strong but likeable protagonist in Cherry St. Croix, handsome Earls with which to dally, Society drama to keep the intrigue high and the exploits hidden, the alluring and dangerous Micajah Hawke, and multiple unique and creative applications of steampunkery. In short, there is a lot of story, adventure and romance to be had here, and Karina Cooper makes the ride quite imaginative and original throughout. And, as an added bonus, you can pre-order this deceptively simple novel for only $4.99 for Nook! How can you resist that? Fans of Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series or Tee Morris and Pip Ballantine's Ministry of Pecular Occurrences novels might look to find their next fix between the pages of Tarnished.

A blend of several genres, it is the steampunk that stands to the fore here. Largely, that is due to the author's original conception of a lower and upper London -- one divided in half, with the rich and elite literally raised above, on steel stilts higher than the fog of the industrial, steam-powered "London below" of the less fortunate. ("The city above the drift glimmered and danced; a glittering dowager festooned with diamonds. Below, she was pocked and diseased, her skirts hanging torn and stained around her roughened knees." ARC, p.47) I love when authors actual use steampunk to be creative, rather than as drapery for a scene or as a simple deux-ex-machina (coughTheSteampunkChroniclescough), and happily for me, this is one such author. I really like the idea of London raised on stilts -- it's like a steampunk Venice, with air canals and sky gondolas as part and parcel of the whole shebang. The accompanying gadgets and gizmos dreamed up to operate in this imagined version of London perfectly complement Cherry's role as a collector, and the story at large. This bifurcated London is very different, wholly unique but one that still provides a familiar backdrop. Other imagined aspects of London that Cooper has created, like the Midnight Menagerie, only add the atmosphere prevalent throughout the entire novel. This is a dark, sexy mystery set in the perfect locale.

Cherry St. Croix leads a double life, and it is a complicated one. Or two. Colored and judged by Society's perceptions of her "mad doctor" father and the beautiful-but-dead mother she hardly remembers, Cherry must eke out a living (and cash for her addiction) by collecing bounties. While bounty-hunting may not be the most believable means of income for a young lady of society, it naturally leads Cherry to the seedy (and literal) underbelly of London and the main plot of Tarnished. Cherry's involvement in the subsequent events and mysteries of the lower classes felt natural and evolved organically; though she is torn between her two lives (and the men in them! I foresee a major love-triangle forming over the horizon for book two!), she can operate easily within either. It's easy to distinguish Cherry-the-lady from her alter-ego, as well as it is easy to feel a rapport with the character. Though it took me a while to fully get there, this spirited and intelligent character makes a favorable, lasting impression as a protagonist. I do feel a bit of apprehension with the definite possibility of love-triangles forming for Cherry in further novels (Micajah Hawke, Cornelius Kerrigan Compton) and hope the author has the aplomb to pull it off without spoiling the characterization developed so far for all characters involved.

A new spin on a lot of UF/steampunk favorites and tropes help to make Tarnished one of the more fun steampunk escapades I've read. With the events of book one mostly resolved and the few open plotlinese clearly extended toward a book two, I am eagerly awaiting more Midnight Menagerie (Hawke! I want more Hawke, definitely), more freakish alchemy and fresh interpretations of old ideas from this inventive author. I can't wait for book two. ( )
  msjessie | Feb 4, 2013 |
While I love Steampunk, UF, and a good suspense story, this book failed to fill the need. Despite reading the book till the very end (cause of course I had to know the why),it failed to entertain and drag me completely into the story. I often found myself distracted while reading it. There were too many details in the Steampunk world building and the scientific world. The character descriptions often made me NOT care about them though I wanted to. I think this book would have benefited greatly with more romance sprinkled in. It had the potential to be a great recipe but the ingredients just did not jell for me.

* * * ( )
  alterlisa | Oct 16, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0062127640, Mass Market Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:04 -0400)

A heiress by day and a hunter of vagrants, thieves and murders by night, Cherry St. Croix, whose brilliant scientific mind sets her apart from respectable Society, must choose between both worlds--and two men--when a monster stalks London's streets.

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