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Gilded by Karina Cooper
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The ending in this book is such a shocker, ladies and gents! I wanted to scream with frustration!!! Miss Cooper doesn't end her books with a cliffhanger per se, but she definitely knows how to end a book with a bang.

There is more darkness and desperation in Cherry this time. She feels trapped. By her debt to Karakash Veil, by the societal obligations and by her worsening addiction to opium. It's hard and painful to read about her horrible descent into abyss, but it's necessary too.

Sometimes a heroine needs to hit rock bottom to truly find what she is made of, I hope that's where we find how really awesome Cherry would become.

In this book she is still trying to find the mysterious Ripper and the traces of an alchemical formula Karakash Veil wants so much. She also works on a murder mystery for her patroness lady Rutledge which involves poisoned professor in King's college.

Her ton life intensifies when her admirer Lord Compton comes back from his mysterious journey and redoubles his attempts to woo her while his mother plots Cherry's disgrace behind their backs...

And above it all, Cherry slowly unravels unable to lead her double life for much longer.

I absolutely loved this book, and I already said that any fan of Downside Ghosts by Stacia Kane should take a look at The St. Croix Chronicles, - you most likely would love it too. Very much recommended.

( )
  kara-karina | Nov 20, 2015 |
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales.

Quick & Dirty: Woman on a mission to discover more about her father and circumvent the rules and regulations of her place in society lives two lives. But will she charm you?

Opening Sentence: When I was ten years of age, Monsieur Marceaux’s Traveling Circus retained a new magician.

The Review:

Normally I don’t look at reviews prior to reading a book but this cover art had me very concerned. I get that the publisher was trying to visually display to the book buying public that this book is more gritty than your run of the mill romance. The only thing that it served for this reader was to bump it down to the “Must Be Read” category rather than “I can’t wait to read it” category.

My intuition about this book unfortunately proved to be true despite the numerous glowing reviews I had read, I am in the camp that would be quite happy to never see another book from this series EVER.

This story took an enormous amount of time to develop. In fact it was so long that there were points I literally decided that this was going to be the first book since I started reviewing book in January that I would not finish. Many of you will not know this but there are only a handful of books that I have in all my life ever not finished. Some have taken a while to draw me back but I finish books. This one nearly ended up on the infamous never to be finished list.

Here is why besides the story being stuck in the fog, our heroine, Cherry St. Croix is a drug addict. This is the first female lead I have read that I wanted to reach into the book and strangle or would have been happy to see her get strangled by the two villains in this book. Her addiction to opium and laudanum are not unusual for the time but didn’t gel with the scientific side of her. What scientist fills themselves with so much pain medication that she is unable to think clearly? I know I can hear a few of you yelling about Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, but neither of those stories have I been asked to review.

Furthermore, this story is as confused as our heroine is when she is taking her drug of choice. I was unsure more times that I would like to recall whether this story is set in Victorian times or a future where we have resorted to Victorian methods as a way to cope with the future.

The two men that star in Miss St. Croix’s story are too ephemeral to even warrant an entire paragraph for themselves. Both Lord Cornelius Kerrigan Compton and Micajah Hawke only serve as street lamps in this story, glimpsed but often lost in the fog of poor story telling. I’m still unsure about the exact relationship that Hawke and St. Croix had in the past, even after completing the book. While Lord Compton is the typical Victorian suitor, I struggle to see why he is so enamored with St. Croix other than her unwillingness to follow social guidelines.

I have struggled with giving a rating for this book, which is typically the easiest part of the review process, but this was tough. In the end, I even revisited what my initial reaction was but after careful thought and even re-reading this review, there is but one answer that I can give with complete honesty. And if you haven’t guessed by this stage — this is a do not buy from me.

Notable Scene:

My maid hurried to catch up with my sudden frenetic pace. “What do you hope to find?”

“Anything.” A clue. A sign that I was not the only body on this world who knew what went on in that tunnel. Perhaps a hint that the collector I hunted–the so-named sweet tooth Zylphia and her fellow sweets had hired me to collect–was still out there.

I knew he was. He left me flowers for every successful assassination he answered on the collection board.

He left them for me upon my windowsill, regardless of its height above the ground. Somehow, he knew who I was, and I only knew that he taunted me.

Yet, even as I considered it, it occurred to me that I had not seen flowers for near a fortnight now. Perhaps he’d injured himself on a bounty?

FTC Advisory: Avon provided me with a copy of Gilded. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review ( )
  DarkFaerieTales | Nov 15, 2013 |
Great stem punk with mystery, romance and a strong female lead. ( )
  DeweyEver | Apr 30, 2013 |
Second in a steampunk series that continues to grow on me more and more as I get my hands on them, Gilded is a nearly perfect follow-up to the oodles of fun and suspense that was Tarnished. As before, Karina Cooper's obvious talent for worldbuilding, setting, and for crafting real, complex characters rises to the surface and helps to make this one of the better steampunk novels I've read this year. I raced through and loved the first book earlier this year, and I can say that the months of expecting this sequel was more than worth the wait. The take on the steampunk aspect is still fresh, fun, and above all, wholly original in its execution; Cherry remains the same stubborn, clever, funny heroine she showed herself to be before.

I've said it before, but I love how uniquely this author incorporates the steampunk aspect into her novel of murder and mystery. So many "steampunk" novels pay bare lip service to the label; supplying an airslip, clockwork or an automaton does not a steampunk novel make. Karina Cooper's version of a London split in two - Upper London, above the smog, and Lower London among it - merged with air canals and sky gondolas. In my review for the first I thought the concept made this London feel like a steampunk, if thoroughly English, Venice. It's creative, it's unique, and most importantly, Karina Cooper makes it work for her story and world. While the world itself isn't expanded too much from what was shown and revealed in the first novel, the solid foundation laid down in Tarnished continues to reap benefits in its direct sequel. This is how I want my retrofuturistic cities to be done - originally, with careful thought, and with relevance to the world it exists within.

The cast of characters of the novel are another bonus. Cherry is just as lively and complex as she had been, but characters that I had been ambivalent towards before were fleshed out and more involved than before. I actually got a feel for Earl Cornelius Compton (who, honestly, I was rooting against in the love triangle for Cherry's attention), and for Cherry's previously aloof governess. The more time and attention spent on these secondary characters made it a more rewarding effort. The villain might have been a tad too obvious for my liking, but overall, was camouflaged well with Cherry's thoughts and through several clever, throughout-out red herrings.

Fast-paced, action-packed, full of revelations and Society intrigue, Gilded is a quick and easy read. The pages really do fly by as Cherry maneuvers among the nobility and collects among the lower classes below the drift. I was never bored, and trying to keep one step ahead of this quick-thinking sleuth was hard to do. The ending was particularly well-done; I did not see that coming, and it throws the trajectory of the series into a new direction. Cooper is a deft and clever writer; one that is more than capable of lulling her readers into a false sense of security and then pulling the rug from under their feet. I was impressed, entertained, and always engaged with this novel.

I must say, I am a fan of Karina Cooper and of this series. It's just that the plot of book two didn't grab me quiiiiiiite as much as the one for the first of the series, Tarnished. That one remains my favorite of the two, but Gilded is no slouch. There is plenty of action, several gamechanging (and very unexpected) plot twists that will keep readers engaged and continually guessing who will win in this deadly game Cherry has begun. Fans of steampunk, clever and capable heroines, and well-done plotting should really pick this series up and give Miss St. Croix a chance. ( )
  msjessie | Feb 4, 2013 |
Our Review, by LITERAL ADDICTION’s Pack Alpha – Michelle L. Olson:

I really enjoyed the first installment of Karina’s ST CROIX CHRONICLES, "Tarnished", but the sequel blew me away. My exact, 'first thought' words upon completion were: "Hells bells & damn Karina... You butter us up for a book & a 1/2 and then drop THAT on us!? Just wow. The series is getting better & darker & I want the next one now!"

Once again we're immersed in a split world, that of London above and below, where the line between the classes is darkly drawn, and where Cherry is not quite completely a part of either.

Gilded picks up where Tarnished left off with Cherry trying to fit in with the upper-crusters of London above, but continuing her work as a Collector below the drift as she tries to get over the ordeal she went through in Tarnished.

Immediately upon starting out she's battling her demons, both real-world and inner, while trying to make her chaperone happy by entertaining the advances of Lord Compton and attending soirees. In true Cherry St. Croix fashion however, she remains outspoken and doesn't shy away from her love of science and the mystery therein, thereby shocking and scandalizing society and intriguing Lord Compton all the more.

The heart of Gilded revolves around Cherry’s quest to solve Lady Rutledge's riddle about some mysterious murders of professors while still playing a game of cat and mouse with the mysterious collector who both hindered and helped her in Tarnished.

Once again Karina weaves a wonderfully magical tale of Victorian Gothic literature using some of the best aspects of the classics we all know and love and gives us an utterly spell-binding read.

Not only was the mystery amazing, the action was captivating, and that ending... holy cow! I said I wasn't going to forget Tarnished anytime soon, that goes doubly for Gilded. I absolutely cannot wait for the next book!

LITERAL ADDICTION gives Gilded 4 1/2 Skulls. ( )
  LITERALADDICTION | Dec 26, 2012 |
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