Tarnished: the St. Croix Chronicles – by Karina Cooper
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.
The first book in the St. Croix Chronicles, the book is an excellent example of steampunk fiction. From the first page you are met with a London very different from the historical one. Pollution has put the city to the point of raising the more affluent buildings above the rest of the buildings, but also above the everlasting, discolored fog. Travel between London Above and London Below is done through airship versions of ferries. Goggles, rebreathers and armored corsets are featured heavily. More than that, you can really feel the Victorian Era in the writing.
For me this felt a lot like a Sherlock Holmes story. Consider Doyle writing in a more industrialized setting and putting the light on Irene Adler as the main character. Now instead of simply hinting at drug use, make it a central part of the character. Much like it is with Chess Putnam in Stacia Kane’s Downside novels. This presents you with a flawed woman of strength and means making her own way in a world where she is considered to be less than a man. And while she is a strong female lead, you get a real feel for her coming to terms with how she sees herself as opposed to the way that society (or Society as it were) sees her.
There is plenty of action, an unflinching view of some of the seedier aspects of Victorian society and well developed characters. What’s not to draw you into that kind of story? I also found it incredibly interesting how the romance aspect was handled considering the setting. This may be due to my lack of experience with Regencies or other period romance novels, but it still held my interest as a reader.
Full over I would give this book a five gear rating out of five. There was little that I could find that left me wanting for more. Well worth the purchase, and looking forward to diving into the second (recently released) once I am able.