Saturday, September 06, 2014

Review: Engraved by Karina Cooper

Author:  Karina Cooper
Series:  The St. Croix Chronicles 5
Publisher:  Carina Press, August 11, 2014
Format:  eBook, 288 pages
List Price:  $3.99
ISBN:  9781426898815
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Cherry St. Croix returns to the fog-ridden streets of Victorian London, where the balance of power threatens all that she loves.

I will not wither without laudanum. Sober and determined, I have chosen another way-- alchemy, and the pursuit of wellness it embodies. My name is Cherry St. Croix, and though freedom is finally at my fingertips, I return to the blackened streets intent on righting the wrongs I'd left behind.

All is not well in London low. Caught in a war between gangs, men are torn limb from limb, and I am called on to ascertain how. The immoral Karakash Veil is no doubt involved, and Micajah Hawke, a prisoner in his own Menagerie, cannot soften the danger this time.

Armed with the alchemical arts I have learned, my ever present guardian, and what few friends are left to me, I embark on a campaign to rescue the ringmaster I cannot abandon, save the Brick Street Bakers from annihilation, and finally face that which frightens me the most--my own heart.

Melanie's Thoughts

Engraved is the 5th book of The St. Croix Chronicles and finds Cherry back in London, laudanum free. She has been joined by her mentor/lover/guardian Ashmore to rescue the enigmatic Micajah Hawke. The London that she has returned to, free of the fugue of heroin, is not what she was expecting. Everywhere she turns her friends and loved ones are victims of the changes that the Karakash Veil has spearheaded since she left the city. There is now a war between the street gangs and the sweets from the Menagerie who had protected her are being are being broken and tossed aside. The most horrifying event however, is what has happened to her reluctant lover, Hawke. Cherry finds that Hawke has been imprisoned by the Veil but it is not clear whether he has been caged by his master or has chosen to be caged. It would all seem quite bleak and hopeless, but not for Cherry. Things couldn't really get much worse than the events of book 4 (Tempered) when her mother, from beyond the grave, tried to kill her and take over her body. Stopping the war and freeing Hawke seems almost like a walk in the park in comparison. Dark forces are at work and Cherry will have to use all her skills from years as a Collector and the new ones learned during her time with Ashmore in order to save her friends and her love, Hawke.

This instalment was a refreshing change to the previous novels where everything seemed so hopeless as Cherry sunk deeper and deeper to the grip of her heroin addiction. It's not like Cherry is running in fields of flowers or playing with kittens with balls of strings in this novel but at least she now has a clear mind and is empowered with the alchemical arts taught to her by her former guardian, Ashmore. As much as I could see Cherry's attraction to Hawke in the first 2 novels I am more convinced that it is Cherry's innate self destructive nature that draws her to his anti-hero. Hawke offers her up as a sacrifice in book 3 and is physically abusive to her in book 5 but she is still convinced he is worthy of her love. I wasn't entirely sure. I think I would find it hard to forgive a lover who hurts me physically and mentally. I suppose she can't resist a bad boy!

Many of the characters from previous novels make a re-appearance in this instalment, even those who died or were killed in the other books. Her short lived marriage to Lord Compton is prominent in her mind in the early chapters as she is forced to rely on her brother-in-law for help. Even though the tragic demise of Lord Compton is a feature of the first half of the book Compton's murderer and Cherry's dear friend Freddy is barely mentioned. I was expecting Cherry to be forced to come to terms with what Freddy did and the part she played in his downfall and the murders he committed to draw her attention. There was a lot to cover, however, with Cherry trying to save Hawke, the Baker boys, her friends and to escape the Veil and the evil he has spread across London.

I enjoyed this instalment, much more than book 4. Cherry's return to London signaled to me that Cooper was going to return to the gritty, steampunky, noir feel of the previous novels. I also feel this is down to the return of characters from previous books, as well as, the familiar setting of London. I didn't especially like that Cherry was still a victim of Hawke's but at least she is able to stick up for herself a bit more now due to her newly found powers. This read like the final book of the series to me. I think that Cherry could now be left to live her life. However, Cooper has one more of Cherry's story to tell (Transmuted) and I will be happy to read it. This is a dark series and not for anyone who has a problem with a heroine with a drug addiction or a hero who isn't that nice to his love interest. If however, you have a like a conflicted heroine and a perpetual bad boy living in the smog of a steampunk London then this is the series for you.


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