Review: Gilded by Karina Cooper

Sunday, December 16, 2012
Title: Gilded
Author: Karina Cooper
Genre: steampunk
Series: The St. Croix Chronicles #2
Pages: 384 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: expected December 26, 2012
Source: publishers via edelweiis
Rating: 4/5

The second book in Karina Cooper's stunning steampunk series featuring fearless heroine Cherry St. Croix, in which she is faced with two men after her heart—and one killer out for her blood.

In the gleaming heights of Victorian London, a world of deception awaits an unconventional Society lady whose taste for adventure makes her a most formidable adversary . . .

Though Society demands that I make a good marriage, I, Cherry St. Croix, have neither the time nor the interest. I am on the trail of a murder with no victim, a mystery with no motive, and the key to an alchemical formula that could be my family's legacy.

Yet the world is not so kind as to let me pursue simple murder and uncomplicated bounties. Above the foggy drift, an earl insists on my attention, while my friends watch my increasingly desperate attempts to remain my own woman. From the silken demands of the Midnight Menagerie—to whose dangerously seductive ringmaster I owe a debt—to the rigorous pressures of the peerage, all are conspiring to place before me a choice that will forever change my life.

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. 


  1. I've heard such great things about this series! Great review :)
    -Kimberly @ Turning the Pages

  2. Gah - I need to get on this series stat! You've got me so excited!!

  3. Hey there,it sounds like an awesome novel!
    Your review was great and I'll be sure to keep my eyes open for more :) Hope you can do the same-


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