Gilded by Karina Cooper
(The St Croix Chronicles #1)
Avon (Dec 2012)
Paperback, 384 pages

GEMMA: Having anxiously waited for Gilded, I can honestly say that it was well worth it. Cooper has once again expertly managed to weave a story that takes you down one path, only to pull the rug out from under you on the second last chapter.

What is really clever is the fact that you are so wrapped up in the main plot of Cherry investigating the deaths of the numerous Professors as part of a parlour game, that you completely forget about the mysterious Sweet Tooth who has been “stalking” Cherry. All I can say is that with an ending like that, you won’t forget how much of a cat and mouse game Cherry really is part of.

As for the ending? Well, let’s just say that while I was dying for book 2, the conclusion of Gilded has left me rubbing my hands in glee for it really does open up so many more avenues for this character.

MELANIE: I loved Tarnished, book 1 of this series and was really excited when I got the opportunity to review Gilded with Gemma. Gritty characters, steampunk London and murder mysteries are one of my favourite combinations so I was sure that Gilded wouldn’t disappoint.

For me, the book seemed to just trundle along and while I liked the parlour game murder mystery I wasn’t as engrossed in the plot as I had been with the first book. Cherry’s growing desperation for relief from life, her father’s betrayal and the murders of the sweets by using drugs seemed to overshadow everything she did. I found this aspect of the book a bit depressing and just wanted something good to happen to Cherry for once. It wasn’t until the final chapters Cooper packed a sucker punch and *POW* I was blow away.

I was completely surprised by the end when I normally guess what is going to happen Now I am locked in the miasma of desperation for book 3 as I have no idea what is going to happen to Cherry or in fact anyone else in the book.

GEMMA: Rather than follow the same formula as Tarnished, Cooper has done something a bit different by almost hoodwinking the reader. I admit, I was unsure where this story was going with the main plot appearing to be that of the parlour murder mystery set by Cherry’s only friend in the upper class of society, Lady Rutlidge. All that is known is that the murder is hidden in society papers. There is nothing else divulged to Cherry, which makes her task that much more of a challenge. This, in itself appeals to the “Collector” in Cherry and I thought that this may have been the real mystery.

However, it is all just a diversion, just like in all great magic tricks. No, the real mystery and plot is in fact the barrier between Cherry’s life above the drift and that below it. The mysterious collector named “Sweet Tooth” who had saved Cherry’s life in the previous book along with killing numerous innocent “Sweets” or prostitutes is back after a leave of absence and is pursuing Cherry. The charismatic Mikajh Hawke tries to keep her away from life below the drift. He even encourages her to marry the rather drab Earl of Compton. Cherry, having grown rather fond of Cornelius, aka the earl accepts his proposal even with the disproval of his mother.

Reading the last few chapters of the book, I was left wondering how Cherry could juggle life as the wife of an Earl, with that of a collector. Could she really have it all? Cooper doesn’t leave you hanging, yet as the ending neared, I shook my head in disbelief. She threw such a mean punch that when I finished the book, I was shell-shocked. I wanted to read more. I needed to read more, but there was nothing. Instead I was left wondering what life held for Cherry.

MELANIE: I wasn’t as enamoured with the plot in this instalment of the series. I felt slightly frustrated with the parlour game murder mystery and felt it was distraction from the ‘real’ murder mystery as who was killing the sweets. It seemed on the surface that Cooper wanted drag out Cherry’s decline and used this as the tool to do that whereas, I normally like fewer intrigues, fast paced books without over complicating the main plot. I think that Cooper was very subtle in the development of the plot arch over the series as a whole and hoping that the drip feeding of titbits throughout the parlour game will culminate into the plot overall. I do find this approach is a bit risky and one of the reasons why I thought the story only trundled along until the end.

I have to say after reading the ending that I have no idea what Cooper will do next with these characters. I am keeping my fingers crossed that something ‘nice’ will happen to Cherry otherwise, it is going to be quite a depressing read if she spirals any further into the grips of her addiction.

GEMMA: Unlike Melanie, I don’t want something nice to happen to Cherry. For me she has had her world ripped apart in the most brutal manner, that to have something “nice” happen too soon would dilute Cherry as a character. This book for me was the wake up call that Cherry really needed. At last she could now see where she fits in the world. It was more of a deconstruction of Cherry, peeling back each layer until she was raw. The next book will be more about her coming back from that very dark place.

There are no real giant leaps forward for any of the characters really. Compton did grow on me more in this book and by the end I did like him towards the end of the book. He seemed to understand Cherry’s need for independence but due to societies restriction she was destined to be stuck in the pigeon hole of “Mad St Croix’s daughter”. I commended him for disregarding his mothers wishes and pursuing Cherry with such determination. There was still no real explanation on what he was doing after he abandoned her to the wolves of society after apparently dumping her. I was glad that he did redeem himself and though he is no Micajah Hawke, he can give her the normal life and security she wants for her servants, who are really her family.

On the subject of Micajah Hawke, he is not in the book very much which really did disappoint me. On finishing the book I can see the reasons why he was not a prominent character and the little he was in it played a pivotal part in the overall plot. We see that there is more to him than the ringmaster of the Menagerie and that he may have deeper feelings for Cherry than he cares to admit.

If you read my previous review, you will notice that one character who is very important to Cherry is missing and that is her confidant Teddy. He only appears in one main part of the book and even then its only fleeting. This in itself is very significant, at least for me. His reappearance is nicely timed with the reappearance with Cherry’s adversary, the “Sweet Tooth.” Could Teddy be this mysterious figure? Time will tell.

MELANIE: I felt that Cooper focused more on the plot than character development in this novel with very few new characters apart from Lord Compton’s brother and again, little new is discovered about Cherry’s mysterious guardian or her father. Cooper reserved characterisation for the main character Cherry and her dependency on laudanum. An interesting twist does occur between Cherry and the enigmatic Micajah Hawke which I am intrigued to learn more about. I did spend half the novel torn whether Cherry should align herself with him or Lord Compton as both are swoony for totally different reasons (despite Compton having a moustache). Unlike Gemma I liked Compton (again moustache not withstanding) and thought he was a tiny bit mysterious and willing to stand up for himself and for Cherry. Micajah however, is your typical dark horse in this race and I was totally surprised at his attempts to get Cherry to merry Compton. On the topic of Teddy Gemma has me freaked! Not Teddy!!! NOOOOooooooooooooo. Book 3…where is it already?


GEMMAGilded for me was just as good as Tarnished, but is a completely different beast. By bucking the trend and concentrating more on Cherry’s story, Cooper is able to experiment with the world in which she has created. I liked the fact that there was very few new characters and that we were allowed to watch Cherry’s life crumble piece by piece. We think that it may be at the hand of the Earls Mother, only for a surprising figure to step in and obliterate Cherry’s happiness. Before our eyes, we see Cherry emerge harder, stronger and more determined to live her life as she wants to.


MELANIEWhile I really liked Gilded it didn’t pull me in as much as Tarnished as I felt that Cooper focused too heavily on sub-plot rather than the overarching plot for the series. I really continued to read it purely on Cooper’s superlative world building skills until the ending when she delivers a shocker that I still haven’t gotten over. Bring on book three!


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  1. Tarnished
  2. Gilded



A self confessed geek who likes all things paranormal (except zombies as they scare her) Genre wise she likes horror, paranormal romance, urban fantasy and historical fiction. [Gemma no longer reviews for BCC]


Samantha March 19, 2013 at 11:57 pm

I’ll admit that I just peaked at your review since I have read this one yet. I enjoyed Tarnished though so I’m definitely looking forward to it (and hopefully soon). Glad to hear that you both enjoyed it!!!!


Melanie March 20, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Hope we didn’t spoil the ending for you as it is the best part!


Gemma March 20, 2013 at 12:52 pm

I think we did ok in not apoiling the ending too much. 😀 Some ending though.


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