Expected Release Date: August 11, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: Carina Press
Author’s Website: http://www.karinacooper.com/
My Source for This Book: Netgalley
Part of a Series: Yes, Book 5, The St. Croix Chronicles
Series Best Read In Order: Yes, but may work well as a standalone
Steam Level: Steamy

Official Blurb:

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.

Book five of the St. Croix Chronicles

106,000 words

This book, nay, this entire series, has been such a roller coaster thus far, and I for one love it.

I take notes as I read so that when it comes time to write these reviews, I’ll (hopefully) be able to form somewhat coherent sentences. Yet, when I glance over my notes for this installment, I find that it’s mostly filled with expletives, excited exclamation points, quite a bit of angry underlining, and, well, even more colorful expletives.  That, in turn,  pretty much sums up my feelings in reading this book.

I will attempt to distill my wildly flailing emotions over this story into something readable, while still refraining from giving away too much  in the way of actual storyline.

Here we go.

We open the story to find Cherry still dried out from her laudanum addiction thanks to her guardian turned tutor turned friend, Lord Ashmore. Unfortunately for her, this means she’s still not quite at her physical peak, nor does she have the opium to give her the false courage and bravado she’s relied on since she began her reckless career as a Collector.

Hawke is still help prisoner at the Menagerie, but the real question remains as always — is he a prisoner of the Veil because they truly have control over him, or because he chooses to remain under their thumb for reasons that are his own?

Cherry has a lot of amends to make — Communion, Zylphia, the younger Lord Compton, and even her old servants may have been marked by the Veil for her previous antics, and it is yet unknown as to which ones may prove to be allies and which ones may have decided that their own hides are more valuable than whatever previous loyalty they may have felt towards Cherry.

We very quickly find a familiar and terrifying face from Cherry’s past has become a major player in the Menagerie, and the Veil itself has expanded its territory with the help of the Ferrymen. Not only that, but their horrifying experiments on the people under their rule have created a new breed of fighter to do their dirty work.

With Cherry’s fall from grace both from society and from her position as Collector, she finds herself in a sort of a no man’s land, unable to move as freely as she used to, with none of the easy welcome she’s accustomed to either above or below London’s fog.

Hawke’s horrifying behavior the last time we saw him left Cherry hurt and confused, and, stubborn as ever, she’s still continuing to refuse to heed the warnings from coming from practically everyone involved with the situation, nor has she yet taken to heart Ashmore’s lessons on learning to walk before you run in regards to her newfound knowledge of alchemy.

I find that that’s all I can really say without giving away spoilers. Everything else that I had angrily underlined or followed by multiple exclamation points gave away a major plot point.   I will say, however, that this was one hell of a ride, full of action, adventure, and emotional turmoil, and the very last thing in my notebook was yet another very colorful expletive, followed by several exclamation points. Infer from that what you will.

A very solid 5/5 Stars and I cannot WAIT to get my greedy little hands on the next (and I think final?) installment.