Review for

Tarnished: The St. Croix Chronicles by Karina Cooper

I'm not one to twitter a lot but I got this suggestion from twitter and it looked like an interesting submission into the Steam-punk genre although as we see from the authors own self proclamation it is more Dark and Sexy Paranormal Romance and Historical Urban Fantasy. I was recently reading someone's blog in relation to Steam-punk being more Fantasy than Science Fiction because of the whole taking place in the past and being anachronistic in nature. And I would agree to an extent meaning that don't much like that they said that it was Fantasy Fiction, which just sort of ground me as being redundant since fiction is synonymous with fantasy and a number of other words relating to something that is not real.

Tarnished is definitely a book written for entertainment, but not for the faint of heart. This means both that it is both Dark and Sexy. So be prepared to get the blood pumping. What I enjoyed about this is the Dark because it extends evenly across the good and the bad. The main character Cherry St. Croix has a dark past. She's the daughter of a mad scientist whose parents died in a fire when she was a little girl. Though she stood to inherit she was shuttled off to an orphanage and then ends up working at a circus before her relatives catch up to her. By then she has been introduced to a number of seedy practices one of which is a Opium habit. Even now she uses it to get rid of her constant nightmares. But she's on a stipend until she reaches 21 so she finds herself doing the dirty work of a Collector to augment her fixed income so she can afford her habit.

Though Cherry doesn't sound like the best of characters she will surprise the reader as Karina Cooper makes her both believable and endearing in her struggles through the first half of the novel. There are many dark events ahead of Cherry and she will dig herself deeper into the darkness before she will see light. Rather than romance this book has some steamy sex but the context is rather dark so the bulk of the novel should be considered dark fantasy at best. It's quite well written with some well drawn and flawed characters with of course Cherry being the most Anachronistic thing in the the story; since her entire character defies the conventions of those times.

Still: this is a great story with a strong female protagonist who has quite a few demons under her belt for someone so young. A woman of the world who is still quite naive and will take a few knocks before she's willing to admit that. What is disappointing and what I would agree with others about is that the last portion of the book did not do Ms St. Croix any credit to her abilities. I could possibly chalk this one up to her heavy use of opium. Maybe in the next installment she will get smart and clean herself up.

I'm looking forward to the next installment as she continues her hunt for bounty as a collector.

Great Steam-Punk that's a bit on the darker side than even some of the other steam-punk I've read. Good for SFF fans who look toward the fantasy part.

J.L. Dobias