Review: Engraved by Karina Cooper (St. Croix Chronicles #5)


Engraved by Karina Cooper // VBC ReviewEngraved (St. Croix Chronicles #5)
Karina Cooper
Published: Aug. 11, 2014 (Carina Press)
Purchase: Amazon
Review source: copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Reviewed by: Margaret

Rating (out of 5): 4.5 stars

Note: While review will be spoiler free, it does make reference to previous books in the series.

Cherry St. Croix fled London—having lost her home, her husband and her best friend—to spend several months in the countryside recovering from her opium addiction and studying alchemy. Now she finally feels well enough to return to save the object of her obsession, Micajah Hawke, from servitude to the mysterious Karakesh Veil, whether he wants to be saved or not.

But she finds London drastically changed from the city she left. The Midnight Menagerie has become darker, even trafficking children. They’ve also found a new ringmaster, an old acquaintance of Cherry’s. And Hawke, the previous ringmaster, has become a prisoner. One thing hasn’t changed though, the Veil still wants Cherry’s head. And they’ll threaten everyone she’s ever cared for to make sure they get it.

Most of the first half of the book is focused on re-building the world of London Low, in part because Cherry is seeing it through sober eyes for the first time. The Veil has allied with the Black Fish Ferrymen, whose members have taken over guarding the Menagerie. They’re also using the power they gained from the Veil to take over territory outside the Menagerie, starting with that occupied by Cherry’s allies the Brickstreet Bakers, who are finding their members savaged as though attacked by animals. Cherry agrees to help their leader, her friend Ishmail Communion, find the source of the attacks in hopes of preventing a gang war and saving Hawke, who seems to be connected to, if not responsible for, the creatures attacking the Bakers.

The last half is action-packed and fraught with tension, especially the scenes between Cherry and Hawke. They can’t seem to decide if they want to kiss or kill each other. For three books now Cherry, and readers, have been trying to figure out what Hawke really is and how he’s been changed by the Veil. (While reading Corroded I was sure he was possessed.) Others, including Hawke, try to explain it to her using a Chinese myth: the Veil is the dragon, he is the tiger and they are trapped in eternal battle. Cherry either can’t understand or won’t accept the metaphor and I wanted to throttle her for being so dense, though I too was nearly convinced he could sprout fur at any moment. But Cherry surprised me in the end by understanding what Hawke needed even when he did not.

Meanwhile, Cherry’s reunited with some old friends and tries to understand her odd relationship with Ashmore – it’s intimate, but no longer sexual. He seems to wish it could be more, but accepts her choices and continues to come to her rescue. Whatever else you call him, I think that makes him family, and Engraved is, in the end, about Cherry finding happiness with the family she’s chosen. There are, however, still some actual relatives to be dealt with in the final book of the series.

I like what the addition of alchemy does for Cherry, but it’s about halfway through the book before she uses any. Coincidentally, the action starts to pick up at about the same time. Despite the slow start, Engraved builds to a surprising and heart-wrenching climax. It wraps up some aspects of Cherry’s story (it’s really hard to avoid spoilers – the ending is SO GOOD!) and still leaves me wanting some answers. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Sexual content: Sex


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