Transmuted, by Karina Cooper, in stores today, sees the end of the St. Croix Chronicles, the tumultuous journey of collector (aka “bounty hunter”) and high-society outlier Cherry St. Croix through a steampunk Victorian London. I’ve been a fan of the series from the first book, Tarnished—which my former colleague and always-cohort Regina Small insisted I read—and it’s been wonderful to see Cherry grow and change and to follow the loops and swirls of Cooper’s prose.
I do have one caveat for my raves, and that is that Cherry’s views throughout the series are often problematic. Especially in the early books, her sense of anyone or anything Other is very narrow and how she sees black and Asian characters is through a privileged lens. I did a lot of teeth grinding when it came to how Cherry interacted with her friend and erstwhile maid Zylphia and the denizens of the Karakash Veil. However, that said, as Cherry’s world expands over the course of six books, so does her mind. And her antiquated worldview does shift along with her priorities. She learns, and you can’t always say that about characters in ongoing series. If part of the St. Croix Chronicles is about Cherry kicking her opium addiction, I’d say an equal part is her challenging her expectations and her ignorance and adapting to living in a larger world.
That comes to a head in Transmuted, which sees all the important players assembling for the big showdown with the criminal organization known as the Karakash Veil. While book four, Tempered, is very much a gothic novel set in the countryside, and Engraved is the kick-ass, save-the-cheerleader-save-the-world (yes, Hawke, you’re the cheerleader) adventure, this is very much the end. The characters all have a purpose, alliances are made clear and you find out what awaits Cherry at the other side of the tunnel: a rebirth. She really does undergo transmutation and, thus, comes into her own. It’s an incredibly satisfying wrap-up, remaining true to Cherry and those she keeps close to her heart.
I’ve by and large loved this saga, and I’m sad to see it come to a close but also thrilled for the characters who find their respective definitions of peace and fulfillment. Karina Cooper is an incredibly imaginative writer, with a talent for language and world-building, and Cherry is the kind of flawed but rootworthy heroine who makes you invest in her survival. The fruits of her labors aren’t the candy-sweet, artificial red you’ll find atop a sundae, but rather the dark, tart ones with a flavor that lingers for hours. Go ahead and take a bite.
Start with Tarnished: