Treasure by Megan Derr
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I picked up Treasure at Rainbow Con due to the cover and nothing else. I was suckered in at the table (those ladies are serious sellers) and I like high fantasy. So beyond the fact that clearly it takes place on the water somehow I knew nothing about the story. It’s a pretty decent high fantasy book with excellent world building and a good story arc that can easily be played out over the entire five book series. My problem is simply I never connected with either couple and so the end left me cold. I can appreciate it intellectually and admire the quality writing but as a romance it did nothing for me. I’d probably recommend this more to high fantasy fans who can appreciate elaborate world building and an incredibly complex plot than to romance fans per se.
The story begins with a prologue showing an interaction Kin and Kyo have as children. The instant bond they make lasts and is the basis for their love later on. Quite some time later, the narrative shows as Kyo the youngest royal prince and must be sacrificed for the family to retain their magic. He decides that he’s going to kill himself in such a way as to take the magic from his family and return it to the lost dragon gods. Knowing his family wouldn’t approve of his plan, Kyo runs away and takes his royal secretary, Taka, with him. Also along for the runaway journey is Kin, the sea captain and childhood friend of Kyo’s, and Raiden, Kin’s merchant boss. Kin doesn’t know that Kyo was the childhood friend he had bonded with and Raiden is determined to seduce Taka. Oh and no one but Kyo knows he’s running away to off himself.
So that’s the basic plot. It’s thankfully not as complicated as it seems and right away the excellent writing helps set up all the various elements in a cohesive and narrative story. This is supplemented with skillful world building. The fantasy world created is perhaps the best character of the book. I didn’t realize until I almost finished the book that not much really happens as the main thrust of the story is setting up the world and the larger story arc that will persist far beyond this first book. I personally didn’t mind as I was engaged in this fictional world, wanting to absorb every detail the story offered. There is some action, mermaid attacks and such, but the story is really a vehicle to introduce this creative new world and the main characters.
Here is where I began to have problems with the book. The prologue introduces Kin and Kyo as the main characters and they carry a large thrust of at least half the story with alternating third person POV narration. Yet Raiden and Taka are also included as third person narrators from the beginning and later become a much more important couple within the story arc. While reading, I wasn’t sure which couple to focus on and so I didn’t really connect to any of the four men. The story fractures its focus between the two couples, trying to show how they’re both important, but I think fails to really capitalize on either. Even with the ending it has, I would have much preferred the first book to focus on Kyo and Kin and allow Raiden and Taka their own, separate, story.
The fact that all four men are crammed into one book definitely hurt their characterization and the potential within the couples for their own epic love story. Not that they needed to be epic love stories but the possibility was definitely there. Instead flip flopping between the various narrators dissipated any built up tension and potential conflict because there wasn’t enough room to really explore and capitalize on the problems. Just when I would be into reading about Kyo and Kin, the story would flip to show how Raiden and Taka were advancing their relationship. It’s not until literally the end of the book that the reader is told why Raiden and Taka are even important other than being just another couple. Not only that, they turn out to be essential to the plot arc that will span the entire series, so I definitely didn’t appreciate their weight to the story as I was reading it until the very end. I also felt as if the history between Kin and Kyo was sorely wasted. Kyo doesn’t reveal that he was the child Kin knew until much later in the story and I’ve no clue why. This was such a great opportunity for tension that was totally wasted. When Kyo finally did reveal the truth, it was a total non-issue and anti-climatic at that point. In fact, Kin didn’t really even care except he could admit his love quickly and easily. Thus I’m left wondering why even include that piece of information. The story literally would have read the same without it.
I definitely wanted to love these couples. I easily and eagerly immersed myself into the fantasy world created and truly enjoy the concept of the lost gods being brought back to life. I think the subsequent books will be entertaining and beyond interesting to see how this arc proceeds and eventually ends. Unfortunately I’m not sure I care enough about the people involved. All four men left me feeling distant and unaffected by their trials and tribulations. The twists included, none of which I saw coming to be honest, didn’t even move me to care about the couples. Part of that is due to the fact the story foreshadows nothing on these twists and they literally come out of nowhere. But the men themselves are complicated, well crafted characters but with so little time taken to develop their interpersonal relationships and let the reader connect to the individual men. I really doubt whether I’d care about any other characters introduced in the subsequent books. On the other hand the writing is very good and clean with excellent world building. I heard there were some editing problems in early versions but they’re almost entirely fixed in the version I got. It’s an enjoyable fantasy story but it didn’t work as a romance for me.