Monday, 5 October 2015

'Treasure, Darkly' and 'Born of Treasure' (Treasure Chronicles #1 and #2) by Jordan Elizabeth

First things first, I need to say a huge thank you to Curiosity Quills publishing, for inviting me to take part in this blog tour!

I actually received 'Treasure, Darkly' on NetGalley way, way back in February - unfortunately it expired before I realised, so I didn't have any way of reading it. The premise stuck in my mind, though, so as soon as I saw the second novel was coming out I knew I had to jump on board. I'm going to write a more in-depth review of 'Treasure, Darkly', which will be spoiler-filled, but I'm going to keep my 'Born of Treasure' review as spoiler free as I can (which could be tricky, as it's the second novel in the series).

*This review will contain spoilers!*

'Treasure, Darkly' starts off in the small town of Tangled Wire, following our protagonist, Clark Treasure. Clark's mother is a Tarnished Silver - a prostitute at the local saloon - and Clark steals from her customers to help them earn more money to survive. He takes a bottle of absinthe from a soldier's pocket, downs it in one, and goes off to his shift at work in the mines. Clark is mining the Hertum, a mineral that gets sold on to the government for quite a large sum of money, when part of the mine shaft collapses - an entire working team gets trapped underground. Clark tries to help save the people, but when he touches a dead man he ends up bringing him back to life - in a panic, he reaches out to one of the living men nearby, but he transfers the death and the man drops dead. It turns out that the "absinthe" that Clark drank was a potion to give the drinker powers of resurrection - Clark is now a wanted man, because the army knows the power that he holds.
Fast forward two years. We meet the Treasure family - Amethyst, the spoiled socialite, Jeremiah, the disgruntled heir to the empire, and Zachariah, army loyalist extraordinaire. Amethyst has grown up in the city her whole life, but her parents have forced her to return to the family ranch in the countryside for this summer, leaving her boyfriend Joseph in the city. Jeremiah isn't the happiest about Amethyst's return, so he's off exploring the countryside when some idiot on a steamcycle comes driving through their fields. The imbecile is looking for the Treasure ranch, so Jeremiah sends him the long way around and almost forgets about the incident until later, because the rider appears at the ranch and announces that he's the bastard son of the Treasure family: a brand new brother. Yep, you guessed it - the bastard son is Clark. 
Garth Treasure, head of the family and fourth richest man in their country, immediately admits his indiscretion. His wife, Georgette, welcomes Clark into the family with open arms, despite the fact that her husband was unfaithful. Clark's mightily confused - he wasn't expecting to be welcomed, and he was sure his claim would be contested. 
It's only later in the novel that Clark discovers he's not a Treasure at all. His father was Eric Grisham, Garth's best friend - Eric was murdered just weeks after falling in love with Clark's mother, and he never knew he was going to be a father. Clark finds this out because, as well as being able to revive the dead and kill the living, the potion he drank gave him the ability to see spirits - his father appears to him to assist him after Amethyst gets kidnapped by a rival family. 
It turns out that Eric has a quest for Clark: he was an inventor, and his creations have all fallen into the wrong hands. The Horan family are power mad and dangerous, and they hate the Treasures - they're the ones who kidnap Amethyst, using an airship that Eric designed. Eric wants to get his inventions back from the Horans, to give Clark a real inheritance; the only snag is that Clark is the one that needs to do the scheming and stealing, because Eric is too dead to be of any real help. Clark enlists Amethyst to help him (after a fight with the Horans, Amethyst gets shot to death, but Clark brings her back and needs to explain the entire situation to her) but they end up falling in love with each other, which is tricky because they're supposed to think that they're brother and sister. 
I will admit, I'm a bit conflicted about 'Treasure, Darkly'. I loved the premise - a young boy gets the power to control life and death, and then his dead father sets him a quest... I'm a massive fan of good old quest novels, but a twist like that on the genre was something I hadn't seen before. It kept me intrigued. I also loved the idea of all of the inventions - because the novel is very Old Western in setting, with the saloons and deserts and ranches, it feels old-timey, but bringing in the steampunk elements with the very modern inventions was another brilliant surprise. Eric Grisham has made laser cannons, solar-powered pistols and organs that can hypnotise the listener: it was all very creative. I also loved the language used throughout: because it's a novel with steampunk aspects, all of the curse words were "for the cog's sake", "brass glass" or "bloody gears" - it was a brilliant inclusion to Clark's idiolect, and it was great to see it becoming incorporated into the other characters as they became more relaxed and less obsessed with their poise and decorum. 
However, there were a few things that really annoyed me about this novel. First of all - why did Amethyst keep getting kidnapped? Three times the girl got stolen away. You think she would have learnt to stick with someone at all times and not to let herself get into the situations, but she just kept getting taken. It all got a bit too damsel in distress for me. At the very beginning of the novel, she's flirty and in control - a powerful female character who knows what she wants and isn't afraid to use people to get it. By the end she's a quivering wreck, constantly running to Clark for comfort and needing him to help her and defend her at every possible opportunity. Very disappointing character development.
As well as this, every time Amethyst got kidnapped someone got killed. I don't mind murder in novels when it's absolutely necessary, and there were a couple of times that Clark did save lives by killing, but the rest of it all just seemed a bit too gratuitous. If someone kidnaps your girlfriend you don't really need to shoot them - it would have been more interesting if they hadn't killed all of their rivals, because there'd be more opportunity for conflict in the following novel. 
The other thing that really annoyed me was the love story. Oh, dear god, the love story. It was all a bit too The Mortal Instruments for me! Boy and girl think they're brother and sister, but still find each other sexually appealing, but they're disgusted by how they feel, but they can't help flirting... But they're actually not related at all. It just kind of gave me the creeps a little bit. Clark repeatedly tells himself that "she's his sister", but he's still constantly ogling her breasts - Amethyst just keeps winking at him and showing herself off. Yes, they end up being not related in the end, but for the first half of the novel where they still thought they were related... Shudder. It was just inappropriate. I'm not a prude or anything, but gross gross! Then, later on, when they knew that they weren't related... It's like, come on guys, stop having sex - you're on a mission and you have a limited time period. You're also wanted by the army and the senator... Now is not the time for so much of the sexytimes. I hate it when novels have make out sessions at inappropriate moments - it's made so much worse when the just roll around in bed together all day, because there are actually exciting and action-packed events that could be going on!
At the very end of the novel, Clark and Amethyst got married. It seemed a bit out of the blue, because she randomly proposed to him and then they eloped within a week - earlier on, both of them had been talking about how it was just a game and a bit of fun, so it seemed a bit misguided. I've never read characters get married and divorced within the space of a novel, but it kind of seems like that could be on the cards; it was just too spontaneous to make much sense. However, it did set up the second book nicely - to see them adjust to married life while still on the hunt for the inventions could make for a more interesting plot, particularly if they can keep their clothes on for longer periods.
The other thing that really set up the second novel nicely was the reintroduction of Jeremiah's viewpoint. We had the story from his perspective towards the beginning of the novel, but he faded into obscurity for the majority of the tale. This changed at the end of the book, because - following the death of his girlfriend - Jeremiah had just started to suspect Clark, and it seemed as though he was pretty close to working out what powers he held. This, combined with the fact that the army were planning on using Zachariah's loyalty to get him to turn Clark in, means that it sounds like the next novel will have a lot more going on.
This book certainly established the series well, but I'm hoping it's going to get better from here. I really liked Jordan's writing style, but I wasn't too sure on some of the characterisations she picked - I'm hoping Clark and Amethyst can learn to control their hormones, and that Amethyst might learn to be a little bit less self-serving, because her attitude was making me roll my eyes so frequently I was afraid they might get stuck. 

If you're interested in reading my review for the second novel, 'Born of Treasure', scroll down now - if not, scamper away!

First off, props to the cover designer - I love the fact that it's similar enough to the first cover, with the steampunk overtones, but it also shows the development of the characters (even if that does mean Amethyst going from being independent and individual to needing to be part of a pair).
Starting off quite soon after 'Treasure, Darkly' concludes, we join Clark and Amethyst on their quest across the country to locate Clark's father's inventions. The novel starts with Clark attempting to retrieve a pocket watch that forecasts the weather - it was taken by a Tarnished Silver (a prostitute) nearly twenty years ago, but has ended up in the hands of an obsessive clock collector. He comes back and catches Clark in his storeroom, resulting in a high speed chase with a gun being waved around. Surprisingly, Clark manages to cover his tracks without senselessly murdering the clock smith: this means I was already pleasantly surprised with the direction that the novel was taking.
Because Captain Greenwood's involvement in the novel was so beautifully set up at the end of the first book, it's no surprise when he turns up at the Treasure ranch and starts inquiring about Clark - where he is, where he came from and what exactly they know about his past. Jeremiah starts getting very suspicious of the Captain and goes to his hometown to investigate him with his new girlfriend, Alyssa - by the time they return, the entire family are on the run because the Captain attempted to apprehend Clark, but the Treasures defended him as though he was one of their own and followed him on his uncertain escape.
This means a lot of the novel is much more high tension adventure than the first book. There are no rambling sections filled with erotic fantasies between potential siblings, because the wedding seems to have calmed Clark and Amethyst down completely (and being on the run with their entire family doesn't really put them in the amorous mood). There's a lot of teamwork, with all of the Treasures coming up with ideas on what they should do to escape from the army and regain their freedom, and it's a brilliant portrait of a family that has difficulties that are overcome by love. Because the entire family are so focused on survival, the frictions that had appeared in the first novel are all reconciled - even Jeremiah, not on the run with them but at home attempting to keep control of Garth's assets, wants to protect Clark and gets very defensive when the Captain starts investigating him.
Yes, there were still some bits that annoyed me, but they were few and far between in this book. I don't want to go too much into what happens in the rest of the novel, because I really do think this is one that's exciting and will work much better if you don't know too much about what happens. Just know that the writing style is as well-crafted as it is in the first novel, but this installment is much more plot based than character based. The setting is realistic and wonderfully described, and the character development is all natural and realistic - in the first novel there were a few changes that I wasn't too happy with, but in the second novel they all seem to go through character arcs that make them stronger and much more three-dimensional as people.
I do really enjoy Jordan Elizabeth's writing style, and I'm sincerely hoping there may be another inclusion to this series - it got stronger in the second installment, which is something that doesn't happen all that often! It leaves me excited to see what else could potentially happen in this world. I think I've really fallen for all of the characters, and I don't want to leave them behind!

I'd just like to thank Curiosity Quills publishing once more, for allowing me to participate in this blog tour - I really did enjoy the Treasure Chronicles.

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