Hidden Treasure

Title: Hidden Treasure
Author: V.B. Kildaire
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: M/M Fantasy Romance
Length: Novel (266 Pages)
Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

One Line Review: An intriguing fantasy which had well-drawn characters and a convincing romance, but felt frustratingly incomplete.


THE BLURB:

According to legend, five hundred years ago the country of Connmeera sent an exceptional gift to the country of Ormslea, but the ship was overtaken and the treasure lost. Now proof of the treasure has been found in the vast, daunting country of Jarvoct, and Connmeera and Ormslea mount a joint venture to recover the treasure. Ormslea sends Jaxom Archeron, the son of a noble family, an elite soldier known for his dedication to duty. But the Queen of Connmeera chooses Lord Dorian Pelias, a poor relation who could benefit even if the mission is unsuccessful.

While the two men at first have nothing in common, as they travel, Dorian’s intelligence, optimism, and kindness work their way past the wall of resolve Jaxom long ago constructed around his heart. When a Jarv prince attempts to enslave Dorian for his own purposes, Jaxom comes to his rescue, shaken by how much Dorian has come to mean to him. Recovering the treasure isn’t the only challenge they will face as they search for common ground and a life in disparate countries that may not be so pleased to welcome them home.

THE REVIEW:

First off all, I want to urge readers to struggle on past the awkward, info-dumpy first chapter of Hidden Treasure, where the same information about the doomed gift-giving expedition of five hundred years ago, and all the countries involved both then and now, is repeated no less than three times with only slightly varied wording. Info dumping, especially using the ‘As you know, Bob’ method, is a common draw-back in debut fantasy novels, and since this author’s previous book was historical, I’m willing to chalk this up to inexperience. But the story rapidly improves from that point onwards, I promise.

In fact, from the moment that optimistic misfit Dorian meets stoic, macho man-of-action Jaxom (anyone else hearing the Joxer the Mighty song now?) the story comes alive. Since neither of them really wanted to take on this expedition to discover the whereabouts of the lost treasure, and they were both dreading just how bad their companion might turn out to be, it’s a pleasant surprise that they develop a friendly camaraderie almost from the start. Jaxom is impressed by Dorian’s concern for the comfort of his pack-horse and his unexpected competance in foraging for wild food, while Dorian, used to being dismissed and ignored at home due to his father’s unhappy legacy, likes the fact that Jaxom treats him with respect and is willing to talk to him civilly.

It’s possible that some readers might find Jaxom, who is a classic stoney-faced soldier with a heart of gold, a tiny bit familiar – but he is nevertheless skillfully and sympathetically drawn, and if he sometimes acts a right pillock, it’s just because he’s not used to caring about people. Dorian, on the other hand, is something refreshingly unusual in M/M fantasy – a definite bottom, without any pretensions to being an action hero, who has intelligence, compassion and unflinching strength of character.

As the two progress through the sometimes hostile country of Jarvoct, following a vague map and encountering all kinds of trials, such as insistant and eccentric hosts and disease-struck villages, the book started to remind me of classic fantasy like The Belgariad and The Chronicles of Prydain. Only with smouldering sexual tension between two hotties. Win!

The author held back on any sex scenes until around midway through the book – allowing the relationship to develop and strengthen on the basis of friendship – but when they did arrive they were plentiful and, while not particularly explicit, certainly hot enough and varied enough to keep me from skim-reading.

Finally the couple reach their destination, and discover that the treasure is not at all what they were expecting. With melancholy hearts they head off to the coastal main city of Jarvoct, where they are due to meet the ships which will take them back to their homes in separate countries. And here – after a couple of mild confrontations with the people from their homelands who have come to collect them – the story comes to a sudden and rather unsatisfying halt.

I know we were all debating recently whether a HEA was necessary in every story, or whether HFN or even bittersweet endings were okay in a romance. The ending of this story qualifies as none of the above. In fact I’m not sure if it qualifes as any kind of an ending at all. Nothing is resolved. And I’m not just talking about the romance, although that’s left hanging here too. I’m talking about the main plots that the author has taken the trouble to set up throughout the story. Just to list a few, there’s Jaxom’s new thoughts about slavery, a couple of would-be assassins awaiting trial, the mysterious archer who wounded Jaxom midway through the story, the response of Jaxom’s ruler to the unexpected nature of the ‘treasure’, and questions about what Dorian’s status will be when he returns home now that he has become a stronger and more assertive person.

Frankly I was so shocked to be cut off at this point that I continued scrolling backwards and forwards, searching in vain for more pages, for about three minutes. I immediately assumed that I must somehow have missed the fact that Hidden Treasure was the first of a series, but a check to the DSP website and the author’s LJ give no hint that any sequel is forthcoming. All of which leaves me baffled as to how to rate this book. I enjoyed it a lot, but any story that leaves the reader feeling as frustrated and annoyed as I do right now must have serious flaws. So despite the fact that Dorian has claimed a permanent place in my heart, I can only give this book 3.75 stars.

And if a sequel is planned…will someone please let me know???

Author

Budding m/m author (two stories contracted so far, watch this space) residing in England.

13 comments

  • I love fantasy quest that allow the two main characters to grow close. This book had great world building and great characters, I really liked it but I also had the same reaction you did. I was reading this book and enjoying it and then suddenly it was over. I had a total What just happened moment. I felt that the ending couldn’t even be considered a HFN.
    Glad to now know there will be a sequel.

    Reply
    • Yes, my feeling was that this was really half of a book, rather than a complete one. But never mind. I feel much more cheerful now that I know I will eventually get to read the second half.

      Reply
  • When I read this book recently my first reaction was that I didn’t like the ending. Then (thanks to being stuck in a car on a trip) I thought it over for an hour or so and I grew to like it, even understand it. Without giving too much away, I still want to see the guys return to their countries and the reaction they get. But with relation to the characters and the idea of “treasure”, I think we were given enough to conclude our own endings. Dorian was a changed person at the end and his final action in the book proved that. They each found a treasure in more than each other.

    I liked it a lot more than 3.75.

    Reply
    • But neither of them had made any decision on whether they would stay together – or even if they wanted to stay together – so saying that they had found a treasure in each other is a little premature. I admit that I do prefer at least a HFN when romance is a strong element in the story – but I would have been willing to accept an unresolved romance so long as the other parts of the plot were resolved. Nothing was. It’s the fact that the book just *stopped* that forced me to give it the lower rating. Even books which are part of a series need to have some kind of a resolution at the end (for example, Dark Designs, by Luisa Prieto). As I said, unless specific warnings are given, when a book is marked as a novel you expect to plunk your five dollars down and get just that – a novel – not half of one.

      On this site:

      4 stars = A really good read. Recommended
      3 stars = Average, has its flaws. Of interest to readers of the genre

      Since I finished this book feeling unfulfilled, frustrated and cross, I could hardly ‘recommend’ it to readers of this blog by giving it 4 stars. On the other hand, while it had it’s flaws it was better than ‘average’. Therefore, 3.75 seemed the fairest and most appropriate rating.

      Reply
  • I can’t stand unresolved endings. At least a HFN. I’ll probably wait until a sequel comes out before getting it. Great review! 🙂

    Reply
    • THANK. GOD.

      And thank you for telling us! I’m still annoyed that the fact ‘Hidden Treasure’ was just part one of on-going story was not made clear though! You shouldn’t invest your money in what you think is a novel and then to find that it’s only half of one: it’s not fair.

      Reply
  • Your review put into words my thoughts about this! I really did like it muchly, and felt like it was an introduction to a world and events I want to know more about! I assume (hopefully) that given the ending there will be more story to follow. I’d like there to be! Dorian could have been a complete milksap, but is written instead with his own brand of strength that grew with the telling of the story. There might have been a few times when I wanted to bop Jaxom over the head, but all in all he was a good representation of the emotionally wounded alpha, dealing as best he could in unusual circumstances.

    Excellent review!

    Reply
  • I’ve wanted to buy this book, because I simply adored “The Desire for Dearborne”. I’m unsure now if I should, since I have a thing about unresolved endings. Unless there’s a certain sequel, I have a bit of trouble even with HFN, so this sounds like it will REALLY annoy me.

    I might go ahead anyway and hope for another book to come. After all, if it’s reminiscent to The Belgariad, I’m sure to love it!

    Thanks for the review!

    Reply
    • Yeah, I hate unresolved endings too. I can handle one or two loose ends, but this left me feeling really unfulfilled – and the problem was that I liked the rest so much! Oh, I should say that although I compared it to the famous fantasy quest novels, there’s actually no magic in this. Not even any meddling Gods.

      Reply

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