Treasure, Darkly

Treasure, Darkly - Jordan Elizabeth Mierek, Elizabeth Jordan

(I was given a copy by the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.)

I had read a couple of short stories by this author, and thought the world she developed would be worth the read. I'm sorry to say I couldn't push myself to enjoy Treasure, Darkly, in spite of a good beginning. Or perhaps because the beginning led me to hope for something quite different, something I'd have liked instead.

Adventure in a steampunk, western-like world, along with a mysterious power allowing the male protagonist to bring people back to life: that would've rocked, and it's what I got in the first chapters. Clark seemed an intriguing character. On the run from the Army after he accidentally used their latest invention and ended up with powers over the dead, he turned to the only people he thought would be able to protect them, thanks to their wealth and reputation; a risky move if you ask me, but why not, when you don't have much left to lose? Clark was kind of resourceful—ready to use whatever resources he could find, aware that he had to be ruthless at times, yet still trying to fit in in a "good" way no matter what.

The world depicted in the novel was interesting, too. Perhaps with a bit too much "steampunkish eye-candy", in that you'd have to simply enjoy the descriptions and atmosphere for what they are, not look for any detailed explanation behind some of the machines. At some point, Clark goes on a quest for missing inventions, and if you like reading about such contraptions, well, those fit well within a steampunk universe.

However, I found it really difficult to remain invested into the story after the 40%-50% mark. First, Amethyst's expected death doesn't occur before then, i.e. a bit too late to my liking. Second, what would've been somewhat stereotypical but still enjoyable plot in a western-type plot (the Treasures vs. the Horans) wasn't that much developed, with the race to find the missing inventions getting muddled in there. Third, and a killer for me, those parts of the plot, along with Clark's power and running away from the military, got lost in the romance.

I didn't care the least bit for the romance here. Partly because of the brother/sister thing, even though there's a twist here. Partly because I wanted to see a kickass brother/sister pairing living adventures in a Weird Wild West world. Partly because it didn't make much sense when pitched against the other stakes (the Horans, Clark being on the run, how the family in general was supposed to accept him...).

Amethyst I found fairly unlikeable all along. I could've forgiven her snobbish ways in the beginning, if only coming back from the dead would've redeemed them. I'd expect dying, then being resurrected would leave heavy traces in someone's psyche, make them contemplate their mortality, see the world in a different way; but Amethyst doesn't change, and remains as superficial as ever (all the more as she's cast several times in a Damsel In Distrest role, moments during which she worries about the wrong things).

Clark's power remained vague and not exploited after the first half. For instance, we're told that when he brings back someone, he has to give death in the next minutes or so for the first life to indeed be spared, yet he's never seen doing it, which felt like a cop-out. The villains didn't do much in the second half either, the two brothers vanishing from the scene fairly quickly, to better leave room to Clark and Amethyst traipsing around, buying clothes, camping in the woods, and so on. Also, Clark's secrets got out in the open too easily, and it was hard after a while to believe that people wouldn't talk about it sooner, that he wouldn't get in trouble sooner because of it.

In short, based on the first half of the novel, I was somewhat enthused, and expected adventure and a grand finale. In the end, I got bored by the romance and distractions from what should've remained the issues at stake. By the time they came back, it was too late.