The Treasure Keeper
by Shana Abé, historical/fantasy (2010)
Dell, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-553-59122-4
The Treasure Keeper revisits Shana Abé's drákon people, but this one, I feel, can stand alone pretty well. Having read previous books in the series will not change the fact that the romance in this story is woefully underdeveloped, after all. Come to think of it, while this one is a pretty entertaining read, there is a halfway stop vibe to the whole thing - this book exists only to get you to buy the next book.
First, the story. This is a pretty unusual one in that the heroine, Zoe Lane, plays the active role while the hero Rhys Langford spends more than half the story being a ghost-like... thing. What happens here is that Rhys and a couple of people, including Zoe's fiancé Hayden, vanished before this story opens, presumably killed by drákon-slaying humans, with only Rhys's blood found on the scene of the crime. Zoe defies the home curfew rules imposed on females by the chauvinist turd leaders of her community and travels all the way to France, hoping to trace Hayden's steps, discover what happened to those men, and seek vengeance on the naughty humans. Imagine her surprise when she comes into contact with what seems to be Rhys's ghost, The Sixth Sense style. Every drákon has a Gift, you see, and it turns out that Zoe can turn invisible, see and speak to ghosts, and more. Poor Zoe, things get quite complicated here, because Hayden is her fiancé (although he's naturally the patronizing and proper stereotype) while Rhys is her teenage crush (he's also patronizing at times but he's hot and sexy, so he's different, yay).
Zoe is an interesting heroine because while she's on her own and away from her people for the first time in her life, the experience only emboldens her and makes her realize how she doesn't like living under the stifling "care" of the patronizing chauvinist turds that are up your typical drákon dudes. Even better, she can walk the talk, subtly manipulating men to get things her way if she has to. Rhys is another interesting hero in that he's not a woobie - he's a spoiled brat of privilege who finally decides that he loves Zoe and, true to his nature, resorts to underhanded means to get into her bloomers if he has to. There is no sad past to make his antics palatable. He is charming, but it's up to readers to decide for themselves whether this is enough to endear him to them. I don't mind him, though. My only regret is that he is an underdeveloped character compared to Zoe. Then again, he's a ghost for the most part, so it's not like he can do much else here. On the bright side, there is a chemistry between him and Zoe that reminds me of that of couples in Amanda Quick's romances - these two get along well, and I can easily get the impression that they genuinely like each other. This makes the whole mate-mate-mate nature of the relationship - passed off as love, naturally - palatable.
This book will be fine if I have to grade it only by the romance present within its pages. However, there is also the plot to contend with. The premise is not exactly strong to begin with, and it is weakened considerably further by the author rather blatantly giving the heroine new powers at the most convenient moments so that Zoe can save the day. For example, each drákon has a kryptonite, so to speak, that renders them helpless and weak, but oh, how convenient that Zoe discovers herself immune to the effects of that thing when she's confronted with that thing! If that isn't eye-rolling enough, the whole plot turns out to be an excuse to introduce the leading character of the next book.
With an underdeveloped romance, rushed plot, contrived introduction of new powers to extricate the good guys out of a sticky situation, and some of "lucky" turn of events to make the romance possible between Zoe and Rhys, this book is guilty of lazy plotting. The fact that the plot exists solely to get the ball rolling for the next book only adds insult to the injury. Yes, the main couple has some solid chemistry, but The Treasure Keeper seems to be a half-baked book rolled out solely to get me to buy the next book. I'm torn between feeling mildly cheated and mildly insulted by the whole thing.
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