The Concealed

The Concealed

The Concealed is due for release in November 2015 and is the debut novel of Sarah Kleck. It is a paranormal romance novel which focuses on a nineteen year old girl who starts to overcome a family tragedy when she meets a mysterious young man. The novel is the first part of a planned series but at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

Evelyn Lakewood was raised by her older sister Zara following the car crash that took the lives of her parents. When Zara later loses her life in a shooting, Evelyn is left alone and depressed. After she receives an acceptance letter from Oxford University, she jumps at the chance to do something that would make Zara proud. Even though she is a semester behind in her studies, she travels to the city in order to study Psychology.

While Evelyn is quick to make friends with two other students – Sally and Felix – she also finds herself drawn to the enigmatic Jared Calmburry. Jared is the heir to a vast fortune and also lost his parents to a tragic accident. Although her friends warn her away from him, Evelyn finds him irresistible. The problem is that Jared seems to do all that he can to avoid her.

As Evelyn investigates further into Jared’s past she begins to discover that Jared’s family tree is contains a legacy of ancient magic. Soon, strange things begin to happen to her and she realises that there are people who are determined to protect Jared’s family and will do anything to ensure that Evelyn does not discover the truth about him. It is up to Evelyn to decide whether or not she continues to pursue her love when it could lead both of them into grave danger…

Okie dokie. This one is going to be a bit of a tough one to review so please bear with me.

Firstly, I’m going to start with the thing I really liked about this story. Kleck really takes Arthurian Legends and makes them her own. I’m not really a fan of these myths myself. I only really know the basics – round tables and systems of government based around strange women lying in ponds distributing swords. Yet based on what I do know, I can see that the author has taken the bare bones of the legends and interpreted the stories in her own way. This is something I really like to see in fantasy novels. Retelling old stories is a bit dull as everyone knows how they end. To take one little part of the legends (in this case the relationship between Merlin and Nimue, the Lady of the Lake) and develop it into something original is a far more interesting way to approach the mythos.

Unfortunately, as interesting as Kleck’s concept is, The Concealed does fall down in its telling. A huge part of this is the translation. The Concealed was originally published in German under the title of Der Verborgene and my review copy was a direct translation of this text. I can’t vouch for how this novel sounds when read in German but the translation certainly came across as being very clunky. It wasn’t as unreadable as the likes of Scar but it still did not sound as fluid as it should have done. Just take this sentence from the opening paragraph as an example:

“An ice-cold wind blew around my ears the day I climbed the snowy hill with difficulty and closed the jagged wrought-iron gate behind me with a metallic squeak”

While you can tell what the author is saying, it just doesn’t read correctly. That sentence is far too long and contains more adjectives than it needs to. This is how the entire novel is written and it made reading it incredibly tiring, particularly as it slowed down the few action sequences.

The tone of the story is also very odd. I was at first tempted to call this novel new adult due to the age of the characters and the university setting but it doesn’t really feel like a new adult novel at all. There’s a little nudity but no sex, bad language or anything else very objectionable. In fact, the characters all seemed to be written a little too young. At one point, Sally becomes all giddy and excited because she’s kissed a boy. At nineteen. ZOMG! Perhaps this would have felt a bit more in character if she was a high school student but when I was at University we were all a little past the stage of being embarrassed about boys.

The pacing of the novel also gave me some pause. It was unimaginably slow burning. Although a hint about the Arthurian connection was dropped very early on when a character calls Evelyn by the name of Nimue, it’s not properly revealed until half-way through the story. That’s nearly 200 pages into the book. After this, the novel fluctuates between being too fast and too slow. There are lengthy sections that follow Evelyn on her way to various lectures and generally just ogling Jared for chapters at a time but they are interspersed with random moments of plot development that occur all too suddenly and don’t really explain themselves. The climax of the novel is especially bad for this as it suddenly introduced a brand new villain and had her facing off against with Evelyn and Jared in a very hasty action sequence. As Evelyn was slipping in and out of consciousness during this fight, I was left very unclear as to what was happening until the final chapter which briefly summarised the events, breaking off in an incredibly abrupt cliff-hanger. This style of writing didn’t work for me in Twilight and it certainly doesn’t now. I like to see what’s happening in a story, not have it related to me after the events.

Before I move onto the characters, there is one final plot point that troubled me. I think I’ve made clear by now how I feel about using rape as a plot device – it is possibly my biggest pet hate. About halfway through the novel, Evelyn is almost raped by Felix. This sequence largely comes out of nowhere (Felix is a bit of jerk but it’s not indicated that he is quite is despicable) and it is entirely used to put Evelyn in a situation where Jared would need to rescue her. The event also has little effect on Evelyn herself. While she occasionally expresses loathing of Felix, she never reports him to the police and is happily making out with Jared less than 24 hours after her trauma. Just no. Do I really have to say this again? Rape can be effective in novels if, and only if, the story is about rape. It needs to focus on its consequences and how it affects the development of the victim. It should never, ever be used for shock value. Rape is not just something bad that happens to women. There are lots of different ways that a writer can put a woman in a threatening situation without resorting to using this truly horrifying plot device.

In terms of characterisation, the novel was also shockingly shallow. Evelyn begins the novel traumatised and depressed, forever repressing things that upset her in a mental black box where she does not have to think of them. In the first half of the novel she responds aggressively to any inference about her family situation, even though the strangers that she encounters obviously have no idea that she’s an orphan. Yet this aspect of her character completely dissolves as she becomes besotted with Jared. I strongly object (as always) to her immediate love to Jared. Yes, there is a reason for this given in the plot but I still find these romances to be utterly contrived. Jared doesn’t even really speak to Evelyn until chapter eleven. How can anyone possibly fall deeply in love with a person that they’ve only said three words to? It’s just a very lazy way to create a love story where there really should be none.

Jared is also a bit of a 2-dimensional character. His reason for avoiding Evelyn at the start of the story was essentially down to the fact that a third party told him that they couldn’t be lovers. That’s it. Sure, there’s talk about a prophecy that could lead to his demise but the prophecy is so vague (and doesn’t even really make mention to Nimue) that it makes you wonder how he came to believe it in the first place. His magic also doesn’t seem to have any rules. I was left really unclear as to what exactly he was capable of and how it worked which left gaping holes in my understanding of his character.

The secondary cast are also very weak. Felix (as I have already noted) exists purely for the rape scene and virtually vanishes without a trace when this is over. Similar fates befall both Sally and Madison. Sally gradually fades from the plot as Evelyn uncovers Jared’s secret as her function is fulfilled at this point. Madison virtually walks out of the story after assaulting Evelyn in a locker room and nobody seems to notice. It’s not until close to the climax that the characters seem to realise that she hasn’t been seen since then and perhaps this could be significant. I know that Madison is a bitch but I think I would notice if someone I see every day has vanished regardless of whether I liked them or not. And then there is Ruth, the character who exists purely to exposit the plot. I really assumed that Ruth would turn out to be the bad guy as she seemed to know everything but, alas, no. Despite not being part of the secret society she seemed to know far more about Arthurian lore than the rest of the cast did,

Finally, there are the villains. Both of these were somewhat flat. Professor Mayflower existed to be a thorn in Evelyn’s side, stopping at nothing to prevent her and Jared from being together with no solid reason for doing so. Morgana was even worse. She never even appeared in the story until the climax and, prior to this, we were just told over and over again about how evil she was. There was no motivation for her actions whatsoever. She just wanted to murder Merlin because of reasons. As you may know I love a decent villain but this novel just completely failed to deliver.

Wow, I’m sorry. This has become my longest review to date and yet I feel I’ve only just scratched the surface. As you may be able to tell, this is not the story for me. While the ideas behind it were original, it had a weak plot, forgettable characters and a very poor translation quality. If a sequel is released, I will probably look at it in a future review but I can honestly say that I’m not keen to return to this world any time soon.

The Concealed is due for release on 1st November 2015 and is currently available to pre-order on Amazon.co.uk

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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