Rating: 4.75 stars
One night in a deserted warehouse in Kundou, two lonely boys on the run meet and entwine their fates forever. One wishes to become a ship’s captain. The other seeks just one night of safety and refuge from beatings at home. They exchange gifts and make a promise to each other. One will buy a ship, name it the Kumiko, and come for the other. And one will wait for him and they will run off together to find the greatest treasure in the world. It will take years before they see each other again.
Nine hundred years ago the Dragons of the Three Storms, Gods of chaos, went insane and tried to destroy the land of Kundou. But King Taiseiyou rose up, killed the dragons, and stole their powers for himself. The cost the royal family pays to retain those magical powers? A sacrifice every hundred years of a member of their family, and now that time is almost upon them.
All around Kundou, the world is in a state of upheaval. Long stable governments are threatened through political unrest, food supplies are imperiled as the seasons can no longer hold to the calendar, and even the supremacy of the seas that Kundou has always held is shaken by constant attacks by mermaids who kill entire crews, discard the cargo, and sink the ships. Prince Nankyokukai and Taka, his friend and royal secretary, have a secret mission, or rather Prince Kyo does. Taka doesn’t know the meaning of the errands that Prince Kyo is sending him on, only that they are of the utmost importance to his only friend, and that is all that matters to Taka.
The prince’s family, always so cold and distant towards it’s youngest son, has been taking more interest in his affairs of late and the heir to the throne has been more obnoxious and overbearing, if that is possible. In secret, Prince Kyo and Taka head to the city docks and a meeting with the city’s wealthiest merchant, Master Shimano Raiden. Huge in stature and personality, flamboyant in attire, sure and arrogant in attitude, Shimano Raiden is everything Taka finds disdainful, yet Kyo seems determined to do business with him. Taka is astounded to learn that the reason behind Prince Kyo’s meeting is to arrange for clandestine passage out of Kundao immediately. And only one ship’s captain and one ship will do, Captain Kindan Ningyo of the Kumiko.
Captain Kindan Ningyo and all aboard the Kumiko have had a rough voyage this trip and are looking forward to a few days to relax in the harbor before Raiden sends them out again. The mermaid attacks are increasing and the ship is a favorite target. Only a very few know the reason behind the ferocity and number of attacks on his ship: that he is half merman and hated by the sea bitches for his very existence. The Captain’s dual nature would also bring him trouble on land if known, but Raiden keeps his secret. But Kindan has another more hidden reason that he returns to Kundou’s harbor — he has a promise to keep. Between a secret mission and a promise rests the fate of the world and the destiny of two boys turned men looking for that greatest treasure of all… love.
This book took me back to the years of reading with a flashlight under the covers. Alone in my “cave” I visited alien worlds, met otherworldly beings, and rode on the backs of dragons. It was magical. Everything seemed possible and real. And Treasure brought all that back in one fell swoop. Well, except for the sex of course, but still a wondrous time. And with the worlds and characters she has created here, Derr has given me an old fashioned tale of adventure and fantasy, so satisfying a page turner that I was finishing it at 2 am this morning and yelling for more. Really! My dogs were quite upset at the racket!
There is so much to this story I don’t know where to start. There is the seaside kingdom of Kundou, the sea power of the world with merchants and markets to match the cargo the ships bring in. So real is this world that you can feel the ships creak at their moorings, hear the gulls cry overhead, and listen to the shouts of merchants hawking their wares. The palace itself is another wonder whose descriptions made me want a magic amulet the better to see the Shark Room with its mystical floor and lethal inhabitants. A perfect place for palace intrigue and mystery. Derr doesn’t stop with Kundou. She brings us the White Beasts of Verdun with their two skins, and Pozhar peopled with beings with hearts and souls of fire. Layer upon fantastical layer, the worlds of Treasure emerge and solidify before our eyes.
Let’s not forget the characters because they are unforgettable. You can tell if someone is from Kundou as they carry the colors of the sea in their eyes and hair, from the deepest blue through all the greens and back again. If you come from Pozhar, your hair and eyes display the pigments of fire. And the characters are as colorful as their physical descriptions. Prince Kyo is beautiful, ruthless, and cunning. A priest as well as prince, he is an intriguing combination of religion, royal obligation, and romance wrapped into one. His willingness to sacrifice everything for the good of his people drives the voyage and the story forward. Captain Kindan Ningyo is a wonderful creation, a mix of seafaring Captain and fanged merman at war with his kin, white of skin and hair, but black in his choice of garb. As he and his crew fought back waves of mermaids, decks heaved, sprays of salt water rained over the men as blood flowed and the reader was in the middle of it all, feeling each hit, reeling with each slash of the knife. And then there is Taka and Master Raiden, they may actually be my favorites here. Taka is full of surprises, a little prickly but quick to forgive, a trait that will be of utmost importance before the story is over. He is fire where Kyo is ice, he is loyalty personified and sensitive as to his position in life. I just loved him. Master Shimano Raiden is larger than life right down to the colorful robes and jewels he wears, but he is a shrewd businessman and a complicated personality to match the multicolored layers of clothes he is so fond of. Each character beautifully detailed, so alive as to reach out from the page, grab you and pull you into the adventure with them.
Treasure so enchanted me that at the end I was shocked it was over, the tale a little unfinished. The voyage had come to a satisfactory and surprising end with a twist I relished, but I wasn’t quite sure what came next for all those characters I had come to know and love. And it is that uncertainty that gives this tale a 4.75 instead of a 5. The next book in the Lost Gods series, Burning Bright, is out there waiting to be read. While I am not sure those of the sea fit into a story of flames, I can always hope. A tip of a cup full of wine of the dead to a tale well told and to another voyage on the horizon.
Cover: The cover looks like a seafaring map but I would have wished for a little more embellishment to go with a story of Lost Gods and dragons.