The Concealed by Sarah Kleck
Publication date: November 1st 2015
Genres: Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult
“Can you be happy when what you desire most means your doom?”
Evelyn Lakewood, an orphan, is crushed after the death of her beloved sister Zara. But the nineteen-year old enrolls in Psychology at Oxford in honor of Zara.
There, Evelyn first becomes friends with vivacious Sally and seemingly charming Felix. But the encounter with Jared Calmburry, whose incredibly blue eyes immediately captivate her, fundamentally changes her life. She is instantly drawn to this mysterious stranger around whom unusual things happen and who simply disappears every time Evelyn tries to confront him about his puzzling behavior. After finding a mysterious book with a unique symbol on its leather cover in the university library, her curiosity is perked. She doesn’t know what to make of it but Jared’s best friend Colin Sullivan encourages her with cryptic hints to continue her search for evidence. When she discovers the same medieval symbol is worn by hostile professor Karen Mayflower and engraved on another faculty member’s seal ring, she realizes that an ancient secret surrounds Jared.
This is a mixed review, so I shall begin with the strengths of the novel, and preface it by pointing out that the majority of my negative points are only negative because of my personal preferences, and I believe most people reading this book would not share my viewpoint.
The Concealed has a very Harry Potter/Worst Witch/Black Magician feel to it, but with a specific emphasis on King Arthur and Arthurian mythology and legends. I found this to be a refreshing change of pace, that put a much needed new-take on the now fairly typical magic-in-school-environment trope. The main character, Evelyn (great choice of name by the way!), is for the most part a solid protagonist. With the exception of her romantic role (see below) she’s a strong character, and quite well-rounded. I would have liked to have seen a more dynamic element to her, but I have a feeling that the major changes to her character will come in the next book.
Evelyn’s love interest, Jared, is also a solid character. He’s your typical teenage love interest, with that one odd physical feature that makes him stand out (in this case he has indigo eyes). While Evelyn and Jared definitely fall into the insta-love trope (which usually really irritates me), it’s justified in this case. Evelyn is immediately attracted to Jared physically, which isn’t unusual in any world, real or imagined, when you meet a mysterious and devilishly pretty boy with cool eyes. He then does the one thing guaranteed to turn an immediately reaction of ‘damn, he’s hot’ into, ‘damn, I love that guy!’. Jared is inexplicable and intriguing. He’s clearly up to something, and the more Evelyn tries to discover what, the more it becomes clear that the mystery goes much deeper than one simple boy. Again, a refreshing change of pace comes in that the answer is not simply, ‘he’s a vampire…and oh yeah, there are other vampires. Vampires are real.’ You can swap out ‘vampire’ in that sentence and replace it with pretty much an supernatural being, and you’ll find yourself with the synopsis for a swathe of Paranormal Romance novels. Kleck goes further though, twining the plot of what Jared is up to into the romance, so that the more Evelyn discovers about this mysterious and gorgeous stranger, the more interested she becomes, both in an intellectual and emotional level. There’s a reason for her sudden and growing affection for him, beyond the bog standard ‘love at first sight’. I really appreciated this.
Further to that, The Concealed presents an entertaining mystery and a solid plot. I did find the cliffhanger ending to be somewhat frustrating, as if one book had been split in half in order to create a series. I would far rather have read it all in one go, as books need – even when they’re in a series – to have some kind of conclusion, some form of ending. It’s lacking that, but it does trot along at a steady clip that keeps you turning pages.
Now, I did say this was a mixed review, so here’s the other shoe…
I approached this book with trepidation. The premise was amazing, however I was conscious of the fact it was Young Adult, a genre that frequently disagrees with me. There were several things about this book which annoyed me, but most of those were genre-specific, and as such not a fault with the book, but rather a fault with my relationship with YA Fantasy. I do not want to dwell on these quibbles, so in short: I found the romance to be too dominant, taking up far more time than the plot or any action. This was a shame, as the plot and the action were very good, but if you’re a big fan of teenage romance (ala Twilight, another novel I can’t stand), then this won’t be a problem for you at all. In fact, it will be a plus, for while I found it grating the romance was genuine, if a little lacking in chemistry and sexual charge, and only truly objectionable because there was so much of it. The Twilight comparison is particularly apt, as the relationship between Evelyn and Jared reminded me a lot of that between Bella and The Sparkly One. If you love Twilight, and other books of that ilk, this is obviously a good thing. If on the other hand you prefer characters with a backbone and some sense of independent thought, it’s not so great.
Other minor quibbles I have set aside – there are a lot of inaccuracies when it comes to the mythology. To the casual reader, who is not just coming to the end of a PhD on early medieval texts (like I am), and who isn’t very familiar with Arthurian mythology at that kind of academic level, I’m sure it’s fine. But if you know your stuff in this area, it’s bot bad, but the research that has gone into it is limited and only goes so far. I did find this disappointing, as it was one of the things that made the concept sound so interesting, but as with my issue over the romance element, this is very specific to me. I really dislike historical fiction precisely because it’s almost never done by anyone with a truly academic background in the subject they’re writing about. When it is, the research tends to take over and you get little in the way of story and too much in the way of history. It’s a lose-lose genre, in my opinion, for these reasons. So, please do not judge the book too harshly based on the fact I found this aspect annoying – if you’re not an archaeologist or very well versed in Arthurian legend, it won’t bother you, and you will almost certainly find these elements very entertaining. They were certainly well written.
Finally I found the editing and proofreading to be…less than it could have been. There are typos and errors that are distracting. BUT AGAIN, I’m an editor and proofreader, and notice these things a lot more than most people.
Now they are out of the way, it’s time for the GENUINE GRIPE that I can’t excuse by putting it down to genre. First and foremost, this book is set in England, in Oxford, and supposedly features ENGLISH characters. This was another BIG DRAW for me, because there are so few contemporary Fantasy novels set in England, they are all set in America. Alas, I was bitterly disappointed in this regard, for while it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, it most assuredly does not quack like a duck.
The duck in this case being English.
This book is written in American-English throughout. There has been no attempt to use English-English, let alone OXFORD ENGLISH. This is more important than it sounds. It’s not only annoying to have American spelling, word usage, and expressions throughout (although I do find that very annoying), it undermines the fantasy. The trick with writing believable fantasy is to really ground it in reality, so that the reader can suspend their disbelief when it comes to the extraordinary, because they’ve been thoroughly convinced by the ordinary. One of my own characters is from Oxford and, being from The North myself, it took research and effort to make her speak like a person born and raised in Oxford. My default is North Western dialect. So, while Kleck’s writing is strong, she’s kept to what is obviously her default, and not made any effort to write the book as if it were genuinely populated by English characters.
It very much reminded me of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which is supposedly set in Prague, but other than the occasional reference to places and architecture, reads like an American novel.
Overall this is an enjoyable book, which fans of Paranormal Romance – and in particular Twlightesque novels – will thoroughly enjoy. I appreciated the Arthurian aspects and the new spin this gave an otherwise tired trope. Solid characters, and a relatively believable romance.
Sarah Kleck, born in 1984, studied Education, Psychology and Sociology at the University of Augsburg.
Currently, she’s working as a human resources officer and lives with her husband and a newborn in Germany near Lake Constance.
“The Concealed” is her first novel
To celebrate, the author is running a giveaway giving you the chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card! Enter below!