Review of THE SMOKE THIEF by Shana Abe (see her website)
Bantam Dell, October 2006
Ever since she can remember, Amelia (Lia) Langford has heard the sound of the great diamond, Draumr, calling to her. In her dreams, though, she sees the horrible result of its discovery. According to legend, a farmboy once stole Draumr and used it to control the beautiful dragon princess. And from Lia's prophetic dreams, she knows that the great thief Zane, her future lover, will use the stone's powers to destroy her entire family--with her assistance. Lia's dreams always come true, so there appears to be no escape from her fate.
Zane has always been a thief and he's had to fight for his survival. To become the best thief, he's created a persona that allows him to mingle with the upper crust. In his heart, though, he knows he is just a tool of the dragons, to be used and discarded as they choose. The great diamond would give him power to control them, to protect himself. Considering how the dragons choose to punish those who dare woo one of their dragon women, that just could become important--because Lia isn't just a beautiful woman and a prophet, she's a dragon.
Author Shana Abe (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by Abe) creates a wonderful world of dragons who have adapted human form so completely that many of them are now unable to turn and gain Dragon status. Abe uses a fairy-tale type wrapper and a lyrical writing style that gives the story a dreamy feel.
I very much enjoyed the conflict Abe sets up. Zane will be destroyed by the dragons unless he uses the power of the diamond to protect himself, but if he uses the diamond, he will turn his lover into his slave, destroying the love that she feels for him. Zane's past adds intensity to his dilemma--his fears of being helpless and of being hunted by the more powerful are very real and shaped the person he has become. The closed world of the dragon society of 19th century England, with its rigid rules and stern punishment, add both interest and help sustain the believability of the conflict.
I was hoping that Abe could find a way to resolve the conflict and create the romance novel happily-ever-after that was as clever as the conflict itself. In this area, however, the book was a bit of a disappointment. Also, in comparison to Abe's earlier book in this series (see our review of THE SMOKE THIEF) THE DREAM THIEF lacked much by way of plot twists. It did, however, introduce a new world of dragons and a new character who is certain to be back.
If you enjoyed THE SMOKE THIEF, you'll definitely want to get your hands on THE DREAM THIEF. Abe is a highly talented writer and her stories are clever and combine the air of history with the magic of, well, magic.
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