Review of THE SMOKE THIEF by Shana Abe (see her website)
Bantam Dell, September 2005
A jewel thief is terrorizing London stealing the most precious, the most beautiful of gems. So capable is this thief that he's become known as the smoke thief. Christoff, Marquess of Longford thinks smoke thief is more than a nickname. He is responsible for the dragons of England, and this sounds like an escaped dragon to him. According to their rules, the dragons must never leave their own territory, and Christoff is their leader. He heads to London to catch the thief--after first baiting a trap with the most beautiful diamond in the world--a diamond that no thief, and no dragon, could resist.
It doesn't take Christoff long to spot the thief--he can sense another dragon and this one is unusually powerful. But he's shocked to discover that the thief is a woman.
Clarissa Rue Hawthorne fled the dragon kinship when she reached her 17th birthday and learned she could change. No female had been able to change forms for generations. Her abilities meant she would become alpha among the females, and the automatic mate for Christoff. Rather than face a loveless union, she fled. She had always suspected that the dragons would catch her eventually, but Christoff's power still surprises her.
In springing the trap, however, another thief makes off with the diamond. Christoff and Rue make a bargain to work together in returning the diamond--and giving Rue her freedom. She does want freedom, right? Working together, exploring Georgian London, discovering each other's strengths and quirks deepens Rue's love for Christoff. But a return to the society of the dragon kind is impossible, unthinkable. And yet it is the only option. It seems that there is no possible way ot.
Author Shana Abe (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by Abe) creates a charming fairy tale story of dragons, reshaped as people but able to return to their native forms. Abe's depiction of mid-18th century London was convincing and the world-building that lay behind the origins of the dragons offers the potential for plenty of more stories. I would have liked to see a bit more emotional depth and character growth on the part of Rue and especially Christoff, but that didn't stop THE SMOKE THIEF from being a highly enjoyable read.
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