Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I've Been Reading -- What a Great Book!!

Here's a review for The Smoke Thief by Shana Abe.

Dubbed the Smoke Thief, a daring jewel thief is confounding the London police. His wealthy victims claim the master burglar can walk through walls and vanish into thin air. But Christoff, the charismatic Marquess of Langford, knows the truth: the thief is no ordinary human but a "runner" who's fled Darkfrith without permission. As Alpha leader of the "drakon," it is Kit's duty to capture the fugitive before the secrets of the tribe are revealed to mortals. But not even Kit suspects that the Smoke Thief could be a woman.

Clarissa Rue Hawthorne knew her dangerous exploits would attrract the attention of the "drakon." But she didn't expect Christoff himself to come to London, dangling the tribe's most valuable jewel--the Lanford Diamond--as bait. For as long as she could remember, Rue had lived the life of a halfling--half "drakon" and half mortal--and an outcast in both worlds. She'd always loved the handsome and willful Kit from the only place it was safe: from afar. But now she was no longer the shy, timid girl she'd once been. She was the first woman capable of making the Turn in four generations. So why did she still feel the same dizzying sense of vulnerability when he was near?

From the moment he saw her, Kit knew that the alluring and powerful beauty was every bit his Alpha equal and destined to be his bride. And by the harsh laws of the "drakon" Rue knew that she was the property of the marquess. But they will risk banishment and worse for a chance at something greater. For now Rue is his prisoner, the diamond has disappeared, and she's made the kind of dangerous propositon a man like Kit cannot resist.

Author Shana Abe is a writer of great experience and one who has written in a wide variety of genres. I checked out this book from the public library on the recommendation of my daughter so they were in hardback edition and it seemed shorter. However, at 292 pages it would have probably translated into a 350 plus pages in paperback. Having read Singh's Psi-Changling series, I had experienced that sort of paranormal romance, but this book has a different feel to it. A dragon that assumes human form, then changes to smoke and then to a dragon -- what a kick!! And I have to add that I appreciate the author's giving the reader the background pages that put one squarely in the center of this mystical and mysterious world right from the beginning.

I have always appreciated those gifted people who have learned to treasure their imaginations and who allow themselves a true and extended flight of fancy. Creating this wonderful and colorful world has to have been not only a labor of love but positively great fun. I know from personal experience that writing is hard work and involves lots of careful crafting if the author wants to transmit the story carefully and well. This author has done so with great aplomb and it shows. The story moves from the past to the present smoothly and leads the reader into Rue's shadow world in such a way that one is not only watching the main characters as they move through the story but it also feels in some sort of way like the reader is part of the scenario. Rue is a strong woman who has determined that the prejudices and hurts of her childhood are not to be the guiding principles of her adult existence and she leaves Darkfrith (set in the northern forests of Yorkshire) by staging her own death. Her secret life embraces many disguises and her expertise as a jewel thief have allowed her nine years of treasured freedom and acquired wealth sufficient to live as she pleases.

There is a sense that she knows that this life will come to an end eventually but she is not prepared to give in easily. She has the strength of character and her own sense of personhood (what we would call it today) to withstand the "drakon" Council and its feudal rules in order to keep her freedom until the very last. However, the other tension in the story is her life-long love for Cristoff. Yet, in spite of her longing to be first in his heart and knowing that he is now, has always been, and always will be the person she loves most in the world, she is not prepared to surrender to him in any way until she knows that he loves her for herself and not as the Alpha female the tribe ordains he marry. This is one plucky lady!! She stands up to everyone and the best part is that she really knows how to carry it off. That kind of character inevitably "hooks" me. She has surrounded herself with a kind of "family" in her urchin apprentice Zane and her courtesan friend Mim. The motley crew make an imposing set of personalities that march through this novel.

But I like Cristoff as well. He is the Alpha male in a paranormal culture that is rooted in the millenia of the past, guided by laws that would have made William the Conqueror proud, but he is also a man who desires to see the old ways moderated and made more humane. He has a marvelous sense of humor -- what is more sexy in a man? -- while knowing within himself that this mysterious woman has snagged his interest and enveloped his heart in a way that he could have never dreamed. His "mouse" (as he has called Rue since her childhood) has become a tantalizing and engaging woman whose depths he can never cease exploring. Their love story is intense, push-pull, love-hate, drawn into the past and forced into the present. It pulled me along relentlessly.

This is a great book!! It is the first in a series about this dragon tribe and I, for one, am looking forward to the upcoming additions to Kit and Rue's story and those who are a part of their tribe. I give this book a 5 out of 5 rating.

1 comment:

Tracy said...

Great review, as usual! I loved this book and the rest of the series is just as good. Can't wait to see what you have to say about the rest of the books.