Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Smoke Thief by Shana Abé

I was hesitant to read The Smoke Thief because AAR gave it a crummy grade ( D+) and most of the time that's the kiss of death for me. But there was much disagreement with the grade on the Reviews MB (plus Keishon recommended it to me and she hasn't steered me wrong yet) so I decided to get it from the library. I read Abé's The Secret Swan recently and was only mildly impressed with her writing (B-). There were problems with TSS but I liked her beautiful prose. That beautiful prose was again evident in TST but with a much better story.

TST takes place in Georgian England and tells the story of drákons, shapeshifting creatures who live in secret in the beautiful Darkfrith valley in northern England. These creatures have the ability to shapeshift from human to smoke to dragon and back again. For centuries they have lived by a very strict set of rules. One of these rules is that no one is allowed to live outside their valley. Clarissa Rue Hawthorne is part mortal and part drákon and because of her mixed blood is made to feel like an outcast because she is different. On her 17th birthday she fakes her own drowning in order to start a new life free from prejudice.

Some years later the Council of Darkfrith is alerted to rumors that a jewel thief in London can disappear into smoke. They realize that this was not a human but another 'runner' who has escaped from Darkfrith without permission. The continued existence of their people and its traditions relies on their secrecy so they want the drákon runner captured immediately. Their Alpha leader, Christoff 'Kit' Ellery, Marquess of Langford, travels to London to hunt down the runner and brings the Herte diamond to use as bait for his trap. To his amazement he discovers that the runner is an Alpha female who can Turn (change from human to dragon), a phenomenon that has not happened in four generations.

TST was a totally engrossing book that I found impossible to put down. I had my nose in the book constantly and Bob was having a harder than usual time getting my attention. :) One of my problems with fantasy is there is usually too much world building and too many weird names and places. But there was NONE of that here. The world building was minor and very subtle and the names and places were 'normal'.

The plot was fascinating and inventive and the characters were fully drawn. Clarissa was a wonderfully strong heroine and a perfect match for Kit. But I did have a problem with Kit at first. He was so overly Alpha that I wanted to strangle him. When he finds out the Smoke Thief is female he is determined to have her at any cost. He lies and cheats and manipulates her so he can drag her back to Darkfrith against her will. But before he can do that they work together to solve a minor mystery and he grows to love her. The sensuality was hot and intense and the imagery of their flights together was beautifully breathtaking. I think AAR's reviewer, Lynn, had a problem with the ending, but I bought it completely. I found Kit's change of character very believable giving TST a terrific ending.

This was a hardcover that I got from the library but when it comes out in PB I'm going to get my own copy because I know I will want to reread it. Keishon did it again :)

My grade: B+

Update: I believe this book is the first one in a trilogy although I can't figure out where I read that. Searching Amazon I found out the next book is titled The Dream Thief to be released on September 26.

1 comment:

Avid Reader said...

I am so glad you enjoyed The Smoke Thief as it was a very engrossing read and at times, hard to put down. The fantasy didn't get in the way and since it's set mostly in London, in Victorian time period, made it very engaging read. I thought both Kit and Rue were a breath of fresh air. I look forward to reading more of their world. Thanks for the review!


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