Desert Isle Keeper
The Smoke Thief
Magical. In a word, that’s my reaction to Shana Abe’s simply fabulous fantasy romance.
Yes, the hero is manipulative, there’s no denying that. But – and this is a very important but – I never doubted for a moment that Christoff, Marquess of Langford, is gobsmacked by heroine Clarrissa Rue Hawthorne from the moment he first sees her as an adult and that those initial feelings grow very quickly into unconditional love.
Christoff is the leader of the drakon, a reclusive and staggeringly wealthy people who now reside in the English countryside, some nine hours by carriage from London. Though their origins are shrouded in mystery, some male drakons have the ability to “turn” to smoke and, even fewer still, into flying dragons. Christoff, as the hereditary lord, is one of the few. Since the drakon fear for their survival should their existence become known, the tribe lives under strict rules and guidelines – most specifically, they are forbidden to leave their English lands and those who do become “runners”, subject to the tribe’s usually fatal justice.
Rue, too, is one of the drakon, though as a half-human she ranks very low on the tribe’s totem pole. Smothered by her restricted life, Rue fakes her own death as a teenager and manages to escape to London before her own unique ability is detected: She is the lone female in four generations with the ability to turn to smoke and into a dragon.
Nearly ten years later, the tribe learns disturbing news of a “smoke thief” on the loose in London whose great success in stealing the jewels of the aristocracy is matched only by his ability to completely disappear from the scene. Recognizing that the thief must be a “runner”, Christoff travels to London (well, he flies to London, if the truth be told) to deal with the situation by capturing and punishing the defector before he can reveal the tribe’s secrets. The last thing Christoff expects is what he quickly discovers: The thief is a woman – Rue, of course – and, as the first female in many years to “turn”, she is destined to be his bride.
Ms. Abe excels at writing lush, lyrical prose. I’m usually not a big fan of the fantasy genre, but she manages to…well, in an odd way, to humanize her dragons so that the “turning” itself adds enormously to the development of the relationship between Rue and Christoff. In its simplest terms, I felt it each and every time.
Now for the manipulation. Christoff kidnaps Rue and forces her to return to their remote home where she is held prisoner and brought before the tribe’s ruling council for judgment. But he’s not done there. He further lies to her at several crucial moments in the plot and there’s no denying that it ain’t pretty. But the difference here is that Christoff truly loves Rue and his motivation is both to wed her and protect her forever. All I can say is that it worked for me. Big time.
Rue, too, is a wonderful character. Determined to break free from the tribe and to live life on her own terms, she is, nevertheless, haunted by who and what she is. Always an outcast in her tribe, Rue admired from afar – and quite possibly even loved – golden boy Christoff all those years ago. When he appears in her life and disrupts it so thoroughly, Rue fights back with every weapon she has. Rue is anything but a victim and, to his credit, Christoff doesn’t want her that way. Add in the erotic and magical – there’s that word again – elements to the story of these these two powerful drakon so clearly destined to be together, and The Smoke Thief is easily one of my favorite romances of the past few years.
Mature, heartfelt, and all together romantic, Shana Abe’s first novel in her series featuring the drakon is a book to savor. To put it as simply as possible, I loved it.