Author: Shana Abe'
I stumbled upon this book by chance on a routine book store visit and, on a whim, decided to purchase it. I did have a few qualms in the beginning about the book being centered around dragons (dra`kon) that masquerade as humans. My main concerns being, how will it work? Will it be believable enough for me to really get into the book? The answer is an enthusiastic yes!
The dra`kon are a private society that live on the fringes of the outside world. They keep themselves mostly hidden from society because of their abilities to shift from human form to smoke to dragon. Being that if they were ever discovered for what they really were that would be the end of their race, they punish those who try to escape the tribe, most times by death.
Clarissa "Rue" Hawthorne, is half dragon/half human. Since she is not full drakon she is deemed a halfling and lives her life as an outcast among the dra`kon. As a young teen of fourteen Rue fantasises about seventeen year old Christoff "Kit" Langford. Kit is the Alpha of the dra`kon tribe. It is known that the Alpha male must mate with an Alpha female but none of the dra`kon females are able to Turn (from human form to dragon which would undoubtedly make them Alpha) and haven't been able to do so for decades. Until Rue.
On her seventeenth birthday Rue survives the Turn, becoming the first dra`kon female in decades to accomplish the feat. By this time Rue's childhood illusions about Kit have been pretty much demolished and she knows that if she stays she will be mated off to Kit. With this in mind she plans to stage her death and succeeds.
Nine years later Rue is in England, living under the guise of an eccentric widow and many other aliases. She uses her ability to turn to smoke to her advantage and becomes a jewel thief, gaining her own fortune and making a name for herself as the notorious Smoke Thief.
Upon hearing about the thief that can change from human to smoke, Kit and his men set off to capture the thief that they are convinced is a dra`kon. They feel the smoke thief is attracting too much attention and risks outing the whole tribe. They set a trap for the thief by displaying the Herte diamond, a very valuable diamond to the dra`kon.
In the process of trying to trap the thief Kit notices a woman who appears to be the thief, he chases her and when he catches her Kit realizes that the woman is Clarissa Rue Hawthorne. Kit remembers Rue right away as being a little mousy hafling girl. No longer mousy and no longer a girl Rue uses her drakon abilities to turn to smoke in Kit's arms, leaving Kit stunned. He did not expect the Smoke Thief to be a woman (since they can not Turn) and not just any woman but Clarissa Rue Hawthorne, believed to be dead.
During that fiasco the diamond is stolen and Rue is the prime suspect. Rue swears that she did not steal the Herte and makes a deal with Kit: She will help him retrieve the diamond and it's thief for her freedom from the tribe and from him. Kit agrees but makes it his mission to keep Rue as his own.
What I loved about this book were the characters, they were so well formed that they seemed to jump off the pages. Rue is independent, free-willed, smart and clever. She risked her life to travel away from the tribe and she is perfectly content to stay away from them. She loves her freedom and has no desire to me mated to Kit just because she is an Alpha female, which is exactly why she left the tribe. When Kit asks her: "Why did you feign your death? Why did you run?" She answers:
"Because of you," she said finally. When he didn't respond she chanced a sidelong glance at him. He was studying her, not shocked, merely quizzical, the planes of his face underlit with storm. She gathered her nerve. "I left because I did not wish to be wed to you."
Kit is arrogant, spoiled, cocky but strong and loving. He makes no apologies for who he is:
"I've grown a trifle weary if being constantly cast as your villain, my love. I am only what I've been forged to be. Not evil, and perhaps not especially good. I care for very few things-the tribe, my name, my position. And you. If it pleases you to roll stones into our path, go ahead. At least I know my own heart, black as it may be. I make no apologies for my past, Rue, so don't expect any. I won't expect any of you either."
I was a little unsure of how Abe would portray the dra`kon in dragon form. Apparently there was no need for me to worry about that because Rue and Kit as dragons were just as tangible as them as humans. I especially liked the way Abe illustrated the flying scenes:
Rue stretched thin to follow him, her wings stretched out, leaping high to fall into a long, flat dive that tore the tops from the clouds in a swirling stripe.
Every stroke of her wings shifted hues, deepening the heavens, and when the first of the stars sparked overhead--a bouquet of them all at once--all that was left of the day was a band of intense maroon melting like hot sand into the edge of the world.
This book is a really good paranormal read. Set in the 1700's with the backdrop of England, it is a magical story of romance and adventure. Grade A-.
*The Smoke Thief is the first book in the Dra`kon Series, followed by The Dream Thief. Queen of Dragons, book three, was just released.