The Smoke Thief (Drakon #1)
By: Shana Abe
Published By: Bantam Books
Publication Date: September 2006
Page Count: 324
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Audience: Adult - Historical Fantasy Romance
The Smoke Thief was a truly magical and wonderful read! Even though this is considered an historical romance novel (and man... is there romance...), I think the argument could be made that it could also be labelled more of a FANTASY romance (did I mention there is romance?...oh yes, I did... silly me.)
You see, even though the story is set in the 1700's, the fantastical element is very central to the plot as it is about a mythical race of creatures known as the Drakon who live high up in the misty hills of Northern England; creatures who can shapeshift between human form, smoke and that of a dragon. The Drakon lead a secretive and somewhat isolated life from the outside world. They have all semblances of melting into the human world, but within their own Drakon community, they are similar to a wolf-pack with an alpha male who ensures the strength and survival of their "tribe" through unchallenged leadership.
The Marquess, Christoff Rene Ellery Langford (aka Kit) is the alpha of his Drakon tribe, a position he inherited, somewhat reluctantly, from his father. A bit of a playboy in his time, he does take the sanctity of his tribe very seriously. It is imperative that they keep their true selves secret from the "Others" (mortals) for fear of persecution and exploitation of themselves and their precious stones... true gems of the earth (such as diamonds) that are the very life force for the Drakon... they cannot survive without them.
As the story begins, the tribe takes notice of a series of thefts of some precious gems -- particularly because the press has dubbed the perpetrator, "The Smoke Thief", as the thief appears to just vanish or walk through walls. They suspect that the thief is one of their own... a runner... one who has escaped the tribe to live amongst the Others. Runners are the very crack in the Drakon's armour of protection... because if their secret becomes known, from past experience, they would no longer be safe. And so, for obvious reasons, the council needs to find the careless Smoke Thief before their secret is discovered.
Clarissa Rue Hawthorne is one of those runners, unbeknownst to the tribe, who believe she died when she was 17 by accidental drowning. But it was Rue who faked her own death in order to avoid being wed to the alpha of the tribe, Kit, because she was the first female to complete the "Turn" in four generations, which would make her the prized possession of the tribe and the alpha. To further complicate this, Rue has adored Kit from afar ever since she was a young girl. But it goes against her very nature to enter into a marriage where she is not loved in return.
In order to secure the runner, The Smoke Thief, and bring "him" back to answer for their crimes against the tribe, Kit and his council set a trap... because one thing that the Drakon, including Rue, cannot resist is the lure of especially precious stones, such as the Herte diamond.
I adored the two main characters, Rue and Kit. She was a heroine that quickly became a favourite of mine. She was tenacious yet kind-hearted. She was confident in all her convictions yet vulnerable... especially where Kit was concerned. Her sense of self-respect was very appreciated and I admired it. Kit, despite being in the difficult position of being the alpha, and having to make some rather unpopular and seemingly selfish choices... was a wonderful hero. His protectiveness of Rue was perfectly balanced with who he was. We are not talking about a 21st century hero. We are talking about an alpha male leading a tribe, in the 1700's, where women's voices were seldom heard... yet he hears Rue loud and clear. And they each cannot deny the literal sparks that fly between them. The romance builds and builds and builds till... well... you'll just have to read it to find out... but I will say that the love that grew between them was believable and beautiful. Shana Abe can write a truly erotic love scene without it sounding dirty.
I also adored Zane... the "street urchin" who Rue took in long before she became tangled with the tribe again. Her "surrogate son" played an integral role in this story, and I understand he will have a greater role in the sequel.
The Smoke Thief had a wonderful blend of romance, intrigue and mystery in an 18th century setting. The story begins with a bit of history on the Drakon and how they evolved to the point where the real story begins. I have to admit that it took some getting used to Shana Abe's writing style, but once I found my groove, I was irrevocably caught up in the tale. I'm really looking forward to The Dream Thief!
For centuries they’ve lived in secret among northern England’s green and misted hills. Creatures of extraordinary beauty, power, and sensuality, they possess the ability to shape-shift from human to dragon and back again. Now their secret–and their survival–is threatened by a temptation that will break every boundary....
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 dra´kon, it’s 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 attract the attention of the dra´kon. But she didn’t expect Christoff himself to come to London, dangling the tribe’s most valuable jewel–the Langford Diamond–as bait. For as long as she could remember, Rue had lived the life of a halfling–half dra´kon, 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 whenever 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 dra´kon, 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 proposition a man like Kit cannot resist....In this bewitching novel, Shana Abé transports us into a world of exhilarating romance and magic.