Book Review : The Smoke Thief

Book Review : The Smoke ThiefThe Smoke Thief (Drakon, #1) by Shana Abe
Published by Bantam on September 26th 2006
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Romance
Pages: 352
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two-stars

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 drákon, 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 drákon. 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 drákon, 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 drákon, 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.

The Smoke Thief is a historical fiction fantasy romance novel centering around Drákons. There is a lot to love in this story, the time period in 1751 gives everything a more romantic feel, the descriptions of the Drákons and their transformations, jewel hunting, and a heroine who not only a master of disguises, but also is not afraid to leave her Drákon home in the mountains and to strike out into the world of humans, even though the punishment for running is death. There’s also an interesting who-dunnit mystery to solve throughout the novel. All in all, this novel has everything I love–dragons, a historical time period, a strong female character, mystery, romance and a unique story. But unfortunately, the romance of the novel, something I typically love, ruins The Smoke Thief.

 

They were hunters, peerless, apart. They were smoke and fire and claw: drákon.

 

I absolutely adore novels where I get to believe dragons, or in this case, Drakons are living among us mere mortals. And I was thrilled to be given a strong female character in Clarissa “Rue” Hawthorne, who is the first female Drákon in ages, aka the Alpha, to have the ability to transform into a full Drákon. Knowing her ability will trap her into a forced marriage with the male Alpha of the pack/herd/flock–whatever you call a group of drákons–she fakes her own death and sets out to London to live among humans. But her success as a jewel thief in London, a career that is very dragonesque indeed, soon alerts the Drákons back home that they have a runner on their hands that must be dealt with.

 

During her time on her own among humans is truly when the novel shines the most. I loved Rue as a mysterious widow living in a mansion in London, with a successful jewel thieving business under her belt, thanks to not only her Drákon transformation ability–she can not only transform into a full Drákon, but also into a cloud of smoke–and her masterful disguises. I loved her ability to infiltrate high society, to charm the very people she was about to rob, and to disappear into the night without a trace. Seeing her ability to call in favors, enter secret rooms of brothels to exchange information, and also to have empathy for those less fortunate than herself, such as her young protege, Zane, made her a truly multi-dimensional character.

 

It is when Rue’s love interest enters the picture that everything becomes extremely problematic and even disturbing. Kit, the Alpha of the Drákons back in the mountains, sets a trap to catch the Smoke Thief in London, by bringing the Drákons’ prized possession, the Herte diamond, to London on display. Knowing any Drákon will not be able to resist trying to possess the jewel, it is the perfect trap for the Smoke Thief. But Rue is not fooled, knowing a setup when she sees one, and tries to avoid detection, to no avail. She is captured by Kit, who is enamored of her at first sight. When he learns she is an Alpha Drákon as well, it’s all over for Rue’s life as she knows it. He injures her, kidnaps her, drags her back to the mountains where the Drákons live and locks her up in his house, threatening to execute her if she does not marry him. Romantic, huh?

 

It had been the right thing to do; he knew that. The discovery of Clarissa Hawthorne had ignited what would soon become an inferno if he didn’t act to control it now. By her Gifts, by her very existence, she became the Alpha female, and thus his. But her beauty, her daring, her life beyond the tribe—when he took her back to Darkfrith she’d be no less extraordinary than the sun rising through the night. Every man in the shire would sense her, covet her.

 

It only gets worse. Kit, who is a known womanizer that is used to getting everything and everyone he wants, makes claims such as, there is “no rape between man wife” and when the two finally consummate their relationship (which is clearly a huge lapse in Rue’s judgement), we are told from his point-of-view that he does not care if it is “rape or seduction.” I really do not understand how this sort of characterization is supposed to be romantic and appealing to reader–I frankly, just found it disturbing. And Kit doesn’t just physically hurt Rue, he lies to and manipulates her, and finally threatens the life of her protege in order to get her to agree to marry him. All because he is exceedingly jealous of a young boy that she took in and cared for out of the kindness of her heart.

 

“There is no rape between a husband and a wife,” the marquess said.

“Yes, well, I’m afraid I’m not going to consent to marry you, Lord Langford. You’ll have to call it something else.” “

You may call it whatever you like, Mistress Hawthorne. You are Alpha, as am I. By the laws of our people, we’re as well as married.”

“Those are not my laws. And that is not my name.”

 

While the author does finally make Kit offer Rue her freedom at the very end of the novel, it felt forced, and like a last-ditch effort to make Kit likable. But the damage had already been done. I hated that the second Kit showed up. I despised how fiercely independent and capable Rue turned to absolute mush for such an abusive man, despite vowing not to fall in love with him. By making Kit such an abusive person, it simultaneously undermined Rue’s characterization as a strong female character by falling for him. How could such an intelligent, talented woman fall for such an awful, ruthless person? The excuse of the laws of attractions of Alpha can only spread so far and does not at all make up for the toxic masculinity of Kit.

 

“She would be his wife. He’d asked her price and she had named it, fierce small Zane, and she would never walk free again, never never never. She would spend the rest of her days in Darkfrith, in the shadow of obedience to him and the tribe and all those waiting ghosts.”

 

I really enjoyed the novel up until the romantic portion of it. The setting and time period were really interesting, especially in combination with Drákons in disguise as humans. The novel was also very well-written, up until the romantic portion of the novel came into play. It’s unfortunate that the trend of this type of male character, wanting to completely possess and control his love interest, is increasingly portrayed as a romantic archetype–especially in novels where the male character has any sort of supernatural powers, as if that excuses his monstrous behavior. In The Smoke Thief, this romantic relationship ruined an otherwise unique novel and completely enjoyable experience for me. As I already have the next novel in the series, The Dream Thief, I’m going to give it a try and hope that the author writes a much healthier romantic relationship in the next installment in the series.

two-stars
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Book Review : The Smoke Thief - Blogging with Dragons

Posted February 22, 2019 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, Romance

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2 responses to “Book Review : The Smoke Thief

  1. I felt the same way, I read it once before and some how finished it but completely forgot everything about it so I re read it (or tried to) earlier this summer. I DNF’d it. I found the romance so disgusting and hated Kit so much and after googling it saw that they did indeed ‘fall in love’ I wrote it off as not being worth finishing. I read the second years ago and remember it doesn’t follow their story line so maybe I’ll pick it up. But I also hesitate to support a writer that writes rape and abuse as romance… I’ll look out for your review on the third book (I think thats when they go back to her story) to see if it gets any better. Great review!

    • I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who felt that way about the romance. Sadly, I did not even bother reading the third book after reading the second one! I even traded the books in to my local paperback trade. It’s such a shame that the romance in this series was written the way it was. The novels had so much potential, and I really wanted to love them, but the execution ruined it.

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