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The Smoke Thief    by Shana Abé order for
Smoke Thief
by Shana Abé
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Myths and legends surrounding dragons have captivated us since the dawn of time - in The Smoke Thief, Shana Abé has taken elements of various of these myths and deftly woven them together to create an enchanting story about a secretive race of shape shifting dragons who Turn to smoke, to dragon to human and back again. Keeping the existence of their Tribe a secret is tantamount to Drákon survival and it is up to the Alpha and his council to assure that each member follows strict and ages-old Drákon convention.

Cassandra Rue Hawthorne is a halfling, born of a human father and Drákon mother. Within her Tribe, she has always been considered an outcast and nothing special, but on the day of her seventeenth birthday, she makes a monumental discovery. Rather than allowing herself to be governed by archaic council rules she decides to leave the secluded croft of Darkfrith. Since no Drákon has ever been allowed to simply abandon the Tribe, she fakes her death and builds a new life for herself in London. A decade later, a brazen jewel thief is the talk of the Ton, his daring escapes having reached legendary proportions; witnesses describe the thief as disappearing in puffs of smoke or walking through walls.

News of the thief's escapades reaches Darkfrith and the Tribe's new alpha, Christoff, the Marquess of Langford. He immediately recognizes that the culprit is not human, but one of their own - a runner who must be dealt with swiftly and brutally if necessary, before any secrets of the Tribe are revealed to mortals. Using the fabled Langford diamond as bait, Christoff travels to London to set and spring his trap and is shocked and then delighted when he learns the identity - and the gifts - of their runner. Rue is well aware that her exploits would eventually attract the attention of her Tribe, but Christoff's arrival also sets her back. She works hard to deny the natural attraction that arises between two Drákon Alphas, but as the pair work together to bring another elusive runner to heel, her resolve to deny her true heritage and destiny is tested to the limit.

The Smoke Thief is a beautifully written and imaginative paranormal romance that not only evokes the allure of the dragon but is also filled with adventure, derring-do and a host of wonderful characters. Christoff and Rue dominate, both of them strong-willed Alphas, and each determined to turn the tables on the other. The independent and brash Rue fascinates Christoff and he's happily resigned to his Drákon fate. But Rue is determined to fight him and their inevitable bonding every step of the way - with her actions and with wordplay that is smart and often funny, and adds scintillating dashes of sexual tension. Abé also displays a masterful command of the time period and her evocative tone immediately sets the stage for a story you'll be hard pressed to set aside until you turn the last page.

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