Review: Fantasy Lite
I’ve been remiss in reviewing some things from the past several weeks. So for the next couple of days, I’ll probably be doing some posts with seemingly random topics.
The Smoke Thief by Shana Abé. How can I describe this? Romance junkies would call this a fantasy. Fantasy fanatics would call this a romance. I’d say it’s a romance written with a fantasy writer’s sensibility. But what struck me at the get-go was the style: very lyrical yet verging on the purple. And there are the standard plot devices inherent in both genres (the addition of monkeys and crocodiles was a humorous touch, but it was too little, too late)–kleptomania, dragons, magic rocks, bad childhoods, bullies, orphans, a rich lord, and cross dressing among other things.
In an alternate 18th century England, a clan of dragon shapeshifters who call themselves the drákon live secretly among unsuspecting humans. Clarissa Rue Hawthorne is a halfling, and after years of torment from other full-bloods, she fakes her own death and reinvents herself as the eponymous Smoke Thief by stealing valuable jewels from the aristocracy. However, her unusual methods used in these heists threaten to reveal the existence of the her kind to the population at large. Thus it’s up to the drákon leader, Christoff the Marquess of Langford, to rein her in by using the clan’s own diamond as bait.
I appreciated the fact that Abé’s dragons are not telepathic. Now that is a refreshing change. However with all the other clichés, one wonders how on earth such a story can work, but surprisingly, it does. Clarissa is no doormat heroine–despite the fact that she’s been in love with the hero since she was a child, she doesn’t automatically fall in line when her affections are returned. Freedom is important to her and she makes no bones about the fact that she has no use for the stifling insularity of drákon traditions. Christoff understands Clarissa’s quandry although he has his own agenda to pursue. But some of the time, I found him the irritatingly stereotypical stock romance hero. There was no depth or unpredictability to him, and I found myself wondering why Clarissa didn’t run off with the other crazy drákon thief instead.