The Smoke Thief: The book equivalent of chocolate mousse

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Shana Abe The Sfantasy book reviews Shana Abe The Smoke Thief Drakon The Smoke Thief by Shana Abe

Sometimes I don’t get myself. It’s been years since I’ve enjoyed an actual romance novel and to be perfectly frank, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy The Smoke Thief.

Joke’s on me there, I guess. Shana Abe‘s writing is so light and airy that reading it is, if you’ll excuse the pun, a breeze. It just floats by without effort, easy and evocative (and occasionally slightly purple, especially during love scenes, but no one is perfect and I don’t expect them to be). It’s easy to sink into, to just let the book sweep you away, and that makes it all the easier to enjoy.

Though it’s been a long time since I’ve cared for romance stories too much, especially the characters, I found that I liked Rue. The premise of a woman like that becoming a master thief in the way she does is utterly charming, teaming up with courtesans and thieves. She’s a strong character, with relatively little romance heroine stupidity and melodrama, and easy enough to empathize with. I was less sure of Kit at first, as he comes across as an arrogant, demanding jerk (which he kind of is) but he gentles a bit after a while.

Like any romance novel, the plot is largely centered on the development of the relationship, but the premise Abe uses here (catching a wayward diamond thief) is very well suited to the characters. If you’re looking for something complicated and full of threads, you won’t find it here, but the plot works well for the book. It’s good for the interaction of the characters, which is often witty and clever, and only occasionally misses the mark.

For me, The Smoke Thief was a surprising guilty pleasure. But one should never underestimate the value of a good guilty pleasure. The Smoke Thief is like the book equivalent of chocolate mousse: You couldn’t subsist on it, of course, but it makes dessert all the more fun. And props to Shana Abe, because I would never have thought I’d be able to buy anything off the romance shelves again. Joke’s on me there, too.


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BETH JOHNSON, one of our guest reviewers, discovered fantasy books at age nine, when a love of horses spurred her to pick up Bruce Coville’s Into the Land of the Unicorns. Beth lives in Sweden with her husband. She writes short stories and has been working on a novel.

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