Book Reviews: The Smoke Thief and Dead Until Dark

It’s a two-for-one book review post! (Synopses from Amazon, per usual)

I read these over Christmas break, so alas, they don’t count toward my 70 books in 2013 goal. But reading them did help to get the giant pile in my room to under 40 books, so kind of a win? 😉

The Smoke Thief by Shana AbeThe Smoke Thief by Shana Abé

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…

This is another one of those “right up my alley” novels. One, it’s a romance. Two, it’s a historical romance (England, mid-1700s). Three, it’s a historical romance with shapeshifting dragons.

And I loved it so very much.

It was difficult to get into at first, in a large part because of the 10-page prologue setting up the world and the history of the drákon. It was well-written, but dense, and encompassed quite a lot of history. I know at least some of it was necessary, but it wasn’t exactly an easy introduction into the story.

It also didn’t help that Abé occasionally switched viewpoints in the middle of a scene, without the benefit of a break between the paragraphs. Inevitably it would trip me up halfway down the page and I would stop and go back, trying to figure out where I’d jumped from one person’s head into the other’s.

(This is something a lot of romance authors tend to do, and it’s one of my least favorite aspects of the genre. Give me a double-space between paragraphs before you haul off and jump into someone else’s head, I beg you.)

But really, those two things were the only quibbles I had about this book. The writing itself was lovely and drew me in easily. And once I got into the story, I couldn’t put it down.

Kit and Rue were great, two very willful people each determined to get their own way. When they were together, the story crackled with animosity and attraction. Kit toed the line of turning into an Alpha asshole a couple of times, but as Rue was more than a match for him, it made it far more palatable to me. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute I got to spend with them.

I also enjoyed the mystery of the missing diamond, which didn’t go the way I expected. It was pretty clear, though, that the romance was the more important part, and I think it overbalanced the mystery aspect just a hair.

That being said, I definitely want to read the next book in the series (The Dream Thief). Just the first few pages in the back of The Smoke Thief had me wishing for more.

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine HarrisDead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Sookie Stackhouse is just a small-time cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana. Until the vampire of her dreams walks into her life-and one of her coworkers checks out…. Maybe having a vampire for a boyfriend isn’t such a bright idea.

This one was hit and miss for me. On the one hand, I never felt like it was a chore to read it, and I stayed up late to find out who the killer really was. I liked the small-town setting, and I liked how completely normal Sookie was (outside of her “disability”): normal job, normal car, and she generally enjoyed her small-town life. It was a nice change of pace from other heroines of paranormal novels.

Plus, Sookie could and did take care of herself; she didn’t always depend on Bill to save her. That being said, she didn’t try to take care of something herself when CLEARLY the super-strong immortal vampire who could see in the dark would be better equipped to do it.

On the other hand, the writing quality itself was inconsistent. Sometimes it would be really good and smooth, and other times it would be rough, which jarred me out of the story. Sometimes Harris would show us how angry Sookie was getting, other times it would be: “I was really angry!” Sometimes the narration would fit for Sookie; other times it sounded like she’d found a word-of-the-day calendar and was determined to use it.

And I didn’t really like how fast Sookie and Bill jumped from “Hi, I’ve just met you” to “I love you.” I wasn’t sure their relationship had been built up quite enough for that.

The murder mystery in the story was built up and fleshed out much better than the romance, and I loved the glimpses into how the existence of vampires was changing the world. (Example: The black market for vampire blood.)

Even though it was an enjoyable read, there really wasn’t enough about the story and the characters to compel me to continue with the series. There has to be LOVE there, and while I liked this book well enough, I didn’t love it.

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5 comments on “Book Reviews: The Smoke Thief and Dead Until Dark

  1. nicely done. although i’m now a little underwhelmed at the prospect of reading charlaine harris’s book. (my daughter’s reading it right now – i’m supposed to read it after she’s finished.)

  2. dmajore says:

    “The Smoke Thief” is one of my alltime favourites. I’m re-reading it again once more. 🙂 Good luck with it!

    • thebnc says:

      Hahaha, I had a couple of people say “You’re just now reading it?!?” after I posted this. It was so, so good. Looking forward to reading the next two books. 🙂

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