Intimate Enemies

A Kiss at Midnight

The Last Mermaid

The Promise of Rain
A Rose in Winter

The Secret Swan

The Truelove Bride

The Dream Thief
by Shana Abe
(Bantam Books, $18.00, R) ISBN 0-553-80493-06
Long ago, there lived the Drakon, or dragon. They ruled the land, shifting from man to smoke then beast. Then came the Other, wrought of mud. As the Others grew, the Drakon diminishes. And as of 18th century England, there are almost none.

Amalia is one of the last, and supposedly the least powerful. Having failed to complete the ritual needed to gain her powers (which involved killing two wrens and was deemed cruel, although she did snap the neck of one), Lia is unable to turn to smoke or dragon. But what her family doesn't know is that Lia has her own sort of power, she can dream of the future. And the future she sees isn't a pretty one.

All Zane knows is that Lia's family has hired him to find the Draumr, the diamond that has the power to enslave the drakon. He doesn't know that Lia's visions foretell them to be lovers, and her family to be their enemy. At Lia's insistence, the two pair up to find the one thing that can truly destroy the drakon.

At least, I think that's the plot. After a drawn out prologue, told in a fairy tale style and then a boring encyclopedia entry that re-told the tale, I may have zoned out a bit. In fact, by the time the story started, I was already tired of it. It would've been fine just to have the first chapter, the prolgue or the entry - the reader didn't need to hear it thrice.

Lia's pretty much a washout as a heroine. The book (finally) starts with her failing to complete the aforementioned ritual. It bugs. She's too softhearted to kill both wrens, but manages to off one just to make a point. The point it made to me? She compromised her values so that her sisters and brother wouldn't harp at her. I must admit a bias here: I'm a pro-animal kind of girl. In fiction, you can shoot your enemy, heck you can set them on fire, but you leave their dog alone. You just don't hurt the helpless.

So, this obviously didn't endear me to either the character or the story.

As for Zane, he's a well-renowned thief, a witty rake and much too good for the likes of Amalia. The only humor in the story comes when she first dares kiss him, in the first third of the book. This isn't a laugh out loud type of story. Of course, it's not supposed to be, so again, I'm biased here. I like light-hearted comedies, or thrilling suspenses. This is neither.

Even the Draumr is a bit of a letdown, once revealed. The "obstacle" is quickly overcome by our hero and in the end poses no real threat to the happily ever after. No, that comes from the lack of chemistry between our protagonists.

The highlight of the book comes in the form of Maricara, an eleven-year-old wife of the Prince who is secretly seeking the Draumr. Maricara is a refreshing addition to the story and, honestly, the only person I actually cared about in the whole thing. I won't give away too much, since Abe has left her tale open-ended (and created such a compelling character that I might be tempted to purchase a sequel - maybe).

The prose itself is beautiful, especially in the fairy-tale-esque chapters (which are from the point of view of another dragon). Abe has the voice of a great story-teller and a reader without my obvious biases might find themselves quite drawn into the story of the thief and the "princess." But, for one such as myself, this one is far from a must read.

--Amanda Waters

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