Yeah, fuckin six-monthes winter!!!
Those who have come to Patricia Briggs having read "Moon Called" will find that this book is very different in style from that werewolf/vampire story. "Steal The Dragon" is a fantasy like "Dragon Bones" and "Dragon Blood" as well as her "Raven's" duology. Despite the use of the word "Dragon" in the title of this book it isn't related to the other two dragon books - the only occurrence of "Steal the Dragon" in this book is as a game rather like Chess.
Rialla is an ex-slave working as a horse trainer in Sianim. She comes to the attention of the Spymaster as she is an empathy as well as an ex-slave. Machinations are afoot in a neighbour land, the place where Rialla was formerly a slave, and the Spymaster wishes her to travel, along with Laeth, a mercenary, to that land to see if they can prevent the assassination of Laeth's brother who is working for peace and the end of slavery in his land.
Of course things don't go as planned and Laeth ends up arrested for the murder of his brother. Rialla is severely injured but is nursed back to health by Tris, the local healer. She soon works out that there's more to Tris than meets the eye as his healing abilities seem almost magical - in a world where magic is feared. Tris and Rialla plot to rescue Laeth from his death sentence for killing his brother but this opens a whole new can of worms.
There are many interesting aspects to this book. Rialla's former life as a slave makes very good background, the way in which slaves have to damp down their emotions, the way in which they become dehumanised after a long period in slavery and the dangers in which Rialla places herself in returning voluntarily to slavery as a disguise. The book has a lot of magic in it which sometimes I felt was a little annoying - if there's a problem then someone has the magical ability to deal with it - but the story is very interesting and it's not always clear what's going to happen. The baddies and goodies also have more depth to them than one might expect.
As in "Dragon Blood", Patricia Briggs isn't afraid of giving her characters an awful time and Rialla has to cope with a lot that heroines normally manage to escape by the skin of their teeth. Perhaps that's part of the appeal of this heroine - she is a strong lady who is able to make rational judgements about very difficult issues. Her slow-burn romance with Tris is nicely written.
Overall I enjoyed this book more than "Dragon Bones" and "Dragon Blood" as the story was easier to follow (less politics and less places to try to keep track of). It was an easy read and being a single volume pretty much tied up all the loose ends, bar a few. An enjoyable book for a quiet day.
This is a fantastic book! I read it in less than twelve hours, and that's with working and eating in the middle of that!
Where to begin? The characters are wonderful. Sham is a complex character, with a painful past but the strong will to survive it and move on. She is wily enough to survive life in Purgatory, the Southwoods slum, yet tender-hearted enough to learn to care for people she was used to hating. Kerim is humorous, regal, dangerous, and intelligent--all the things we want from a hero! The supporting characters are wonderful; Dickon, Elris, Talbot, Lady Sky all make the story better with their special personalities.
The writing is great. The dialogue is excellent, with witty repartee between the characters that is absolutely believable and absolutely hysterical. The description of surroundings and clothes are wonderfully detailed. I could see the action in my mind as I read. My one complaint about the writing would be the infrequent shifts in the third-person point-of-view; usually the POV character was Sham, but very occasionally is changed to Kerim, the demon, and a couple others.
The plot is intriguing...a demon stalking the halls of the Castle, with a thief/magician hired to pose as the Reeve's Mistress in order to solve the mystery. And though you may have suspicions about the demon's identity, your first two guesses will be wrong!
I highly recommend this book, and I am actively seeking out others by this author!