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on 17 December 2006
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.
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on 20 January 2009
Three and a half stars rather than four? Maybe but that doesn't mean it's not a good book. It's certainly well worth reading if you like your fantasy character-driven with a light touch of romance and a dollop of magic.

There are no dragons in this book - well there is one, but it's not a significant one and it only appears on the page once, in a dream. So having got that out of the way, this is early Briggs (1995). It's the second in her Sianim books, the first being her debut book, Masques [*] which is so difficult to find that it's listed at several silly prices starting at around $135 (so I obviously haven't read it yet). However not having read the first is no problem because this is a complete standalone (apparently the two books share some side characters) in which former dancer/slave, Rialla, is asked to return to the land of her slavery on an important mission for the Spymaster of the mercenary nation of Sianim.

She's disguised as a slave to her spy-mission-partner Laeth and the big issue at first is whether she can go back to the guise of slavery and, indeed, whether, after seven years of freedom. she's ever really left slavery behind. This is heightened by the appearance of her former slave-master and his demand (unmet) that his property be returned to him. When Laeth is accused of murder and incarcerated help appears from a totally unexpected quarter, the somewhat hunky, but rather strange healer, Tris, who is rather more than he appears. He's not-quite-human for starters. With Laeth rescued and heading back to the Spymaster with the first part of the required intelligence, it's left up to Rialla and Tris to find the real killer and that, means Rialla is going to have to let herself fall into her former owner's clutches again.

Patricia Briggs has learned a lot about writing since she wrote `Steal the Dragon', but the early promise was definitely there and this is well worth reading. Rialla's internal conflict about her independence and her feelings about slavery are well done and not too heavy-handed. Tris is a decent love interest - for once a hero in a fantasy novel who does not carry weapons of any kind. Rialla is the sword-wielder of the pair, though mostly the problems are solved by brain-power rather than muscle power and by some hearty running away. Nice! But the ending - the actual consummation scene between the two protagonists - is a missed opportunity to explore the last of Rialla's relationship issues. Briggs has herself admitted that (in an online interview) but also said that - at the time - Rialla's issues had taken her right to the edge of her (then) writing ability. Happily her abilities to bring out characters and their issues and not take the easy option have developed at a great rate (see the Mercy Thompson novels for proof of that), however I'm looking forward to catching up (retrospectively) with some other early Patricia Briggs novels to see the progressive development of a huge talent.

Oh, and Steal the Dragon is a sneaky chess-like game of skill, strategy and guile which Tris is delighted to find Rialla can not only play, but can beat him at, too.

[*] Masques is scheduled for eventual re-release together with a never-before-published sequel as one volume, so hang on, don't pay $135.
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on 18 February 2009
As always with this author, a fun and pleasant read. In this book we follow former-slave-turned-horsetrainer-turned-spy Rialla, as she gives up her new life in Sianim and returns to Darran where she spent years as a slave, in order to keep alive a lord who is planning to outlaw slavery.

Most certainly an enjoyable read. Fastpaced with many humorous momnents, a likable heroin and a suitably mysterious and charming hero. definitely recommendable.
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VINE VOICEon 18 August 2009
A novel in which the heroine goes in for heroic physical feats whilst wearing inconvenient, diaphanous clothing makes my heart sink. "Slave. Swordwielder. Spy. Some girls have all the luck." - such a tag line on the cover would normally be enough to make toss the book aside in disgust!

Fortunately I had already read Patricia Briggs' excellent Hurog stories, so I knew that this was not a pseudonym for a John Norman 'wannabe', despite the appalling cover pitch. Actually everything said is 'sort of' true - Rialla *does* dance in exactly the outfit drawn, and does carry out the athletic feat depicted (but wearing far more practical clothing!)

In a sense the same is true of the story itself. It contains many of the clichés of high fantasy, but instead of making the plot predictable, it heightens the enjoyment - just as you recognise a trope, and think you know what is going to happen next, Ms. Briggs promptly takes the storyline somewhere completely different!

So, don't be put off by the apparent cliches; instead enjoy a fast-paced adventure which is very well-written, and has Patricia Briggs' usual detailed attention to her characters' pyschology - with the villains being drawn in as much detail as the heroes.

Rialla's past as a slave is not just a nifty plot device to give her some interesting skills and land her in suitable quantities of peril; it is a traumatic experience that has shaped her personality and left her scarred, physically and mentally. The damaging effects of a slaveholding culture is not just shown through its effect on its victims; the novel portrays the damage done in warping the personality of slaveowners - a young man, who in another environment might have been a force for good, makes some utterly indefensible choices!

Although this is, as other reviewers have said, an easy read, and raises interesting ideas without being heavy-handed with them, I would hesitate to ecommend it for all ages. Patricia Briggs takes a fantastic setting, and peoples it with real people, who behave realistically. There is no fortunate last-minute escapes - Ms. Briggs' protagonist SUFFER. It is ultimately uplifting, as they come through better, and happier people, but don't expect a fluffy, sanitised world.

Why only 4 stars? I am sparing with my 5-star ratings, and this IS an early work - although by one of the best fantasy authors around! Incidentally, don't be put off by her urban fantasy novels - her high fantasy ones are quite different in style - and, in my opinion, far superior.

n.b. The cover illustration has changed since I first wrote this review. The appalling tagline seeems to have persisted, however.
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on 1 December 2011
If you are a fan of Patricia Briggs and her other works namely the Mercy Thompson universe, then I would recommend this book. Not that it actually has got anything to do with the thompson books but simply because it is an enjoyable book to read and introduces you to new interesting characters. I find Briggs' books easy to read and engaging this one included.
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on 13 January 1999
Light fantasy tale, very entertaining and easy to read. The characters are likeable and realistic. Strong female lead without over powering the male characters. Enjoyable story.
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on 9 February 2013
Worth reading but then I have enjoyed all the books written by this authoress. Think this is one of the earlies books written but still worth a read with the usual mystery
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on 12 October 2010
Not as gripping as I had hoped, as the characters lacked depth but a pleasant enough tale to while away a sunny afternoon. Modesitte and Robin Hobb offer much more.
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