This is the story of Rialla. As a young woman she belonged to a travelling clan and was a gifted empath, but her family was killed by slavers and she was made a dancing slave in Darran. The carnage of her clan ripped away most of her empathic ability. She escaped the slavers and went to the mercenary country of Sianim where she found a job as a horse trainer. But her life as a horse trainer is interrupted: her past as a slave in Darran makes her the perfect spy. She is sent to protect a lord pushing for the abolishment of slavery so that Darran can ally with Reth (a country which dispises slavery). Sianim's spymaster is convinced that only with the western countries allied can they defeat the East, who have coalesced under one ruler - who says he is the Voice of the god Altis. Rialla becomes a spy to avenge herself and to help the slaves still in Darran. A surprisingly easy read: went quicker than I expected. The story lacked a little something (maybe I never felt enough hardship in her story - too many convenient things happen that aid our protagonist), but a solid good read nonetheless. A note for fans of Briggs' Mercy Thompson series: that is urban fantasy, unlike this series which is straightforward fantasy, so the style is rather different.
This was the second book I'd read by Patricia Briggs, and while it was entertaining, I didn't find it to be as impressive as the other one I've read (Dragon Bones), which was definitely above-average. "Steal the Dragon" (not a related book, regardless of the word "Dragon" in the title) is a light, romantic fantasy adventure.
It's apparently "Book 2 of Sianim", which I wasn't aware of when I picked it up, but it works well enough as a stand-alone novel.
Rialla is an escaped slave, but (through a not-very-convincing plot device), she is convinced to go back to the land where she was enslaved, in the guise of a slave, in order to spy for her friend and hopefully prevent an assassination, and ultimately end slavery in the land (that bit's a lil bit of a stretch as to why and how this is supposed to happen, too).
Things go badly, violence occurs, and Rialla ends up back in the hands of her cruel (and now angry) old master - but also in the hands of the mysterious and powerful healer, Tris, who seems to care for her more than your average doctor ought to.
While this one is certainly better than the first one, Masques (way overrated!), I never had that 'gotta find out what's happening next' feeling while reading it. It is perfectly OK to read alone, and just barely ties into the first book, though that tie-in is not intrinsic to the plot. As for the story... Well, this author is getting better, though I still like the substance of such writers as Meredith Ann Pierce and Tanya Huff. Briggs' stories are just too full of questions and unresolved plot elements.
Good read. The fantasy world is well-crafted and what we see of magic use is self-consistent. Characters are well crafted and enjoyable and the plot is a page-turner. I haven't read Masques [the first of the Sianim books] but it doesn't appear necessary before reading this one.
FYI, no actual dragons appear or are stolen in this book...
When Rialla was young, slave traders ambushed her clan, killing all the men and enslaving the women and children. Now she can strike back. Rialla is chosen by the spymaster to prevent the murder of the lord seeking to outlaw slavery by going undercover as a slave.
"When Ralla was young, slave traders from Darran ambushed her clan, killing all the men and enslaving the women and children. For years, Ralla lived in bondage, serving her master while waiting for a chance to escape. When that chance came, she made the best of it- and fled to the mercenary nation of Sianim..."