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Thieftaker (The Thieftaker Chronicles) Hardcover – July 3, 2012
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“D. B. Jackson has masterfully woven history and fantasy to create a pre-Revolutionary Boston that should have been. Peopled by an array of entertaining characters from conjurers to revolutionaries, Thieftaker is a compelling debut novel by a writer who knows what he's doing. I look forward to reading more of Ethan Kaille's adventures!” ―C. E. Murphy, author of Urban Shaman and The Queen's Bastard
“An elegant, intricate tale of a multilayered, tortured conjurer and a world on the brink of war. With skillful, clever plotting and prose sharper than a spelled blade, D. B. Jackson has woven real history with imagination and created a character and a story to believe in and cheer for.” ―Faith Hunter, bestselling and award-winning author of the Jane Yellowrock Series
“A beautiful balance of magic and crime, history and fantasy that was fast-paced, compelling, and completely absorbing. Historical fantasy that reads like an old-school crime novel, as if Raymond Chandler were channeling Jonathan Swift. I loved it!” ―Kat Richardson, bestselling author of the Greywalker series
About the Author
D. B. JACKSON was born in one of the thirteen colonies but now lives in Tennessee. Thieftaker is his first novel.
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When the daughter of one of the wealthy Boston elites is murdered Ethan is hired because magic is suspected. His competition Sephira Price would usually handle any prominent and lucrative cases. However she doesn't want to deal with magic. But she also doesn't want Ethan to get too uppity and start stealing her rich clients. So after recommending him for the case, she has him beaten and his fee stolen for becoming involved in her upper class business. As more is disclosed it becomes apparent the death is just one of several used to fuel dark magic and identifying who is behind it and their motives leads Ethan on a dangerous quest where his magic is hopelessly outclassed. Ethan is too stubborn (or stupid) to quit and he takes several beatings and risks his life to get to the bottom of this mystery. Luckily he can heal magically.
The author avoids the trap of many simplistic writers by not making his hero too powerful, as he struggles against more powerful enemies. He also does a good job of depicting some of the politics of pre-revolutionary Boston on the verge of erupting in revolt. An entertaining book although not a great or deep book.
For the (many) Dresden Files fans out there, you'll be on familiar ground here. The book's plot starts with the murder of the daughter of a prominent Boston family during the riots caused by the Stamp Act. Ethan Kaille is hired by the girl's father to retrieve a necklace stolen from the girl during the murder.
Ethan's investigation leads him to discover that the girl was murdered by magic - and by a conjurer far more skilled than himself. The investigation causes Ethan to have dealings with people from all walks of life - from the Sons of Liberty to a street thugs to agents of the Crown.
Jackson seamlessly weaves magic into this historical setting and I applaud him for never making it feel like he was trying to force Ethan into the lives of real historical figures. Considering that such well-known personages as Samuel Adams, Ebenezer Mackintosh and James Otis all appear often in the book that was no easy feat. The plot moves along at a brisk pace and I give the author major props for not writing this book in first-person perspective. It isn't often you see an urban fantasy novel that wasn't written that way and it was a welcome change of pace.
One of my favorite historical references in the novel - and I'm not sure if it was meant to be a joke, but I took it as such - was during the description of Abner Berson's home. It mentions that it was as grand as the homes around it, but modest when compared to the Hancock home down the road. Apparently the Hancocks need the largest home in addition to the largest signatures.
This book was an extremely fun read and while the comparisons to The Dresden Files are numerous and warranted, Thieftaker easily stands on its own. I'd go so far as to call it a refreshing breath of fresh air in an all too crowded urban fantasy mystery field. If the second book in the series (due out in 2013) builds on the promise shown here we may have our next best-selling urban fantasy series on our hands.
The story begins when Kaille is hired to retrieve a brooch stolen from a merchant’s daughter who died mysteriously during the Stamp Act riots that proceeded the American Revolution. It turns out the murder and thief is a conjurer, which makes Kaille the perfect man for the job. But the conjurer is more powerful than any Kaille has ever encountered, and I spent much of the novel wondering how he would possibly survive his battles with this dangerous foe.
At its heart, Thieftaker is a well-crafted murder mystery that combines an intriguing magic system with a wonderful historical setting. I’ve been to Boston many times, but I more than enjoyed visiting this city in its pre-revolutionary days and being introduced to a few real historical characters, including Samuel Adams, along the way. And speaking of characters, the author has developed a host of memorable ones, from the rival thieftaker Sephira Pryce to Kannice Lester, the pretty barkeep who serves as Kaille’s love interest in the tale.
All in all, I put the world that D.B. Jackson has created among my recent favorites in historical fantasy fiction. I also loved the fact that Kaille is not a young man, which I found refreshing, especially with so many YA books flooding the fantasy sections these days. Needless to say, I’m pleased there are at least two more books in the series—Thieves’ Quarry and A Plunder of Souls—as I am eager to explore more of colonial Boston with Ethan Kaille!