Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Thieftaker: Historical Fantasy in Colonial Boston!

Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson was on my summer reading list, and boy am I glad it was! Between this and the novels by Clifford Beal, I’m starting to enjoy great historical fantasy set outside the Middle Ages—in the case of Theiftaker, 1765 in good ‘ole Boston MA.
Great cover art - and a great scene in the book!
Ethan Kaille, loyal subject of the Crown, is a near-middle-aged theiftaker—someone who, for a price, retrieves stolen goods and makes the thieves disappear (being the moral type, Kaille encourages them to leave town, though other thieftakers aren’t so kind). But there’s a twist: Kaille is also a conjurer, who can use magic, usually by drawing his own blood and summoning the power of his spectral guardian, an old medieval ghost he calls Uncle Reg. In this sense, the world of Thieftaker is a bit like an adult version of Harry Potter set in the eighteenth century. There are muggles and “spellers,” and Kaille is just one of many spellers living secretly in Boston.

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!


Bill said...

That looks promising.

Joseph Finley said...

I think you'd like it!