Saturday, April 9, 2016

“A Plunder of Souls”: Historical Fantasy Set in Colonial Boston

This week, I'm a little late to the blog, largely because I’m recovering from knee surgery. But this unfortunate development has offered some time to catch up on my reading. Recently, I finished A Plunder of Souls by D.B. Jackson, and here’s my review.

A Plunder of Souls is a welcome and worthwhile edition to Jackson’s Thieftaker series, a quartet of historical fantasy novels set in colonial Boston. Like the series’ first two books, this one follows the adventures of Ethan Kaille, a thieftaker employed by Boston’s wealthy citizens who wish to go “above the law” to retrieve their stolen goods. Ethan is also a conjurer, or “speller,” as they’re called, who can work magic with the assistance of his spectral guardian, a medieval ghost he calls Uncle Reg. This magic system is original and fascinating and one of the series’ strengths. While the magic in this story world has never been fully explained – in fact, even Ethan does not understand all the workings behind his powers – it works brilliantly in these novels.

Other than the main character, my favorite thing about the Thieftaker series is its setting. Reading these books, you get a real sense of colonial Boston, and boy is it fun. The first two installments involved some fairly significant historical events, namely the Stamp Act Riots and the British occupation of Boston. This one involves a smallpox epidemic that actually plagued the city in the summer of 1769, and while it’s not as interesting as the events in the first two books, Sam Adams and his patriots are still present, and even Paul Revere has a cameo. (I suspect we’ll see more him in future novels.) In any event, every time I pick up one of these books, I want to sit in an old Boston pub and drink some ale!

The first two Thieftaker novels were true mysteries that neither Kaille nor the reader could solve until the very end. That may be why I enjoyed the first two books a bit more than this one. In A Plunder of Souls, there’s still a mystery – someone is desecrating graves, causing the spirits of the defiled dead to crop up throughout Boston, and the clerics of King’s Chapel have hired Kaille to put a stop to it. But unlike the prior two books, Kaille solves the mystery well before the end. What remains is an incredibly powerful adversary that Kaille spends the rest of novel trying to defeat – if he even can be defeated.

A powerful enemy is nothing new to this series, though A Plunder of Souls offers up the most potent villain yet. That said, I would have preferred a little more mystery in this tale. Nonetheless, the book allowed me to escape once more to Ethan Kaille’s Boston, and that’s a place I truly enjoy spending time. So, I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. And I plan to read the first chapter with a big flagon of ale, and maybe even a bowl of chowder on the side!

P.S., thanks to a new feature on Amazon, you can read a preview of the novel here.


Paul Daniel Asuncion said...

KNEE? Ouch, that's no trivial matter! Glad to hear
that you're on the mend.

Nice review. Tactful, but honest.

Boston, 1769. Not a place I'D like to visit. I
think that a time traveller would succumb to
one or more of the diseases commonplace
at the time.

While you recuperate, you could write to
SEAN... :)

Joseph Finley said...

Thanks! To make matters worse, I also learned on Monday that I fractured my foot (same leg), which is making for an interesting recovery. I suspect you're right about the diseases in Colonial Boston. A time traveler probably would be a goner (but did you see how they recently handled that on Outlander on Starz - fairly creative). I guess I have no excuse now for not writing Sean!

Paul Daniel Asuncion said...

FRACTURE?! :(( No!!! Sounds like a paratrooper injury,
from a hard landing!

No, did not see 1st episode. I did some reading: Are
you referring to the burning of the SMALL POX

SEAN had knee trouble, too, I read.

Paul Daniel Asuncion said...

OOPS! I stand corrected: DANIEL CRAIG had KNEE SURGERY.
[more than once]

Joseph Finley said...

Then Daniel Craig and I have something in common! In "Outlander," Claire's vaccination protected her from the disease. Not sure if the smallpox strains were the same back then as those vaccinated against in the twentieth century, though.

Paul Daniel Asuncion said...


Hope that you do an OUTLANDER post, soon. :)