Set three years after the events of the first book, Thieftaker, this second installment in D.B. Jackson’s Thieftaker Chronicles sees a return to the life of conjurer and thieftaker Ethan Kaille. Ethan has been doing well for himself, making money enough to live comfortably while staying under the radar of Sephira Pryce, Boston’s primary thieftaker. The British navy has blockaded Boston in preparations for occupation of the city.
Awakened one morning by a dark and powerful conjuring, Ethan is soon approached by representatives of the British Crown. It is revealed that every man aboard one of the ships of the British Navy has died due to the conjuring—except for a single man who escaped prior to the conjuring—a man who used to work with Sephira Pryce. This man, Ethan, and Sephira Pryce’s henchmen all begin combing the city in search of a stolen treasure that seems to be the center of all the chaos. Ethan soon finds himself hounded, captured, and imprisoned.
And to make matters worse, if he does not unravel the mystery of the conjuring, every conjurer in Boston will be hanged as a witch. No pressure.
Strong sense of pace
One of the greatest strengths of Thieves’ Quarry lies in the way Jackson presents the story. The pacing is urgent without being hurried or rushed, the details explored just enough to leave you wanting to tun the next page. (And the next, and the next.) That’s a difficult feat in and of itself without taking the unfamiliar setting of 1768 Boston into account. But Jackson manages to weave a tight plot, showing the reader the story as opposed to telling it.
“Who sailed the ships out of Boston…”
Writing a historical fantasy is a blade that can cut both ways. On the one hand, an author has an abundance of records and documentations of the time that they may draw upon for inspiration and details (especially in regards to the American Revolutionary Era). Yet on the other hand, an author must make their creation fit seamlessly and appropriately with the established history—we’re not talking alternative historical fantasy, here. It is a very narrow line to walk, yet Jackson manages to navigate it with deftness and ease.
I was wholly impressed with the environments Jackson presented over the course, much as I was when I read Thieftaker. Jackson does an exceptional job building 1768 Boston and bringing it to life around the reader. Part of this is due in part to the strength of Jackson’s character development. No single character comes off as being there solely as filler material—each one has their own motivations, personalities, and flaws. This is furthered by the recurrence of various characters from Thieftaker: where before the reader was aware there was more to these characters than was divulged at the time, now some of those blanks begin to be filled.
What’s our heading, captain?
My single largest qualm with Thieves’ Quarry lies with the series as a whole: right now, there is very little discernible direction. I had a similar reaction to the first book, wherein I questioned whether there was anything bigger in terms of antagonists that Ethan would have to face. That question was resolved in Thieves’ Quarry, but it was replaced with a feeling of a lack of direction to the series. Something I like in the stories I read are bits that remain unresolved, giving a sense of “yes, the main story has been resolved, but there’s more to this story and no, you aren’t going to find out what right now.” In both novels of the Thieftaker Chronicles, things have been wrapped up nicely. Now, taking hints from this novel as a whole, I suspect that Jackson is moving things towards the Revolutionary War, given that this story was set three years after the events of book one and that Ethan’s political leanings were called into play over the course of this book.
Which I dig.
I dig, lots.
I just wish there was some little bit of tension that wouldn’t be resolved at the end of the novel. The closest Jackson gets to this is Ethan’s tenuous stalemate with Sephira Pryce, but again, it’s a stalemate. Hopefully the ante will start rising as the series progresses.
Why should you read this book?
This book is for the urban fantasy enthusiast who wants something completely new from the urban fantasy fare. This is a book for anyone who enjoys historical fiction and who enjoys fantasy and would like to see the two things together. This is for any fantasy fan who enjoys the history of American Revolution. With engaging characters, a snappy plot, and some exceptional worldbuilding that transports the reader 250 years into the past, D.B. Jackson’s Thieves’ Quarry is, simply, damned good writing.
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