Over the holidays I managed to finish D.B. Jackson’s Thieftaker. Set in pre-revolutionary Boston, Thieftaker is the story of Ethan Kaille, a sort of proto-detective and, it so happens, a conjurer. Predating modern police forces, thieftakers were a late 17th century English profession, hired by clients to locate and recover stolen articles. While many were legit, some were as corrupt as the thieves themselves, much like Kaille’s adversary, Sephira Pryce.
Jackson has done good work here, mixing elements of the hard bitten detective story, modern fantasy, and historical fiction. It lacks a lot of the charm of Butcher’s Dresden novels, but doesn’t suffer for it. The story moves along quite briskly for its 327 pages, and strings together quite nicely. I was actually snookered by the big reveal (no great feat that, as most of my reading these days is in 30 minute sprints at bedtime), and I went back to double check. The clues were there, but subtle and diffused.
Another thing the author does is make good use of the setting. I’ve never been to Boston, nor read much about its founding (something I may have to remedy someday), but I feel the author did a fine job of painting a picture of the place.
Reading the Acknowledgements was revealing: apparently Thieftaker started out as more of a straight forward fantasy novel, only being set in historical Boston at the suggestion of the editor. I wonder how many more fantasy novels would benefit if their authors would stop world building and just take a page from history to color in the margins.
Naturally, Thieftaker is only the first of a longer series of Ethan Kaille-centered novels. These look to be episodic, not the sprawling saga every damned fantasy novel for the past 20 years feels to have been leashed to. I could be wrong about that, though — I’ve yet to start on Book 2: Thieves’ Quarry.
So to sum up, a damn fine read. Four out of five stars. Definitely worth your time.