Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In colonial Boston (mere years before the Revolutionary War), thieftaker Ethan struggles to make a living while hiding his skill as a conjurer - magical ability that could have him hanged as a witch. When a young woman of means is murdered with no visible mark on her body, Ethan is hired ostensibly to recover a valuable necklace she wore ... but is drawn deep into the matter of her murder.
This is an excellent book: tense, fast-paced, and well written, the prose clear, concise and evocative. Ethan faces threats and conflict from all aspects of his life, and both his adversaries and allies are interesting characters in their right. I particularly liked the young minister, Mr. Pell. And it doesn't feel as if Ethan's story has abruptly begun at the start of the novel: he has a rich, convoluted backstory that intensifies the conflicts in the present. And while the main plot of the novel resolves, many threads are foreshadowed and/or developed that provide fertile ground for sequel(s).
The historical aspect is also compelling, well researched and integrated - I never felt like I was being lectured, but the setting leapt off the page. I admit, I gave a little bit of a fangirl squeal when Samuel Adams was introduced, and a modern reader might expect that of course, Ethan would fall into the righteous cause ... but the character maintains his own perspective, one that views the young rebellion with wariness and questions both their methods and their motives.
I really debated whether to give this book 5 stars, and if I had been able to give a half star, I would have, but I had some small complaints that kept me from that rating. His relationship with Kannice, while it seems affectionate, seemed devoid of passion. I wasn't in the slightest bit interested in seeing behind their closed doors, mind you, but the fade-to-black moments always seemed ... clinical / businesslike, somehow, because of this. I think the foreshadowing of the eventual murderer and motive could have been done earlier in the book. There is also a point where rapidfire spells are cast, and instead of it feeling tense and staccato, it starts to feel like a D&D session.
But all this is really minor, and just to justify not giving the book top marks - I really did enjoy it and highly recommend it, especially for history buffs. Future volumes promise even more entanglement in the events of historical Boston.
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