Self-Publishing Fantasy Blog-Off #4: Another Five Fall

Another Five Fall


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David Dalglish

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A Plunder of Souls by D. B. Jackson

A Plunder of Souls by D. B. Jackson
Book Name: A Plunder of Souls
Author: D. B. Jackson
Publisher(s): Tor Books
Formatt: Hardcover / Audiobook / eBook
Genre(s): Historical Fantasy
Release Date: July 8, 2014

A Plunder of Souls, the third book in the Thieftaker series, takes place shortly after Thieves’ Quarry. It is July of 1679, British troops still occupy Boston, and there is a smallpox epidemic sweeping through the city. The main plot of the book, however, concerns something far more sinister: Graves all across Boston have been desecrated. Once again, Ethan Kaille is called upon to look into a matter concerning death rather than for his ability to capture thieves while working outside the law, but this time it is the church rather than a wealthy patron or the captain of a British ship who asks for his help. This time, Ethan is not looking for a murderer but for someone who has stolen the heads and hands of dead bodies.

Then the ghosts start to appear.

A Plunder of Souls has a different plot structure from Thieftaker and Thieves’ Quarry. While the previous two books in the series had structures more similar to a murder mystery – a body (or bodies) is discovered, Ethan investigates, toward the close he confronts the murderer and ties together the loose ends related to the subplots – this book has more of a fantasy feel, although it still has a very strong sense of history to it. This time, there isn’t much of a mystery as to who or even why, and the main tension comes from the conflict with a powerful enemy rather than from trying to uncover answers. While I did greatly enjoy the first two books and the murder mystery feel about them, I’m glad that Jackson hasn’t decided to stick with it for every book in the series. While basking in the novelty of the books, I doubt I would care, but on a reread (or even while reading one of the books for the first time, depending on how long the series goes), I might start to dislike the structure because I would know exactly what would happen. Fortunately, I don’t think I’m in any danger of that with these books.

If Thieftaker was about introducing us to the world and Thieves’ Quarry was about showing Ethan’s change of politics, then A Plunder of Souls is about magic. Magic existed throughout the series, of course, with Ethan constantly in danger of being tried as a witch by Sheriff Greenleaf and because he was always called in to deal with magical happenings, but this book is steeped in magic. Mariz, Sephira’s Portuguese spellcaster from Thieves’ Quarry, returns, and Janna Windcatcher, the old woman who gives Ethan information and herbs with which to cast his spells, plays a much larger role. There are even references to some of the strange magic that appeared in Thieves’ Quarry, in particular summoning up spirits from the realm of the dead. In this book, we learn more about what magic is capable of. It may not have been as much as I would have liked, but then, I grew up reading Tolkien and other authors who wrote long, beautiful pieces of exposition. Knowing how the magic of a world works is one of my favorite parts of a novel, and I’m glad Jackson gave us a little depth to the magic of his world (although I’m now rather hungry for yet more details to dig my fingers into, especially about the ghosts that are bound to spellcasters).

Sephira Pryce makes a return in this novel, as well. The first time I encountered her, I didn’t much like her, but by Thieves’ Quarry I was beginning to grow fond of her, in a rather strange way. In this book, there wasn’t anything even a bit strange about my fondness. She feels properly human in this book, in a way she didn’t in the previous two, although she’s still rather self-absorbed and vindictive, along with being devoted to her profits. She would hardly be Sephira Pryce if she weren’t so, and I’m not sure a Thieftaker novel would feel complete without having Sephira Pryce.

There were moments in the middle and during the final confrontation when the book didn’t feel quite as strong as the first two, but overall, the plot was woven together well, and I was eager to read it. There were also moments when I wished for more of the feel of the previous two books, where everything was a mystery up until the very end, when it would suddenly fit together so well that it would feel like there could have been no other solution, but by the end, I was well-satisfied with what I had read. The ending of this book feels different, too. There’s a bit more uncertainty, and it feels almost as though it’s leading up to something but pulling back, leaving just the tantalizing feel of what’s yet to come. If this book had been the end of a trilogy (as I thought it was for a while, since I only knew of three books in the series), I would have been disappointed, but since a fourth book will someday come, the ending feels quite right.

A Plunder of Souls is an excellent addition to the series, and I’m eager for the fourth book, especially as the American Revolution inches gradually closer.


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