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Thieves’ Quarry by D. B. Jackson

Thieves’ Quarry by D. B. Jackson
Book Name: Thieves’ Quarry
Author: D. B. Jackson
Publisher(s): Tor Books
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / eBook
Genre(s): Historical Fantasy
Release Date: July 2, 2013

Ethan Kaille is a thieftaker in pre-Revolutionary Boston, working outside the law to apprehend thieves and recover stolen property. For the most part he deals with small-time theft, things that will get him a few pounds as a reward and keep him away from the notice of Sephira Pryce, Boston’s other thieftaker, a woman whose workers often commit the same crimes she has them solve. At times, though, he is called upon by people in places of power to handle particularly difficult problems, ones that involve magic, because in addition to being a thieftaker, Ethan Kaille is a conjurer. His skills give him supernatural ways of tracking and catching thieves but also put his life in danger, as witchcraft is still a hanging offense.

In Thieves’ Quarry, the year is 1768 and the British regulars are beginning their occupation of Boston. A small fleet of their ships has just arrived in Boston Harbor, and people are growing uneasy with the amount of power the Crown is taking into its hands. Even Ethan, who considers himself loyal to Britain, is having doubts about whether Samuel Adams is wholly in the wrong. However, he soon finds himself working alongside the British navy when one of the ships is attacked by powerful magic. Nearly one hundred sailors are found dead with no obvious marks on their body, and Ethan is called in to investigate what happened and find whoever killed the men. During the investigation of the bodies, Ethan find that two of the men were conjurers – a highly unlikely amount for a crew of only one hundred – and one has gone missing. This gives him a lead to work off, but the man, for various reasons, doesn’t want to be found.

Sephira Pryce, Ethan’s rival, returns in this novel, and while they aren’t competing for the same client this time, her objectives are very much tied in with the missing man from the ship. Naturally, Ethan finds her difficult to deal with, but she doesn’t have quite the same villainous air as she did in Thieftaker. Considering that these books feel like a historical fiction series that just happens to have magic tossed in, I’m glad to see that Sephira was given a somewhat more complex characterization and felt much less over-the-top than previously.

The other secondary characters from Thieftaker make appearances as well, though not quite as much as they did in the first novel. Kannice and Kelf – the woman and man who keep the tavern Ethan frequents – are there, as is Trevor Pell, the young minister Ethan befriended while investigating a murder three years prior. Diver, Ethan’s friend, is interested in helping Ethan but has ambitions that exceed his abilities and ends up being set to the side of the plot while the novel focuses on Ethan and his attempts to uncover what happened on the ship.

There’s more plot to this novel than the predecessor, which does explain why more of the focus is on Ethan. After all, while Thieftaker was heavily touched by history, it was in enough of a different world that it needed to set things up and explain them. Since the reader of Thieves’ Quarry presumably has read Thieftaker and understands how the magic of this world works and the major relationships at play, there isn’t as much need for exposition, allowing more room for the story to happen.

(I’d like to digress for a moment to touch on the major exposition that happens in just about every sequel: the reminder to the reader of what happened in the last book. Jackson spreads out his exposition through the first few chapters, interspersing it through a bit of action. There were moments when it felt a bit too heavy, but since I have yet to find a writer who can do the catch-up exposition perfectly, this is only a minor complaint.)

There were times when all the threads of the plot felt a bit tangled. In addition to figuring out how the men on the ship died and finding the one who’s still alive, Ethan gets caught up in both a search for a collection of pearls stolen from Sephira and the mystery of a man named Mariz, a conjurer who has come into Sephira’s employ. There were moments when, deeply engrossed in one of the various plots, I would suddenly realize that we hadn’t gotten much farther on another one and start to wonder when we would find out more about what had happened and how everything could be tied together.

Thieftaker ended with the reveal of a one-man conspiracy to undermine Samuel Adams’s attempts at bringing about a revolution, and I couldn’t help expecting Thieves’ Quarry to end in some similar fashion that would tie in to the coming war. It would only make sense, given the death of a hundred British sailors at the start of the regulars’ occupation of Boston and the propensity that sequels have to up the stakes with every book. To avoid giving away spoilers, I will simply say that D. B. Jackson gave an ending that, for the most part, satisfied me completely by fitting with the feeling of the books not as a heroic fantasy but as a historical fiction that only happens to have magic as an integral part of its universe.

Thieves’ Quarry is the second book in the series, and I’m very much looking forward to reading the next. If it can keep up the excitement and verisimilitude (or as much verisimilitude as a fantasy series can have) of the first two books, then this series will almost certainly have a place among my favorites.


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