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Something Like a Review – Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson

It’s time for a little change of genre pace, and time to explore a local writer. Not, you know, like physically or anything because I don’t want to be arrested. But you know what I mean.

Over the past couple of years, I have tried to overcome my book snobbery, and when it comes to genre, I usually do a pretty good job of it (though it’s a little harder to tell from my Goodreads bookshelves for the past couple of years), but I’m not going to turn up my nose at science fiction or fantasy, paranormal romance is more sparsely represented in my literary palate, but it will occasionally show up there too. One of the benefits (and drains on the wallet/reading plan) of going to conventions is meeting local authors and hearing them speak about their work. Not only do you get to see their own enthusiasm, you get to hear where the ideas came from, which is always intoxicating. Sure, you can find that kind of thing online (as D.B. Jackson has discussed at Magical Words fairly recently), however there’s something missing from the posts. The digital arena doesn’t convey the facial expressions, the energy, enthusiasm or the smiles when these authors are presenting their babies to the crowd of enthralled readers and would-be writers that have come to talk shop. There’s something missing about the experience.

Suffice to say that when I walked away from ConCarolinas this summer, I walked away with a bag full of books, and a list of those I hadn’t purchased but planned to do so. (Since only so much of my time can be dedicated to sitting in a chair and reading, I have to get creative with other solutions…) One that wasn’t yet available for purchase, but had all kinds of good buzz about already among the authors speaking on panels was Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson (aka David B. Coe). It’s not a book that would normally be on my radar because it’s simply not a genre I tend to follow, but what I heard about the story was enough to interest me and I remembered it long enough afterwards to order it on Amazon and have it in my hot little hands the day before the actual release.

The easiest way to explain the genre is, as the author himself explains it, a historical urban fantasy. It’s unique and powerful, and I daresay this may be the birth of a subgenre. What Jackson has done is take historical fact and expertly woven magic and fantasy into it. It’s not a conspicuous presence, as it couldn’t be in the colonial Americas, but it exists and those on the fringe know of it. One of the best interactions that really shows the importance of magic’s covert existence in this world is Ethan’s interaction with his sister. I promise not to spoil more than that, but pick it up, and you’ll see what I mean.

I admire the amount of research that went into this book because it contributed to the plausibility of the story. I felt immersed in colonial Boston and could feel the depth in the story even with my limited background in the history of the time. Jackson incorporates familiar names and places into the story and puzzles out the what-if’s in colonial Boston politics, explaining tensions therein, and takes it a step further and asks “what if the colonists had been right about magic, but misunderstood it?” There be witches, indeed, but not the witches the earlier colonists feared – conjurers who could help or harm by using the elements of the world around them, or blood, or in extreme cases, the lives around them.

Jackson creates rich characters and I had a great time getting to know Ethan Kaille and I hope to see more of the fiery Kannice in the future books in this series. Knowing that there are more books coming help assuage my one frustration: while I know enough of Kaille’s background to ground him as a character, there’s still some mystery around the things that were only mentioned and not explored. I’ll be as patient as I can be…for now. But 2013 seems so far away….

Medium: Old-fashioned hardback from Amazon.com

Other: Kindle version also available from Amazon.com

Overall rating: 5 stars

Potential re-read: Most likely, especially before the release of the second volume

Dead-tree worthy?: I’m a little torn on this because it’s not a genre I follow passionately. I say yes, because I plan to bring it to the next ConCarolinas for an author-graph, but if it were just for my personal collection, probably not. This is not because I have anything against the book, or that I think I won’t re-read it, but only because I’ve become aware of how precious my shelf-space is, and I’m much more considerate of what takes it up. I’ll leave this one up to you, dear reader…

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