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- Author: D.B. Jackson
- Publisher: Tor Publishing
- Book Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fiction
- Format: Hardback, 336 pages
Book Review: A Plunder of Souls
An exciting magical detective adventure
By Chuck Francisco
August 13, 2014
A Plunder of Souls by D.B. Jackson
© Tor Publishing
Boston, the 1760's. A mysterious fiend is digging up coffins expressly to defile the resting dead. To what end? When the ghosts of these defiled dead begin appearing around the city, who ya gonna call? If you're the denizens of D.B. Jackson's new novel A Plunder of Souls (entry #3 in the Thieftaker Chronicles series), you send a messenger posthaste to thieftaker Ethan Kaille. Ethan is more than just a private dick with Fedora full of troubles in a sea of Sam Spade situations (in point of fact he wears a tricorne hat). He's also a powerful conjurer.
That's right, A Plunder of Souls is a historical fiction and magic fantasy mashup, but more importantly it adds that wonderfully popular element of detective fiction which has become synonymous with its modern trailblazer, Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files. While I adore the adventures of Harry Dresden, wizard detective in modern day Chicago, it's more refreshing than the summer wind to see a take on this archetype who is a not a pop culture referential chivalry machine.
Ethan Kaille is a professional thieftaker, and so his normal day in, day out involves tracking down stolen property for the wealthy, and reacquiring it from the wrongful owner. He's a standup sort of fella who strives to do the right thing, but he hasn't always been, and he isn't always able to. Carrying the wounds and baggage of middle aged man who has seen his share of hardship, Ethan is very pragmatic and refreshingly seeks the rational compromise (when applicable). This may sound strange, but many protagonists seem to choose the absurdly destructive path in slavish service to the plot. Ethan feels real; it feels like he's attempting to make the decisions readers would, if they had a choice in the matter. In a horror film, he would likely not decide to go exploring that strange noise down in the murder cellar of the abandoned house- unless he had no other choice.
This is particularly fitting, since as the disfigured shades of the dead begin appearing all over Boston, Ethan is engaged to discover the root of the problem. The magic system is an integral piece of the puzzle. It's also a snuggle fitting jigsaw piece, which is both creative and interesting. Conjurings require something to be conjured from- blood, water, special herbs, and such. Making the magic happen consumes that something. And so it's an interesting mechanic of conjurers always preparing to cut themselves with their daggers for fresh spell ammunition (or bite the inside of their cheek, in a pinch). The conduit for this power is a spectral ancestral guide, which offers another opportunity for author Jackson to weave interesting little details into the personalities peopling the plot.
Jackson's world is solid and believable, which is a testament to his research detail. A Plunder of Souls only embellishes the magical element of the story, all of the other names, places, and events are ripped right from the pages of history. What we're given is an intriguing whodunit, an exciting exploration of their motivation, and a blazing action finale that is sure to delight fans of magical detective fiction. The pacing is breezy, the magic amazing, and the hooks insatiable. Newcomers need not worry about being lost; A Plunder of Souls works even as a standalone novel (but be warned that you're likely going to want to check out the previous books after giving this one a go). That's perhaps the best praise which I can bestow upon a novel.
A Plunder of Souls (Thieftaker #3) by D.B. Jackson is out now from Tor Books as a hardcover for $26.99.
Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Shock-O-Rama, which looks into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famous Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA. You can hear him drop nerd knowledge on weekly podcast You've Got Geek or think him a fool of a Took on Twitter.