REVIEW: Thieftaker by D.B.Jackson

THIEFTAKER (Thieftakers Chronicles #1)
by D.B Jackson

RELEASE DATE: 3 July 2012
FORMAT: Hardcover, 327 pages
GENRE: Historical Fantasy

Boston, 1767: In D.B. Jackson’s Thieftaker, revolution is brewing as the British Crown imposes increasingly onerous taxes on the colonies, and intrigue swirls around firebrands like Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty. But for Ethan Kaille, a thieftaker who makes his living by conjuring spells that help him solve crimes, politics is for others…until he is asked to recover a necklace worn by the murdered daughter of a prominent family.

Suddenly, he faces another conjurer of enormous power, someone unknown, who is part of a conspiracy that reaches to the highest levels of power in the turbulent colony. His adversary has already killed—and not for his own gain, but in the service of his powerful masters, people for whom others are mere pawns in a game of politics and power. Ethan is in way over his head, and he knows it. Already a man with a dark past, he can ill afford to fail, lest his livelihood be forfeit. But he can’t stop now, for his magic has marked him, so he must fight the odds, even though he seems hopelessly overmatched, his doom seeming certain at the spectral hands of one he cannot even see ( Goodreads)


The story opens with Ethan Kaille, a thieftaker, who is on the job chasing a petty criminal through the streets of Boston to retrieve stolen jewels. We learn within the first few sentences that Kaille isn’t your ordinary thieftaker and is in fact, one of the city’s few conjurers (in other words a witch). Kaille tries to keep his hidden talents… well hidden as anyone uncovered as a witch usually ends up on the wrong end of the hangman’s noose. Kaille’s modest life is about to take a drastic change when a young, wealthy girl is found murdered and he is asked to find the family heirloom that was stolen off of her body. It’s not long before Kaille discovers there is much more to this murder and that there have been other similar deaths as well. Kaille finds out the hard way that the case is much more than just hunting for a missing broach.

It was obvious that Jackson researched the time period in great detail. His depiction of mid 1700’s Boston was so rich in detail so that it felt like you were joining Kaille on his journey through the city. The story is set during a period of upheaval with riots against the British aristocracy becoming a regular occurrence and not long before the infamous Boston Tea Party of 1773. Jackson uses this period of social change in Boston as a plot device as the looting of the house of a leading representative of the British government is used as the backdrop for the murder. Jackson also paints a picture of the time period through Kaille’s past. He had been punished for allegedly committing mutiny by being sentenced to nearly 12 years hard labour on a sugar cane plantation in the West Indies, being one of the few non slaves punished with slave labour. The reader can effectively learn a lot about this period of history as Jackson successfully sets the scene of what was happening at that time in a global context. I had studied this period in school and knew quite a bit about this period in history (oddly Canadian schools teach almost more American history than Canadian). I appreciated the fact that Jackson ensured he kept the local environment and Kaille’s life consistent with the time period when temptation could have been to change events to lean towards the fantasy side of the story.

Kaille was both physically and emotionally scarred by his time spent as a prisoner and this has also impacted his reputation in Boston. He was only scrapping by as a thieftaker as his main competition and the ‘thieftaker mob boss’ Sephira Pryce had control of the city and its wealthy clients. It is not therefore, surprising when Sephira tries to warn him off the case using her henchman to give Kaille a good beating. Between Sephira’s men and the murder poor Ethan spends a majority of the novel repairing broken ribs and bruises. He doesn’t let this stop him risking life and limb to put a stop to the murders.

When I first started reading this novel I thought Ethan Kaille could have been Harry Dresden’s great, great, great, great, great grandfather (twice removed). I was struck at how similar the characters were both in skill and personality despite the fact these are completely different authors. I thought Thieftaker could have been a very early prequel to one of the Dresden Files. Jackson creates not just a convincing setting for his characters but also a great murder mystery. I did not guess who the murderer was and I believe this was down to the fact I was so engrossed in the detailed and realistic setting. It was a great fusion of fantasy and historical fiction.


THIEFTAKER is a great murder mystery and very true to the period of history in which the story is set. Jackson created characters that you wanted to know more about, even the baddies. I was instantly drawn into the time period through Jackson’s well-constructed and descriptive scenes and strong characterisation. This was one of my few forays into this genre of fantasy and I am already looking forward to book number two.


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  1. Thieftaker
  2. Thieves Quarry (expected 2013)



A displaced Canadian living in the UK who when not reading is often found trawling through GoodReads looking for something to read or buying another book on Amazon. [Melanie no longer reviews for the site.]


Gemma November 19, 2012 at 9:31 am

ooh this looks really good. I adore the Harry Dresden books and have just recently started playing Assassins Creed III (Set during this period of time too!)

I’m definetly going to add this to my Wish list!

Great review


Melanie November 19, 2012 at 5:39 pm

I really liked it. It was a big change to what I had been reading recently


Carolyn November 21, 2012 at 7:42 am

This sounds good but a bit more emphasis on the fantasy rather than UF? I think that’s been what’s been putting me off from reading it. Glad you enjoyed it though :)


Melanie November 21, 2012 at 1:07 pm

hmmm…this is where my lack of knowledge of the distinction between the genres lets me down. Is the late 1700’s urban enough to be urban fantasy? I think its a bit more historical fiction. Its really good for a change.


Laura November 23, 2012 at 7:58 am

The Dresden books are firmly on my wishlist at the moment, I really want to read them. Not sure about this one though. I’m not sure if it sounds my thing, but it definitely sounds well written. I love it when the characters really hook you in.


Darynda November 29, 2012 at 8:59 pm

This sounds interesting and that cover is to die for!


Melanie November 29, 2012 at 9:10 pm

It is definitely a gorge cover


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