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Thieftaker (Thieftaker Chronicles) Hardcover – 3 Jul 2012

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books (3 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765327619
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765327611
  • Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 2.9 x 24.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 577,136 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Who is D.B. Jackson? That's actually a better question that you know.

"D.B. Jackson," is the pseudonym of an award-winning author of more than fifteen books, including epic fantasies, media work, and non-fiction. D.B. has also published several short stories. His work has been translated into more than a dozen languages. The novels of the Thieftaker Chronicles -- THIEFTAKER, THIEVES' QUARRY, A PLUNDER OF SOULS (due out in July 2014), and DEAD MAN'S REACH (due out in 2015) -- are his first forays into historical fantasy; hence the name change. (Publishers call it "author branding" and it's not nearly as painful as it sounds. Google the phrase for more.)

D.B. Jackson was born in New York many, many years ago, and has since lived in New England, California, Australia, and Appalachia. He did his undergraduate work at Brown University, worked for a time as a political consultant, went to Stanford University, where he earned a Master's and Ph.D. in U.S. History, and finally returned to his first love: writing fiction.

Product Description


D. B. Jackson has masterfully woven history and fantasy to create a pre-Revolutionary Boston that should have been. Peopled by an array of entertaining characters from conjurers to revolutionaries, Thieftaker is a compelling debut novel by a writer who knows what he's doing. I look forward to reading more of Ethan Kaille's adventures!--C. E. Murphy, author of Urban Shaman and The Queen's Bastard. An elegant, intricate tale of a multilayered, tortured conjurer and a world on the brink of war. With skillful, clever plotting and prose sharper than a spelled blade, D. B. Jackson has woven real history with imagination and created a character and a story to believe in and cheer for.--Faith Hunter, bestselling and award-winning author of the Jane Yellowrock Series. A beautiful balance of magic and crime, history and fantasy that was fast-paced, compelling, and completely absorbing. Historical fantasy that reads like an old-school crime novel, as if Raymond Chandler were channeling Jonathan Swift. I loved it!Kat Richardson, bestselling author of the Greywalker series --Various --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

About the Author

D. B. JACKSON lives in Sewanee, Tennessee.In 1999, he received the William L. Crawford Memorial Award as the best new author in fantasy for The LonTobyn Chronicle. --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Theophania Elliott on 23 Sept. 2012
Format: Hardcover
Thieftaker is the first book in a series by D.B. Jackson, introducing eighteenth-century Boston thieftaker Ethan Kaille. In the absence of a police force, if a citizen wants a thief, or stolen goods, found, then they must employ a thieftaker. Kaille, however, does not rely merely on traditional legwork - he can do magic.

Unlike many magic-is-real urban fantasy settings, this alternate 1767 Boston does not seem to have magic-users and magical beings all over the place. Magic-users - conjurers - are not common, and they risk being arrested and convicted of witchcraft by the church. Kaille understandably keeps quiet about his gift, although it's clear that quite a few people know about it all the same. Obviously the church isn't too zealous in hunting conjurers down, or he'd be dead.

The current case revolves around the seemingly senseless death-by-magic of a rich young woman who was, for reasons unknown, out in the street during one of the riots due to the Stamp Act. It's clear that she was killed by a powerful conjurer, but who might this be, and why was she killed? And were other possibly-mysterious deaths related? And, again, why?

In the course of pursuing this case, Kaille gets repeatedly beaten up, kidnapped, threatened, etc. Although conjurers have the ability to heal themselves, the man must have a constitution of iron and the courage of a lion to make it to the end of the book without deciding to retire from thieftaking and take up some nice, safe, boring occupation like alligator dentistry.

The author is a historian, and he has consulted other historians in the writing of the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Worton on 25 July 2014
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a fantastic historical urban fantasy. I loved it!

Ethan Kaille is an interesting character. He is a Thieftaker, a conjurer who uses his magic to track down thieves and the stolen items. I liked this eighteenth century gent. He has a very sharp mind, and is quite talented as a magical detective. He has a dark past, which gives him an air of mystery.

I saw a post on Facebook by someone I follow, who recommended this book, It piqued my interest, so I had a look at the blurb and decided to give it a try. I downloaded it as an audio book, so I could listen to it while doing housework, or just before going to bed.
The tale was narrated by Jonathan Davis, who brought the characters and story alive with his narration. I could listen to his voice for hours! In fact, I did! I became so involved in the story that I didn't realise how much time had gone by!

The story took me on a journey into eighteenth century Boston, where the people are beginning to protest at the British taxation of the colony. I am not a history buff, but I am interested in this period in America's early history. The author has woven a wonderful tale into this backdrop.

Although I haven't read any of the books, Ethan Kaille reminded me of Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden (I've watched the TV series based on the books). Nevertheless, Ethan is his own character and has his own quirks. He uses elemental magic - earth, wind, water, air and fire - for his spells. He is hired to find a piece of jewellery stolen from a murdered woman. However, he finds himself being pulled into a deadly cat and mouse game with a formidable opponent. The story has several twists and turns, which kept me hooked from beginning to end.
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By wabby on 23 Aug. 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
brilliant story, takes you away from an exasperatingly normal humdrum life
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 100 reviews
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Sherlock Holmes meets Harry Dresden 3 July 2012
By AJ - Published on
Format: Hardcover
We don't see an abundance of male protagonists in urban fantasy, and we see still fewer that are really great. Fortunately, D.B. Jackson's Ethan Kaille falls into that category. THIEFTAKER, the first book in The Thieftaker Chronicles follows a conjurer, or wizard, in colonial America who uses his magic to eke out a living as a thieftaker. Everything in this book is meticulously researched. The time period feels completely real. The dialogue, clothing, and numerous historical characters all lend THIEFTAKER an authenticity that allowed this magical story to shine.

Set against the back story of increasing political unrest in mid 18th century Boston following the Stamp Act, Ethan is called upon to recover a missing broach and, more importantly, track down a murderer who is using spells to kill. Imagine Sherlock Holmes meets Harry Dresden and you have a pretty good idea of what this book is like. Ethan must rely on more than just magic to find this killer, and constantly be aware of the very real threat that his conjuring could get him burned at the stake. There's some lovely personal conflict as well involving Ethan's first love, his years spent in prison, and the new woman in his life who loves him fiercely.

THIEFTAKER was a completely immersive and thoroughly entertaining book. Jackson's well-researched historical details coupled with his fresh and comprehensive worldbuilding are not to be missed. Jim Butcher fans take note: Ethan could be Harry Dresden's forebearer. I'm anxious for more of Ethan's story in the next book in The Thieftaker Chronicles, THIEVES' QUARRY, which is scheduled for 2013.

Sexual Content:
Kissing. References to sex
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Perfect Way to Celebrate American Independence 4 July 2012
By H. P. - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Thieftaker combines two of my great loves--American history and fantasy. It is also a mystery. It has been said that speculative fiction is the fantasy of changing the world and mysteries are fantasies of justice. This makes the two somewhat incompatible. The prototypical mystery novel investigator (usually hardbitten, unlike the greenshoe fantasy hero) doesn't act prospectively to change the world; he's trying to piece together past events to redress a discrete wrong (or perhaps only to find the truth and provide closure). It's that tension that causes Thieftaker most of its (very limited) problems.

D.B. Jackson has previously written fantasy as David B. Coe. He also has a history PhD, and it shows. Thieftaker begins in late August, 1765 in Boston. I've long been of the opinion that we need more fantasy grappling seriously with the ideas of the Enlightenment, but at this point in the series pre-Revolutionary politics largely provide background.

Ethan Kaille is a thieftaker (never thiefcatcher, presumably) operating in pre-Revolutionary Boston. He's a man with a dark secret and a dark past. He has a very particular set of skills; skills that make him a nightmare for people like...well, thieves. You see, Kaille is a "conjurer." Conjurers "spell" using a familiar (in Kaille's case, a ghost dressed in medieval armor), some physical element (most commonly a few drops of their own blood, but leaves will do in a pinch), and a few words of Latin. He also spent time in penal colony (shush!) for his role in an infamous mutiny.

Jackson tries hard to give Thieftaker a pre-Revolutionary flavor. Details of dress, dinner, and décolletage are frequently mentioned. Historical events and figures are alluded to (and appear). It works to give the novel that "feel" that historical fiction demands, although the tendency of any lower-class character to speak apostrophese is grating (yes, I just invented that word).

Hardbitten mystery novel protagonists tend to fall into two camps: an everyman sort along for the ride (thus providing a vehicle for the audience to experience the mystery unfolding) or a super-genius solving the mystery through superior brainpower. Kaille is definitely an example of the former. He will literally get in a carriage with or follow anyone who asks. I would like to have seen more of the latter, but rest assured that when push finally comes to shove Kaille can shove back (and Kaille's reluctance to shove back initially is well grounded in guilt, morality, and fear of being burned at the stake). The resulting action sequences are very good, not the least because Kaille is forced to rely on his wits as much as his wizardry.

Kaille is a well rounded, fleshed-out, flawed protagonist. But what really sets Thieftaker apart, the single strongest point of the book, is how well rounded, fleshed-out, and flawed the minor characters are. Whether young or old, rich or poor, black or white, female or male, Patriot or Tory, they come off as real people, no matter how quickly they flit in and out of the story (apostrophese aside).
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Gritty, exciting and different 15 July 2012
By Silverglass - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Murder mystery, American history, and urban fantasy all rolled into one: That's Thieftaker. The story is set in Boston, 1765, and the tension of those pre-Revolutionary days is woven throughout this tale. The thieftaker himself, Ethan Kaille, is a man with serious mistakes in his past and magic in his blood--literally. Kaille himself is a down-to-earth character, not a super-hero; he makes mistakes, he misses things, he gets angry and afraid. I like that in a good guy.

There's a good deal of action, and Jackson is hard on his hero. Magic has a price, much like doing the right thing often does, when taking the darker path or giving up would be easier. Sometimes there are no "good" choices. Blood magic is not a new idea in fantasy, but Mr. Jackson uses it here in way that's deceptively simple. Kaille does what he has to do, and he doesn't give up. I like that, too.

Amid the first rumblings of revolution, Kaille contends with murder, the suspicions of those who mistrust conjurers (don't call him a witch!), and a deadly rivalry with another thieftaker, the supremely confident (and seductive) Sephira Pryce. Don't make the mistake of thinking women like her couldn't have existed in the colonies: A bit of reading into women's history will correct that impression, and you will find women doing just about everything that men did. Pryce is a nasty piece of work, but not omnipotent. I look forward to seeing what happens between her and Kaille in the next book.

I read fantasy for fun, and this book has everything I enjoy--a hero I can believe in, action, magic with a touch of darkness to it, even a bit of realistic romance. The historical angle is icing on the cake. A great read.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Thieftaker isn't your average urban fantasy read 12 July 2012
By H. Frederick - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I've had a lot of reading discoveries in the past year, but one of my favorites has been the discovery of the Urban Fantasy genre. I was always a fantasy girl, but give it the edge of our own world, an urban setting, and usually a pretty kick butt protagonist, and I was pretty well sold right out of the gate. Now, before I got all big and fangirly about fantasy, I was all big and fangirly about historical fiction...but then I mostly stopped reading it, for something like 15 years. So this year also marks my return to historical fantasy. Given these facts, I think it's obvious by now why I was pretty much off the charts excited for Thieftaker.

Thieftaker isn't your average urban fantasy read. Not only because it is set against a historical backdrop, but also because it features a male protagonist, Ethan Kaille. I love that this genre is so chock full of strong female leads, but it's always nice to read from a different perspective, and that's exactly what we get with Ethan. Ethan Kaille is a middle aged thieftaker, a professional who hunts down thieves, bringing them to justice and returning the items they steal. He only gets away with working the streets of Boston because Sephira Pryce, the most prominent theiftaker in the city, lets him. He subsists on small clientele, taking only jobs that are below Sephira's interest. That is, until, he's given a case he can't turn down. Ethan doesn't usually work for rich clients, or murders, but when a wealthy man implores him to find his daughter's murderer, Ethan can't refuse because he knows he's the only one who can solve it. He's the only one, because he's a speller, a conjurer-a witch, and that's just what killed the girl.

I was completely drawn in by the premise of D.B. Jackson's Thieftaker, I loved the grimy and restless setting of Boston in the late 1760s, and the aspects of conjuring in a society with a devout fear of witchcraft. Set shortly after the passing of the Stamp Act when the city is beginning to feel the stress and confines of British rule, Ethan Kaille is caught up in plots and events that will remain infamous for centuries. Well researched, D.B. Jackson weaves together elements of history and fantasy to create a fascinating story. Plus, can I mention the fantastic cover art? I love it, and feel it represents the story perfectly.

Throughout the course of the book I learned that Ethan is a steadfastly good man, though for him, good and lawful do not always align. He is known as a mutineer, feared as a conjurer, and has few friends. We do not learn about Ethan or the rest of the cast in depth in this installment, but that is to be expected in the beginning of this sort of series. D.B. Jackson teases us with portions of Ethan's relations and backstory without laying everything bare. I actually appreciate this slow paced development tactic in series, especially in high action books where there's enough story to keep me glued even before I come to love those involved.

I have to admit, however, that I was not entirely caught up in the plot. The constant reappearance of Saphira and her men (twice a day it seemed) was grating, and overall I think I was expecting a bit more oomph to the story. There were a few pieces that didn't make sense to me, for example Ethan is told about a possible connection between the murder he is investigating and a death that occurred the previous year. This seems revalatory, and yet, later when discussing his current case with several other men they talk about this connection as if the two are openly known to be linked. I'm also constantly bothered when someone sets something down/it is taken away, but then they have it later without us ever knowing they retrieved the item (in this case, a knife). Nit-picky of me, I know, but that's one of those tiny things that always irks me (and may well be corrected in the final copy). On top of this, there was the classic villainous monologuing and an ending that seemed a wee bit drawn out, but I'll say again that I love the concept of thieftaking (an actual profession, though not practiced in the Americas at this time), and the world building was very well done.

Thieftaker grabbed me in the beginning, but it didn't really hold me throughout. I have had similar experiences with other series that did get better, so I am hoping that as action heats up around Boston, so will Ethan Kaille's story. There's so much potential with the time period chosen, and I'd love to see where Kaille ends up in the brewing battle between loyalists and revolutionaries.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
An excellent start to a fresh series 22 July 2012
By Chris - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Thieftaker takes place in 1767 Boston during the wave of revolt over the imposed stamp tax. That setting alone would make for an interesting historical novel, yet Jackson takes it a step further by throwing in a magic-using thieftaker named Ethan Kaille. I'd never heard of thieftakers in a historical setting before and when I first heard of the book I immediately pictured Juilin Sandar from the Wheel of Time series. The difference here is that thieftakers really did exist. So right off the bat you've got a character with a job that's just ripe for story-telling and Jackson used the historical hook to wonderful effect.

For the (many) Dresden Files fans out there, you'll be on familiar ground here. The book's plot starts with the murder of the daughter of a prominent Boston family during the riots caused by the Stamp Act. Ethan Kaille is hired by the girl's father to retrieve a necklace stolen from the girl during the murder.

Ethan's investigation leads him to discover that the girl was murdered by magic - and by a conjurer far more skilled than himself. The investigation causes Ethan to have dealings with people from all walks of life - from the Sons of Liberty to a street thugs to agents of the Crown.

Jackson seamlessly weaves magic into this historical setting and I applaud him for never making it feel like he was trying to force Ethan into the lives of real historical figures. Considering that such well-known personages as Samuel Adams, Ebenezer Mackintosh and James Otis all appear often in the book that was no easy feat. The plot moves along at a brisk pace and I give the author major props for not writing this book in first-person perspective. It isn't often you see an urban fantasy novel that wasn't written that way and it was a welcome change of pace.

One of my favorite historical references in the novel - and I'm not sure if it was meant to be a joke, but I took it as such - was during the description of Abner Berson's home. It mentions that it was as grand as the homes around it, but modest when compared to the Hancock home down the road. Apparently the Hancocks need the largest home in addition to the largest signatures.

This book was an extremely fun read and while the comparisons to The Dresden Files are numerous and warranted, Thieftaker easily stands on its own. I'd go so far as to call it a refreshing breath of fresh air in an all too crowded urban fantasy mystery field. If the second book in the series (due out in 2013) builds on the promise shown here we may have our next best-selling urban fantasy series on our hands.
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