This isn’t a book review, this is a book recommendation. As such, I won’t be comparing the good/bad, what I thought worked/didn’t work, or any of those things you expect out of a review. Instead, I’m telling you that I think you should read it and why.
For a really long while now I’ve been feeling pretty ‘meh’ on reading. Something would sound interesting, I’d check out the blurb, the first line, the first page, the first FIFTY pages, but nothing kept my interest. I started 2 adult high fantasies, 2 YAs (one high fantasy, one urban fantasy), and an adult urban fantasy, and none of them seemed to be doing it for me.
And then Ethan Kaille sauntered in. Or limped, really. Ethan couldn’t saunter if he wanted to.
Here’s the blurb form Goodreads:
Boston, 1765: 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.
Thieftaker is very much historical fiction, but even though I’ve never really read the genre, I felt right at home. Because magic. Because blood magic. *squeal* But also, because Ethan.
Here’s the thing: Ethan routinely gets his ass kicked. I mean, like clockwork. He gets beat up by the thugs of his professional rival, he gets beat up by another conjurer, he gets beat up by a little ghost girl, and multiple times by each. And not like, “oh no, I have a split lip”. Like, “ohfuck I have a split lip, several broken ribs, an eye so swollen I can’t even SEE out of it, and now it’s raining. Awesome”. And I LOVED it. Ethan is very much out of his element here. He doesn’t solve mysteries, much less murder mysteries, he recovers stolen items and that’s it. He doesn’t know the right questions to ask, he doesn’t Sherlock his way through things, and often finds himself following the wrong leads. He’s an adequate conjurer and honestly I can’t even say how good of a fighter he is cause he’s always getting outnumbered (and even then he manages pretty well). And all of that just made him all the more human to me. When Ethan turns a corner and there’s a brute standing there grinning at him, you just don’t know how it’s going to turn out. You don’t know which fight will be his last. You don’t know if he’ll solve the mystery. You get legitimately concerned for this guy.
I don’t know about you guys, but I like my heroes to have some weaknesses. I like imperfect heroes. I like to have a reason to root for them, not just sit back and wait for them to win cause of course they’ll win, they’re the hero. Ethan is really human to me, and that’s what made this book stand out against 5 others I’d tried.
You get so wrapped up in who he is, what he’s about, how he feels on things that (and I’m going to try and keep this as spoiler-free as possible), when a certain character dies, even though that character literally never says a single word the entire book, it hits you because it hits Ethan. He just can’t bear it and you just can’t bear to see him barely able to cope. It was glorious!
Thieftaker was a great change of pace for me, it’s re-sparked my reading bug and I think everyone should read it. It’s also a standalone! So I’m not dragging you into a series that you have to wait several books to get all your questions answered. (Although I’m already ordering the next book in the series, because Ethan. Also because I’m hoping a certain character that has awesome thieftaking/conjuring promise gets more development and becomes this thieftaker BADASS.)
Now go read!