What is it?

Written by D.B. Jackson and first published in 2012, The Thieftaker Chronicles are a series of Historical Fantasy novels taking place in Boston during the the mid-to-late 1700s, just before the Revolutionary war.

The books in the series are:

Thieftaker (2012)
Thieves Quarry (2013)
A Plunder of Souls (2014)
Dead Man's Reach (2015)

And the collection of short stories, Tales of the Thieftaker (2017). There are also a few novellas independently published through Amazon's ebook distribution. Those novellas are:

The Adam's Gambit (2021)
The Witch's Storm (2021)
The Cloud Prison (2021)

What's it About?

Crossposted from TvTropes

The Thieftaker Chronicles follow Ethan Kaile, secret wizard, former mutineer, the titular thieftaker (a kind of bounty hunter hired by the robbed and burgled in times before modern policing) as he's hired to find and return stolen goods in pre-Revolutionary Boston— something that puts him in direct competition with Sephira Pryce, head of the criminal underworld in Boston, who manages thief taking for the wealthy. However, Ethan has something Sephira doesn't; the ability to work magic. As a conjurer or "speller," Ethan can call on a spirit of an ancient knight to help him use magic in order to find goods and thieves more easily. Unfortunately, this is in the era of witch hangings, meaning Ethan must keep his magic under his hat as best he can.

Trouble begins when Ethan starts getting hired by wealthy and wealthier clientele to solve crimes that go beyond mere thievery. Soon Ethan is getting mixed into matters of murder, politics, and dark magic, with his only allies being a silent but irritable ghost that serves as his spirit guide, a young minister with his own hidden knack for magic, and the hot-tempered owner of the local tavern, all while the city and the colonies themselves are splintering under British rule.

What did you think?

Full disclosure: I have read the main series of books and the book of short stories, but I have only read one of the self-published Amazon novellas (specifically Witch's Storm), so my opinions are limited only to the ones I've read.

It may be because I am not an avid reader of historical fiction in general, but I don't know of many historical fantasies that take place during the American colonial times, especially at the forefront of all the historical chicanery we learned about in the 4th grade, and I found that really engaging.

Small liberties have been taken with the setting, which the author admits in his various afterwords, but not as much as you'd think, with the most blatant one being that thieftakers were operating in 1765, and that they were in the US; they were not, and the profession was only really practiced in England. The second biggest liberty is, of course, that people were successfully doing magic back then. Otherwise, each book contains an afterword meticulously detailing what (usually very very small) things were changed, and what excruciating details were kept accurate.

For example, one book involves the characters worrying about a recent smallpox outbreak, and how one of their neighbors died. The outbreak, the neighbor, the names of the two men guarding the house, the wages of the guards guarding the house, and the location of the house itself are all historically accurate, with details of the city's response to the outbreak being taken from the minutes of the town selectmen’s 1769 meetings.

it should be noted that though the main series mostly takes place in the lead up to the war, the novellas take place during the start of the war. A little bit of time does pass in these books, and the setting reflects that.

The magic in this world is definitely downplayed in power-level compared to other series, and while Ethan is considered to be an upper-medium-grade witch, his magic is severely limited. There are three ways a witch in this world can work magic: conjured from leaves and dirt and whatnot, which only is good for making illusions. The type Ethan uses the most is magic conjured from blood (his own), which actually has effect in the world, and the last type is magic conjured from death, which is reserved only for the baddies most of the time, and requires killing something to make the the spells work. On top of that, every witch has a spirit guide in the form of someone who is probably an ancestor of theirs, but since the spectres can't speak, nobody is really sure. Witches can see each other's spirit guides, and each witch's magic is a color unique to them. Ethan's guide happens to be an ill-tempered knight he calls "Uncle Reg," who manages to be sassy and disapproving despite not being able to talk.

Sephira Pryce bugs the hell out of me, but she's intended to. Part of the conflict Ethan faces is that, even though he could technically kill Sephira and her Goons with little effort (at least in the first books, before Sephira hires her own witch), he won't because: 1. killing = bad and 2. Sephira is popular and powerful, and even if he covers his track, it is likely he'll get hanged for witchcraft because of the local Detective Javert-style character, Sheriff Greenleaf. While Greenleaf is actually slightly more reasonable in the short stories and the novella(s), he's pretty solidly an ass in the main series, so if that sort of thing annoys you, there's your warning.

As can be gathered by the fact that I've read almost all of them, I like this series. I recommend if you like minor magic in historical settings.

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