Ethan Kaille has a rough life. He’s one of only two thieftakers in Boston and the other hates his guts, there’s a cholera outbreak in town and tensions between the British troops and the British townfolk are growing ever higher. And someone’s desecrating graves and Ethan’s been hired to find out who and bring them to justice.
No, actually one thing that’s interesting about D.B. Jackson’s titular thieftaker is that his adventures don’t tumble one after the other in rapid succession. There’s actually been about a year between this adventure and Ethan’s last, no doubt so that interesting events of history can line up with fictional events. While the author obviously has that goal in mind it also allows the world some time to pass around the characters which really makes things feel more realistic.
Another nice touch about this story is that Ethan is not investigating a death under unusual circumstances this time. As I said at the beginning he’s been called in to figure out why graves are being desecrated and to bring the perpetrator to justice. Now if you haven’t read my previous recommendation of the Thieftaker Chronicles you need to know that Ethan is a conjuror, a kind of wizard who has to balance his need to make money with his need not to get burned at the stake as a witch. While Ethan has a kind of truce with the authorities in Boston that lets him do his job mostly in peace he is going to have other things to deal with.
For one thing, while conjurors can protect themselves from disease for a little while the materials they need to do it are very hard to find and very expensive and the cholera outbreak isn’t going anywhere. Plus Kaille opens the book by showing up his rival thieftaker Sephira Pryce and she’s not happy about it. While Ethan has conjuring to back him up Sephira has hired muscle and now a hired conjuror of her own and their rivalry is coming to a serious head. But worst of all something is interfering with Ethan’s ability to conjure. And not just Ethan’s, but the abilities of every conjuror in the city.
The best thing about the story in A Plunder of Souls is the development of the characters. While Ethan is a very well established character the supporting characters haven’t gotten as much screen time in the previous couple of books. Even Sephira, who has been turning up a lot in previous books, was mostly a secondary antagonist before where as now she and Ethan establish an uneasy peace that lets us see her in a new light. All of this is great but above and beyond that, unlike in previous books, the villain is also very well developed.
It turns out that Ethan has a history with the villain, another conjuror who has a twisted relationship with Ethan and… well just about everybody. While there’s not a whole lot that’s new to the urban fantasy/paranormal investigation genres in this story’s formula the execution of the formula and the construction of the characters on both sides of the conflict makes it worthwhile. On top of that the villain offers real intelligence and menace whenever he’s on hand to threaten Ethan. Finally the feel and danger of pre-Revolution America is icing on the cake, making the setting in the Theiftaker Chronicles much more real and engaging than many other urban fantasies.
A decent, if formulaic, story filled with very interesting characters makes A Plunder of Souls a read that’s attractive and fun.