Book Review: A Plunder of Souls by DB Jackson

About the book, from DB Jackson’s website:

Boston, Province of Massachusetts Bay, July 13, 1769

New England is in the throes of a sweltering summer. The distant rumble of thunder offers the promise of rain, but the air remains still, oppressive, rank. And an outbreak of small pox has thrown the town of Boston into panic. The distemper is spreading through the streets; people are dying.

Ethan Kaille, thieftaker and conjurer, does his best to keep himself and those he loves safe from the disease while scratching out a living. But with British soldiers still occupying the city, and his beautiful and dangerous rival in thieftaking, Sephira Pryce, dogging his every move, a bit of coin comes hard. Still, when Ethan is asked by the congregation of King’s Chapel to investigate a series of grave desecrations, he refuses payment. The souls of the dead are being disturbed for ill purpose, and Ethan will not profit from it.

Before long, Ethan realizes that the grave robberies have not been committed by ghoulish thieves. Rather, they are the work of a powerful conjurer, one who is mutilating corpses, gathering an army of wraiths, and, through his foul trespass, directing his spells and his scheming at Ethan himself.

Worse, this conjurer is known to Ethan: a vengeful, twisted enemy from his past, who has found a way to enhance his own conjuring abilities while denying other conjurers access to their spellmaking powers. More in need of his conjuring talents than ever before, Ethan finds himself unable to cast, unable to fight, unable to defend himself.

The Enchanted Alley’s Review

Since reading Thieftaker, I have developed extremely high expectations of DB Jackson’s work. I expect a compelling story, character development and depth, magic with consequences, and puzzle to solve. So far, I have never been disappointed.

A Plunder of Souls is the third novel in the series, and I highly recommend reading them in order to fully understand the impact of the events of the novel and the relationships between the characters, particularly as those relationships shift and evolve..Throughout the story, readers get to know some characters much better than they had before, and the characters also come to understand one another in a different way as well.

A Plunder of Souls is the darkest, most violent, and most treacherous novel in the series yet. Ethan Kaille faces an opponent that readers have met before, but the opponent now may be unstoppable. He has done the unimaginable, and Ethan has to try to fix it.

This is a book that you do not want to miss.

The next book, titled Dead Man’s Reach, comes out Summer 2015. I can’t wait.


Title:  A Plunder of Souls

Author: DB Jackson

Publisher: Tor

Length: 336 pages

Release Date: July 8, 2014

Amazon Link: Buy it HERE


Review: Thieves’ Quarry by DB Jackson


Travel back in time with Thieves’ Quarry by DB Jackson

The Enchanted Alley’s Review

When Thieves’ Quarry released, I was one of the first in line. I couldn’t wait to find out what Ethan, Diver, Sephira, and Kannice had been up to while I had been gone.

As it turns out, a lot has happened.  There are new conjurers in town, Sephira has acquired a new weapon to use against Ethan, and the British are coming!  (Corny, I know…)  The story really begins when Ethan is woken by a strong conjuring, but he’s not entirely sure if he dreamed it or if it really happened.  From there, he begins to investigate, making some unlikely alliances along the way.  Big changes are on the horizon, not only for Ethan Kaille but for Boston as well.

This book, the second in the series, has a much more oppressive and, frankly, creepy tone than the first book.  Readers could easily pick up this book and enjoy it without having read Thieftakerbut those readers wouldn’t understand the weight of some of the decisions that Kaille has had to make, decisions that haunt him perhaps even more than the mysterious deaths aboard the Graystone.

Thieves’ Quarry is one of those books that I read again and again, not only for the excellent writing and world building, but for the complexity of the story as well.  Even when I know the “aha” of the book, I re-read and still find new clues buried in the prose that I didn’t see before.

Well done, sir.  Well done.

From DB Jackson’s website:

Autumn has come to New England, and with it a new threat to the city of Boston. British naval ships have sailed into Boston Harbor bearing over a thousand of His Majesty King George III’s soldiers. After a summer of rioting and political unrest, the city is to be occupied.

Ethan Kaille, thieftaker and conjurer, is awakened early in the morning by a staggeringly powerful spell, a dark conjuring of unknown origin. Before long, he is approached by representatives of the Crown. It seems that every man aboard the HMS Graystone has died, though no one knows how or why. They know only that there is no sign of violence or illness. Ethan soon discovers that one soldier — a man who is known to have worked with Ethan’s beautiful and dangerous rival, Sephira Pryce — has escaped the fate of his comrades and is not among the Graystone’s dead. Is he the killer, or is there another conjurer loose in the city, possessed of power sufficient to kill so many with a single dark casting?

Ethan, the missing soldier, and Sephira Pryce and her henchmen all scour the city in search of a stolen treasure which seems to lie at the root of all that is happening. At the same time, though, Boston’s conjurers are under assault from the royal government as well as from the mysterious conjurer. Men are dying. Ethan is beaten, imprisoned, and attacked with dark spells.

And if he fails to unravel the mystery of what befell the Graystone, every conjurer in Boston will be hanged as a witch. Including him.

Quarry300Essential Info

Title:  Thieves’ Quarry

Author: DB Jackson

Publisher: Tor Books

Length: 320 pages

Price: $7.69 Kindle $19.29 Hardcover

Release Date: July 2, 2013

Amazon Link: Buy it HERE

ConCarolinas 2014: Killing Characters

Panelists: David Weber, Tamsin Silver, David B. Coe, A.J. Hartley, John Hartness

Moderator: Allen Wold

Question 1

At some point in your story, someone will die.  How do you know who will die and how they will die?

David Weber:

When you’re writing military/combat, people will die or it is too sanitized.

There are two extremes to writing a death.

  1. There and gone.  There’s no reason.  It’s unexpected.  The plot strings are not tied off.  It hits the reader unexpectedly.
  2. The death of a character that the readers are connected to.  Must have a good death.  They have to go out doing something significant.  It concludes their story arc.

David B. Coe:

In a mystery, murder starts the story.  It is like a time clock (plot device) for the protagonist.

A writer shouldn’t just kill another character because the clock is ticking.  Try to get closer to the protagonist with each death.

Tamsin Silver: 

There are casualties of war.  People die serving what they believe in.

The death of others moves the characters, whether for good or bad.

John Hartness:

In Sci-fi and Urban Fantasy, the writer lives and dies by the series.  Characters grow and develop.

Learn, live, lose = how a protagonist evolves.  (Harry Dresden is the example)

Torture the characters to torture the readers.

We’ve all lost people. 

You have to be able to show your character is as real as the real world.

The death of characters moves the main characters along.

Question 2

What genre do you write? And how does death factor in?

A.J. Hartley:

Comedy is not just about being funny.  It’s about how the story ends.

If you want the emotional weight of death, there are ways to do it without killing.

The idea of a sacrifice is the core of a good character dying well.

Question 3

How do you feel about the enemy characters that you have to kill?

A.J. Hartley:

Someone will cry.  Someone will care about the person.

The villains should be real people too.

John Hartness:

In my books the villains are monsters.  Monsters bad.  Shoot it.

Killing a named villain is just as hard or you cheat everyone.

“We’re all servants of the stories…and the royalties.”

Actions have consequences.  The person who cries at the crime scene may become the next villain.

Death creates in its own way.  It can create a new hero or a new villain.

David Weber: 

Most bad guys don’t wake up evil.

Have to have good on one side and evil on the other; dehumanize the other side so they’re easier to kill.

David B. Coe: 

Death for Ethan (in Thieftaker) also affects readers.  Death is binary; people are not.

All the characters have dark sides and flaws.

Everyone he is forced to deal with as an antagonist is the hero of his/her own story.

David Weber: 

In monsters, the sense of empathy has been destroyed.  They’re a destroyed human being.  We rejoice when they go.

David B. Coe: 

Example: the horcrux in Harry Potter.  It gives immortality but is a broken soul.

The big killing in Thieftaker is done with blood magic.  If you take a life with a spell, it’s stronger.


Ethan is forced to kill a neighborhood dog.

He essentially casts a spell that makes him brother to the man he’s fighting.  He broke his own cardinal rule.  It still affects him three books later.

John Hartness: 

This is done really well because it is not done as a throwaway character.

A.J. Hartley: 

In the Will Hawthorne series, he is an 18-year-old actor. To protect himself and his people, he kills someone in a fight.

It must be an immense event for the character.

He’s not a sociopath…yet.

John Hartness: 

Characters do stuff they don’t want to do.

Example: Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.  Some people just needed killing.

Also, sometimes the killing action is a non-action.  Don’t throw the life-preserver.  Character is passively killed off.

Question 4

Can you kill a main character?

John Hartness: 

Screw you, Jim Butcher.

David Weber: 

If there’s a character you’ve groomed to step into place, maybe.

It’s very risky.

David B. Coe:

If you’re working with a multi-POV book, each character should have his/her own arc.

The arc may end but not be finished.

Example: Macbeth.  Lady Macbeth’s death happens off stage.  The payoff isn’t the death but the character’s reaction.

Serve the story!

Question 5

When does death cheat the audience?

John Hartness: 

When the buildup or consequences are not done well.

David Weber: 

All readers read uniquely.  They may not see it as we wrote it.   We need to write it well so that different readers’ needs are met.




ConCarolinas: Magical Words Beginnings

The Magical Words Beginnings panel was held by Faith Hunter, Misty Massey, and David B. Coe.  Along with C.E. Murphy, those three established the Magical Words site in 2008.  (I hear there is an Android app for it too!)   If you’re an aspiring writer, Magical Words is definitely a place you’d want to visit.

On with the panel notes…

To begin, the first 1-2 paragraphs of the book are some of the most important.  The panelists said that the first paragraph should establish five things.

  1. conflict
  2. character
  3. pacing
  4. setting
  5. point of view

If it doesn’t, revise.

The first page should do what is called “bait and hook.”  This means that you engage the reader (bait) and pull him/her into the story (hook).

Avoid using the beginning of a book for an “info dump” – you can establish character in the beginning, but save back story for later.   You have to be careful not to describe too much.  Choose what’s important.

  • Notice what the character would notice.
  • If the character is in an unfamiliar place, the character will take it all in.
  • If the character is in a dangerous or tense setting, the character will have a more focused and limited view.

Faith read the first two paragraphs of Skinwalker.  Those paragraphs didn’t just set up the first novel; they set up the entire series.   How’s that for impressive?

The panel then shifted a little to what was once in style but has gone out of favor, like cinematic openings.   David and Faith said that while cinematic openings are good for movies, they’ve not been used much in writing for about 20 years, so avoid them.  With a cinematic opening, a couple of things happen.  You have an omniscient narrator (which means you don’t get to the P.O.V character until later) and the camera zooms into the action from far away (which can decrease immediacy and intimacy).

The discussion of openings, narrators, and point of view naturally led to a brief discussion of person.  Should you write in first person, second person, or third person?

  • First person: that’s what is hot right now.
  • Second person: avoid it.
  • Third person: that’s the old standby (Thieftaker and Mad Kestrel are written in third person)

However, with that being said, you should write to the market.  Don’t write to the trends, but do keep the market in mind.

David said, “If you’re going to reject my story, you’re going to do it on my terms.”

Faith said, “Write the book you love, not the book you’ll sell.”  Overall, if you don’t love your book, and you’re not passionate about it, no one else will be either.


Review: Thieftaker by DB Jackson

Thieftaker300Thieftaker is the first in a new series called The Thieftaker Chronicles by D.B. Jackson, who also writes as David B. Coe.

(Side note: when people write under more than one name, I am always confused about what I should call them.  Hey you! doesn’t really seem like the best option.)

And back to the review.  This excellent first novel is set in pre-Revolutionary War Boston and stars Ethan Kaille, a thieftaker.  When I picked up this book, I had no idea what a thieftaker was and had never actually heard of thieftakers…

So, I did what any good reader, writer, or blogger would do.

I looked it up.

Evidently, thieftakers are (or were) real things in English history.  (Have I mentioned the author has a Ph.D in US History?) Thieftakers filled in where law-enforcement lacked, mostly by recovering goods that had been stolen – for a modest fee, of course.

Ethan Kaille is a thieftaker, but he’s not the only one in town. There is definitely a bit of external conflict in this book with his rival thieftaker, Sephira Pryce.  Kaille just happens to also be a conjurer, so that gives him a little bit of an advantage over Sephira and her goons.   He still manages somehow to get beaten up a lot though.

In this novel, Kaille is hired by a very rich family to recover some stolen goods…and figure out who murdered their daughter.  Murder investigation isn’t really Kaille’s thing, but he takes the job anyway.  The job eventually leads him on a search to find a very powerful and mysterious conjurer, but he must act quickly or get killed trying.

Overall, this is an amazing book.  I have always loved history, but I never was a huge fan of American history, until now.  After reading Thieftaker, I really want to go learn a little more about Colonial times and how our country went from being controlled loosely by the crown to where it is today.  Even if you don’t like history, this book is still really good.  There are smoky taverns with frothy ale, a tiny bit of romance, a heavy dose of mystery, a totally freaky ghost girl, and some wicked conjuring to keep you entertained.  Enjoy!