Review of Dead Man’s Reach by D.B. Jackson

My review of Thieftaker, book one in The Thieftaker Chronicles, is here.

My review of Thieves’ Quarry, book two in The Thieftaker Chronicles, is here.

My review of A Plunder of Souls, book three in The Thieftaker Chronicles, is here.

Dead Man’s Reach is D.B. Jackson’s fourth (and, sadly, for now final) book in The Thieftaker Chronicles. Boston thieftaker and “conjurer” Ethan Kaille faces a new, unexplainable magical threat during what would prove to be a very, very eventful snowy early 1770. Two years have now passed since the occupation of Boston by British Redcoats began (and since the events of Thieves’ Quarry).

Dead Mans Reach cover

“Regulars patrolled the streets night and day, and with tensions rising, everywhere they went they encountered the taunts of young men inflamed by drink or simply the folly of youth.” Those tensions begin to boil over when customs officer Ebenezer Richardson shoots into a mob in front of his house and kills a young boy named Christopher Seider (a real event). Kaille, of course, is there to see it. And, to make matters worse, he sensed a conjuring immediately before Richardson made his ill-fated decision to fire into the crowd.

Richardson Seider woodcut

I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, though. Dead Man’s Reach Starts on a more prosaic note. Kaille has once again run afoul of his thieftaking rival, Sephira Price. My patience for this sort of run-in ended with Thieves’ Quarry, or perhaps Thieftaker, but thankfully we move on quickly. And the initial run-in is our first look at the threat (and mystery) at the center of the book, as one of Price’s men suddenly and without provocation attacks the thief they are holding (the attacking is ok, it’s the failure to wait for orders that is out of character for Price’s men). When it happens again with Richardson, Kaille and the reader more than suspect a link. In between we get a lot of the reestablishing of characters, past events, and so on that I would generally prefer the writer to keep brief and let the reader catch up, but then it’s been a year since I read A Plunder of Souls and longer since I read the others, so I probably shouldn’t complain.

My biggest complaint about A Plunder of Souls was that the political turmoil in colonial Boston took a backseat. Given the timeframe, it is right back in the forefront in Dead Man’s Reach. Further, Kaille is in the center of it, as the strange conjurings precede every act of violence pushing Boston toward a tipping point. He meets with Lieutenant (and Acting) Governor Thomas Hutchinson. Both Samuel Adams and Dr. Joseph Warren play prominent roles. Future president John Adams even makes an appearance. The book climaxes shortly after a night that lives on in infamy. Jackson’s decision to give his protagonist strong initial Tory leanings again pays off, and we get the supreme payoff of seeing him finally self-identify as a patriot after four books. All of this is I think accurate (sans the conjuring) and I know skillfully woven into the narrative (or vice versa).

Boston_Massacre

Jackson is a well practiced hand at this, and it shows. Kaille and the other characters have had time to firmly settle into their roles. For all my frustrations with Sephira Price, her interactions with Kaille after the initial one are often a highlight. Kaille’s relationship with Kannice, the owner of his favorite pub (I suspect an ulterior motive) plays a more important role and adds a strong romance element to the stew. Kaille has become more powerful and assertive even as the events of the book drive him to self-doubt and loathing. He also throws around more snark (what do the kids say these days? Shade? Salt?) than I remember. This chapter in the Chronicles is, as always, strongest as an urban fantasy, and the mystery at the heart of the story is a bit too predictable.

Now what’s it going to take to convince Jackson to write a fifth book?

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About H.P.

Blogs on speculative fiction books at Every Day Should Be Tuesday.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Fantasy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Review of Dead Man’s Reach by D.B. Jackson

  1. Pingback: Review of Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson | Every Day Should Be Tuesday

  2. Pingback: Review of Thieves’ Quarry by D.B. Jackson | Every Day Should Be Tuesday

  3. Pingback: Review of A Plunder of Souls by D.B. Jackson | Every Day Should Be Tuesday

  4. Pingback: Thinking About the 2016 Hugo Awards – Best Novel part 1 | Every Day Should Be Tuesday

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