Review : A Plunder Of Souls – DB Jackson

SoulsTitle A Plunder Of Souls

Author DB Jackson

Format Hardback
Number of pages 336
ISBN 9780765338181
Publisher Tor Books

Publication date 08 July 2014

 

Boston, 1769: Ethan Kaille, a Boston thieftaker who uses his conjuring to catch criminals, has snared villains and defeated magic that would have daunted a lesser man. What starts out as a mysterious phenomenon that has local ministers confused becomes something far more serious. A ruthless, extremely powerful conjurer seeks to wake the souls of the dead to wreak a terrible revenge on all who oppose him. Kaille’s minister friends have been helpless to stop crimes against their church. Graves have been desecrated in a bizarre, ritualistic way. Equally disturbing are reports of recently deceased citizens of Boston reappearing as grotesquely disfigured shades, seemingly having been disturbed from their eternal rest, and now frightening those who had been nearest to them in life. But most personally troubling to Kaille is a terrible waning of his ability to conjure. He knows all these are related…but how? When Ethan discovers the source of this trouble, he realizes that his conjure powers and those of his friends will not be enough to stop a madman from becoming all-powerful. But somehow, using his wits, his powers, and every other resource he can muster, Ethan must thwart the monster’s terrible plan and restore the restless souls of the dead to the peace of the grave. Let the battle for souls begin.

 

A Plunder of Souls is the third book in the Thieftaker Chronicles and for me a happy reunion with Ethan, Kannice, Sephira and all the other character I came to love so much while reading the first two books. I liked the first book, Thieftaker, a lot and I absolutely loved the second one, Thieves’ Quarry. Both books are in my top 10 of their respective year of publication. Because of the fact that I love Thieves’ Quarry so much, it was with very high expectations that I started reading A Plunder of Souls.
And those expectations were certainly met.

Once again is Ethan’s story a perfect blending of accurate historical facts with fantasy. Jackson puts this tale to the pages with a great love for history and it benefits this series very well. He mixes the historical facts with a touch of magic in the form of Latin spell casting. The use of Latin makes for a believable existence of magic in 18th century Boston and when reading this series I was perfectly convinced that magic really existed in that age. A great accomplishment by Jackson. And I must say that the magic battles Ethan has with his adversaries are becoming even more awesome with each book. And that says something, because I found them already pretty awesome in the first two books.

A Plunder of Souls is something of a change, compared to Thieftaker and Thieves’ Quarry. For the first time it isn’t a murder case Ethan has to investigate, but a case of grave robbing. That makes for a much darker mystery and the tale is a lot more sinister than the stories in the previous two books. Balanced against this much darker tale are the dialogues, which are wittier and funnier than the dialogues in the first two books and that makes this third installment as enjoyable and entertaining as ever.

The first two books are character driven tales and it isn’t any different with A Plunder of Souls. Ethan has become one of my favorite characters in fantasy literature of all time and the thieftaking conjurer is superbly developed, which makes him a man of flesh and blood and definitely no cardboard character. Like I said is the story a lot more dark and grittier, so it will come as no surprise to you that Ethan faces his most difficult case and adversary in this third book. As usual is the thieftaker outpowered by his opponent, but also as usual are his cleverness and a quick mind his saviors.
But it isn’t Ethan alone who faces difficult times. This story takes places during a smallpox outbreak in Boston in 1769 and that makes it difficult for everyone. Kannice, Ethan’s beloved, faces a dilemma: leaving her tavern and stay with her sister or endure the hard times, hoping the smallpox doesn’t spread to the Dowsing Rod.
Janna Windcatcher had a little role in the previous two books, but in A Plunder of Souls she gets a bigger part to play and she does that with a big flair. I love her character and I hope she gets an equal big part in the fourth book, which is called Dead Man’s Reach and will be released July 2015.
Sephira Pryce is off course there to oppose Ethan in every way possible, but this time she maybe has to do the unthinkable: cooperate with the conjurer. That part of the story makes a great tale and Jackson manages to let the tension between Ethan and Sephira jump of the pages.

There’s also a tension building in the background. Boston is occupied by the British and with the American Independence War looming at the horizon, Jackson is doing a great job in integrating that part of history in the story through Ethan’s doubts about the occupation. Always being the Crown’s man, Ethan now gets doubts about the British occupation and you get a feeling that there is something going to happen in that area in the next book. This 18th century Boston is put to the pages with a lot of detail and you can tell when Ethan roams the city that the author has spent a lot of research, which benefits the story.

That brings us to my conclusion. A Plunder of Souls is a perfect example of how historical fantasy should be written. It has everything a great novel should have: great characters, a thoroughly detailed world and a great story. I still think Thieves’ Quarry is a little bit better than A Plunder of Souls, but that’s solely the merit of the great solution of the mystery in the second book. Let me put it this way:
D.B. Jackson delivers with A Plunder of Souls, once again and for the third consecutive year in a row, one of the best fantasy books of the year.

 

Related Posts:

Review of Thieftaker

Review of Thieves’ Quarry

Interview with DB Jackson (2012)

Interview with DB Jackson (2014)

The Boston Gazette Interviews Ethan Kaille (Guest Post)

Writing Epic, Historical Urban, And Contemporary Urban Fantasy (Guest Post)

 

Review : Miserere – Teresa Frohock

MiseTitle Miserere

Author Teresa Frohock

Format Paperback
Number of pages 288
ISBN 9781597802895
Publisher Night Shade Books

Publication date 19 July 2011

 

Exiled exorcist Lucian Negru deserted his lover in Hell in exchange for saving his sister Catarina’s soul, but Catarina doesn’t want salvation. She wants Lucian to help her fulfill her dark covenant with the Fallen Angels by using his power to open the Hell Gates. Catarina intends to lead the Fallen’s hordes out of Hell and into the parallel dimension of Woerld, Heaven’s frontline of defense between Earth and Hell. When Lucian refuses to help his sister, she imprisons and cripples him, but Lucian learns that Rachael, the lover he betrayed and abandoned in Hell, is dying from a demonic possession. Determined to rescue Rachael from the demon he unleashed on her soul, Lucian flees his sister, but Catarina’s wrath isn’t so easy to escape.

 

Miserere is Teresa Frohock’s debut novel and takes place in Woerld, the fourth dimension besides Earth, Heaven and Hell. It tells the tale of four people (Lucian, Catarina, Rachael and Lindsay) who are ending up in a story of love and betrayal, a story of loyalty and regrets.

Miserere is a dark, emotionally driven tale and with characters that have a sad history together. All of these characters are superbly developed and Frohock definitely has a flair for putting believable and tormented characters to the page.
Lucian is the main protagonist, a man who made a terrible mistake in the past and still pays the price for it to this very day. I felt such a big compassion for this guy, that I, nearing the end of the book, wanted nothing more than to see him get his redemption.
Catarina is Lucian’s sister and the cause of his mistake. She’s cruel and evil to the bone and wants nothing more than to see the forces of Heaven being defeated. The best part of Catarina’s tale is how Frohock puts her to the pages as an insecure woman who wants nothing more than to be loved, a perfect explanation on why she acts so evil.
Rachael is the third character of this story and the victim of Lucian’s mistake. Just like Catarina is she a tormented woman, but unlike Lucian’s sister is the possession by a demon the cause of that torment. Rachael’s interactions with Lucian are a joy to read and their tale is a story of two possessed people, each possessed in a different way. While Rachael is literally possessed by a demon, Lucian is, figuratively speaking, possessed by his sister.

All of these are great characters, but my absolute favorite protagonist of this book is Lindsay. The road she takes in this book, from a scared kid to a young girl who kicks ass, is definitely the best part of this book. I would love to see a sequel where she’s the grown-up lead character.

The worldbuilding is not as good as the characterbuilding, but still better than a lot of other fantasy worlds. Especially Woerld is quite original. At first glance you may say it looks like every other generic fantasy world, but at a closer look you’ll see that this isn’t true by far. Frohock depicts Woerld as a world where every earthly religion has a place and where they cooperate against the hordes of Hell. You can see this world as an indictment against the prejudices and hate between the different religions and makes you wonder why they can’t be more tolerant to eachother in the real world.

Let’s end this review with my conclusion. Miserere is a haunting tale about love and possession. It’s a very emotional, character driven tale, set in an original world with some great protagonists.
A great debut and I hope we’ll see a lot more from this author in the near future.

 

Review : Reign Of Ash – Gail Z. Martin

ReignTitle Reign Of Ash

Author Gail Z. Martin

Format Paperback
Number of pages 672
ISBN 9781841499161
Publisher Orbit

Publication date 01 April 2014

 

Blaine McFadden survived six years in the brutal Velant prison colony, exiled for murder. When war devastates his homeland of Donderath, it also destroys the intentional magic on which Donderath and its fellow kingdoms rely. Blaine and a small group of fellow exiles return to a lawless wasteland where unrestrained magic storms appear and disappear unpredictably, and monsters roam the ruins. Yet rumours persist that the seeds of a new magic rest with a dangerous, ancient ritual and a handful of survivors who have disappeared. McFadden resolves to find these survivors and work the ritual, despite the danger, to restore the magic and end the chaos. He rallies a small and desperate army for a last stand, knowing that if they fail, the civilisation of the Ascendant Kingdoms dies with them.

 

Reign of Ash is the second book in the Ascendant Kingdoms saga and takes of right after the failed attempt to restore the magic at the end of Ice Forged, the first book in this series. Blaine McFadden and his friends are setting up a new attempt to restore that magic, all the time hunted down by his two enemies, Penhallow and Pollard.

Just like the first book in this series, is Reign of Ash a novel with the focus on characters and dialogue. And I must say that Martin handles this very well. There is quite some action too, but that part of the story is less interesting than the interactions between the characters. If you’ve read some of my reviews on this blog, then you’ll already know that I love character driven tales.
So, despite the fact that the action was a little illogical in places, it didn’t diminish the fact that I liked this novel very much. Reign of Ash is a great mix of mystery and a treasure hunting quest in an epic fantasy setting. It’s better than the first book in the series and I even dare to say that this is Martin’s best book so far.

The main issue I’ve had with Ice Forged was in the area of the worldbuilding. That issue is mostly solved in Reign of Ash, because we get to see a lot more of the world in which this tale takes place. It’s a great world with new dangers and new monsters, a world where the Talishte aren’t at the top of the food chain anymore. In case you don’t know: Talishte is the name in this world for vampires. Yes, this book contains, just like all Gail Martin’s novels, vampires. And now I can hear you thinking: ‘No, not vampires. Not those whining, glow in the dark pussies we see on screen every day.’ Rest assured, Martin’s vampires are bred from the good old vampires like Dracula; beings that are fearsome, but sophisticated at the same time. The good kind of vampires, if I may say so.
Another recurrent item in Martin’s novels is an original religion. Religion is playing an important part in her novels and Martin knows how to make them original and believable.

So far we have great characters and worldbuilding, which are a joy to read. Martin even throws in a touch of romance and adds some humor. Piran’s tale from his past even made me laugh out loud.

And that takes us to my conclusion. Reign of Ash is an entertaining mix of mystery and a good old quest, set in a well-developed world. The final chapters are even adding an Indiana Jones feel. The action isn’t always as good as the rest of the story, but luckily it didn’t bother me much. And so, all of this makes Reign of Ash an enjoyable read and definitely Gail Martin’s best book so far.

 

Related Posts:

Review of Ice Forged

Review of The Summoner

Review of The Blood King

Interview with Gail Z. Martin

Have Vampires Lost Their Mojo? (Guest Post)

 

Writing Epic, Historical Urban, And Contemporary Urban Fantasy (A Guest Post by DB Jackson)

Today’s blogpost features an interesting piece by DB Jackson, wherein he talks about writing in different fantasy sub genres. Enjoy!

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Writing Epic, Historical Urban, and Contemporary Urban Fantasy

PoSBlogTourI have been fortunate throughout my career to write successfully in a number of different subgenres.  Under my own name, David B. Coe [http://www.davidbcoe.com], I have written eleven epic fantasy novels spanning three series. As D.B. Jackson [http://www.dbjackson-author.com], I have written a historical urban fantasy series, the Thieftaker Chronicles. The third Thieftaker book, A Plunder of Souls, (following Thieftaker and Thieves’ Quarry) has recently been released by Tor Books, and a fourth volume will be out next summer. And writing once more as David B. Coe, I am now working on a contemporary urban fantasy series, the Case Files of Justis Fearsson. The first book of this project, Spell Blind, will be out in January from Baen Books. My novels all share a firm grounding in fantasy, but beyond that I have found that writing in each subgenre presents its own challenges and joys.

I began my career writing epic fantasy because that was what I had been reading since my youth. I fell in love with fantasy, and speculative fiction while reading the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, Ursula K. LeGuin (the Earthsea trilogy), Stephen R. Donaldson (the Thomas Covenant trilogies), and Guy Gavriel Kay (the Fionavar Tapestry). Those books not only convinced me that I wanted to read as much fantasy as possible, they also inspired me to want to write professionally myself. I was amazed by the creativity required to build and maintain new worlds, and I was fascinated by the range of magic systems I discovered as I explored these works and others. When I began to write, it seemed logical that I should create worlds and magic of my own.

This, of course, is easier said than done. Fantasy worlds have to make sense; their politics and economics, their religions and customs, their cultures and histories require a certain internal logic and consistency. Their magic systems need to be more than mere add-ons to the societies in which they function. Rather, they should blend with those other elements so that they seem as organic as possible to their worlds. I don’t have the time or space in this post to detail all that I did for my three epic series: the LonTobyn Chronicle, Winds of the Forelands, and Blood of the Southlands. I will say that my first forays into worldbuilding were challenging to say the least, though ultimately successful. But looking back on all of my epic fantasies, I see things that I might do differently now.

It seems to me that the hardest part of worldbuilding for alternate world fantasy is finding a balance between ambition and clarity. On the one hand, building a world from scratch is an inherently ambitious endeavor; in weaving together all of those elements I mentioned earlier (politics, religion, culture, etc.) we strive to build a world that is as rich and intricate as our own. On the other hand, once that world is complete, we need to be able to convey its essential elements to our readers in a way that convinces them that the world is “real,” but doesn’t overwhelm them with too much detail, too much complexity.

When writing urban fantasy — either contemporary or historical — the worldbuilding challenges are somewhat different. On the surface, this task might seem easier. My historical fantasies are set in pre-Revolutionary Boston; the contemporary urban fantasy is set in present-day Phoenix, Arizona. Obviously, I don’t have to create those places. I need to portray them accurately and convincingly, and that requires a good deal of research. But the consistencies and details are already in place. I merely have to find them. Easier, right? Except that I then have to build a magic system into those places in a way that feels natural and believable, that doesn’t cause my readers to stumble over every spell or instance of the supernatural. Readers are perfectly willing to accept the existence of magic in the Forelands. They are going to be far more skeptical when it shows up in a Colonial setting they’ve studied since they were school children, or in a modern city that they might have visited or even inhabited.

The differences among the various subgenres don’t end with the preparatory work they require. The actual writing of the books is different as well. Epic fantasies tend to have complicated plot lines that are . . . well, epic. All three of my epic series were extended story arcs, meaning that they were stories that developed and concluded over the course of several volumes. They had many strands of subplot that I braided together so that eventually they would all reach their culminations at the same time. And I told the stories through the eyes of several point of view characters, all of whom offered different perspectives on these plot threads. Keeping track of those various story lines could be difficult at times. On the other hand, using different characters to tell my story allowed me to keep my readers informed throughout, and it generated a certain narrative momentum with each shift in point of view.

SpellBlindThe plotting in urban fantasy is tighter. Each novel has fewer subplots, and each book in both the Thieftaker and Fearsson series stands alone, so that when the novel is complete, so is the story. The greatest challenge with these books lies in my use of point of view characters. In the Thieftaker books, Ethan Kaille, my thieftaking, conjuring hero, is the only narrator. My readers experience everything through his eyes, his intellect, his emotions. Similarly, Justis Fearsson is the lone narrator in the contemporary urban series. This means that I have to find ways to keep their voices fresh. I need to dispense information as my heroes learn it, and I have to generate my narrative momentum through a single plot line without the benefit of point of view shifts. This leads to plots that move faster, that are more streamlined and less complicated. And it also requires that my writing be leaner and more focused.

With the contemporary series, I use a first person narrative. My readers are in Jay Fearsson’s head and the books read as if Jay himself is telling the story. So, I needed to make Jay not only reliable, but also likable, even charming, while also revealing his shortcomings. I don’t think I’ve ever had to know a character better than I know him. Ethan’s stories are told in close third person, which allows me to step back slightly every now and then in order to explain historical events and phenomena that a first person narrator would have sounded odd discussing. I also had to work hard on perfecting his voice so that he was understandable to my twenty-first century readers but also convincingly a man of the eighteenth century. With both of these characters, though, the most important thing is that my readers form a strong emotional connection with them early on. If they don’t, the books won’t work.

I can’t say which of these subgenres is “hardest” or “most fun.” I have enjoyed writing all of them. I’ve been writing a lot of urban fantasy recently — contemporary and historical — but I have in mind an idea for a new epic fantasy, so I might soon be returning to my creative roots. It bears saying, though, that at root the fundamentals of generating good fiction don’t change, regardless of genre. Strong, compelling characters, intriguing settings, plot lines that leave the reader breathless and wanting more: I try to put these elements into every book I write. That is the most daunting challenge of all, and also, when I succeed, the source of my greatest satisfaction as an author.

©D.B. Jackson

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DBJD.B. Jackson is also David B. Coe, the award-winning author of more than a dozen fantasy novels. His first two books as D.B. Jackson, the Revolutionary War era urban fantasies, Thieftaker and Thieves’ Quarry, volumes I and II of the Thieftaker Chronicles, are both available from Tor Books in hardcover and paperback. The third volume, A Plunder of Souls, has recently been released in hardcover. The fourth Thieftaker novel, Dead Man’s Reach, is in production and will be out in the summer of 2015. D.B. lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two teenaged daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.

 

Thief3Boston, 1769: Ethan Kaille, a Boston thieftaker who uses his conjuring to catch criminals, has snared villains and defeated magic that would have daunted a lesser man. What starts out as a mysterious phenomenon that has local ministers confused becomes something far more serious. A ruthless, extremely powerful conjurer seeks to wake the souls of the dead to wreak a terrible revenge on all who oppose him. Kaille’s minister friends have been helpless to stop crimes against their church. Graves have been desecrated in a bizarre, ritualistic way. Equally disturbing are reports of recently deceased citizens of Boston reappearing as grotesquely disfigured shades, seemingly having been disturbed from their eternal rest, and now frightening those who had been nearest to them in life. But most personally troubling to Kaille is a terrible waning of his ability to conjure. He knows all these are related…but how? When Ethan discovers the source of this trouble, he realizes that his conjure powers and those of his friends will not be enough to stop a madman from becoming all-powerful. But somehow, using his wits, his powers, and every other resource he can muster, Ethan must thwart the monster’s terrible plan and restore the restless souls of the dead to the peace of the grave. Let the battle for souls begin.

 

Related Posts:

Review of Thieftaker

Review of Thieves’ Quarry

Interview with DB Jackson(2012)

Interview with DB Jackson (2014)

The Boston Gazette Interviews Ethan Kaille (Guest Post)

 

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