A tense, engaging read.
There’s been recent interest in historical fantasies with American settings, and this was a nice addition to that elite group.
Jackson creates an off-beat character with an intriguing, mysterious past–I felt a bit as if I were supposed to know about that past, either because it was based on a real event (possible–this book is set just prior to the Revolution, and thus a few centuries after my purview) or because it was the second book in a series, which is not the case. Ethan Kaille is a middle-aged man with a limp and a lost love, both of which impact his moods and motivations. I’m interested in reading more about this character (there’s also a prequel short story available from Tor.com)
The structure of the magic felt familiar–it’s historical, with spoken word magic, so it can be hard to escape the use of Latin–but most of the spells cast are fun and different, very well applied. I’m a little concerned going forward that there aren’t enough limitations on the magic–but this is an author concern, and likely not one that will bother most readers.
My other complaint is with the on-going antagonist, Sephira Pryce. Sephira is a sexy female thieftaker who both runs many of the illegal operations in this version of historical Boston, and catches thieves–primarily her rivals. To some extent this keeps the peace, and she’s powerful in the way of Mob bosses everywhere. But I found her to be less three-dimensional than I’d like for a series character, especially one with this much influence both in the milieu, and in the life of the protagonist.
All in all, well worth reading. This book does a beautiful job of conjuring the atmosphere of Boston and the tension of pre-Revolutionary America. It’s a rich, taut read with many interesting twists, and I’ll be looking forward to the next!