The Adams Gambit – by D.B. Jackson (Review)

Thieftaker #5 / The Loyalist Witch #3

Urban Fantasy, Historical Fantasy

Lore Seekers Press; July 27, 2021

107 pages (ebook)

GoodreadsAuthor Website

7 / 10 ✪

Contains Spoilers for The Witch’s Storm and Cloud Prison (Loyalist Witch Parts 1-2) and minor spoilers for the Thieftaker series leading up to now.

October 26, 1770 – Boston

The conclusion to the Loyalist Witch finds former thieftaker, Ethan Kaille, once again pitting his magic against the Crown witch, Charlotte Whitcomb. If you’ve read the previous novellas in the trilogy, you’ll be aware that Whitcomb is a lot less bothered by right and wrong than Kaille, and so is willing to do anything and use anyone in pursuit of her aims.

Throughout the series Charlotte Whitcomb has had two primary goals: the death of Samuel Adams, and the dissolution of the Sons of Liberty. In the Loyalist Witch, Whitcomb targeted Kaille and Adams directly. In the Cloud Prison, she moved her attention to his friends and kin. With these avenues now closed to her, the loyalist witch is now forced to her final gambit—an open bounty on Adams’ head.

By now Ethan Kaille is sworn entirely to the side of liberty. But even so, one hundred pounds is a princely sum, sure to even test his loyalties. But even though it fails to sway him, the bounty is sure to bring hunters from all around the colonies upon Boston. And it’s up to Kaille to fend them off.

Luckily, he has friends and allies to assist him in this fight. Unfortunately, he cannot trust them all to stand beside him. As bounty hunters descend on Boston, Kaille must weed out those he cannot trust from those he would, even as a horde of unknown variables enter his city.

Again, Ethan Kaille confronts Charlotte Whitcomb, with the life of Samuel Adams and the cause of liberty on the line. And while Ethan may have let her walk away in the previous two entries, he’s certainly learnt his lesson about being too lenient.

You know, probably.

If you’ve read any of the rest of the Thieftaker books, you know that Ethan is a big softie. He doesn’t like to kill unless absolutely necessary, and won’t even consider it if the foe he happens to be facing is a woman. …You can probably see where this is headed.

But Charlotte Whitcomb is trying his patience. First, she tried to kill Ethan’s best friend, Diver, and his fiancé. Next, she went after his wife, Kandice. Additionally, she’s been doing her best to off him from the start, along with anyone who gets in her way. But as you may expect, he’s still hoping to avoid killing her. But then, his “hope” is seeming pretty thin. And since Whitcomb is a powerful and connected Crown agent, any non-lethal approach won’t be easy.

And sometimes, you have to take a life to save a life.

While this wasn’t quite as good as the first novella in the sequence, the Adams Gambit is still a decent story. But I have to admit, I’m kinda burned out by Charlotte by this point. Throughout four books and three novellas, we’ve really only had two or three real foes. I’m craving something new, rather than the same exact setup as the last story three times in a row. Luckily, because of the short length, this setup goes by rather quickly. Unfortunately, it is basically a rehash of each of the first two beginnings.

In fact, my biggest issue with the Adams Gambit is that it basically reads like a mashup of the first two in the sequence—albeit with a few twists thrown in. Yes, there is the whole issue of whom we can and cannot trust. Yes, Kaille has to decide whether or not he’s going to deal with Charlotte once and for all, or find some other workaround. Yes, the ending is completely different from the others, and it puts the story to rest. But seeing as how I read it not a week ago, I really should be able to remember something else from the first half—except that it just blends into the from the first two. And again, yes, the second half is new and different and undeniably entertaining—but is it enough?

I would argue, yes, it’s entertaining. And if you read the first two, you’re going to want to complete the sequence. But it really could have been better. The whole Loyalist Witch sequence has started to feel a bit stale. I love concept of Thieftaker and the series up til now, but it’s started to fall into a rut. While I’d very much like to see the series continue, I’d also like for the author to take a chance on something new: a new enemy, a new city, a new cause, a new magic, a new… whatever.

So… still recommended, but with a caveat. It’s not perfect, especially the first half—which feels like it’s been done three times over—but it’s entertaining and completes the overarching story in a unique (if not wholly new) manner.

The Cloud Prison – by D.B. Jackson (Review)

The Loyalist Witch #2 / Thieftaker #5

Historical Fantasy, Urban Fantasy

Lore Seekers Press; June 22, 2021

112 pages (ebook)

GoodreadsAuthor Website

4 / 5 ✪

Contains Spoilers for The Witch’s Storm, Part 1 of the Loyalist Witch, and minor spoilers for the Thieftaker series leading up to now.

The Cloud Prison is Part II of the Loyalist Witch arc and continues the right where The Witch’s Storm left off.

October 24, 1770 – Boston

It’s been four days since the massive hurricane descended upon Boston. Some streets remain flooded, debris still litters others. Over a hundred people perished, and many more are missing. But life goes on, and—for the people of the Colonies—that means the trial of Captain Thomas Preston is about to begin. While everything is proceeding smoothly, Ethan Kaille lingers by the courthouse on the lookout for trouble.

He hasn’t seen Charlotte Whitcomb, the Tory Witch, since the massive hurricane struck, but knows better than to assume she has fled. Or perished. For the cause of liberty remains. And the Crown would see it crushed.

Indeed, shortly after the start of the trial, Whitcomb herself confronts Ethan. Rather than underestimating him again, this time she has collected herself a bit of insurance, in the form of Deborah, Diver’s betrothed. Feeling that Ethan’s friend’s fiancé is more than enough collateral, she offers the two men a fair trade—a life for a life. And, in return for Deborah, she expects them to kill Samuel Adams, the very heart and soul of the rebellion.

While I’ve simplified it a bit here, there’s more to Whitcomb’s scheme than just a life for a life. It’s more elaborate—and maybe just a touch convoluted. See, she takes Deborah and imprisons her in a cloud above Boston Harbor (hence the novella’s title, the Cloud Prison). In exchange for her freedom, Whitcomb demands that Ethan and/or Diver kill Samuel Adams.

The honest wording in the text implies that she believes that Ethan will do exactly this, in order to save the life of his friend. And if Diver decides to do the deed instead—that’s fine too. But should she really understand Ethan Whitcomb would know that he has no intention of doing this. Which—if you’re all caught up on the series—you should know as well. Thing is, I really thought she took his measure in the first Part. And Whitcomb isn’t a stupid, blind, vain, Crown asset. She may be conniving and even a bit ruthless, but she isn’t outright cold and calculating. Making it all a bit out of character to assume that Ethan would just accede to her demands.

Even so, it’s not a bad story. It still makes Kaille jump through a fair amount of hoops. Gather intel, assets, friends, and weapons of his own, before he confronts her. And just because he would never kill Samuel Adams just to get Deborah back, that doesn’t mean Diver wouldn’t.

It’s another good read; maybe just a bit less enjoyable than the first one. But still strong, and entertaining. The Thieftaker world is always a joy to dive into, even though the authenticity of it all is ruined a bit by the sample size (novella or less). I can’t wait to continue with the trilogy and see what it will set up for the future of the series to come!

This second Part of the Loyalist Witch sets up a dramatic showdown come Part III: the Adams Gambit, which has been out since July 27 of this year.

The Witch’s Storm – by D.B. Jackson (Review)

Thieftaker #5 / The Loyalist Witch #1

Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Lore Seekers Press; May 16, 2021

105 pages (ebook)

GoodreadsAuthor Website

4.5 / 5 ✪

Contains spoilers for the Thieftaker Series Books 1-4

Boston, Fall 1770. Ethan Kaille, former thieftaker, now lives a quiet life as a tavern keeper with his wife Kannice. Once a loyalist, he now supports the Sons of Liberty following the Boston Massacre. So when the Sons stop by with a problem, Kannice practically shoves him out the door to take the case.

Lately, the Sons have been plagued with death threats, all stemming from the trial of the Captain Thomas Preston, commander of the Boston Massacre. In fact, both the prosecution and defense have been receiving threats should they continue with the trial. And lately, there have been incidents with no explanation, which can only be the cause of magick.

Luckily, conjuring is Ethan’s forte, and he jumps into the case with renewed fervor. Because, the thing is… Ethan really missed being a thieftaker. Prowling the lanes, plying his trade. On the wrong side of the law, Sephira Pryce, helping the working men and women of Boston live out their lives are well as possible. He’s just falling back into the old groove when the conjurer strikes.

And in a moment Ethan is overwhelmed. This new witch’s power dwarfs his own, and even worse—she knows who he is. But can Ethan step away from thieftaking entirely now that he’s just come back to it, and can he really give up the cause of liberty? Or will he press on, risking ending up just another corpse floating facedown in Boston harbor?

Thus begins the Witch’s Storm, Part #1 of the Loyalist Witch.

I’m honestly going to have trouble rating this anything lower than 5 stars. It was just soooo good returning to the world of Thieftaker. Even better to read something new. Nonetheless, this was a great read. So good in fact that I went through it in a day.

There were some minor inconsistencies between this and the previous stories, but nothing that really affects the story. Even though Boston seems a touch less vibrant and detailed than normal, I’d chalk it up to the novella and its length. Not that this is an adequate excuse, but just being back in 1770’s Boston was enough to settle most of my qualms. It was amazing walking the streets of Boston again with Ethan Kaille.

If you’re a fan of the series: the Witch’s Storm is a must-read. It expands upon Ethan’s saga, and tells a never-before-seen story in the Thieftaker universe. Obviously, it’s the first of a trilogy of novellas known together as “the Loyalist Witch”, but tells a complete story on its own. It does seem like it’d be rather important to read some of the Thieftaker stuff first instead of jumping right in here, but a new reader wouldn’t be completely at sea. It’s $3 for the ebook, but that was an acceptable price to pay—if you think of the three novellas of the Loyalist Witch as one novel, it’d be $9 for the book which is just about average. But otherwise I can’t recommend it enough and I cannot wait to read the next one!

The Loyalist Witch continues with The Cloud Prison, out June 22, 2021.