Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Thief's Covenant by Ari Marmell | Young Adult Fantasy | Book Review

Mulluane | 4:00 PM | 5 Comments so far
Olgun is a god who has lost all of his worshipers except one... a young lady turned thief. In desperation Olgun makes a deal. He will inhabit young Widdershins and help her in her nefarious endeavors and she in turn will keep him from fading away into nothingness... 
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Once she was Adrienne Satti. An orphan of Davillon, she had somehow escaped destitution and climbed to the ranks of the city ’s aristocracy in a rags-to-riches story straight from an ancient fairy tale. Until one horrid night, when a conspiracy of forces—human and other—stole it all away in a flurry of blood and murder.

Today she is Widdershins, a thief making her way through Davillon’s underbelly with a sharp blade, a sharper wit, and the mystical aid of Olgun, a foreign god with no other worshippers but Widdershins herself. It’s not a great life, certainly nothing compared to the one she once had, but it’s hers.

But now, in the midst of Davillon’s political turmoil, an array of hands are once again rising up against her, prepared to tear down all that she’s built. The City Guard wants her in prison. Members of her own Guild want her dead. And something horrid, something dark, something ancient is reaching out for her, a past that refuses to let her go. Widdershins and Olgun are going to find answers, and justice, for what happened to her—but only if those who almost destroyed her in those years gone by don’t finish the job first.

*Blurb source *Pyr
Thief's Covenant by Ari Marmell | Young Adult Fantasy | Book Review
Book Source: Contest Winner

Young Adult Fantasy Book Review by Mulluane

But, is it a match made in heaven or a match made in hell? 
Only time will tell...

The Basics

Worldbuilding: This novel has a strong late French Renaissance influence with flintlocks and blunderbuss mixing in with swords and knives. However, there are a few key differences.

For one thing, this world has a unique religious backed society. Sometime in this world's past, 147 of the strongest gods decided to band together and form a pact. Overseen by the High Church, every city, every noble house, every guild and organization is represented by a single god.

This system has some interesting consequences. For example, the City Guard is limited in their efforts against the Thieves Guild. Why? Because each has its own god and those gods will not allow one organization to have more power over the other.

Magic: With the exception of Widdershins, who is host to her very own god, magic or powers are not something that is commonplace. Various members of the church may be granted powers from the gods and gods can grant or withhold good fortune from their patrons, but as a rule, the "common" man has no magical powers at his/her command.

In addition, the relationship between god and worshiper is symbiotic. Gods get their power from the number of worshipers they have and in turn, worshipers receive small favors like good luck in trading or increased yields for their crops.

Atleast that is how it is supposed to work...

  • Widdershins, aka Shins aka Adrienne Satti aka Madeleine Valois is our main protagonist. She is a complicated girl to say the least! She has gone from poor but content to homeless and miserable to rich and pampered and finally, to thief.

  • Olgun is a displaced northern god who has nearly lost all of his worshipers... twice. Now he occupies a place in the mind of his last devotee, Widdershins.

  • Genevieve,  tavern owner and Widdershins' best friend. She is both confidant and when needed, a mother figure.

  • Robin, waitress, barkeep and loyal employee of Genevieve, she is a complicated character who constantly surprised me.

  • Major Julien Bouniard, city guard, handsome, charming and ruthless when he needs to be. His profession often puts him at odds with Widdershins, sometimes seriously and other times with a dose of humor.  

  • Renard Lambert, dandy, expert swordsman, fellow thief and staunch ally. Renard seems shallow on the surface but has depths that might surprise you.
There is a plethora of other characters, both important and minor. The ones listed stood out the most for me.

My Synopsis

The Story: This tale is part coming of age and part mystery with a liberal dose of fun and adventure. It is also very much an urban fantasy in that it all takes place inside a big city with the occasional foray into the surrounding countryside.
Thief's Covenant by Ari Marmell
Widdershins definition: Counterclockwise

The gist of the story is that there is a malevolent force trying to upset the balance of the Hallowed Pact and only Widdershins and her sidekick are in a position to root out this evil and get justice for the past.

Told in third person, Widdershins is the main focus but not the only one. At any time the focus may shift to one of the characters listed above or a character who is important to that part of the story. The result is a well rounded tale relayed by a diverse range of personalities.

This is also a dialog heavy story -- which I love -- that shows us most of what we need to know through the observations of both major and minor players. And, there are characters of every type. Evil, compassionate, witty, wise, loyal, greedy, power hungry and innocent. Each brings something valuable to the story, regardless of their relative importance as a whole.

However, there is one person missing from the narration. Olgun the God never speaks. He mainly communicates through emotes and emotions. Widdershins has learned to interpret impressions such as a shrug, a grin, or a grimace and she can feel a wave of sympathy or a flash of humor. No actual words are ever spoken. Well, not by Olgun. Widdershins has plenty to say to him and most of it is just plain hilarious!

My Opinions 

Thoughts: I don't read alot of Young Adult so I am delightfully surprised when I find a book that is obviously aimed at a more mature young adult. Or atleast a more advanced one. If the reason why you dislike YA in general revolves around the way the vocabulary is dumbed down, you will be pleasantly surprised by this novel.

I also loved the descriptive nature of this book. At times scenes are described in what can only be called lyrical phrases. At other times the descriptions are just plain fun...  and sometimes, just plain funny. For example...
Widdershins's eyes looked as though they might pop from their sockets and careen across the table like billiard balls.
And don't get me started on the dialog. Let's just say I'd burst out with a startled chuckle ever so often and leave it at that...

Aside from vocabulary, there are several other reasons this book might be more appropriate for mature teens but can certainly be enjoyed by most adults. For one, there is a fair amount of descriptive violence, gut wrenching tragedy and realistic portrayals of the seedy underlife you commonly find in big cities.

It is also a book that can be a bit difficult to follow.

Yes folks, as much as I loved this story it has one almost fatal flaw. It jumps time... frequently. You MUST, and I can not stress this enough, must pay attention to the chapter headings. Each heading tells you exactly when the following scenes take place. If you fail to do so I can almost guarantee that you will get lost and confused.

Conclusion: Time jumping aside, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Widdershins has the same type of sarcastic humor that I do and she isn't afraid to use it. Even when it could -- and does -- make matters worse. The beautifully crafted descriptions, the well written dialog, the flawless mix of horror and humor, all made for a delightful experience.

The conclusion itself is solid and to my pleasure, complete. There is plenty of reason to continue following the adventures of Widdershins and her companion, but this mystery is finished. And with one of those twists I kicked myself for not predicting earlier. Never ceases to entertain me when a mystery is resolved is such a way that it feels like a no brainer. Only obviously I have no brain because I sure didn't figure it out.

I'm looking forward to book two. For one thing, I want to know if the time jumping continues now that the back story is complete. We shall see...

Irregardless this is one for the reread shelf. Especially when I'm in the mood for a smartass, kickass heroine!

Ratings, Reviews, Similar Reads, Buy Books, Affiliate Links

Thief's Covenant (Widdershins Adventures, #1)
Author: Ari Marmell
Cover Art: Jason Chan
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Sword and Sorcery
Content: Magic, Gods, Mystery
ISBN 13: 9781616145477
Publisher: Pyr (February 14, 2012)
Print Length: 273 pages
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Kindle: Thief's Covenant (Widdershins Adventure Book 1)
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Already read the book? Please share your own opinion in the comments below!

Young Adult Fantasy Review of Thief's Covenant by Ari Marmell - Reviewed by Mulluane on May 16 2015 - Rating: 4 of 5

Mulluane is a 56-year-old proud grandmother of 4, who is passionate about her pets, blogging, traditional fantasy, and tinkering with webdesign. She is obssesively photo shy but she uses an avatar that accurately represents her dreams. ♥ You can also find her on:

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  1. I really enjoyed this series. Like you said, it's YA but not dumbed down, and I like that it breaks most YA conventions. I hope you continue the series, if recall the time jumps don't continue. And it's also much more emotional, I still remember that ending...

    ~Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    1. I'm looking forward to it! Ari Marmell confirmed on Twitter that there will be no more time jumps in future books so I'm even more pumped to continue reading.

      Thanks for stopping by. Your observations are always valued here. ♥♥♥

  2. Even though I'm not exactly appreciative of YA, this is the kind of story I can relate to: the main character might be a teenager, but the situations and the background are such that I don't feel as if it has all been "dumbed down" (as you said in your review) for a younger audience. After all who says younger people are unable to make mental leaps anyway?

    There are two more details that convince I might like this book: the dialogue (from your review I understand it's witty and intelligent - always a point in favor) and the jumps in time, that usually keep the narrative flowing and engaging. So I'm adding this one to my list right away!

    Great review, as always!

    1. From what I've been told, the jumps were all backstory and will not continue. However, the dialog, the multiple perspectives, the sharp wit and the college level vocabulary all make it feel far more adult than YA.

      Dialog is something that can be done so badly but when it is done well, as it was in this book, it moves things right along and keeps you engaged on a more personal level. I found it interesting that Olgun is mute. The lack of dialog on his part made for an unusual balance. Personally, I thought it was brilliant.

      And thanks for commenting! Means the world to me to hear from you.

  3. this book looks perfect for me. as a fantasy reader i love reading new things and this one seems promising. i also like the cover!! great post!


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