01/06/2012. Contributed by Andy Whitaker
pub: Pyr/Prometheus Books. 280 page small hardback. Price: $16.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-61614-547-7. E-book: $ 9.99 (US). ISBN: 978-1-61614-548-4.
check out website: www.pyrsf.com
'Thief's Covenant' is the first in the 'Widdershins Adventure' fantasy series of novels by Ari Marmell. These are targeted at teens and young adults who want something a bit more than the typical teen novel delivers. It certainly delivers a fast-paced story set in a fictional medieval city with a large collection of characters and not all of them make it to the end. The City Guard and Guilds play a large part in the story, as do the various deities the population worships. It would appear at first glance that there are similarities with Terry Pratchet's 'Discworld' universe but these are coincidental. The Widdershins environment is more aligned to how we think the medieval world would be with the addition of local deities who do have real powers. There are no wizards, witches, fairies, elves, dwarfs or dragons in this city or, at least, not yet. This is the first book in the series, remember.
The story itself tells the tale of Adrienne Satti, an orphan girl who lives in the city of Davillon, with a well-developed skill of relieving the population of valuables, clothes and food. A chance encounter with a nobleman, who she relieves of his expensive sword leads to a series of events that have impacts on the rest of her life. At a later date, the same nobleman, Alexandre Delacroix, takes her in and elevates her to into the ranks of the city's aristocracy. Adrienne is witness to a particularly gruesome incident which results in her becoming an outlaw and taking on board the god Olgun who now lives in her head.
Forced to take a new identity, Adrienne becomes Widdershins a very accomplished thief and reluctant member of the thief's guild. This is a role that Adrienne excels at with a little help from her friendly personal god whose minor powers help with the little difficult moments. Unfortunately, Widdershins picks up enemies as easily as she picks locks. Someone will stop at nothing and use any means to see the end of Widdershins.
The book is organised into sections of the 'now' and flashbacks into Adrienne's past. These start at eight years before 'now' and are distributed through the book to tie up events from Adrienne's past to activities in the 'now'. As I mentioned earlier, the plot moves at a fast pace and there is quite a large cast of characters which can make it difficult to keep track of whose doing what. It is a story that evolves and the ultimate purpose is not revealed until near the end, making it an interesting and engaging read. There are lots of gory killings but quite a few moments that made me laugh out loud.
If the book has a flaw it is that the central character, Adrienne Satti, sometimes appears rather bland. There is just one brief moment where there could be the beginning of a romance with a dashing young nobleman but this comes to nothing. With the exception of Genevieve the innkeeper, Adrienne only seems to have a veneer of good or bad feelings towards the other characters. However, this is the first book in the series and it is to be hoped that subsequent volumes fill out Adrienne's character.
I would normally pass up the chance to read yet another traditional medieval fantasy adventure as the genre has become so formulaic that once you have read one, you have read them all. 'Thief's Covenant' stands out from the crowd in having a good fast-paced plot with a young heroine who has a rags-to-riches-to-rags story with her own personal god. It is well-written, which puts the author Ari Marmell on my list of authors to keep a look out for. At 272 pages it is exactly the right length with a good satisfying ending. It is a book I enjoyed reading and would recommend to others of any age. Why should teen-agers have all the fun?
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