Thursday, July 5, 2012

Review of Diablo III: The Order by Nate Kenyon

Deckard Cain is the last of the Horadrim, the sole surviving member of a mysterious and legendary order. Assembled by the archangel Tyrael, the Horadrim were charged with the sacred duty of seeking out and vanquishing the three Prime Evils: Diablo (the Lord of Terror), Mephisto (the Lord of Hatred), and Baal (the Lord of Destruction). But that was many years ago. As the decades passed, the Horadrim’s strength diminished, and they fell into obscurity. Now all of their collected history, tactics, and wisdom lie within the aged hands of one man. A man who is growing concerned.Dark whisperings have begun to fill the air, tales of ancient evil stirring, rumblings of a demonic invasion set to tear the land apart.Amid the mounting dread, Deckard Cain uncovers startling new information that could bring about the salvation—or ruin—of the mortal world: other remnants of the Horadrim still exist. He must unravel where they have been and why they are hiding from one of their own.As Cain searches for the lost members of his order, he is thrust into an alliance with an unlikely ally: Leah, an eight-year-old girl feared by many to carry a diabolical curse. What is her secret? How is it tied to the prophesied End of Days? And if there are other living Horadrim, will they be able to stand against oblivion? These are the questions Deckard Cain must answer . . .. . . before it is too late.
In true Gemini fashion, I am a coin, that is to say that I have two sides to my opinion on this book. The bad side or should I say the devil side or maybe even go as far as saying the infernal anger of the Burning Hells manifested from my misery side, actually has nothing to do with the book or book review. But it cannot be discounted so I must speak the words. My computer is a piece of technological poop! I say this with a grain of salt (albeit a bitter one). I love my computer and it has provided me with a means to an end, so I will continue to say nice things to it's face and only talk bad about it behind it's back. But you say, "You are typing this review on the computer! It will be able to hear you!". And I say, "No freakin' way! I got the resolution turned way down and the sound is muted, man!". So yeah, I don't have a beefy machine with dual 23" HD monitors and a huge rack, complete with 2 of the most stunning AMD Radeon HD 6990 graphics cards like the one I cheat on this one with at work. But hey? Waddayagonna do? Huh? All this to say that my sweet little computer just can't handle the demands of a game like Diablo III. Plus a 10.1 inch screen really doesn't cut the mustard if you know what I mean. All that being said, I really wanted to play this game. Good fortune did smile on me at that point. I was over visiting Bryce at The Stamp (of Approval) when what did I see peaking at me at the bottom of one of his (very jealous making) book hauls. That's right folks, Diablo III The Order. I picked up that 10.1 inch screen and held it about 5" from my face just to be sure. I sat it back down. I said to myself, "This is just what I need!!!". And I thrust my fist into the air like I was reciting the prepare for war speech by that one guy sometime ago. It was only then that I remembered we had company over and my A.D.D removed me from the conversation at hand. Slightly embarrassing that was, yeah. The AMAZIN' folks over at Gallery Press were kind enough to honor my pitiful begging request for a copy to review. A few days later I got the book in the mail.

Strangely enough, I read this book almost exactly how I play a game. New games cost about 60 bucks in my parts... and that is a lot of coin for someone like me. If I am going to dish out that kind of jangle then whether I want to stop playing or not, I shut off the game right around about 45 minutes to an hour a day. Cause, I want it to last ya feel me? This really worked out well for me with the book. Cause I would've flew through this book if I didn't show a little restraint. The time in between really stretched out the intrigue and various things happening with the plot felt more tense because of it.

If I have done my homework correctly, Diablo III: The Order takes place before the events of the game and that is just as well because this filled in the gaps between games 2 and 3. The book, of course follows Deckard Cain, one of my favorite protagonists. Cain is humbled, self critical, old and beardy. And boy you do NOT want to get on his bad side or else you are going to see the business side of his staff. Above all things Deckard Cain is a scholar. Someone who loves the warmth and smells of old books. The only way you know these things is because Nate Kenyon's writing is phenomenal. I would never have guessed it! I haven't read Nate Kenyon before... So, I was thinking game to book translation was going to pan out kind of like book to movie translation. It just doesn't quite do it justice. I mean come on? Do you think anyone could ever duplicate on a page the way you felt when you were playing Samus Aran and went up against Mother Brain for the first time. Nobody was in the house man.. it was 1986... I was about ready to call 911 and tell them they done put a brain behind glass and put that *&^% on a video game for me to kill! Like whoa Scoob! Zoinkies.

Deckard is on the road. And this book lays out his journey in search of answers. I read the book like it was a quest in the game. Some mis-happen events forces Cain to bring along Leah. A character I wish I could read more about. They will go through things in this book that in the end you will literally see the ties that are binding these two together. I really cared about these two and you don't get that with shotty descriptions and character development. There is a character in the book named Lund or Lunk or Damn I cannot remember right now... Anyway, all said and done he may have a page of facetime in this book but you are gonna really feel something for him by the turn of the page. That shows some real talent in writing in my humble opinion. You meet a character in the book named Mikulov that blew away my expectations for him. He does some really cool things in this book. SHHHHH!!! No spoilers, dammit!

As far as world building goes, I think Kenyon had it pretty easy. Fans of the series already have a decent picture of what Sanctuary looks like in their minds. So were dealing with more like settings and atmosphere here. And being the wordsmith that our author is the scenes were perfectly described in there dismal and dark ways. Nate Kenyon paints a formidable black cloud over the heads of his readers in Diablo III: The Order. A cloud that will have you on the edge of your seat up to the very end wondering if evil has finally overcome the heavens themselves. You oughta read it to find out. Thanks Nate Kenyon, you've made a Horadrim initiate out of me for sure.

4 out of 5 Dashingly debonair devils with disgustingly long ..... ummmm have you played to the end of Dante's Inferno... Don't look man! That @$#% is gross.

P.S. Don't forget to check out all the cool things going on over at The Fantasy Tavern on Facebook. Where we can discuss this book and many, many more things fantasy related.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Fantasy Tavern is NOW open for business!

Good morning all! Today I need a virtual paperboy to stand on the street corner and hawk the latest news. A little while back, a long time fellow blogging buddy of mine (Ross from Cursed Armada), contacted me about starting up a Fantasy Fan based Facebook page to share all the things we weren't getting to discuss on our own individual blogs and to hopefully reach a bigger fan base to really get people talking about the things we have been enjoying for years and years. From the moment he mentioned it, I have been very excited about this project! Blogger has been a great tool for me to share my thoughts on some of the books I read, but I don't think I reach very many people, I read slow and thoroughly and that leaves big gaps in the frequency of my posts. For me personally (for the present time), I am still going to post my reviews to the various books I read here on Writing Ex Libris. I will be linking to these reviews on the The Fantasy Tavern, and hope to generate lots of good talk about them and many, many more things over there.
I spend a large amount of time reading some very well put together reviews on some very well put together blogs. We would like to help get these great blogs more exposure and I think I can help a little with The Fantasy Tavern being a meeting place to bring all these reviews together for people to read and hopefully discuss to some degree.

AND THAT'S NOT ALL!!! Along with all the latest in upcoming books, reviews and great discussion, we are posting about all things fantasy related! Authors, bloggers, book reviews, comics, movies, games (board and console), tattoos and many, many more realms of the fantasy universe. So stop on by, we have a few things up already with a whole bunch more on the way. So go on over and "Like" our page and comment on anything that catches your eye. Then go spread the word about two sellswords starting a virtual bar on Facebook! Were not only going from coast to coast here people. We are talking about massing the world over!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Review of The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett

Vaudeville: mad, mercenary, dreamy, and absurd, a world of clashing cultures and ferocious showmanship and wickedly delightful deceptions.
But sixteen-year-old pianist George Carole has joined vaudeville for one reason only: to find the man he suspects to be his father, the great Heironomo Silenus. Yet as he chases down his father’s troupe, he begins to understand that their performances are strange even for vaudeville: for wherever they happen to tour, the very nature of the world seems to change
Because there is a secret within Silenus’s show so ancient and dangerous that it has won him many powerful enemies. And it’s not until after he joins them that George realizes the troupe is not simply touring: they are running for their very lives.
And soon, George is as well.
 Please forgive if I add all the blue material I can to this review of magnanimous proportions, I can only attest that I have been chewing the scenery for more than a few years. Hopefully it will be the freak act that I see it to be in my head!

Enter stage right, a strapping and upstanding young lad of only sixteen years who goes by the name of George Carole. George has many talents and secrets. He's going to share a few with you in these pages you're about to read. And in the end, a lucky few will know what it is to see first hand what magic, mystery and myth truly are. But I digress ...

I am one of the lucky ones. Books have always been a part of my life and maybe that in itself is what gives me the ability ... to let go. To pick up a book such as this one and be transported to another place, another time, another ... life. You see it all the time, advertisements for libraries transformed into gateways into other worlds. Right about now the theme song to Reading Rainbow should all be making it's way through the cobwebbed or maybe not so cobwebbed parts of your brain... "I can be anything ... da da da... Take a look, it's in a book, it's reading rainbow". Ahhhh, the good old days. It's funny after so many re-watchings of Star Trek: TNG, I can no longer imagine LeVar Burton narrating reading rainbow without his visor on! On with the show!

Be wary my faithful readers this book is going to take you on an adventure ride that may leave you a bit unhinged. Reflecting back on the various parts of this novel, I am even now struck by the fact that I can't really say that I have any parts of it that I did not enjoy. It is what a stand alone novel should be. A beginning (of sorts), a middle, and an end (also of sorts). Maybe it is just my coffee addled brain, but a good story blends these so well that you don't know which is which and in the end after the last page has been turned you realize that the book you have just read really came full circle. In the pages of this book you can attest to only following the life and goings on of George for a few months, but good writing will break the barrier of time and you will more likely feel as though you have yourself been traveling with the troupe for years and years. I applaud the fantastic elements of this story truly for what they are. I revel in them, breath them in, take them straight out of the novel and make a playground of them in my head... So sorry, bit overboard, right there. The writing lends itself to drawing vivid images of every scene in this made for my head movie, of sorts? Get me? No, no probably not. The characters in this book are unlike (most likely) anyone you will ever have the chance to meet in your real day to day life. And I am so so glad I have had the chance to have met them. There is an air of mystery in the whole cast, which added to the mystery of the overall plot leads to some enticing reading. But as the story treads on you will become familiar with these people ... almost intimately so. The Characters that make up the the actual troupe are all amazing each one with their own set of dynamics that only after a short time opens them up so you can see them for who they truly are. I have to say that Heironomo (Harry as he is referred to in the book) is probably my favorite. I would pine just as George does in the book for hours spent with him. Shoot ... I want to do a mind meld with him just so I can know everything he does. Trust me, I think you will too.  Secondly, This other "person" in this "other" place was grandly "fleshed" out so that I just could not put the book down while "she" was in it. I have been waiting my whole life to meet her. In the end I guess I won't have the chance after what Silenus does to her. Not being able to tip the secret jar pains me so. The book as a whole is a true testament to the old adage, "Things aren't always what they seem. The reveals keep coming the whole way through the book and it seems that the wow factor just keeps growing. Honestly, if it weren't for persistent schedules and mundane things like sleeping, you could sit and read this novel from cover to cover. It is just that good. Just like sitting and watching a fireworks show or even possibly the best magic performance you have ever seen, you will not want them to end.

Robert Jackson Bennett, my stage hat is off to you. You have really put on the show of a lifetime in this book of yours. This story of George and The Troupe that he ultimately becomes a part of opened up doors in my mind that have been left unopened for a very long time. Thank-you for giving me the opportunity to travel the country and the spaces between with The Troupe. Now I just need to get my hands on your other books. First up, Mr. Shivers, I believe.

As is the case with most theme park rides, this one comes with a height requirement. Let's say 60". Silenus has a bit of a potty mouth. So, check your vocabulary requirements at the gate.

5 out of 5 Benevolently beckoned boggarts bran-dishing berries of mind bending substance and origin.

Is it just me or would Jim Croce make the perfect Silenus if you put him in a top hat and checkered pants?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review of Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards

Many tales are told of the Syldoon Empire and its fearsome soldiers, who are known throughout the world for their treachery and atrocities. Some say that the Syldoon eat virgins and babies–or perhaps their own mothers. Arkamondos, a bookish young scribe, suspects that the Syldoon’s dire reputation may have grown in the retelling, but he’s about to find out for himself.
Hired to chronicle the exploits of a band of rugged Syldoon warriors, Arki finds himself both frightened and fascinated by the men’s enigmatic leader, Captain Braylar Killcoin. A secretive, mercurial figure haunted by the memories of those he’s killed with his deadly flail, Braylar has already disposed of at least one impertinent scribe . . . and Arki might be next.

Archiving the mundane doings of millers and merchants was tedious, but at least it was safe. As Arki heads off on a mysterious mission into parts unknown, in the company of the coarse, bloody-minded Syldoon, he is promised a chance to finally record an historic adventure well worth the telling, but first he must survive the experience!
A gripping military fantasy in the tradition of Glen Cook, SCOURGE OF THE BETRAYER explores the brutal politics of Empire–and the searing impact of violence and dark magic on a man’s soul.

Before I get into specifics of the beast that is Scourge of the Betrayer, let me start off by gushing half my blood supply out of my partially severed head from craning my neck to read this in the wee hours of the night just to boast about how good it is. Sorry if that last statement was a tad on the graphic side but if you are going to pick up this book, it's things like that that are waiting for you.

I don't read reviews prior to reading a book. I wait till after I finish them. Sure, I will scan a few lines, blurbs and what have you, that a base network of people and places that I have strategically, scoured and suffered putting together to achieve the necessary niceties that my fellow reading buddies I relate to well in reading choices have bled their hard pondered thoughts onto the world. {That may have been the longest run-on sentence in the history of run- on sentences but ... I am a rebel. And you blessed reader are just going to have to like it!} Sure this work is in the tradition of Glen Cook with his military fantasy, it has the grit of battle you will find in a Dan Abnett or Joe Abercrombie book. But it is not by those people either, this is Jeff Salyards and you would do well to remember his name. There are some works like this, that although good, don't quite hit the mark. I tell you now folks ... This is what dead center looks like. I cannot be certain as to the level or the amount of time and effort that went into this story, but if I were to guess my money is on a great deal. And although it isn't the expansive (at least not yet) titles like Sanderson, Jordan or Martin put out, rest assured that Salyards knows his tale frontwards and backwards. It's tight writing and does well with pace, plot and some other "p" word that I know I am forgetting to throw in there.

The line space directly above and directly below this sentence is to show emphasis on the next two sentences:

The fighting / battle / action sequences and narration of our main character (Arki) during said scenes are spot on. The mechanics of each are honed, well oiled and bite with their own brutal reality.

We all read things differently based on a thousand different variables that I cannot begin to get into here. So in the end it's simple, read what you like. I have been watching horror, reading horror, bizarro, fantasy, stuff you wouldn't even think can come out of somebody's head; see Carlon Mellick III, and yes in some cases experiencing these same things with shock values that are pretty high up on a scale that doesn't even exist. So yeah, when someone said, "It's gritty" or "that was some scary shit, dude". Well, I kinda gotta just nod my head, hope they don't catch my crafty ability to roll my eyes without actually rolling my eyes, and think I am going to have to experience it for myself and see. 

There ... Yeah ... That doesn't even cover it. Let me tell you that this is a new story that has not been done before. The dynamics of our characters are complex and meaty and I like it! Just the contrast alone between our young scrive and his charge, is a bear trap in waiting for good interesting dialogue. There are twists and surprises in this book that took me totally off guard. I laughed out loud several times and even once put the book down totally dumb founded and said... "That didn't just happen, did it?

In conclusion Salyards has created a well of opportunity here for the next couple volumes in this series. Seeing how the series name is Bloodsounders's Arc, we may be in for more than a trilogy and that does nothing but make me smile. There is a lot of directions this could go and I can't wait for the next installment. I can't wait to check out Braylar's sister. Wait that didn't sound right. That was almost like, "Hey Killcoin, would you mind if I, ahhh checked out your sister?" Probably, got me killed just now. No, it's going to be awesome. Thank-you Jeff, for a great, great read. I will be recommending this to all my literary friends and probably even ones that are not.

5 out of 5 Bloody Sword Swinging Syldoons Singing Sweet Songs over Sour Wine.

This book is definitely deserving of some MM.
WARNING strong language used in video above, please refrain from watching unless you are over the age of 200.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Review of Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

"Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.
When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn’t expect anything outside of the ordinary: move, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, but now stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.
And she, for whatever reason, spares his life."
Trust me when I say that there was no judgement on the actual book itself when I first saw it. I just knew that I had to have it. It needed to be in my collection. It needed to be displayed where I could look at it. Before I could even dive into the pages this cover had me captivated, entranced, immobile and spellbound. Her name resounded in my head ... Anna, Anna, Anna .. Anna... Dressed in Blood. At that moment I knew I would follow her wherever it was that she would take me. That flowing black hair ... Her pale skin. It would be all I needed. She waited patiently on my shelf. She didn't worry about never being picked up. She knew I was circling around her like some shy boy at a school dance. A dance that while she was living she never made it to.

As you can tell, the scenery of this story is very close to me still. Having only turned the last of its pages just a few short hours ago, I am lost in my reverie of it, I wear it's memory on me like a shroud. I feel as Theseus Cassio must at the end. But that is the intention, isn't it? To put you in the characters place? Yes, that is the intention. and that is how you know that the words in this book are not just words, but a portal, a connection of life. Fiction to Non-fiction and back again. Over and over. I loved this book. I loved it from cover to cover.

The plot to Anna Dressed in blood is not really a new one, or is it? Hmmm. You know some of the best books you ever read are the ones when you are finished with you cannot place them on any one bookshelf. Well, it's a ghost story ... but it is more than just that. It's an urban fantasy ... but, it is more than just that too. It has dramatic, nail biting sequences that induce pretty gruesome (Isn't the English language great? Is it even legal to put totally opposite adjectives together and have it make sense? Someone help me out here.) images of the things that you are reading. But ... It is MORE than that. The description of the book is not wrong, but it is. I will example just the first line here and then you guys are on your own. "Cass Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He Kills the dead" Well, that is all fine, dandy and fo-fanna, candy. Me-my-mo mandy. But, Blake adds character to all that. With a character that not only kills the dead. He kills myths, he kills urban legend. Now that is something to get your boxers in a twist about... See that just doesn't sound as good as panties in a twist but I am a guy and it would be weird, ya know... yeah, you know.

Alright, I don't want to give away anything else to this novel. But I can praise the shit out of it without letting anything more out of the bag. I always come back to the characters and Anna Dressed in Blood has an array of great characters. Good, bad and yes of course ... Ugly. And they are all where they need to be in the story. The intricate details of each are cut and honed perfectly for the story. Not too much and never to little. Always the right amount to set the stage. The prose is spot on for this novel and to the observant ones among us, there are some great references to pop culture or more appropriately coined to my tastes, geek culture. The no fear pulse to attach characters to wiccan lifestyles. The mystic realms of voodoo. Man, you don't hear that one too often. A sentence or so ago I say "Not too much and never too little" But that slides a little when I think about Anna. I suspect she will have a bigger role in the novels to come. She plays the part of a ghost in this one not just in character but in context (and context is always important) as well. She is always just out of reach, somehow. I cannot wait to pick up Anna 2 Girl of Nightmares. Don't you dare read the description if you have not read this one!!! Damn, spoileriffic description givers away! I mean come on! They should have all flashy lights above it that says read this one first in it. So do it! READ THIS BOOK NOW! Thanks Kendare Blake for this fantastic story. And also thank-you Nekro. It was ultimately because of you that I picked this book up. I had never heard or seen of your work before. But it is awesome and you will not be forgotten.

I give Anna Dressed in Blood a whopping 5 out of 5 feverishly flashing filaments on my handy-dandy EVP Field Processor. 

This one is dedicated to Anna. Your red dress has stained my memory...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Review of Wide Open by Deborah Coates

When Sergeant Hallie Michaels comes back to South Dakota from Afghanistan on ten days' compassionate leave, her sister Dell's ghost is waiting at the airport to greet her.
The sheriff says that Dell's death was suicide, but Hallie doesn't believe it. Something happened or Dell's ghost wouldn't still be hanging around. Friends and family, mourning Dell's loss, think Hallie's letting her grief interfere with her judgment.

The one person who seems willing to listen is the deputy sheriff, Boyd Davies, who shows up everywhere and helps when he doesn't have to.

As Hallie asks more questions, she attracts new ghosts, women who disappeared without a trace. Soon, someone's trying to beat her up, burn down her father's ranch, and stop her investigation.

Hallie's going to need Boyd, her friends, and all the ghosts she can find to defeat an enemy who has an unimaginable ancient power at his command.
As I am sitting here pondering what points I would like to talk about in my review for Wide Open, a word that I could use from the time that I opened up the package that it came in is, "ominous". As I had not heard about this title before, I was instantly intrigued by the foreboding cover. Ehhhhhhhhoooweewewewew... Jeepers, Fred, go pull around mystery mobile. Scooby Doo? Where are you? Well, this little novel here doesn't need the cast of Mystery, Inc., but who doesn't love a little Rooby Roo? Straight out of the box we are introduced to our main character Hallie Michaels and as the book description reads that is Sergeant Hallie Michaels. Hallie is coming home from the war in Afghanistan for ten days. She is told her sister is dead, an apparent suicide, but Hallie knows in her gut that it couldn't be that. Ms. Coates did something really great here by driving the point home from the very beginning that Hallie is only going to be home for ten days. This for me kicked the story into hyper-suspense mode as how do you solve the mystery of your sisters death in only ten days? I mean, come on... get moving already! Something that I have read a few of my fellow reviewers comment on in this story that cannot by any means be overlooked is the backdrop. I have never been to South Dakota, but, I had a really great friend once that grew up there and had described to me on several occasions the type of scenery that he had come from. Our minds fill in made up pictures of these conversations, but as I was reading Wide Open, I felt like I was actually there with Hallie, like I was just another one of her... AHHH! Not going to spoil... Seriously, Ms Coates has a great ability to put you right in the book with her vivid words describing the surroundings. The prairie, the Bob as is it's called is totally imaginable and exactly what you would think of in a relatively small town out in the middle of a seeming nowhere. Pete and his friends even have their own Straw Dog feel to the atmosphere. After all this I think the thing I was most impressed with by the novel was Hallie and the way the picture of her developed for me in my head as I was following her throughout the story. It is a real up-close and personal characterization as your stuck in her head for most of the novel and that does sooooo well for this book. Hallie was a believable character that you can feel compassion for. She is openly strong willed because she has to be. Always holding it together for the sake of everyone else or just maybe appearance, but while we the readers get a closer look inside her ideas and thoughts we know that she is one step away from breaking down. This above all else in the story, kept me reading. Not that we can forget about the mystery of her sisters death. The sixty-four-thousand-dollar question element opens the door for our author to plinko the pages of this book right into its very own urban fantasy... wait, urban? No, rural fantasy! Ladies and gentlemen we have a whole new genre of books! Make the the signs Books-a Million! RURAL FANTASY! Bring on the cowboy hat wearing, tractor driving disembodied space alien heads! Actually, this book doesn't have those, but what a cool idea huh?

That about sums up my review of Wide Open by Deborah Coates. Too much more and I will be giving away plot points that makes this novel what it is, a great new addition to the paranormal urban/rural fantasy, mystery that I think will be enjoyed by a wide range of readers. Whatever your tastes in reading are, Wide Open will surely have something tor you to enjoy. Thank-you Ms. Coates for a great read that I am happily recommending to friends and family.

4 out of 5 Kitty whiskers, because in the hearts and minds of the innocent, they are the strings that bind friendships to make them last through... Well... to stand the unforgivable things we do...

Now here is a little Metallica with The Unforgiven II, for all the unspoken reasons...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Review of Thief's Covenant by Ari Marmell

She is Widdershins, a thief making her way through Davillon's underbelly looking to find answers, and justice with a sharp blade, a sharper wit, and the mystical aid of Olgun, a foreign god with no other worshipers but Widdershins herself.
Thief's Covenant is the first in what I hope to be an ongoing series. And although I have not uncovered anything that tells me this outright, Mr. Marmell's website lists these as "Widdershins Novels". AHA! That is a very plural, "Novels". My squad car is right out front, Thank-you very much!. Don't let the series part scare you though. We all know how skittish some of you get when the "S" word starts getting thrown around. No, this novel does come complete with its very own beginning, middle and end and would work very well as a stand alone novel. Either way, a step back into the life of our young protagonist will be a refreshing getaway when and if it comes.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, albeit kind of short and not very quest driven for something I have seen labeled as high fantasy. If you have been following my blog for a while now, you may have noticed that I don't particularly care for the labels we all tend to give the books were reading. I personally don't know anyone actually qualified to make these labels, I definitely know that person is not me. I read a book and form my opinion of what it is and that is that. No harm, no foul. At this point you can stop and ask me what I am gibbering on about, because, I am not even sure I know myself. See this is my dilemma. You all will have to bare with me here, while I veer off into the more cobwebbed catacombs that is my mind. I say above "no harm, no foul" but that can't really be true can it? Let me show you what I am talking about. A buddy of mine and I met for drinks at the pub after work last week. After a bit of conversation he asks, what new books I can recommend him picking up. As I am nose deep in the streets of Davillon with the sleek and sexy, (Oops, can't use that word describing a minor can I?) thief. Anyway, with a little bit of the Irish Dew picking up the blarney, I spit out, "Well, I am reading this new young adult fantasy yarn called Thief's Covenant by Ari Marmell. As a known fan of Stephen King and reads of the like, my friend just kind of shakes his head up and down slowly and on reflection of my last sentence I see clearly my error. So, I back up and throw in some words that will likely appeal a little more to to my friends specific tastes. i.e. espionage, gritty, scenes (brief as they are) that are pretty graphic. And a favorite I through in there, "not a lot of romance". Which is a pretty good thing considering that when most people hear young adult anymore, they automatically assume love triangle. After that, I had him totally on board and downloading it to his kindle app on his phone... Man, you gotta love technology. Yeah, score one for me. Ultimately, my point is this, as people who recommend books on a daily basis. We need to be aware of the audience we are speaking to and make sure we are clear about things we like and don't like about the books were reading. On the other side of the coin though, I see a publisher putting the term "young adult" on a book like this one and I think after reading it... Do I really agree that this book is young adult? I don't freakin' know!?!? I am almost 35... And I totally dug this story. But I am glad this is in the young adult section as well, because if I seen this cover when I was 12 or 13 I would have totally picked it up. That leads me to a quick shout out to cover artist Jason Chan. Really great stuff, man. Even better is the fact that this novel is going to appeal to younger boys as well as young adult girls. Which is great considering it can be a little more challenging getting most young males to read, at least, that is what I have heard from the general consensus. And growing up, a lot of my guy friends didn't have the voracious reading habit that I did... or reading habits at all for that matter. I am not some magic book recommending Zoltar here, people. Although, the thought of someone pitching money at me and asking me what there next favorite read is... kind of appealing don't you think? Huh, Huh?!?!?! Right?!?! Maybe someone asks me what they should read I should just spit out a card with the title of a book on it?

Well, I have guided you far enough into my madness for one day. Don't worry I won't leave you stranded there. On our way back out though, I will actually tell you a little bit more about this wonderful read. You know... That one I was suppose to be talking about all this time, but sucked you into controversial topics such as genre bending labels. Sorry. In the famous words of one of my all time favorite philosophers... Alf, "Hey, I know my rights, I watch Peoples Court." Ha! I kill me. Ok, [clears throat] Thief's Covenant follows a young female protagonist who has the rags to riches story about her. but then unlike most happy ending stories is forced by some very horrible happenings back into a less desired lifestyle. But this doesn't seem to keep Widdershins down. I actually think it is great that she adapted so well to all the things life has thrown at her. Be that as it may, the story goes through a bunch of back and forth which made me keep my thinking cap on as to where and when I was in her story. This played a huge part in my reading pace. I don't think it would have been as exciting as it was if the timeline was streamlined. The funny thing is that I have read novels in the past that at these time switching spots I put the book down, but here I was so engrossed in the current timeline that I buzzed right through the skipping just so I could get back to the present. Well played Mr. Marmell, well played. What does all that mean... This book is over way quick... quick like seeing the end growing ever nigh and I am thinking, sputtering, uh, bu, duh... It can't end there, I want more.

At the heart of all the great fantasy that this book revolves around, there is a mystery. This is another aspect that just took off from the very beginning. It's something that I think will hook a lot of younger readers. As the character development lays out in front of you, the more you want to find out who is behind all this chaos. All the while leaving little mysteries that will hopefully be picked out of the haystack to bring you back for the next novel. The reveal near the end of this one on who the shrouded lord is, is a prime example of what I am talking about and great storytelling. The addition of a minor deity to the already overflowing 120 major deities of the pact is an interesting concept that I personally have not read about before. A lot of doors could open with a god on your shoulder and I am anxious to see where that goes in future volumes. I really enjoy novels about thieves and assassins, mainly I think, because of the tense adrenaline rushing sensation you can acquire through well planned tense scenes and this book has a bunch of them.

I personally would like to wish all the success to Ari Marmell with this novel. It has definitely broken onto the young adult scene with some hype and it is very well deserved. Readers young and old won't have to look to hard to find things to love about Thief's Covenant. And with a first novel like this on the Young Adult shelves, I am chomping at the bit to get my hands on his other books like Goblin Corps. I hope that will deliver the bloodbath a sci-fi, fantasy, military mash-up should.

4 out of 5 stones because it's solid like 4 out of 5 stones are.

I dedicate this one to Adrienne Satti. Read the book, you may understand why...