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...

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