Thief’s Covenant by Ari Marmell

Pyr, February 2012         
ISBN: 978-1-61614-547-7              
273 pp, Hardcover                     
Review copy courtesy of the publisher Pyr           


Young Adrienne Satti sees commotion in her home town of Davillon, runs home only to find her house burning and her parents dying.  Widdershins is a thief hiding from people looking into a tomb of the ancient god Olgun, whose worshippers have just been murdered.  Widdershins and Miranda are one in the same , and the story of the young girl who speaks with the god Olgun unfolds through the course of a dual narrative in Ari Marmell’s Thief’s Covenant, the first Widdershins novel and his first foray into Young Adult literature.

Set in a city that evokes comparisons to France and Venice, Italy, Marmell’s story moves along at a nice clip. Presenting such character-driven story in a dual narrative can be a tricky task for an author who has to balance the right amount of dramatic tension in two storylines, keep event ‘spoilers’ from one timeline creeping into the other, and balance the action in two storylines, among all the other elements necessary for telling a good story.  Marmell should be proud of what he’s done with the dual narrative in Thief’s Covenant because for me, it worked like a charm.

One of these storylines follows Adrienne’s past from the time she is orphaned through her time reentering high society, becoming part of a thief’s guild while the other narrative follows her after the worshippers of her god Olgun are destroyed.  The portions of narrative/chapters dedicated to Adrienne jump a year or two from chapter to chapter so we get a pretty good snapshot of her evolution without being overburdened with too many details. In other words, it works well.

The world of Davillon is quite rich and comes alive very much like a character in its own right, even if it evokes a sense of familiarity to some recent fantasies such as those penned by Rachel Aaron and Scott Lynch.  Though only considered a city, there are complex societal rules and mores involved in the city, not to mention the 147 gods permitted to be worshipped as well as other gods not included in the Pact such as Olgun.  You see, Olgun only has one true follower for much of Thief’s Covenant and it is Widdershins herself.  This grants her the ability to communicate directly with the god, though at times an argument could be made for Widdershins simply talking to herself as an insane person.  However, the thing that makes ‘Shins (as her friends Genieve and others call her) conversations with Olgun work is how well Marmell writers the one sided dialogue.  He does a brilliant job of getting across the full conversation even if we really only see/hear ‘Shins side of it, aside from hints of what Olgun is feeling rather than any words he may be speaking.

Marmell, in his previous novels – especially The Goblin Corps – has a knack for humor and this knack can be seen in Thief’s Covenant.  A lot of this comes from Widdershin’s banter with Olgun and her supporting characters as well as her enemies and the more I think about it, the more this element of her character reminds me of Peter Parker, your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.

Thief’s Covenant further shows that Marmel is adept at writing for different segments of the fantasy reading audience and will appeal to the younger crowd at whom it is targeted as well as readers looking for a humorous, engaging tale.  A second book following Widdershins is soon to be on the shelves and as of the writing of this review, Mr. Marmell just inked a deal for two more novels.

As I often find myself writing in reviews of Pyr books, I have to comment on the cover and design of the book Jason Chan’s simple design is elegant and from not-too-far a distance, Widdershins bears a striking resemblance to geek icon Felicia Day…that’s a compliment.

The promise of the further adventures of Widdershins is a nice prospect indeed.


– Recommended –


© 2012 Rob H. Bedford

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