“Thief’s Covenant (A Widdershins Adventure)” by Ari Marmell is a YA fantasy with a twinge of horror. The book follows self-made thief Widdershins as she unravels the mystery of who — or what — is out to kill her and those she loves. The book begins with the horrific murder of Widdershins’ fellow worshipers of an unnamed god, and from there spills the details of her past and present in a non-linear progression that will have you connecting the dots when Ari Marmell wants you to, and not before.
Thief’s Covenant was a mixed bag for me. I enjoyed the world and I appreciated the cleverness of the scene layout, yet I was left wishing that I could take the characters more seriously. The tone was a mixture of humor and horror that, for me, threatened to mask the complexity of the characters under a veil of witty dialogue. It wasn’t until nearly half way through the book that I was completely satisfied with the main character’s motivations and human qualities. After I saw Widdershins commit a monumental selfless act, I could more fully enjoy the author’s colorful descriptions and quips. Until then, I felt that the premise of the book teetered on the edge of believability. Perhaps this is because I’m used to reading books where the rags-to-riches story is the focal point, described in detail near the beginning of the text. Here the reader comes in after the fact and we are expected to take it at face value for much of the book. But, I did appreciate how this worked towards a clever release of information and a number of surprises at the end that would have been far too easy to guess with a straight forward linear progression.
The only other thing that dampened my enjoyment of the book were one or two descriptions that I felt were anachronistic. The setting of the book appears to be a standard fantasy backdrop, so except where certain religions and magics are defined otherwise, I expect the world to conform to the standard. I do not expect the characters to understand, say, details of physiology that speak to a more advanced science than medieval times. So, while these were clever and funny, they took me out of the book for a moment, and I’d rather stay in it.
Perhaps I am not the target audience for Ari’s novel. I’m not as much a lover of humor, even dry humor, as I am of the dramas of interpersonal and internal conflict. Give me a sappy emo anti-hero over a ninja assassin superstar any day. However, If you enjoy plot-driven stories, this one will engage you with plenty of How questions, some of which you can get a taste of in the back over blurb. The scene layout and flashbacks are structured to showcase plot, setting us up with interesting mysteries from page one. It certainly kept me reading.
Ari Marmell has some thoughtful blog posts that you’ll love if you’re a speculative fiction geek. Hope on over to http://mouseferatu.com/ and, who knows, you might find that Thief’s Covenant is more your style than it was mine. Marmell has posted links to other review of his book here.
Michelle writes short fiction of all speculative fiction genres in between chasing her toddler from tree to tree. The shorter the work, the better, because 200 words looks very long on her cellphone and that keypad is very, very small. You can find out more about her rabid love of Star Trek, podcasting, and raising future geeklings at her blog, wakingdreamsblog.blogspot.com