Tag Archives: Widdershins

All Good Covenants Must Come to an End

Covenants EndCovenant’s End
Ari Marmell
Hardcover, 250 p., $17.99
ebook $11.99

Ari Marmell begins the Author’s Afterward to Covenant’s End with these words: “Some of you hate me right now.”

He’s a perceptive man.

Although I have to say he wrapped up this series the only way he could.

This book is another example of why Pyr has made my list of publishers to read each year.  I wasn’t able to work in everything they provided review copies of last year.  I’m going to try to do better this year.  They publish some cool stuff.

Covenant’s End is the fourth and final adventure of Widdershins.  In this one she returns home to Davillon.  The city is under siege from within.  Widdershin’s old enemy Lissette has come back and taken over the Finder’s Guild.  She is intent on taking over, and she’s recruited some very powerful and evil allies to help her. Continue reading

Tis the Season for Theft, Snark, and Widdershins

LostCovenantLost Covenant
Ari Marmell
Pyr Books
279 pp, hardcover $17.99 US/$19.50 Can
ISBN 978-1-61614-811-9
ebook $11.99
ISBN 978-1-61614-812-6

At this time of year, it’s customary to reflect on upon the things for which one is thankful.

I’m thankful for Mastercard Fraud Division.

I’m thankful that my car, which normally runs perfectly but lately has developed the troublesome habit of dying without warning while moving, hasn’t killed me yet.

I’m thankful this blog was shortlisted for an award.

I’m thankful that there’s a new Widdershins novel about to hit the shelves.

And of course I’m thankful to Lisa Michalski at Pyr books for sending me an ARC so I can read it ahead of time.

You’ll recall I thoroughly enjoyed the first two Widdershins novels, Thief’s Covenant (reviewed here) and False Covenant (reviewed here).

In this one Widdershins becomes aware of a plot against House Delacroix,.  Since it was Alexandre Delacroix who rescued her from life on the streets, she takes it upon herself to intervene on behalf of the House as a way of repaying the late Alexandre.  She ends up in the town of Aubier trying to convince the last matriarch of the house that she’s a friend.  All the while dealing with a mad alchemist, a brutal gang of thugs, and the matriarch’s son, who is somewhat smitten by Widdershins (perfectly understandable). Continue reading

More Wit, More Charm, More Snark, More Theft, and a Lot More Fun

False Covenant
Ari Marmell
Pyr Books
Hardcover, $16.95, release date June 2012

I think I’m a little in love with Widdershins.  It’s perfectly understandable really.  She’s beautiful and clever, with a sharp blade and a sharper tongue.  And I’m not the only one in love with her.  There’s…come to think of it, much of my competition is significantly better with a blade than I am.  Perhaps I should forget about her.

Besides, she’s a fictional character.

Why are you people looking at me that way?

False Covenant is the sequel to Thief’s Covenant, the inaugural volume in Ari Marmell’s new YA series.  If you haven’t read it, you should.  I detail my reasons here.  Don’t let the fact that these books are marketed as YA deter you from reading them.  They’re better than the bulk of what’s published as “adult” fantasy these days.

False Covenant opens about six months after the close of Thief’s Covenant, and things are not going well in the city of Davillon.  The Church blames the city for the death of Archbishop de Laurent and is actively doing what it can to punish the city by openly using its influence to redirect trade away from the city.  This isn’t exactly popular with the populace, and relations between parishioners and Church are continuing to deteriorate.

Everyone is feeling the pinch, including the aristocracy, the Finder’s Guild, and Widdershins, who is trying her best to honestly run a tavern.  Enter the new Bishop, who sympathizes with his adopted city and hatches a plot to try to improve relations between the Church and the citizens by scaring them back into the pews.

I read a quote recently (don’t ask me where) that basically said if you want to commit great evil, attempt to do great good.  That’s certainly the case here, and the other, more familiar quote about the road to Hell being paved with good intentions applies as well.

If you’ll forgive a small spoiler, what the Bishop does is enlist some men to impersonate a character out of fairy tales named Iruoch to create an atmosphere of fear in Davillon.  Initially the plan works, no one is seriously hurt, and worshipers return to services.

Until the real Iruoch shows up.  He’s a nasty piece of work and really creepy.  His fingers are unnaturally long, and he can walk on them like a spider.  He can also walk up walks and across ceilings.  He drains bodies of their blood and life essence, leaving dry husks.  The fact that much of the time he tends to talk in a sing-song nursery rhyme cadence and is accompanied by a chorus of giggling children’s voices only adds to the creepiness factor.

Meanwhile, Widdershins has a new man in her life.  And not in a good way.  He comes out of nowhere, knows far more about her than he should, and makes it clear that his intention is to cause her serious problems.

How Marmell weaves these two plots together is an example of a writer at the top of his game.  I wasn’t expecting the approach he took, but I have to admit it made perfect sense.  And the epilogue was unexpected, although again perfectly logical, setting the stage for many more adventures.

The voice Marmell uses is wonderfully snarky and at times downright hilarious.  I’ve said a time or two before in these reviews that it’s hard to get me to laugh out loud.  This book did it twice.  I’m not sure, but that might be a record.

And the humor is needed.  This is in many respects a very dark book.  It could easily have sunk to a level of bleakness that would make A Song of Fire and Ice look like Pollyanna.  And yet it doesn’t.  Marmell doesn’t shy away from the emotional effects of what happens, but he doesn’t revel in them, either.  Another quote I’ve seen recently is that good sword and sorcery has a strong infusion of horror.  Marmell writes that type of sword and sorcery, and he writes it well.  The humor helps to alleviate the horrors.  Striking this type of balance is tough trick to pull off, but the author makes it look easy.

All of the major supporting characters from Thief’s Covenant, including Widdershins’ personal deity Olgun, are back.  At least all the ones that survived to the end of that book.  Their relationships will continue to grow, although not all of them will survive to the end of this book.  If you read it, you’ll understand what I mean when I say I have a bone to pick with Marmell over the permanent change in Widdershins’ relationship with one of these characters in particular.  (No, I won’t tell you which one.  Read the  book yourself.)  But the characters are fully realized, three dimensional people, not archetypes or stock characters.  Even most of the “villains” are sympathetic and act with understandable motives, Iruoch being the exception.  They don’t all get along, they don’t all like each other, and those interactions raise this book above your standard, generic fantasy.

I haven’t read all the fantasy series Pyr has published or is in the process of publishing (but I’m working on it, Lou).  Of the ones I’ve read, my two favorites until now have been Jasper Kent’s Danilov Chronicles and Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy.  Add to that list Ari Marmell’s Widdershins’ Adventures or whatever the formal title is. I’ll continue to read about her adventures as long as Marmell continues to write them.  There’s not another title scheduled that I know of, but I hope that will change soon.  In the meantime, I’m going to read the rest of Marmell’s work, starting with The Goblin Corps.

As I said at the beginning of this review, don’t let the YA label deter you from reading this series.  It’s one of the freshest, darkest, funniest, and best sword and sorcery series being written today and should appeal to readers of all ages.  It’s great fun and reminded me of why I like fantasy, and sword and sorcery in particular, in the first place.  I hated to reach the end of it.


A Study of the Feminine Graces: Wit, Charm, Snark, and Theft

Thief’s Covenant
Ari Marmell
Pyr Books
Hardcover, 273 p., $16.95
various ebook editions (Nook, Kindle) $7.99

I’ve heard of Ari Marmell, but until now I hadn’t read one of his books.  Thief’s Covenant won’t be the last.

Part of Pyr’s new YA line, this is a fun, albeit dark, novel.  The central character is Widdershins, formerly known as Adrienne Satti.  She’s an orphan, at one time adopted into a noble family.  Until she was witness and sole survivor of a massacre at the temple of her god.  Fearing she would be blamed for the killings, she fled back to the slums, adopting the identity of Widdershins.

Oh, and there’s one thing.  Her god went with her.

That’s one of the unique things about the world Marmell has created.  At some point in the past, a Pact was formed among the gods and their worshippers.  There are 147 sanctioned gods, and strict rules apply to how they and their followers interact, with a Church to oversee the whole setup.  The god Widdershins was worshiping wasn’t one of the 147.

That was two years ago.  Now things are beginning to heat up in the city of Davillon.  The Archbishop is coming for a visit.  The people behind the massacre are still looking for Adrienne.  The Taskmaster of the Finder’s Guild (the Thieves’ Guild, in other words) has a personal vendetta against her.  Widdershins is beginning to take more and more risks.  And someone, somewhere, is about to make a vicious play for power.

For a YA novel, this one is pretty complicated.  There are a number of named characters, both major and minor, the plot is complex, and things get pretty dark at times.  The dust jacket says the book is for readers twelve and up, but I’m not sure how many twelve year olds are emotionally mature enough for some of the content.

But then my son has several years to go before he reaches that age, so I tend to think in terms of what would be appropriate for him.

Regardless, this was a great book.  Marmell is definitely an author I’m going to read again, probably starting with The Goblin Corps, his previous book for Pyr.  Marmell writes from the viewpoint of multiple characters, giving us a fully fleshed-out world and allowing us to see certain individuals through multiple eyes.  This is highly effective; the reader understands the interactions between the characters more than they do themselves.

The society is modeled after French nobility in the years before the French Revolution, so there’s some contrast between the haves and the have-nots. Widdershins has a habit of sneaking into balls and parties in disguise.  This isn’t an era I’ve seen used much in recent fantasy, so the setting was a nice touch (and the source of this review’s title).

The humor and verbal fencing were delightfully cheeky, perfect for a YA novel.  Here’s a sample from a flashback showing Widdershins’ first day in an orphanage:  “Sister Cateline smiled shallowly at the dull, mumbled chorus of amen, already drowned out by the scraping of cheap wooden spoons on cheap wooden bowls, scooping up mouthfuls of cheap porridge (probably not wooden, but who could really say for certain?).”  Clearly Marmell is a man who has eaten lunch in the school cafeteria and on more than one occasion.

That’s another thing Marmell does well, the flashbacks.  Almost every other chapter shows an incident in Widdershins’ past.  We get a little more information about her and about events that led to the present crisis, but never in one large serving.  Instead, Marmell uses the flashbacks to serve up small bites, whetting our appetites while at the same time making us hungry for more.  It’s one of the most effective uses of flashbacks to build suspense and create a sense of mystery that I’ve seen in a long time.

This is the first in a series.  False Covenant is due out in June, and I’ll be watching for it.

Whether you’re twelve in real years, or merely still twelve in some part of your heart, Thief’s Covenant is a book I highly recommend.