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BOOK REVIEW: Lost Covenant by Ari Marmell

REVIEW SUMMARY: Marmell continues to explore the growing up of a teenage thief with a God in her head as she is on the run outside her home city.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: On the run from her deeds in her hometown, a young thief finds that aiding a branch of her old patron’s family is far trickier than she thinks.

PROS: Excellent voice and interaction between Widdershins and Olgun; fun, relatively light action not afraid to go darker at key moments; good development of the character’s long term arc; Offers expanded look at the world; excellent cover art.
CONS: Plotline taking place back in Davillion does not feel as well integrated as it might be.
BOTTOM LINE: Another solid entry in the continuing story of Widdershins from Marmell

Ari Marmell’s Lost Covenant, the book that follows Thief’s Covenant and False Covenant, picks up with Widdershins on the road. Not content to lie completely low, her information gathering and fortune lead her to the distant city of Lourveaux, where she discovers that the last branch of the Delacroix family is under threat from a rival House. Widdershins’ sense of obligation to her old mentor and adoptive parent leads her on to seek to help of the last of that House, to deal with the threat against them. Since the aristocratic Delacroix knows nothing of who or what Widdershins is besides an obviously common-born girl of no merit whatsoever, this is not going to be easy at all for Widdershins to manage.

(Note: From this point on, spoilers for Thief’s Covenant and False Covenant are inevitable.)

In Thief’s Covenant we were introduced to Adrienne Satti, a.k.a. Widdershins: thief and last worshipper of the small God Olgun. That novel was very much an origin story. The jumping timelines it included gave us a sense of who she was and how she obtained her unusual background and abilities. In False Covenant, the author moved Widdershins’ story forward when her response to a magical threat to Davillion changed her role and status within the city, and caused her to leave the city to let the heat die down.

Now, in Lost Covenant, Widdershins takes her act on the road, which significantly expands the scope of terrain readers see and casts the heroine in new situations and milieus. And of course, getting into new kinds of trouble. While Widdershins is resolutely an urban creature, there are different kinds of urban locales than her home city, and we get to see her in environments where she is distinctly a stranger and not at all always ready with the right answer, even with Olgun’s help.

The action sequences in Lost Covenant are a strong point of the novel, just like they are with the whole series. Marmell shows off this talent by having his characters trying to infiltrate a noblewoman’s estate, escaping from the local Thieves Guild in a desperate pell-mell chase across streets and rooftops, and by including a final, striking encounter that end-caps the book. As in previous novels, and perhaps more than ever, the author uses the action-as-characterization approach but takes it to the next level. The fish-out-of-water setup forces Widdershins to think and act differently in this novel’s action sequences, deprived as she is of her home court advantage.

Speaking of characterization, Widdershins is definitely growing up. While the banter and connection between Olgun and Widdershins is a strong point of the novel, Widdershins’ march toward adulthood has consequences for her and for others. Her advancing age, subtly but distinctly, is becoming a factor in her thought processes — in how others see her, and the situations in which she finds herself. Marmell tries a couple of new things in this novel, too. More viewpoint characters, for one thing, give a more rounded view of events. We get to see what people see and how they react when the improbably talented and enhanced Widdershins goes to work. There is also a plot line deliberately shrouded in mystery happening back in Davillion. While I don’t think this plot line quite integrates with the rest of the book as well as it might have, it again shows the clear development of the series’ voice.

As the Covenant series has progressed, it has slowly grown darker and more complicated. While this third volume is still mostly lighthearted fun to read, the darker edge is notably more prominent than in previous volumes. Widdershins continues to grow up and continues to face ever more dangerous and adult decisions. her slow but inexorable maturation over the course of the series remains one of the strongest points.

About Paul Weimer (366 Articles)
Not really a Prince of Amber, but rather an ex-pat New Yorker that has found himself living in Minnesota, Paul Weimer has been reading SF and Fantasy for over 30 years and exploring the world of roleplaying games for over 25 years. Almost as long as he has been reading and watching movies, he has enjoyed telling people what he has thought of them. In addition to SF Signal, he can be found at his own blog, Blog Jvstin Style, Skiffy and Fanty, SFF Audio, Twitter, and many other places on the Internet!

1 Comment on BOOK REVIEW: Lost Covenant by Ari Marmell

  1. Speaking of Lacuna…I read and enjoyed the first one quite a bit. #2 is on the slopes of Mount Toberead….

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