Thief's Covenant - Ari Marmell 3.5 stars at The BiblioSanctum: http://bibliosanctum.blogspot.com/2013/09/book-review-thiefs-covenant-by-ari.html

Our protagonist in Thief's Covenant is a young woman who wears many masks and goes by many different names. Once she was Adrienne Satti, an orphan taken off the streets to be raised as an aristocrat's ward, but soon after was forced to shed her old life to escape arrest for a savage crime she didn't commit. Now, she is known simply as the thief Widdershins.

And really, how could I not be drawn to a book starring a character with a name like Widdershins? Along with its impishly clever cover (I kept thinking I was holding the book upside down), it made me believe I was going to be settling back to a cute young adult novel, but to my delight it ended up being something so much more than that. It's true Thief's Covenant could be light and funny at times, but at others it was also quite dark, grim and heavy.

For instance, the book opens with a scene following a bloody and brutal massacre on page one, which instantly dispelled any sort of preconceived notions on my part. But this I considered to be a point in the book's favor, along with the fact that it doesn't seem to fall prey to typical Young Adult genre conventions (I for one thought the decision to forgo a romantic arc was brave but ultimately wise).

As such, I really think a wider audience can enjoy this without being worried about it feeling "too YA". Actually, I couldn't help but make comparisons to Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora, not only for the obvious similarities like the subject of the orphaned thief and the past-present format of the novel, but because Thief's Covenant also contains the kind of unexpected plot twists and gut-wrenching story developments that are so characteristic of the Gentleman Bastard books.

Being such a slim volume, I was also pleasantly surprised at the richness of the setting and how layered the story was. The book takes place in a world where every person from the wealthiest noble to the grimiest street urchin worships one of the dozens of gods approved by the Hallowed Pact. Widdershins, however, is a follower of the almost-forgotten minor deity Olgun, but their worshipper-worshipped relationship is one that is unlike any other. Olgun is in fact a major presence in Widdershins' life, or more accurately, a rather major one in her head. Like I said, there's plenty of fun and cheeriness in this book too, and the playful banter between the two of them is a very good example of the humor you will find to break up the tension.

I only wish the story had been better paced; part of this is due to the aforementioned time jumps which occur quite frequently, with flashbacks to an earlier part of Widdershins' life almost every other chapter. On the one hand this was a very good way to give us better insight into her character and personality, and I find I really enjoyed her back story. On the other hand, it made the plot feel disjointed and gave the book a slow start, and because of this I couldn't get into it right away.

And yet, one thing I did notice was the carefully planned and measured way the chapters were laid out, done with such a subtle elegance that the events told in the flashback chapters would always relate to what was happening to Widdershins in the present. In this way, all the questions you'll have about her character and her history will eventually be answered. The steady doling out of details admittedly made this book a little tough to get through for the first half, but the rewarding second half made picking this book up well worth it in the end.