False Covenant

False Covenant by Ari Marmell, Widddershins Adventure #2

A creature of the other world, an unnatural entity bent on chaos and carnage, has come to stalk the nighttime streets of the Galicien city of Davillon. There's never a good time for murder and panic, but for a community already in the midst of its own inner turmoil, this couldn't possibly have come at a worse one.

Not for Davillon, and not for a young thief who calls herself Widdershins.

It's been over half a year since the brutal murder of Archbishop William de Laurent during his pilgrimage to Davillon. And in all that time, Widdershins has truly tried her best. She's tried to take care of Genevieve's tavern and tried to make a semihonest living in a city slowly stagnating under the weight of an angry and disapproving Church. She's tried to keep out of trouble, away from the attentions of the Davillon Guard and above the secrets and schemes of the city's new bishop.

But she's in way over her head, with no idea which way to turn. The Guard doesn't trust her. The Church doesn't trust her. Her own Thieves' Guild doesn't trust her.

Too bad for everyone, then, that she and her personal god, Olgun, may be their only real weapon against a new evil like nothing the city has ever seen.

A few weeks ago I read the first book in the Widdershins Adventure series by Ari Marmell, Thief's Covenant, and was pleasantly surprised with the story that he managed to put down. I read only one of Ari Marmell's earlier works, In Thunder Forged, set in the Iron Kingdoms franchise, but I was hooked onto his writing style from the go. In Thief's Covenant, Ari Marmell completely builds his own universe and does so superbly, there was the making of a nice and solid foundation for the series that really starts paying off in the sequel False Covenant.

In Thief's Covenant, Ari Marmell introduced us to a young female Adrienne Satti. But Adrienne has much more going on about her character, Adrienne is also, or I should say maybe primarily goes about as the thief Widdershins. Thief's Covenant really established a baseline for Widdershins character, showing all that she went through in the past, Widdershins life so far has been far from easy, being falsely accused of crimes she didn't commit, always on the run and no family left except a few good friends. Ari Marmell showed this with many flashback taking us back to different past events from 8 years back till only a year back, but never loosing the focus on the present storyline. I very much enjoyed reading about the first of Widdershins adventure, because when you look on the whole and especially with a focus on the end of the story, there was a very strong transformation for not only the story but also for Widdershins herself. The story underwent a nice change with revealing who was behind the plotline and caused the betrayal, as for Widdershins, she grew tremendously by all the events that she went through. All in all a very solid start. Thief's Covenant left enough room for the sequel to pick up, there were some nice leads especially with some of the things that Widdershins now has to face on her own... 

As for False Covenant, it's a direct sequel to Thief's Covenant so I advice you to read that one first before jumping in the Widdershins Adventure series. False Covenant opens just as what I have come to expect from Ari Marmell, with a nice tinge of action. Now that Widdershins is running the tavern, The Flippant Witch, that she inherited from Genevieve, she realizes that it is much harder than she possibly could have guessed. Although she puts much effort in running The Flippant Witch in legal ways, to fully support it, Widdershins does have to opt for less legal means to acquire enough funds to keep it running. This brings me to the opening of False Covenant, where you see an example of an heist gone wrong with two differen parties of the guild and Widdershins "friend" goes to some extremes that shouldn't have been taken in the first place to acquire his treasure. This directly leads to a confrontation in the Guild, and Widdershins was already distrusted by the Thief's Guild but after these events is even more so. Added to this is the fact that a Demonic threat is on the rise in the dark alleys and streets of Davillon, with Widdershins past from the first book, she has been picked the ideal candidate to sort out this threat. But Widdershins doesn't know how to go about this to say the least. 

I must say that I was again very pleased with how the character of Widdershins was shown in False Covenant. The first book was on the short side and the sequel is also under the 300 pages, but even though the books are short, there isn't a lack of development at all. Ari Marmell has a way of writing what he wants, when he wants and to the point, without sacrificing anything in the form of pacing, action and storytelling, it's actually very detailed, this is probably owed to the great world/character building that was done in the first book. We got to learn about Widdershins character as one who is on many parts very strong and determined but also has a very emotional side going on for all that she had to withstand so far. In False Covenant, Ari Marmell is set out to explore her character in much more ways. Widdershins is thrown literally in the depths of running The Flippant Witch without her role model Genevieve and this plays heavy parts on her, added to this is the fact that she is rejected by most people, the Guard, the Church and her own Guild, she is on her own and has a hard time. But she isn't one to sit down, cry and mope about it, she goes out and tries to do the best she can and this is something that I really like about Widdershins, the can-do attitude. There is always something you can do, and sitting around moping wont get you anywhere. Besides Widdershins there are several other recurrent characters that make the scene but I have to say the the focus is really on Widdershins, she drives the story further, but this doesn't take away the fact that characters likes; Robin and Julien are left forgotten, they do take roles more in the back you still see and hear enough about them that they make up for an solid supporting cast. Overall Ari Marmell, doesn't stop his development of all the characters, and though the ending is something completely different than I would have guessed, I think Widdershins will only come back much, much stronger in Lost Covenant.

As for the main plot of the story, the Demonic threat that haunts the streets of Davillon, I must say I was impressed with how Ari Marmell showed this in False Covenant and especially how it all came to be. The Demonic threat is known as the, Iruoch, sort of the boogeyman from a childhood fairytale. But this real-life incarnation is much more deadly then your innocent story. The Iruoch is a spider-like limbed Demon, that sucks the life out of people turning them into leather carapaces.  In the beginning when you are introduced to the Iruoch, you see him being drawn to the city of Davillon, but as to why and now, remains to be told. The great thing about Iruoch and that he is a bit of world-weird, he came over to me as a bit childish but deadly too say the least, or he might just be playing it. Only later you see Iruoch take on a much more coldly calculated role and I threw away my thoughts of the childish air away. As the story finishes and Widdershins and her friends near the final battle with the Iruoch it becomes clear how he came into being and I was almost screaming yes out loud, I really really liked the idea behind it, it's not with magic at all, as I was thinking... Well done and well played is all I can say! 

Also what I have come to enjoy was the relation between Olgun and Widdershins. Widdershin is the only believer left in the god Olgun and in turn Olgun lives in Widdershins, granting her boosts here and there to help her out of difficult situations. But there are restraints, Olgun doesn't make Widdershins invincible, it only gives an edge. Like I said I was very pleased with the restraints that were made on this godhood, Widdershins knows this and makes her that much more human. What made the relation between Olgun and Widdershins great to read about was how they conversed and the witty and fast remarks that Olgun gave Widdershins and vice versa we very enjoyable to read about. This does continue in the sequel, however for me it was in a bit different way, it wasn't bad perse, but I missed the comments of Olgun this time, it felt more a bit like one way traffic and it lost something.

False Covenant is just as it predecessor, a great read that I can recommend to everyone. If you had thoughtthat you were in for a few surprises in Thief's Covenant, wait till you read False Covenant. Ari Marmell keeps his story exciting and engaging to read, leading you on one moment and then dropping a nice plot twist. His writing style and make up of the story was just one big adventure and when I look at how Thief's Covenant was put together with the flashback I have to say that False Covenant read just a bit better, once you were in the flow of the book it was over too soon. Added to writing style is the rich world that you get to navigate at the hand of a great protagonist Widdershins, someone who a lot of young kids will find a true adventurer in. Widdershins character is a lot of fun to read about, fun might not be the right word for the sad things that happen in her life, but it does make her a solid character that the Widdershins Adventure can safely build on. False Covenant does leave the series on an open ending. Can't wait to start in Lost Covenant, I think it will nicely broaden the scope of the story.

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