Jacob Proffitt's Reviews > Thief's Covenant

Thief's Covenant by Ari Marmell
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's review
May 07, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: fantasy, owned
Read from May 07 to 14, 2012

Dark in places, funny in others, Thief's Covenant is a fun, if somewhat flawed, ride. Adrienne, aka Widdershins, is as kind as she can afford to be. An orphan, long on the mean streets of Davillon, she has long made her way as a relatively accomplished thief—odd, then, to find her the last surviving member of an underground cult. This has both an up and a down side, but she's coping as best she can and trying to stay alive long enough to realize more of the up.

What develops from there is a great tale of a woman facing long odds, even if she does have the occasional ace up her sleeve. I came to really like Adrienne and to sympathize with her plight. I liked that Marmell didn't populate Davillon solely with ruffians and scoundrels and that at least some of the people in power were trying to do the right thing, even if they were arraigned against our heroine through most of the book.

Not that the book doesn't have problems. Marmell often steps in his own way, drawing attention to himself as author and thus breaking the reader out of the story. The most obvious device of his undoing is the large number of time jumps. The story develops on several timelines (clearly marked, so not confusing at all) and Marmell can't seem to help but time his jumps right when you want to know what happens next in your current timeline. This is manipulative and off-putting enough that I wish someone had smacked him and explained the virtues of linear (or even semi-linear) storytelling. The jumps are annoyingly frequent even if they weren't poorly timed.

The second flaw is perhaps more subtle, but more jarring for me, personally. Marmell is really bad about inserting authorial intrusion that looks like its sole purpose is to be cute. The book is third person omniscient with no defined narrator, so there’s no “voice” to ascribe this to beyond that of the author. I'll give an example from page 26. Describing musicians, before we have a narrative perspective—i.e. we're narrowing in on the scene and haven't yet caught up with an actual perspective/viewpoint character. Describing musicians at an "event":

Furiously they played, lobbing their music into the crowd like arrows, reproducing some of the most popular tunes currently making the rounds of courts and noble soirees throughout Galice. Their outfits—the musicians, that is, not the pieces of music, though those too were arguably gussied up and overdressed—were lavish fabrics in a hypnotic mishmash of garish colors.

The arrows bit is fine, if a bit overwrought. But the break to make sure we know it's the musicians that are lavishly dressed? That's just the author playing around. These things detracted from the story by calling attention to themselves and breaking the reader out of the narrative flow.

So I liked the book. It hit a personal sweet spot for story and character. I'll definitely read the next book. Unfortunately, while I'd like to give this four stars, there's enough weaknesses to pull it down to three for me.
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05/07/2012 page 21
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Melanie I'm glad I wasn't the only one disturbed by those trying-too-hard-to-be-funny moments. I feel like he was trying to narrate like Gaimen but only sporadically. I felt that the time jumps were disorienting especially if I stopped reading in the middle of a chapter. It was just hard to keep track of what was going on when.

Jacob Proffitt Melanie wrote: "I felt that the time jumps were disorienting especially if I stopped reading in the middle of a chapter. It was just hard to keep track of what was going on when."

Oh yes. Good point. I thought they worked out okay, but then, I read the book in a few big gulps and without any great time between sittings. Yeah, those jumps would jumble badly if you didn't have ideal reading conditions...

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