Sunday, January 11, 2015

What we're reading: Fantasy

I just finished reading Thief's Covenant and False Covenant, by Ari Marmell, a three-book fantasy series (the third book is Lost Covenant). I was in the midst of what we librarians call "weeding," which is to say that I was checking the number of times each book in the teen fiction collection at the Central Library had checked out in the past few years, to decide whether a book should stay (because it's popular) or go (because it's not, and shelf space is at a premium!), and these books had not very many check-outs. But before deciding to remove them from the collection, I decided I'd better read them.

I actually decided this because of the name--I am such a fan of The Thief and its three sequels by Megan Whalen Turner that I will give any book with a thief as its protagonist a shot at impressing me--and while this series isn't on that level of excellence, it was pretty good! The best part about the series is the thief, the main character, Widdershins. She is everything you could want in a young, brash, impulsive heroine with unusual skills.

The writing was good--expressive and descriptive, with a lot of content within fairly slim books. I did have some trouble with the timeline in the first book, however, since it jumped, not just between static past and present, but all over the place, from "now" to "two years ago" to "six years ago" to "last week," and that, combined with the introduction of characters who were in a former timeline but not in the present one, was a bit taxing. (Although perhaps the fact that I was sick with a pernicious head cold while I was reading it made my powers of concentration less than they usually are!)

This is an immersive fantasy, and as one reviewer on Goodreads mentioned, the setting is somewhat like Renaissance France. I actually found that distracting--the French derivation of names made me expect one thing, while this was something different. There is a pretty well developed panoply of gods the people worship, which felt more like a Greek venue, but the names, clothes, etc. were pure French. I would have liked it a bit better had the book created its own, unrelated-to-human-history, setting. I do see, however, that the French setting allowed Widdershins to come across as a certain sort of gamin girl--I could see her played by a younger version of that fabulous actress in the movie Amelie, Audrey Tautou.

The sequel was a good follow-up. The heroine remained engaging, her sidekicks (new and old) were well written, and I enjoyed the nightmare quality of the monster from children's tales. I haven't had a chance to read the third book, in which Widdershins runs away from the city of Davillon to have new adventures out in the wider world, but I will check it out soon.

I also quite like the cover art!

I think I will keep this series in the library a while longer and hope that others besides myself will discover it.

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