Note to self; Get the first two books in Ari Marmell’s WIDDERSHINS series, so that I am current on this fascinating character. If Lost Covenant is representative of this series, I’ll be in for a great time.
Widdershins is a young, snarky female thief from the city of Davillon. She is unusually skilled, not only at climbing, running and skulking, but also swordplay and even firing flintlocks. Widdershins has a bit of an edge over other humans, although it is a mixed blessing. A god lives in her head. True, Olgun is a “tiny” god, with only one follower currently, but he can give Widdershins boosts of magical power when she needs it. The two of them live in a precarious symbiosis; Olgun needs a follower to survive; Olgun’s magical strength depends, at least in part, on how healthy and focused Widdershins is, at any point in time.
Lost Covenant is the third book in this YA fantasy series, and takes place not in Davillon but in the city of Lourveaux. Here, Shins soons discovers that a noble house is plotting against the local branch of House Delacroix. Back in Davillon, Widdershins was taken in by a member of the Delacroix family, and she feels a certain loyalty to the Lourveaux clan even though she has never met any of them. Soon she is swept up in a multi-layered scheme involving betrayal, magic and alchemy. Meanwhile, in Davillon, old enemies are stalking her friends.
Marmell’s prose is brisk and funny. The book starts off a little slowly, with a bit too much forced banter and exposition, but by page 56 things start happening. Once they start, they never stop. Widdershins meets the Reeve (alderman or mayor) of Loureaux, and the entire local Delacroix family, including its coldly ruthless matriarch Calanthe. The youngest son of the family, Cyrille, quickly develops a crush on the young thief, but he actually does prove helpful in the end.
Much of the book’s humor comes from Shins’s one-sided dialogues with Olgun (we read her comments, not his, and her responses and reactions). There is a lot of banter, but the bond between these two is strong. Olgun and Widdershins both witnessed the horrible murders of all of Olgun’s other followers, and this trauma is part of their bond. Widdenshins is also the mistress of the dizzyingly circular comment, and it is fun to watch other characters try to parse these out, and often just give up and shrug.
“Trust me, I’ve dealt with these sorts of people a lot. You can always count on them to be stupid enough to use it against them, but not so stupid that they’re too stupid to use it against them.”
“I… you know what? Let’s just go.”
The villains are brutal and genuinely frightening. The alchemy plot was quite convoluted, but Marmell pulled it off, mainly by creating a compelling cat-and-mouse game between Cyrille and Widdenshins and the villains that took center stage.
While I am eager to know more about Widdenshins and her past, I did not feel lost coming in at the third book, which is a testament to Marmell’s control of his subject. Without knowing all the details, I still can tell immediately that what is happening back in Davillon is very bad news indeed, not only for Widdershins but for her friends, and probably the whole city.
Widdershins grows in this book. She comes to some realizations about herself and some past actions. She also comes to grips with some grim realities about doing what needs to be done, even if it means, in this case, killing — if that death is needed to keep others alive. This is not an easy dilemma. Marmell plays fairly and does not give Widdershins an easy out.
All in all, I was delighted by Lost Covenant, and look forward to getting caught up. I can’t wait to see just what Shins is up against, back in her home town.