Pyr is quickly becoming one of my favorite publishing houses. It used to be that I considered Tor to be the one producing my favorite books. Although I still think Tor is doing a great job, I get this feeling that Pyr and other "younger" houses are the ones on the rise. It's because of books like Thief's Covenant that Pyr is turning into the go-to place for exciting sword and sorcery fantasy.
I heard about this book and another by its author, Ari Marmell, while at Worldcon in Reno last August. Goblin Corps (the other book by Marmell) was out, and so I picked it up an Barnes and Noble while at the con. I started reading GC, thought it was funny, but soon lost interest in its story and put it aside without finishing, and basically forgot about the author. Then February rolls around, and people start talking about Thief's Covenant and I remembered I wanted to read it. Now I have, and I've got to say that I enjoyed every page of this little sword and sorcery romp.
What's really cool about TC is that it's YA dark fantasy. I'm a huge reader of epic fantasy with dark leanings. Not so much into reading YA. However, if this is what YA fantasy is (I don't think the majority of it is) count me in from now on. You get all of the darker story elements without all the sex the adult stuff seems unable to live without. This is a big plus for me. I am getting so tired of the smut that is so prevalent in modern fantasy fiction. That's not to say TC is squeaky clean--I wouldn't have liked it if it was. There's all sorts of bloody action scenes, and plenty of curses that make the characters believable as human beings. (No fake swearing. Sorry, Dashner.) And the main character--a seventeen year old girl aliased Widdershins--is just plain fun to follow.
Widdershins is a thief-turned-aristocrat-turned-thief. Her switching back and forth between life styles makes for an interesting story that the author chooses to tell out of sequence. Books like The Lies of Locke Lamora do this type of storytelling really well. It's something that I'm liking more and more in my fiction. It might make some of the story in TC hard to follow at times, but I thought the multiple story threads all came together quite well in the end.
If you are tired (like me) of long, over-stuffed epic fantasy tomes, Thief's Covenant is a great choice for a change of pace. With its slim 272 pages and quick plot, you'll be through it in no time. The one thing I felt the book suffered from was too many pov characters. I didn't count as I was reading but there were seriously around ten of them. Way too many for a book this size. One or two would have done nicely. Also, Marmell slips in and out of third-person limited and omniscient as if the two narrative distinctions don't even exist. This gets a little annoying at times. I think the book would have been much smoother had the author stuck to one or the other. That being said, if you don't even know the difference between the two narrative modes, it won't bother you in the least.
Thief's Covenant is my kind of book. It's light on magic, set in a quasi-medival/renaissance city, has entertaining characters, has plenty of action, a darker storyline, and absent of all the fluff in so many fantasy books these days. And (this is a big and) it inspired me to change the way I go about my own writing. It has shown me that YA fantasy can still be set in a secondary world, with violence and adult themes. The only YA fantasy I'm aware of is always set in our modern world, with some secret magic stuff going on in the background. I hate that kind of fantasy. I'm all about new worlds and settings.
Don't miss this book! I give Thief's Covenant 4 out of 5 stars.
-As a side note, the sequel to Thief's Covenant comes out in June. Nothing like waiting a couple of months for book 2. Move over GRRM... it no longer takes six years to write a book! (For those of you who will defend GRRM to the death, I only jest. I know his books are much longer, and take longer to produce. And he's my favorite, anyway, so nah.)