Covenant’s End by Ari Marmell

Covenant's EndCovenant’s End

by Ari Marmell
Series: Widdershins Adventures, #4
Hardcover, 265 pg.

Pyr, 2015

Read: September 10, 2015

So Ari Marmell has decided to bring our time with Widdershins to a close. On the one hand, I understand the choice. On the other hand, I enjoy these too much to let go willingly.

It turns out that the great and nasty demon that she pushed herself and her friends to — and past — the limit to defeat back in False Covenant had friends — or at least family. And thanks to Widdershins old foe Lisette, they are getting closer and closer to setting up camp in Davillon (and probably the whole world, really).

Widdershins has to call on all her allies — old, new, unwanted and not terribly wiling — and friends, play every trick in the book (and invent a few), and be prepared to sacrifice everything just to have a fighting chance here.

Emotionally, spiritually, physically — whatever she’s gone through before is nothing compared to this. While it is very much a team effort, let’s not get confused — her name is in the series title, and she’s the only one on the cover. It’s Widdershins story, and the weight of this falls on her. Yet, she faces the danger with humor, aplomb and panache (and the help the deity living in her head).

For a book as dark, foreboding, bloody and so . . . final; I sure spent a lot of time smiling and chuckling. It’s a quick, exciting read that checks off every tick box you might have for a finale.


4 Stars


Hot Lead, Cold Iron by Ari Marmell

Hot Lead, Cold IronHot Lead, Cold Iron

by Ari Marmell

Trade Paperback, 311 pg.
Titan Books, 2014
Read: May 19 – 27, 2014

This is the way to start a series, I mean, wow. Mick Oberon is a P.I. in the rough and tumble days of late-Prohibition-era Chicago. He mixes with the mob, political figures,and other assorted low-lifes, while eking out a living — just enough to afford milk, rent and the cheap suits he wears. He can take a beating like nobody’s business, and packs a wand rather than rather than a gun. Oh yeah, and he’s fae.

I’ve got a mental checklist that I use to evaluate a new (to me) Urban Fantasy: 1. Is there a strong voice? 2. Do I like the characters/world? 3. Is the magic system interesting? (you can replace vampire/werewolf/etc. system where applicable)

Hot Lead, Cold Iron passes this test easily. Oberon’s smart, snarky — a little disdainful of humanity (but it’s not like you can really disagree with him). This Chicago is right out of The Untouchables, and when you add in the supernatural to the world (plus the Seelie/Unseelie Courts) — this world is a riot. There is so much raw material here that Marmell is set for several books. The magic system? I don’t have it all worked out after just one book, but what I’ve seen, I’ve liked. Oberson plays with luck — he takes good luck from people and uses it to power his own, he magnifies people’s bad luck to cause mishaps/mayhem, and so on. No big fireballs, or dramatic spells, just little bits of luck here and there going his way. I think that’s pretty nifty — especially the way it’s working out so far.

I’ve enjoyed Marmell’s prose in the past, and this is no different, even as it doesn’t feel like his other books. The novel is filled with great lines that are the epitome of hard-boiled P.I.s like Phillip Marlowe or Dixon Hill such as, “clad in shirt and trousers creased sharp enough to trim hedges.” Or this description of the fae world:

The colors. . . They’re intense, impossible, almost painful; entities unto themselves, rather’n mere traits of other objects. They’re stark, standing out against each other, the richest greens, the sharpest reds, the deepest browns, the brightest yellows. you could try to capture ’em in a painting, but nobody’d buy it: too fake-looking. There’s no gradation, nothing muted; the dark and light emeralds of a leaf don’t blend into each other, but sit side-by-side with clear demarcation — as if no one color here would ever lower itself to blend with another.

I hope future books spend more time in the fae world (and there’s every indication that they will), it’s slightly bent/twisted hyper-reality was truly imaginative, and unlike anyone else’s take on it. The fae camera, for example, was sort of a mix of something you’d find in a store on Diagon Alley and in Bedrock. I realize that analogy probably makes no sense — read the book and it will.

Good action, good plot, strong protagonist, strange world and intriguing magic system — everything a series’ first novel needs. Bring on the next!


4 1/2 Stars

Opening Lines – Hot Lead, Cold Iron

We all know we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover (yet, publishing companies spend big bucks on cover design/art). But, the opening sentence(s)/paragraph(s) are fair game. So, when I stumble on a good opening (or remember one and pull it off the shelves), I’ll throw it up here. Dare you not to read the rest of the book


I really feel that fewer of modern society’s bits and pieces are sadder—more banal, I guess—than a big office. It’s kinda like, once mankind perfected the assembly line, there was nothing left to do but live on it. Desk after bulky desk, endless rows reaching into the distance like railroad tracks to nowhere; constant monotonous clacks and dings of typewriters and adding machines; tacky marble floors—and maybe columns, in the swankier joints—trying to echo the glories of ancient temples and libraries, and miserably failing at it. Honestly, I dunno if it’s more depressing or more boring.

Unless someone’s trying to rub you out in one of ’em. Then I’m pretty damn confident in telling you it’s a lot more depressing than it is boring.

Right that minute, I wasn’t looking at the desks, or the typewriters, or the pillars, because I was staring blearily at the growing puddle of red soaking into the piss-yellow carpet between my scuffed Oxfords. (Yeah, carpet. This was the second story, so no marble flooring here.) It wasn’t a whole lot of leakage, not yet, but the brick-fisted galoots flocking around me seemed right eager to help me add to it. We were having a friendly little get-together, me and the four of them, wherein I was helping them to relax by massaging their knuckles with my cheeks and my gut. Repeatedly; they musta been really tense. But hey, at least the coppery scent in my nose kept me from gagging on the mixed bouquet of old sweat, typewriter oil, and carpet shampoo.

from Hot Lead, Cold Iron by Ari Marmell

Dusted Off: False Covenant by Ari Marmell

False Covenant (Widdershins Adventures, #2)False Covenant

by Ari Marmell
Series: Widdershins Adventures, #2

Hardcover, 281 pg.
Pyr, 2012

It doesn’t matter what Ari Marmell writes — whether the fantasy is YA or not — it’s gripping and intense. The only difference is the swearing and amount of blood.

Still reeling from the events of the first volume — the death of a close friend, a showdown with a demon, a burgeoning friendship with an up and coming star in the Guard (not a good move for a professional thief)– this adventure will push Widdershins even further and harder and will keep the pages turning ’til the jaw-dropping end.

Marmell has created a rich and elaborate world for Widdershins — the magic/mythology system, the thieves’ guild, it’s a soil that many volumes could be grown in, I certainly hope they do.


4 Stars

Dusted Off: Thief’s Covenant by Ari Marmell

Thief's Covenant (Widdershins Adventures, #1)Thief’s Covenant

by Ari Marmell
Series: Widdershins Adventures, #1

Hardcover, 273 pg.
Pyr, 2012

Marmell’s first foray into YA is exactly what it should be–his kind of story, without the adult-y material, which he managed to do without feeling like he watered anything down. There’s some light moments–and some flat-out clever writing–but on a dime, Marmell can turn things dark and gruesome

Adrienne/Widdershins/insert-alias-here is a heckuva character — tough, but vulnerable; wise, yet naive; reckless, yet skilled–a good YA character. She’s good at what she does–maybe even great–but not perfect, which I really appreciated.

A good, solid fantasy in a package that’s smaller than a doorstop. I’ll be back for more.


3.5 Stars

Dusted Off: The Conqueror’s Shadow by Ari Marmell

The Conqueror's ShadowThe Conqueror’s Shadow

by Ari Marmell
Hardcover, 448 pg.
Spectra, 2010

What a rollicking good read! This book has it all…great battle scenes; the fate of the world in the balance; wise crackin’ tough guys; wicked witches; ugly, brutish trolls; snarky demons…

Sure, it’s a story we’ve read/seen before–baddest of the bad guys retires, reforms (at least sorta), and has to come out of retirement to stop a new bad guy.

This telling of that familiar tale is done with panache and a clever trick or three to shake things up. Well done, and more than primes the pump for reading more in this world.


4 Stars