It’s been over half a year, now, since the brutal murder of Archbishop William de Laurent during his pilgrimage to the Galicien city of Davillon. During that time, the Church of the Hallowed Pact has assigned a new bishop to the city—but it has also made its displeasure at the death of its clergyman quite clear. Davillon’s economy has suffered beneath the weight of the Church’s displeasure. Much of the populace—angry at the clergy— has turned away from the Church hierarchy, choosing private worship or small, independent shrines. And the bishop, concerned for his new position and angry at the people of Davillon, plans to do something about it. But a supernatural threat is stalking the nighttime streets—a creature of the other world has come to infiltrate the seedier streets of Davillon, to intertwine its tendrils through the lower echelons of society. Faced with both political upheaval and a supernatural threat to its citizenry, the local representatives of the Church are paralyzed and the Guardsmen are in over their heads. And then there’s Widdershinswho’s tried, and failed, to stay out of trouble since taking over Genevieve’s tavern; who’s known to the Church and the Guard both, and trusted by neither; who may, with some of her Thieves’ Guild contacts, have unwittingly played a part in the bishop’s plans; and who, along with her personal god Olgun, may be the only real threat to the supernatural evil infesting Davillon.
About the Author
Ari Marmell (Austin, TX) is a fantasy and horror writer and the author of several original novels including The Goblin Corps and three Widdershins adventures, Thief’s Covenant, False Covenant, and Lost Covenant. He has also written gaming tie-in novels such as In Thunder Forged: Iron Kingdoms Chronicles (The Fall of Llael Book One) and worked as an author of role-playing game materials for games such as Dungeons & Dragons and the World of Darkness line. Although born in New York, Ari has lived the vast majority of his life in Texas—first Houston (where he earned a BA in creative writing at the University of Houston) and then Austin. He lives with his wife, George; their cat; and a variety of neuroses. Visit the Widdershins page at facebook.com/Madeleine.Valois, and visit Ari at mouseferatu.com, at facebook.com/pages/Ari-Mouseferatu-Marmell/181576062390, or on Twitter @mouseferatu.
Read an Excerpt
FALSE COVENANTA Widdershins Adventure
By ARI MARMELL
Prometheus BooksCopyright © 2012 Ari Marmell
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIf she hadn't already known, she'd never have recognized the lie for what it was.
She'd been here once before, a guest in the sumptuous manor of the Marquis de Ducarte. Now, as last time, the air was heavy with the strands and strings of music, the floor vibrating with dancing couples. Vests and hose were deep, richly hued; magnificent gowns with hoop skirts resplendent in all the bright colors of spring. The servants—though clad largely in blacks, whites, and grays—were scarcely less fancy than the guests; the tables over which they stood were laden with fish and fowl, pork and pastry, and an array of wines that would have put most vintners and taverns to shame. The breath of a hundred conversations pursued the delectable aromas up toward the ceiling, where they swirled around hanging banners and streamers. On some snapped and flapped the sun-and-crown ensign of Vercoule, highest god of Davillon; on others, the rose petals of Ruvelle, patron goddess of the Ducarte line and its current scion, Clarence Rittier.
In nearly every way, it looked the same this time around as it had six months ago, when Madeleine Valois had attended Rittier's greatest fete ever, to celebrate the arrival of his honored guest, Archbishop William de Laurent. Nearly every way—but not all. The gleam in the eyes of the guests was perhaps just a bit wild, a bit worried; the tone of their friendly laughter and malevolent gossip high and desperate. Banners and streamers, tablecloths and gowns, were immaculately washed and well maintained, but they weren't new. Once, they'd have been new, every last one.
No more. Not since Rittier's disgrace—and certainly not since Davillon's. The ball, the joy, the carefree celebration ... A façade, every bit, a lie rigidly maintained by the city's aristocracy because none of them had the slightest clue of how to live any other way.
Well, almost none of them.
Dazzling in her gown of velvet green, the intricate locks of her blonde wig piled high like a hairy wedding cake in the latest fashion, Madeleine glided through the crowd, a beautiful wraith leaving nothing but a faint breeze and the occasional heartbreaking smile to mark her passage. Her knees grew tired of constant curtseying, her cheeks stiff from carrying that artificial smile, her voice hoarse from the false good cheer.
"Your Grace, so lovely to see you again! Are you well?"
"Yes, ghastly weather last week. This summer's likely to be just abominable, isn't it?"
"Indeed, it's been a while. I fear family matters have kept me from attending as often as I'd wish. But I'd be delighted to accept your invitation ..."
And then, under her breath, so quietly that nobody could possibly have heard her, Madeleine said, "Could you please, please, please make everyone stop talking for a while? Or you could just strike me deaf. There's a lot to be said for being deaf, I think. At least it's quiet...."
From everywhere and nowhere, a faint ripple of amusement—a voiceless laugh—sounded in Madeleine's mind.
"Well," she huffed, "I'm glad one of us is entertained."
Most of the time, her unseen companion's replies of pure emotion and intent could be only loosely translated into actual words. But in this case, the meaning of "Me, too" was unmistakable.
The corners of her lips twitching as she tried to simultaneously scowl and smile, Madeleine drifted past a table of various wines and punches, and just about collided with one of the men responsible for serving said beverages. A chorus of "Eep!" from Madeleine and "Ack!" from the servant—or syllables to that effect—accompanied a frantic dance of skittering feet. Half a cup of citrus punch sloshed across the floor, and it was only the young woman's surprising speed (with perhaps the tiniest hint of divine intervention) that prevented her gown from absorbing the briefly airborne aperitif.
"Uh, terribly sorry, miss—uh, mademoiselle—uh, I mean, m'lady."
Madeleine blinked at the flustered fellow, who didn't sound much like any professional servant she'd ever dealt with. "No harm," she murmured. And then, forcing her voice to squeeze itself into a more haughty outfit for which it was ill suited, "But do take more care in the future, yes? Not everyone here is as quick-footed as I am—nor as forgiving."
"Of course, miss—uh, m'lady."
"What the happy hopping horses was that about?" Madeleine demanded of her silent partner. Then, when the response was something about the overall clumsiness of human beings in general, she could only wait until she was sure nobody was watching and then blow her unseen friend a quiet raspberry.
"Disgraceful, isn't it?"
Madeleine about jumped out of her skin, and then twisted to face the speaker. It was another young woman, perhaps half a decade older than Madeleine herself, clad in a golden gown and a wig so pale it was less "blonde" and more "translucent." Madeleine had seen her before, at several of the aristocracy's fetes and balls, but not in some time; if she'd ever known the woman's name, it had long since slipped her mind.
"Um ... yes?"
"I mean," the woman continued, "I think we all understand the marquis's ... predicament." It was the closest anyone in the blue-blooded crowd would come to overtly acknowledging Rittier's recent troubles, let alone their own. "So a certain degree of belt-tightening is to be expected, I suppose even commended. But really, I think perhaps he could have afforded to stint a little on the refreshments, if it meant acquiring a higher class of server, wouldn't you think? I mean, one expects a certain minimum degree of civilization in one's affairs."
Madeleine—who wanted nothing more than to sigh and walk away, or perhaps smack the woman on the back of the head so hard that her eyes would sprout hair—instead pontificated at length about how right she was, and how it was utterly disgraceful for a man of Rittier's (former) influence to be so lax in his standards, and how it simply wouldn't do at all, and perhaps they ought to consider writing the Duchess Beatrice and ask her to have a word with the marquis before the affair become scandal worthy?
(By the end of it, Madeleine was having serious difficulty keeping a straight face, mostly because her invisible companion was quietly having hysterics.)
Eventually, the other noblewoman wandered off to go find some one else to grouse with (or at, or about), and Madeleine returned her attentions to the task at hand.
Or, most of her attentions, anyway.
"Tell me again, Olgun, why I ever wanted to be one of them?"
Olgun, the invisible presence to whom she'd been speaking throughout the evening, shook a nonexistent head. And then, perhaps troubled by the tone of Madeleine's thoughts, willed a gentle question across her psyche.
"Hmm? No, I'm fine. I just ..." She stopped, realizing that she was chewing on a loose lock of hair from her wig—a very unaristocratic mannerism. She swiftly spit it out, patted it back into place, and sighed softly. "Olgun, that was twice in two minutes something caught me by surprise. The drink, and then that—that woman ... I'm supposed to be more alert than that, yes?"
A moment more to interpret Olgun's unspoken response, and then, "I am not out of practice!" she practically hissed, drawing herself up and glaring around arrogantly in response to a few peculiar looks cast her way by those who almost overheard her. "I am not out of practice," she repeated, far more softly. "I just—haven't done this in a while."
And again, after a brief pause, "There is so a difference! It's a subtle distinction, but an important one! Vital, even! No, I'm not going to explain it to you. You're the god; you figure it out!"
Nose held high (making her look rather like half the other folk in attendance), Madeleine lifted her skirts and swept gracefully toward the exit. She passed through pockets of conversation about the general ungainliness and lack of competence among the serving staff—apparently, her own near miss was far from the evening's only unfortunate incident—and muttered a number of polite farewells on her way out.
Only a few even noticed her passing. Not that they were deliberately slighting her at all, no; rather because their attentions were focused elsewhere. In the room's far corner, occupying a bubble all to himself as though his mere presence repelled the spinning dancers or even efforts at conversation, was a middle-aged fellow in the simple brown cassock of a monk. Perhaps as a peace offering to an angry Church, the Marquis de Ducarte had invited Ancel Sicard, Davillon's newly appointed bishop, to his gathering. The fact that Sicard had chosen not to attend, but had sent his assistant instead, was cause for even more gossip throughout the party than the lackadaisical efforts of the servants. The monk, Brother Ferrand, stood, and smiled, and engaged in what conversation came his way, and if he noted the puzzled or hostile glowers, or the angry mutters directed toward him, he certainly gave no sign. Madeleine threw him a final, curious glance—recalling another monk of the same order whom she'd known only briefly but liked to think of as a friend—and then slipped out into the moonlight.
A path of cobblestones wound through garden and orchard, an inebriated earthworm twisting through the grounds of the Ducarte estate as it made its way toward the gates and, from there, the main road. Thick grasses and rich flowers perfumed the night, enjoying the last moments of a fruitful spring before the oncoming summer began to pummel them with fists of heat and sun. Again, Madeleine couldn't help but think of her last visit here ... of the breaking glass, the quick plummet, and a desperate escape across this same meandering pathway ...
She couldn't remember what the gardens or the trees might have smelled like, then. She'd been too wrapped up in the scent of her own sweat and blood.
"Okay, Olgun," she announced with a headshake that threatened to send her carefully coifed wig toppling into the dirt. "Enough with the reminiscing." (As though it'd been he who'd been doing it.) "Let's get on with it."
Madeleine Valois had done her part; it was time for the noblewoman to take her leave, and the street-thief Widdershins to take the stage.
* * *
It was one of her standard techniques, a methodology that had served her well time and time again: use one identity to scout and study the target; the other to relieve said target of just a small portion of excess wealth. Charity was a civic duty and a religious obligation, after all; one could even argue that, as one of the poor who needed said charity, she was actually doing them a favor.
(In fact, not only could one argue it, but she had done so, in her time. Oddly, few of the city's wealthy—or the Guard—ever found her logic particularly convincing.)
Her name had once been Adrienne Satti, and though not born into high society, she'd found her way into the aristocracy thanks to the efforts and kindness of the noble Alexandre Delacroix. The apparent fairy tale had not, alas, brought about a fairy tale ending; Alexandre was dead, now, and Adrienne wanted by the city's elite for a series of horrific crimes that she'd never committed. Today she was mostly Widdershins—thief and, far more recently, tavern owner—but she still kept up her presence within the aristocracy under the name Madeleine Valois. It all might have been confusing enough to make her head spin, if she hadn't had the misfortune to live all of it firsthand.
But at least she wasn't alone. No, Adrienne Satti hadn't been the only survivor of those crimes for which she herself had been blamed. There was one other.
Olgun. A foreigner. A god.
A god few had ever heard of, and only one now worshipped.
A god who now kept careful watch, alert for any interruptions as his disciple and partner disappeared into a shadowed alleyway, gown and wig and other signs of Madeleine Valois sliding into the maw of a black canvas sack. Dark leathers, precision tools, and a blackened rapier emerged from that same hiding place. The young lady—slender and fine-featured, brunette—who scrambled up the nearest wall to perch, staring carefully at the Rittier estate, really didn't much resemble the absent noblewoman at all.
"All righty, Olgun, now it's time for the fun part, yes? You know, the waiting. What? Well of course the waiting's fun! Why else would we do so bloody much of it? For a god, you're really not all that good at logic."
And then, "I can tell when you're making those kinds of faces at me, you know."
After that, Olgun lapsed again into an amused silence, and Widdershins really had nothing to do but wait (which was not, despite her efforts at convincing the god or herself, the "fun part" at all) and watch for the activity at Clarence Rittier's manor to slowly taper off.
* * *
Windows of stained glass, worth more than Davillon's average laborer would make in years, cast the sanctuary in a soft rainbow glow. The steady gleam of the moon and stars, augmented by the flickering of a dozen streetlights, threw reflected images of countless holy symbols and scenes across row upon row of pews and kneeling cushions. The most oft-repeated symbol was, of course, Vercoule's crown-and-sun, but here was the golden pyramid of Geurron, the silver face of Demas, the white cross of Banin, the bleeding hand of Tevelaire, and more. Those gods most prevalent in Davillon boasted the largest and most frequent icons, but every single deity of the Hallowed Pact—all 147—were represented somewhere.
Here in the Basilica of the Sublime Tenet, the heart of worship in Davillon, it would have been improper to do any less.
Perfumed censers and waxy candles breathed a pungent, greasy smoke that left a sweet aroma in its wake as it swirled toward the domed ceiling. From the raised dais at the front of the sanctuary, a priest's melodious voice rose and fell through a litany as familiar as his own name.
It was a litany few heard. That the sanctuary should be sparsely populated was no surprise; the midnight mass was never a well-attended function, even at the best of times. But this night—and, for that matter, the past two seasons—could not, for either Davillon or the Church, qualify as the "best of times." Tonight, the priest and his assistants outnumbered the parishioners.
Nor had it been that much better during the day.
From a shaded balcony above the sanctuary proper, all but invisible to the smattering of parishioners below, an old man watched, his eyes red with unshed tears. Ancel Sicard had always loved his Church, and the many gods whom he had the honor and privilege to represent. But in his past six months as bishop of this conflicted city, he'd come to love Davillon as well. And to see the two of them at odds ate away at him, body and soul.
He was a large man, but far narrower of girth now than when he'd arrived. His thinning hair and thickening beard, previously an even salt-and-pepper mix, was now entirely gray save for a smattering of dark patches. It seemed to him that even his white cassock of office had grown dim and discolored, though he knew, in his less emotional moments, that this could only be a trick of the mind.
Bishop Sicard kissed the tips of his fingers and held them up toward the largest of the stained glass windows, then spun on his heel and moved toward the nearest stairway. His footsteps echoed back to him as he plunged downward, a rhythmic counterpoint to the rapid beating of his heart. Through a heavy doorway and along plush carpeted halls he strode, into the small suite of chambers that were his own home here in the basilica.
Here, he paused for only a few moments, long enough to swap out his cassock and miter for the simple tunic and trousers of a commoner—a sort of outfit he'd had little cause to wear in over a decade—and to gather a satchel of yellowed parchments and old, cracked, leather-bound books.
He did not pause to question what he was about to do. Those concerns he had made peace with long ago.
Then he was off once more, through the halls and out into the Davillon streets. A number of sentinels—both Church soldiers and City Guard—stood watch around the property, just another testament to the growing rift between the sacred and the secular. Yet these men and women, though skilled at their duties, were watching for vandals and other angry threats from without; not a one of them thought anything strange of an old man leaving midnight mass, assuming they even noticed him at all.
Once clear of the basilica, Sicard took a moment to orient himself. In the months that he'd been here, he'd done precious little traveling on his own. Always with an entourage, usually inside a coach, he'd had scant reason to learn the layout of the city's streets. He'd certainly never traversed the city in the dark, alone.
Excerpted from FALSE COVENANT by ARI MARMELL Copyright © 2012 by Ari Marmell. Excerpted by permission of Prometheus Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
For loving the first book so much, I knew I couldn't wait ti dive into the second book and see what adventures Widdershins gets herself into. This time, a villian so evil comes and trust me you want to meet him. (Laughs with evil intent) This book leaves off right where the first one ends and from the first chapter, I was entangled to continue on. Widdershins is such an amazing girl, any girl would want to be her. Sometimes! She has an amazing, courageous heart that although gets her in tight spots sometimes but always does it with good intent. Throughout this book she has some gentleman crushing on her but to know who, you got to read. This book was filled with a lot of twists and turns and left me never knowing what was going to happen next. It was fast-paced and before I even knew it, I was half-way done with the book. The ending was one that makes me wishing for the next book. It had me wanting to scream out loud but than my mom wouldn't be to happy with that. If your a lover of fantasy and a kicking girl, I recommend this book to you. I give this book 5 souls!
Some are driven by fear, others are drawn to it. Nearly a year has passed, and on the surface little has changed. Widdershins continues to rob from the rich, tweaking the noses of Guards and fellow Finders along the way. But like the nobles she stalks, Wid’s antics conceal a deeper pain. Death has left its mark on the city of Davillon. Some fight to save it, while others see an opportunity to strike, including a creature of legend, drawn by the sweet bouquet of fear, and a terrible hunger. Fans of the first book will find this a familiar read. Some scenes could easily fit right into Thief’s Covenant. Widdershins remains the same loveable rogue, struggling once again to unravel a strange mystery, prove her innocence, and escape an otherworldly creature. But there is one striking difference, the tone. Where Thief’s Covenant focused on levity, False Covenant alternates between light-hearted and intensely serious. Vivid details continue to hint at the rich world of Davillon, while the plot, and its characters, remain single minded, leaving no room for sidelines or setbacks. Scene and summary blend together, guiding audiences on an easygoing adventure that flirts with danger, while always managing to skirt around any lasting consequences. Chapters continue to alternate between multiple perspectives, humanizing heroes and villains alike (with one exception). Unfortunately audiences can often infer what’s going to happen next. In the absence of uncertain events, relationships became the main source of tension. Characters are pulled from one emotion to another, often with little hint or warning. In the moment each emotion is rich and poignant, but in the larger context of the story as a whole they feel abrupt and isolated, another victim of the narrow focus which makes False Covenant an easy read, for better or for worse. + Strong Descriptions + Strong Setting *Easy Read -Rushed Narrative -Underdeveloped Characters 3/5
Ari Marmell has a delightfully humorous writing style. It lends an air of lightness to his stories that makes them airy, delightful, and fun, and his use of brilliantly imaginative (and colorful) analogy is simply a pleasure to read. I tend to smile the entire time I read his books, as you can't go more than a few pages without something humorous occurring. Despite all that, he spins a tale not lacking in gravitas. While the day-to-day interactions of the characters in the settings are simple, light-hearted, and enjoyable, the overall plot is anything but. It is complex, well-thought out, executed with exemplary style, and extremely enjoyable to experience. I will literally read anything he writes, regardless of genre or plot, so much do I enjoy his writing.
Warning: Upon finishing this book, you may experience feels. I don't just mean the kind of feels where you're sad that you finished a good book, or that you wish something else had happened, or that you loved it a lot. I mean the kind of feels you feel at the end of a good season finale, where you're screaming and wanting more and half crying because there was a lot of drama and awesome and you just don't know how to handle yourself. If you can't tell, False Covenant meets all the expectations I had going into it, and then some. I adored Thief's Covenant; I had an overwhelming sense of pride when one of my review quotes was chosen for an ad for it; I've been recommending it to all of my friends who love fantasy. The characters, the world, the plot -- all of it was amazing. False Covenant was just as amazing. Widdershins is one of those characters - and False Covenant is one of those books - that will imprint on your mind for a lifetime. She's clever and snarky and impatient and rash and sneaky and just a beautifully well crafted character. Olgun? Fantastic. We never hear from him except for what we get from Widdershins, but you can't help but love him. The plot in this was absolutely stunning; I'm going to keep this review spoiler-free, but it's just as fast-paced as the first one with even more twists and turns. I love not knowing how this story was going to end. And let me tell you, I was shocked at how it ended. I started yelling at my book - the first time I had in ages, and much to the alarm of my roommate - before devouring the last few pages. It's an ending that had me shocked and hurting and proud and confused and man, oh man, do I need the next book now. I should also mention that all of the other characters are equally as fantastic to read about as Widdershins, especially considering the book occasionally derails to follow their stories -- the only book to do that that I've actually enjoyed, rather than keeping it focused to one point of view. Renard makes me giggle; Robin makes me proud; and Julien? I'm not sure if I want to be him or marry him. If you're a fantasy lover and you haven't read this series, you're missing out on one of the best young adult fantasy series to come out in the past few years. Ari Marmell's characters, plots - everything is fabulous. Pick it up now. And for non-fantasy lovers who are looking into dabbling, this is a brilliant place to start. It's not all magic and flashy battles -- there's a level of realism to the characters, to the setting, even to the plot to an extent, that I'm absolutely in love with.
Of the two Widdershins novels, The False Covenant is, by far, my favorite. I’ve decided that I want Widdershins as my friend. Seriously! I absolutely loved her in this book. And her loyalty never ceases to amaze me. The False Covenant was a darker, creepier read than its predecessor, Thief’s Covenant. In The False Covenant we are re-introduced to the characters that we know and love *cough* Renard *cough*, and are also introduced to new characters and new evils. The False Covenant picks up six months after Thief’s Covenant. After the death of her best friend, Genevieve, Widdershins is struggling to keep The Flippant Witch tavern in business and finds herself still indulging in her past time of thievery to help supplement the income. During a routine stake out, Widdershins finds herself confronted with a dilemma. Help her fellow thieves, led by a sneaky man who goes by the name Squirrel, in stealing items during an Aristocrat party? Or help out the Guard, most especially her favorite guard of them all, Julien Bouniard from injury and/or death? Widdershins conscious gets the better of her and gains more trust from a soon to be ally, but in turn has her own “kind” plotting against her. Oh, Widdershins. Not only does Widdershins have to worry about the wellbeing of the tavern, a new foe has come to town seeking revenge for past crimes made by none other than Widdershins. Add in a supernatural being stalking the streets of Davillon, who at first seemed harmless enough, but has progressed into something straight out of a nightmare. Can those who uphold the law and those who make a living breaking the law, work together to rid the world of a being even feared by Widdershins’ god, Olgun? This book was … awesomesauce! It was a creepy read that was completely full of action and humour. I’ve always loved Widdershins’ humour, but in The False Covenant, she is more witty, more of a smart ass and … seriously I want her for a friend! She is such a strong female heroine that is easily likeable and full of surprises. Author, Ari Marmell’s world building in The False Covenant topped Thief’s Covenant. The world came alive all around me. I loved that it wasn’t just Widdershins needing to run and hide from the law…she faced her foes dead on in this installment. I found that this story made me appreciate Widdershins even more now that she really doesn’t have to do everything on her own. The supernatural being, of which was loving called “Iruoch” was scary as all hell! I mean, there was no delicacy when it came down to the description of this character, and the carnage that he brought forth on the citizens of Davillon. He was a walking, talking nightmare that I could clearly picture in my head, thanks to Mr. Marmell’s unbelievable description. The way in which he described Iruoch’s voice, as being that of man and child together, was eerie AND I could totally hear it and hear the unseen giggling children. GAH! I was freaking myself out! And let’s not forget Renard. Oh sweet, sweet Renard who we now know is the Shrouded Lord unbeknownst to Widdershins. He is such a true gentleman and his wit and humour made me fall head over heels for this guy. (But in my head, the Renard that I crush on does NOT have a moustache…just sayin’) I personally am hoping that Widdershins and Renard end up together…but who knows! Go to chapter-by-chapter(dot)com to read more of the review!
Can we just talk about how good this book series is for a little bit? And how it seriously needs to be read by more YA readers? The fact that this book series is so unknown is shameful; Ari Marmell successfully balances clever humour, horrific villains, a plucky young heroine in a delightful, charming new favourite. I adored the first book in this new series, Thief's Covenant, but I'm in awe of Ari's ability to craft an even BETTER sequel to an already outstanding book! Everything I loved about Thief's Covenant was there, just amped up a notch or two; whether that was romance, terror, poetic writing or action. It's all there and it's all incredibly satisfying & enjoyable! Reasons to Read: 1.Fun romance... that isn't overdone: While Thief's Covenant only HINTS at some blooming romantic feelings, False Covenant is where we finally get to see it acted on (not all of it - I won't spoil who's involved!) The complications which arise from it are so painful and the consequences devastatingly real... yet all are perfectly appropriate for the story, I can't deny that. It's impossible NOT to care about these characters <3 2.A writing style specific to an author: I actually tend to like this when author's do this, but I enjoy reading books when an author has their own specific style of writing that stands out from other authors. Ari's definitely one of those authors who has such a distinct way of writing that appeals to me as a reader. In his Widdershins books, this easily comes across as a witty, precocious young woman with a poetic writing style which works so well for the mystical, creepy ambiance of the book/fantasy world. 3.Dark, horrific villainry: I can't stand it when an evil villain doesn't meet my expectations; I find too often that the bad guys turn out to be incredibly lame and rather mundane. But mundane doesn't exist in Widdershins books. Not one bit! Ari's familiarity with writing horror novels comes across so well in his descriptions of the villains Widdershins comes face to face with; which are such truly terrifying ideas, with graphic descriptions that just come alive right off the page that they're some of the best creations I have ever read in a book. Ever; it's completely brilliant! 4.Mystery, action, fighting, secrets! It's refreshing to read a fantasy book where the author has clearly invested a large amount of time and thoughtfulness to establish such an interesting setting for an equally fascinating story; and even rarer when you find a story that holds both the setting and story to such high standards and both come across as extraordinarily well done. And the fighting scenes are so good, they completely grab (and hold) your attention. 5.A delightful fantasy world: I love the different aspects of fantasy which are incorporated in these books; the religious aspect of the series is extremely important, and the mythology created for the various gods and goddesses and their role in public life is so intriguing. And the way that magic & mysticism are semi-related, yet still separate add to this mysterious facet of the world. Thief's & False Covenant are some of the masterpieces of YA. I'll be quite content if Ari continues to bless us all with lovely fantasy works like this one (more please)! But honestly, why are you reading my review for False Covenant when you should be reading the book? ARC received from publisher for review. (review abridged due to posting limitations)