Review: The Pariah (The Covenant of Steel #1) by Anthony Ryan


Rating: 9.25/10

Synopsis

Following one man’s rise from infamous outlaw to famed warrior, The Pariah is a spectacular first novel in an all-new epic fantasy trilogy from the international best-selling author of Blood Song.

Born into the troubled kingdom of Albermaine, Alwyn Scribe is raised as an outlaw. Quick of wit and deft with a blade, Alwyn is content with the freedom of the woods and the comradeship of his fellow thieves. But an act of betrayal sets him on a new path – one of blood and vengeance, which eventually leads him to a soldier’s life in the king’s army.

Fighting under the command of Lady Evadine Courlain, a noblewoman beset by visions of a demonic apocalypse, Alwyn must survive war and the deadly intrigues of the nobility if he hopes to claim his vengeance. But as dark forces, both human and arcane, gather to oppose Evadine’s rise, Alwyn faces a choice: can he be a warrior, or will he always be an outlaw?

Review

Thanks to the publisher and author for an advance reading copy of The Pariah (The Covenant of Steel #1) for review consideration. This did not influence my thoughts or opinions.

The Pariah is a sharp, brutal tale and a brilliant introduction to the Covenant of Steel series. While the story itself is grim and bloody, Ryan’s prose and characterization are a beacon in the darkness. A remarkable story that I did not want to end.

Before killing a man, I always found it calming to regard the trees.

First lines such as this sell me so quickly on a read. Takes me back to Sam Hawke’s City of Lies (The Poison Wars #1):

I was seven years old the first time my uncle poisoned me.

It is unfortunate that I don’t come across nearly enough of those gripping lines, but I freaking live for them if they are out there.

So…

Per Dictonary.com, the term pariah means ‘an outcast, or any person or animal that is generally despised or avoided.

Well, our protagonist, Alwyn, certainly fits that bill. The odd thing is, even though his lifestyle conveys the ‘outcast’ persona, there is just something about him that is endearing to others. Endearing may be the wrong word, but there is just… I don’t know; something that keeps him alive and in the company of others. His cunningness seems to be the main hand he plays, but his ability to pick up new skills in a short amount of time (among other things) shows why he is continually “employed” as it were.

It is rare that I come across a character that I am so intrigued by and want to know so much more about. All praise goes to Ryan’s unquestionable ability to write, especially when it comes to characterization and setting. Every turn of the page had me completely immersed, combing through all the details to ensure I didn’t miss a beat. I definitely liken his writing to that of, say, a Mark Lawrence. There is just something so poetic in the words put to the page that tug on your emotions at a more sensory level.

The world-building is crisp and lends itself well as a backdrop to the storyline. Descriptive without being overshare, at least until you get into the thick of the battle scenes. I have come across some amazing fight scenes and battles over the few years since I started reading fantasy, ala Joe Abercrombie and John Gwynne as examples, but I have to say: Ryan definitely deserves to be in that same tier. I felt every draw, parry, riposte, you name it. When it came right down to the gritty, bloody thick of it, you felt like you were sitting in the front row of a Gallagher show (you know, except it was brains instead of watermelons)

If you are a fan of Ryan’s, you have probably already preordered this title. For those who aren’t familiar with his writing, I’d definitely recommend checking this one out if you enjoy some of the usual fantasy recommendations: George R. R. Martin, Bernard Cornwell, Mark Lawrence, or Michael J. Sullivan to name a few.

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