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?
As always, I’m going to go on a little tangent so if you have no cares for my little personal snippet skip below for my comments on the book itself. Ive always loved reading, but in my later teenage years and during Uni that passion died off as I became interested in other things, namely alcohol and the events that go hand in hand with said alcohol. But then I got really ill and spent years not being able to work, or socialise, or even leave the house, so books became my escape. Escapism is important for so many of us, in recent times more than ever, and in my opinion Fantasy books are able to do something that few genres can which is create something so incredibly different from the world we live in, that for a little slice of time we are able to leave the shitty world we find ourselves in and find ourselves amongst heroes, gods and dragons. This all happened around 2010-2012 and during that period I devoured series like The Wheel of Time and The First Law Trilogy, anything I could find with decent recommendations since I was fairly out of the loop when it came to what was good. Towards the end of 2012 as I got better, I was finally able to go back to a store, and so I went to one of my favourite places on earth, my local Waterstones. On that first visit back I wandered to the Fantasy and Sci-Fi section, straight to the new hardback releases and sitting in all its glory was the newly (re)released Blood Song.
Since reading that book Ive been an avid fan of Anthony Ryan, at that same Fantasy section for the release of every book so far to make sure I have his books day one. I saw a tweet a few days back about what authors could release a book and you know nothing about it but buy it regardless, there’s a few on that list but right at the top with Mr Gwynne and Mr Abercrombie is Mr Anthony Ryan. That meant when I heard Ryan was working on a new series it went straight to the top of my most anticipated list, it doesn’t matter if Ryan had decided to change to crime as a genre, it didn’t matter if he wrote my least favourite trope of all time, the love triangle, I still would have been there to purchase this book on release day.
For me Ryan is another of those authors I think is exceptionally good at doing… everything. I find his character building incredible; no one can argue that Blood Song isn’t an amazing book and the biggest reason for that is because Vaelin Al Sorna is so well written that reading a book without him brings a hint of sadness. His world building is easily among the best, while his first Trilogy and its following Duology may not offer anything I would consider crazy different from a lot of fantasy books, they are beautifully written worlds that are filled with a massive amount of culture and history, but then if you want to see Anthony flex that world building muscle you only need to go to Draconis Memoria, a series of books that is not recognised as much as it should be, these books having explosive action, more dragons than you can ever count and world building I would consider some of the very best around. I could write about everything else Anthony does well, but I shan’t babble any longer.
This is my ode to Anthony Ryan, one of the best authors to ever grace the genre, and if you take one thing away from this ‘review’ today, its that you should read his books.
Do you want a quick judgement? Yes? The Pariah is Ryan’s best book yet.
I mentioned in my last review that books with amazing first lines, prologues, paragraphs are my new favourite thing, they are the literary version of a jump scare, they get your blood pumping and that sweet serotonin to the right places. We often have those discussions about slow burners and series that get better after this point (I love WOT but just the thought of rereading book 10 makes me anxious), what I want is a slap to the face from the starting point and I want that energy to burn throughout the book, I want them to continue, and I will pay whatever bribes are necessary.
“Before killing a man, I always found it calming to regard the trees.”
This book is all about Alwyn Scribe, an outcast, a bandit, and an altogether loveable rogue. Alwyn is the heart of this book and again Ryan has written us another character you can’t but help finding yourself completely immersed in. I’m a big fan of coming-of-age stories and protagonists and even though we come across Alwyn in his teenage years I still got that same joy from reading his story, as we see him become more than just an outlaw, grow as a person and I find myself completely enthralled every time I turn the page as I get to read this boys story. This book was my favourite sort of book, a wonderful single POV. Perfection. However, Alwyn comes with a fantastic supporting cast that add so much to the story, Ryan adding so much characterization to these people so eloquently that I would have happily read any of them in their own chapters.
“You say my claim to the throne was false, that I began a war that spilled the blood of thousands for nothing. I ask you, Scribe, what meaning is there in truth or lies in the world? As for blood, I have heard of you. I know your tale. History may judge me as monstrous, but you are a far bloodier man than I”
Ryan’s world building is once again absolutely fantastic, I would call this Ryan’s most grimdark novel so far, its various shades of misery and despair clinging to the characters throughout the book with very little in terms of joy or happiness, things going from bad to worse and Alwyn and his companions clinging on to life by their fingertips, this just helped deliver a story that couldn’t stop me from turning the pages nonstop, keeping me up till I was blurry eyed and needing sleep. Ryan filled this world with so much culture and lore in such a short amount of time, delivered without the need for any info dumping but instead as a master of writing does, entwining it into his plot as and when its needed to deliver this flawless tense and well-paced beauty of a story.
”Thus spoke Ulthnir, Father of the Altvar. Every battle is a forge, and every soul that survives the flames is made stronger.” The events of a long and interesting life have forced me to conclude that Ulthnir, like many a god, was full of shit.
One thing Ryan is never scared of is getting his hands dirty, his previous books have brimmed with action, it being an overwhelming feature of all three major series so far and that’s not something I’m sad about in any way, Ryan does incredible work when it comes to swordcraft and his action scenes and big set pieces are always incredibly exciting and fun to read. The Pariah took a much lesser approach than before and the action was much more spread out, the one big set piece we did get however felt like one of the best Ryan has written so far, the fighting brutal and real, chapters that made me want to burn through pages as quickly as I could. Ryan turned to the pen instead of the sword this time round to build his story, It notably did give the story a slightly slower pace than some of his previous entries, but I feel we got a better plot and character development because of it and I’m 110% ok with that.
“Hearing an enraged shout to my rear, I ducked and whirled, dragging the billhook clear and bringing it round to smash the knees of the churl who came at me with a scythe. He collapsed instantly, landing on his back and clutching at his ruined legs, his screams ending as Toria landed on his chest and sank her dagger into the hollow of his throat.”
The Pariah is very simply the best book Ryan has written so far, which when put against the library of his works is impressive, he continues to get better as a writer, his prose continues to astound me, his every word gripping me intensely, the world and characters he writes becoming more immersive and ensnaring every time and my love for what this man writes continues to grow. I think this series will go from strength to strength, Alwyn becoming such a truly incredible protagonist, and for those that maybe miss out on that typical Ryan blood and guts we didn’t get this time will be sated before the end.
Read this book. Read Ryan’s other books. Do it now.
Thanks for reading.