Times have changed for Alwyn Scribe. Once an outlaw, he’s now a spymaster and sworn protector of Lady Evadine Courlain, whose visions of a demonic apocalypse have earned her the fanatical devotion of the faithful.
Yet Evadine’s growing fame has put her at odds with both Crown and Covenant. As trouble brews in the kingdom, both seek to exploit her position for their own ends.
Sent to the Duchy of Alundia to put down a rebellion, Alwyn must rely on old instincts to fight for his new cause. Deadly feuds and ancient secrets are laid bare as war erupts, a war that will decide the fate of the Kingdom of Albermaine and, perhaps, prevent the coming of the prophesied Second Scourge.
Its been an age since I started writing a piece knowing I was actually going to finish it. As per usual apologies for the prelude before the review, but this one is slightly relevant to the book, you can always skip to a couple paragraphs down if you just want to hear my thoughts on the book and if you really don’t care you can skip to the bottom for a tasty little tl;dr.
I’ve found it genuinely hard to write in the past year. I think the majority of us readers want to do the writing thing, the idea of free books and being read by many is a very powerful motivator, but realistically the free books are payment for the hard work that is blogging and social media and I think as the time passes I write less for people to read and more for myself. It’s still super rewarding to be part of the community and I will try my best to get back on track, but reading has been so much more enjoyable since I stopped reading to review and instead do what I’ve done today, review because of what I read.
I sat down to write a review for this book because its fantastic and I want others to read it, but honestly its my way of passing love notes to my favourite authors. In reality I do this because every retweet by the people I count as celebrities is that little dopamine rush I need. But realistically I need/have started to change my attitude to how I do this whole thing, and hopefully this is the start of my comeback as I find a happy medium.
Apologies by the way, I’m a little rusty.
When I wrote my review for The Pariah last year one of the things I knew without a doubt was that in my opinion it was Anthony’s best book to date, and I say this as a massive fan of all of his current works. It was a blend of everything I loved about Anthony’s previous books but felt more refined. Blood Song and its following books had these incredible characters and exhilarating action scenes, Draconis Memoria series had much the same but with some truly spectacular world building. Its clear Anthony just keeps getting better, and because of that what we got last year was Alwyn Scribe, one of our best characters of 2021, in The Pariah, one of the best character driven Fantasy books of 2021, written in what was a year of truly exemplary character driven fantasy.
I loved The Pariah, it was everything I want from a proper fantasy book, but I really loved The Martyr. It was overall a very different vibe than the previous book, Alwyn feels very much the character he is going to be now, meaning less growth and instead a lot more refinement of who he is as he struggles with the man hes become and the choices hes made. I really loved his whole arc throughout this entire book, Alwyn really matured from that coming of age archetype we had in the first book to this mature and devastating man. The books story arc feels quite set in stone which would mean we wouldn’t have much new bought into the world, however, we still had some incredible twists thrown in that I really didn’t expect and some stupidly good supporting characters where introduced, the Widow (who you won’t have to wait long to meet, and I won’t spoil) was one of my favourite things about the whole book.
“I rolled onto my back, looking through recurrently blurred eyes at the strangely pelasing sight of a cloudless night sky speckled with stars, only partly occluded by the dark veins of tree branches. I always liked to comtemplate the trees, I thought, surprising myself when the notion brought a laugh to my lips”
With Alwyn seemingly locked into his path it meant we got swooped up in the adventures of the Risen Martyr (who is genuinely good enough to be a main character in her own right, I can imagine her POV and background/story would be an incredible read) and the Covenant Company as they are embroiled in the dirty politics of the land. This was a big win for me because it meant we got plenty of big set pieces that included some excellent stabby action we all know I really love. A moment to recognise that Anthony continues to write battle scenes that are just *chefs kiss*
“I tried to resist the lure of grim arithmatic but my mind was ever drawn to calculation. In comparing the number of days we might expect to sustain ourselves in this castle to the time required for our messnegers to complete their task, I arrived at a dolefully inevitable conclusion. “Oh,” I signed, finding wisdom in a dead mans mundanity as a fresh tumult of drums and shouts sounded from the west-facing wall, “shit on it.”
This was my first “middle” book review and it’s a different kettle of fish, the first book is easy to review because you have everything new to write about, the final book is probably quite easy in the sense you can discuss the wrap up, so the thing I decided was the most important to a middle book is did the author advance the story and keep it exciting? Yes, he did. Series like Wheel of Time have entire books that feel like waffle and can be really hard to get through, plenty of trilogies have entire middle books that just feel like one big time waste followed by a cliff-hanger to set up the third book. The Martyr didn’t feel like this at all, I think overall Anthony did an incredible job of advancing the story, everything carried on feeling fresh and exciting and everything introduced felt necessary to the story instead of being there to progress a point.
As far as I’m concerned Anthony wrote what I would class as a perfect fantasy book and its an easy 10/10 for me.
tl;dr Anthony Ryan continues to write incredible, gritty fantasy that ticks every box every time. Perfect Fantasy.