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?
“… for a clever mind will explore the dark possibilities with far more dedication than the bright.”
First, I’d like to thank Orbit, Nazia, and the Little, Brown marketing team for sending me a surprise ARC of this wonderful book. I mean, the cover alone is stunning, so I knew I was in for a treat with the contents of the book.
The Pariah is the first in Anthony Ryan’s new epic – in every darn sense of the word – start to the Covenant of Steel series. With a voice so gripping, sharp, and intelligent, Alwyn Scribe brings to mind great, intelligent characters like Ardor Benn, Kvothe, and other excellent characters that came before him; but is set apart as one human is unique to another in the way that Ryan’s writing is as epic and sharp as the tale Scribe tells.
Alwyn Scribe is an outlaw, a thief under the King of Outlaws, Deckin, until the king’s reign is cut short, and he’s thrust into pillory, then a prison described only as the Pit, buried in a mine underground. From there, he cleverly and intelligently recounts his plight, and his rise from such a sundering. The plot within the book is so vast, so very epic fantasy by nature, writing, plot, character, and world-building, that I felt engulfed by the mere opening of the page. It took me a lot longer to read this book than I usually would but that’s because of the sheer magnitude of the world inside. This portion of Scribe’s life spans years, through the learning of sword and the knowing of bloody battle – which Ryan describes in its own vicious beats rather than outline the throw-by-throw. It’s as real and as felt as the recount of a real story but told to you by a far more intriguing person than you’d usually find. The story brings with it old tropes of prophecy – or so it seems – outcast to warrior scribe, clashing religions, cultures, and a dash of a Viking-inspired race that we’ve come to love, but subverts these. You can only pick out these tropes once reading the entire book through and looking at it as the entire piece. It’s truly great and I can say that I savoured every second.
Battles seen in cuts, chops and spears that are drove home, avoided, and only just. Ryan writes these scenes as a breath-by-breath play, where you’re seeing flashes of battle, almost unavoidable death and the scrambling from foe, the drawing of dagger and the scream of fellow soldiers. It’s a desperate experience I felt with Scribe rather than read. There’s something magical about writing that makes you live the page. And Ryan has got it down to a fine art with battles.
Alwyn Scribe alone is captivating, the voice gripping, far-reaching and as distant as the point where he stands to tell the story from. But it is with this distance that he’s able to perfectly describe his story and what has come. It’s as if the story is read to you sat opposite site of the room, a fire crackling, fingers dug into the arms of an old chair. Scribe is different from the heroes that have come before him because he’s no real warrior, he’s a scribe. He isn’t chosen, not by prophecy in the sense that we usually see … yeah, his story has come before … but I’m not here to spoil the book for you, so you’ll have to read to find out what I mean by that. I did, though, come to love Scribe because he is that, lovable, redeemable and unputdownable.
Overall, if you love fantasy at its most epic that presents itself like the old greats but is in fact something very different, you should give this book a go. Thanks again Orbit and to Anthony Ryan for such a great read.