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?
Hello again dear reader or listener, hope you are doing well. Won’t you join me today in chatting about the first installment of Anthony Ryan’s new series? Getting my copy of this book was a small odyssey worthy of a novella in and of its own frankly, but let me keep it short by saying I tried to trick Fate and she laughed in my face, making me wait for ages till I could finally read the book so many of my peers were raving about. Well, I finally got my chance to agree with them.
The Pariah is the opening act in The Covenant of Steel series and what an opening it is! We follow Alwyn Scribe in first person, as he shares with the reader his tale through the benefit of hindsight. I’ve grown really fond of this type of narrator over the years because, especially if the attitude is right, it makes for some really fun reading, rife with asides and commentary that add a certain dimension to the story that, be it because of ominous foreshadowing or amusing snark, sass, or dry humor, regularly gives you a solid chuckle. The Pariah had all of that and more.
Now, I am very fond of Ryan’s work, and he is among my instant buy authors, so let me say that I went into this book barely even glancing at the plot blurb. I particularly enjoyed seeing the new directions Ryan tried out for his writing, while at the same time recognizing several common elements that I’ve come to expect of his storytelling. The literature major in me is thriving in other words, but I won’t go down that rabbit hole, don’t worry. The main difference this time around is that rather than spreading his gaze between various characters and their povs, he kept the story centered solely on the protagonist Alwyn. This limited the range a lot and, while understandable and an interesting device in and of itself, it caused the macro plot of the story to unfold much slower, and the wider cast of supporting characters to be less developed. Alwyn is after all an unreliable narrator. This meant that while there are several instances of solid action caused by a plot twist here and there throughout, at the same time, they do feel strongly episodic as the Alwyn that is narrating, is subjectively giving what he thinks is the necessary context and background that will explain his future actions and decisions. The things he chooses to dwell on for longer as opposed to what he skims over quickly, is of course telling of his character and, if getting into a protagonitst’s head to understand them (even through what they are omitting) is what you enjoy while reading, then you’ll definitely enjoy this book! I certainly did!
Moreover, this level of slow burn plot, let’s say, is reminiscent to me of Ryan’s Draconis Memoria series, as in there as well, the first book, while full of action, only works as a setup to the wider plot of the trilogy. In other words, Ryan asks for the trust of his readers in order to deliver what will unfold to be a truly solid series, I feel.
Finally, it’s been my experience with Ryan’s work that he always sticks one hell of a landing, and if you need further proof, let me just say that I missed making my lunch the other day because I was so taken by those last 60 pages in the book. If you know how much of a foodie I am, you’ll know how much of a big deal that is hahaha. The book ends on what I call a short cliffhanger, i.e. the events and plot of the individual book wrap up well, but they set up the wider plot to come so that the reader can expect to hit the ground running when getting into book two, The Martyr, which I am very eager to get to as I definitely have a lot of questions brought on by Alwyn’s tantalizing foreshadowing! This time I’ll plan better so that I can have a copy in a timely manner too… famous last words where?
Until next time,
Eleni A. E.