The Pariah by Anthony Ryan sets the stage for a new epic medieval fantasy series that feels magical without having magic. I received an ARC of the book thanks to NetGalley and the publisher Orbit, in exchange for an honest review. And this is what you’ll get here.
To kick off The Pariah book review, let me say this is a thick book. Clocking at 600 pages, the Kindle edition will keep you occupied for days unless you wolf down on the story. Which, to be fair, didn’t happen with me for a good chunk of The Pariah. I’ve read Anthony Ryan before, and I have very fond memories of the Raven’s Shadow trilogy. So, I’m aware his books are more politics, intrigues, and prophecies than actual fantasy. Truly medieval.
But the first part of The Covenant of Steel starts slow. And when I mean slow, there are a hundred pages of build-up before something starts to happen. Still, once I was past those first hundred pages, it went smoothly and viciously, like a sharpened blade, just as I like it. But don’t let me bore you with any more of my musings, let’s get further with The Pariah review.
The Pariah: The Plot
The Pariah’s blurb on Goodreads is straightforward as to what to expect of the book. If you’ve come here for magic and dragons, move along because it’s all hardships, battlefields, and violence. Raised by the Outlaw King, Alwyn Scribe’s best suited for life outside the law and in the cool shade of dense forests. Until an unfortunate twist of fate and a traitorous scheme thrust him into the life of a prisoner. And then – that of a soldier.
But where there’s faith involved, there’s also the arcane. While fighting under the banner of Evadine Courlain, he must figure out whether his destiny has been foretold. And can he change it? Has he been born to die an outlaw, or is there something more?
The Pariah: Characters & Worldbuilding
While the plot is straightforward, the world crafted by Anthony Ryan in The Pariah can be a bit confusing. Maybe even overwhelming. A central pillar of the story is religion and its impact on the world. There are clear lines drawn between the spiritual and the secular, even though the Crown and Covenant presented here often work together. What unites them is the effort to prevent an oncoming calamity that destroyed their world once already.
Along the way, we meet a plethora of characters, Alwyn Scribe, our outlaw-turned-scribe-turned-soldier, being the main one. The book is told from his point of view, and we’re often stewing in his head. That can be quite engaging. With him go the secondary persons of a zealous fighter, a cynical thief, a turncoat knight, and a wild-eyed girl with a wilder mind. They all march beneath the banner of the Anointed Lady and sword of the Covenant, Evadine Courlain.
I don’t know if I can tell you more without spoiling the experience. But let me tell you speculation of mine that will mean something to you only if you read the book. Alwyn’s just bound to become a Martyr himself at some point in the story, come on.
To be fair, for a book that thick, I expected the Pariah to feature more in terms of conflict. In fact, those 600 pages merely set the stage for what I hope will be an epic sequel.
Should You Read It?
Anthony Ryan has spun an epic tale yet again with The Pariah. This review is hardly an indication of the cutthroat action you’ll enjoy if you set out on the journey. The US edition releases TODAY (24/08/21), and the UK edition comes out on the 26th of August. Put it on your TBR piles, get it, I’m sure you won’t regret it. The Covenant of Steel series shapes up to be a great addition to the epic fantasy genre.
If you don’t mind a slower start and would kill for some genuine medieval fantasy with lots of intrigues and religion and a pinch of the arcane arts, definitely indulge in The Pariah by Anthony Ryan.