When the task is a killing, be quick and make sure of it.
Torment is an indulgence.
Save it for only the most deserving.
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?
Author: Anthony Ryan
Narrator: Steven Brand
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Audio Release Date: 26/08/2021
Series: The Covenant of Steel #1
Running Time: 19hrs 57mins
My Rating of ‘The Pariah’: 3 out of 5
This review may contain mild spoilers.
I had been looking forward to this one since I first saw it being advertised as a 2021 release on Twitter. So, I think that perhaps I was a tad guilty of putting this on a pedestal before ever having read the first word. Although I enjoyed large parts of this, I didn’t enjoy it completely and was left feeling a tad deflated.
One thing I will say is that I enjoyed how this felt more of a real fantasy than a fantastical one. There is magic, but it is more the hedge witch kind of magic and is so infrequent that you often forget it’s there. I enjoy my fantastical fantasy but do like dipping my toes in a more grounded in realism fantasy every now and then, so this was a pleasant surprise.
One of my main issues is purely a personal one. I really enjoyed the outlaw/Robin Hood style set up that Alwyn and the group who took him in had going. Sadly, that felt more like a ‘setting the stage’ style portion of the book rather than anything truly meaningful. A shame, as I had fully hoped to get invested in a tale of vengeful outlaws. There is a whole quest for vengeance, but it seems to dilute over time and never really picks up to the heights that Alwyn promised to himself nearer the start.
I also feel that the mood you’re in will completely effect how you enjoy this book. It is very bleak. There is very little joy in this book for the characters and what little there is often has misery and pain waiting two steps later. I found it difficult to get absorbed for too long after a hard day at work due to this but, as with my earlier issue, this is mainly a personal one.
I enjoyed the religious background created in this but just wish it had taken more of an equal billing in the plot alongside Alwyn’s quest for vengeance. As it is, I feel it took more of driving seat and further added to the dilution of the vengeance plot as the chapters rolled by. I also feel the pacing suffered. I felt from the blurb that I was in for a fast-paced, dark adventure. What I got was a slow-burn dark adventure that never really got past being slow-burn. It always felt ponderous where I felt at times it could have ramped the pacing up a tad.
The dialogue is wonderful throughout, something that, as a writer, I can attest is a very hard thing to achieve. So bravo to the author for that. It always flowed well and sounded natural. I also really enjoyed the action scenes (some of which feature some very grim and inventive imagery).
The narration for the most part was wonderful. Steven Brand’s voice suits this kind of gritty world perfectly. My only gripe is that there was little to no effort made when voicing characters to make them sound different to one another. A bit of effort in that part would have given the piece a whole new dimension.